More than a reputation
Making the team | How to land the right partners
- By Gary Arlen
- Jun 09, 2007
CACI International Inc.'s Keith Kellogg advises potential small-business partners to review CACI's annual report and GSA schedule.
Credibility keeps popping up in discussions with Keith Kellogg, executive vice president of CACI International Inc.'s mission systems group.
By his definition, credibility includes factors such as reputation and agility, which are both important, Kellogg said, in CACI's recruitment of small-business partners.
CACI officials knew about Citizant Inc. (formerly Cairo Corp.) before the company approach CACI. The woman-owned company specializes in enterprise architecture, program management and application development. Citizant, of Chantilly, Va., was working at the U.S. Transportation Command, which handles air, land and sea transportation for the Defense Department, where CACI was pursuing a contract. CACI eventually won the contract with Citizant as a partner.
Credibility sometimes comes with credentials, as was the case with the Wexford Group International, which worked on several CACI projects. CACI also recently announced its intent to buy Wexford.
"About 98 percent of its people are cleared for secret or higher classifications," Kellogg said.
CACI's mission systems group is one of five units that handle an array of government contracts that have landed CACI at No. 22 on the 2007 Washington Technology Top 100 list of the largest government contractors, with just more than $1 billion in annual revenue. The other CACI business groups are enterprise technology systems, which mainly handles network operations; national systems group, which focuses on intelligence work; technology systems group, which specializes in software programs such as resource management and budgeting; and a newly acquired division that works on military and seaport logistics support.
Small businesses represent slightly more than 38 percent of CACI's teammates for mission systems projects this year, Kellogg said.
Despite its range of projects, CACI has a simple process for prospective small business partners to follow, Kellogg said. The strategic partners section of its Web site provides registration information plus listings of projects the company is involved in. The site also identifies Ron Schneider, CACI's executive vice president of business development, as the key contact. Schneider's office directs prospective partners to the appropriate business units. Kellogg and his peers in other groups can also identify matches for CACI activities.
"Every Thursday, we do milestone reviews covering all major bids," Kellogg said, "and every Monday, the top management team talks about the partners and what's going on." During these meetings, CACI's management team shares recommendations on prospective team members and projects.
Kellogg said potential small-business partners should review CACI's annual report and its General Services Administration schedule. That research, he said, will prepare companies to better present their qualifications. "If it fits what we're looking for, then we'll go forward."
CACI also attends business fairs, and its business development team watches the Central Contractor Registration Web site and other sites for potential teammates. Kellogg joins a chorus of his peers in urging prospective partners to be as precise as possible when entering data in such resources.Partners aplenty
Over the decades, CACI has partnered with more than 10,000 firms, Kellogg said. One of its current big contracts, Field Installation Readiness Support Teams, or FIRST, has more than 23 small-business partners. FIRST, like about three-fourths of the mission systems group's projects, is for the Army. Many of the projects focus on quick prototyping and database activities.
CACI calls on many of its small-business partners repeatedly and has developed a variety of relationships with some team members. For example, Red Arrow Supply Chain Management, a woman-owned transportation and supply-chain management firm in Bellevue, Wash., came to CACI with a lead on a project. They teamed for that venture and have worked collaboratively on several subsequent contracts, Kellogg said.
When CACI finds prospective partners, it begins a comprehensive background check, including looking at the consistency of the company's leadership and making sure the company shares "our values and commitment to customer service," Kellogg said.
CACI tries to involve team members before the request-for-proposals stage, often nine to 12 months before a project gets under way. Kellogg said CACI has been working on a plan for the Rapid Response Third Generation contract since the beginning of this year and is building its team now, well before the contract is expected to be issued in November.
Because many of its projects are geographically specific, CACI looks for partners with local presence.
"We're finding that a lot of small businesses have pretty large tentacles," Kellogg said, citing the Ginn Group, a service-disabled veteran firm based in Atlanta.
"We went to them and [found] they are in 14 different locations in the U.S.," he said, noting that their sites matched many of the needs of a specific project. As CACI and Ginn worked on various projects ? including logistics inventory, security risks, interoperability and training ? they found a number of additional collaborative opportunities. On some projects, CACI has subcontracted to Ginn, which was the prime, Kellogg added.
CACI looks for companies that are agile in the workforce, Kellogg said.The readiness factor
Another component of credibility is timing, Kellogg said. He cited a company that came to CACI a few years ago but did not yet have the experience for the task under consideration. He said CACI encouraged the firm to develop its business. When it reapplied for a project about two years later, it was ready to take on the task.
CACI has two mentor-protégé programs under way now and is evaluating a third candidate. As with its other subcontracting activities, it all comes back to credibility.
"Reputation stands out," Kellogg said. "Our experience has been that we hold on to partners, and we want to team with them."Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications in Bethesda, Md. He can be reached at GaryArlen@columnist.com.