BearingPoint rolls into new territory

Small-business partners will foster growth

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BearingPoint Inc.

Small-business partners

About 200 small companies in its database.

Recent and upcoming projects:

The Navy is currently its largest client. BearingPoint also works for the Army, and the Education, Homeland Security and State departments.

Projects include software development, concept analysis, systems analysis, system modeling, design/test and develop systems, network architecture assessments and engineering support.

For information: Register at www.BearingPoint.com/sba.

Send inquiries to: SmallBusiness@BearingPoint.com

Special requirements: Personnel facilities certification.

When do subcontractors become involved?

Partners are often recruited early in the proposal and development process, but others are brought onboard when the project is underway if the program manager needs a specialist. In those cases, candidates are identified from the database of registered companies.

Outlook

"This will be the best year ever for small businesses with BearingPoint," said Diane McLaughlin, senior manager there. "We're going to be very aggressive?in small business contracting," including mentor-protégé programs.

BearingPoint's Diane McLaughlin

Rick Steele

Diane McLaughlin comes straight to the point.

"We'd like to expand into Treasury, Homeland Security, Education and HUD," she said, bluntly listing the federal agencies on which BearingPoint Inc. is focused. A BearingPoint senior manager, she knows that she will need small-business partners to win projects at those agencies, and again she gets right to the point.

"If a [prospective partner] is willing to work, then I'm willing and ready to work for you," she said. "I'm going to teach you how to market to BearingPoint." But McLaughlin also warns that companies seeking such alliances must "have done their background work on BearingPoint and the agencies."

One company arrived at BearingPoint so well prepared for its initial meeting that "we walked them upstairs to meet with the global vice president for public services" right away, McLaughlin said. That is a rarity, but the prospect had an existing relationship with the target agency and understood what BearingPoint does, she said.

While the departments of Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development, along with other agencies, rank high on BearingPoint's target list, the company is also deeply enmeshed in other civilian and defense projects. BearingPoint's public services group oversees the small-business program and governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWAC) in three main lines of business: federal; state, local and education; and a solutions group.

BearingPoint has a large software development contract with the State Department, and is going after more projects there. It recently won a $188 million contract to support the Enterprise Solutions Competency Center of the Army Communications-Electronics Command. One of its first tasks will be a Joint Medical Information Systems program, which McLaughlin describes as a hybrid project that involves concept analysis, systems analysis, system modeling, and design and testing. She is looking for engineering support for the project.

The company has about 200 small-business partners in its database of prospective collaborators. The best way to get BearingPoint's attention is to register on its small-business Web site and to send McLaughlin an e-mail at smallbusiness@bearingpoint.com. She replies to each new registration, typically within three to four days.

"We send a template that contains questions about what solutions they offer, how they see their position with BearingPoint" and other details, she said.

BearingPoint checks to see if prospects are listed on the Central Contractor Registration. McLaughlin usually looks at company Web sites to get more information about applicants.

"If we see that it is not a match for anything BearingPoint does, we'll inform them that we don't see the synergy," she said.

Doing due diligence

BearingPoint seeks partners who can explain their core competencies and their existing relationships with target agencies.

"We're looking for synergy," McLaughlin said. Companies fare best if, during the first interview, they can "show me the value of what they're bringing to the table." BearingPoint does not want companies that augment its own core competencies, but rather wants to identify companies that "provide niche services [and] fill in the gap that we're missing," she added.

McLaughlin and her team conduct spot-check visits to assure that subcontractors can deliver what they promise. As part of its review, BearingPoint asks prospective partners to provide billing rates and pricing structures. McLaughlin said companies need to be specific.

"When you sign an agreement, we ask for financial records," she said. "If you get to the protege relationship, then we do a very diligent background check."

McLaughlin also scouts existing resources to fit specific assignments. She said a recent State Department project needed small-business partners so she used the Central Contractor Registration database to find five Hubzone suppliers that met the requirements.

Among BearingPoint's recent partners is SiloSmashers Inc., which it has used under its largest GWAC vehicle, the Chief Information Officer Solution Partners contract at the National Institutes of Health. Based on that relationship, BearingPoint brought Fairfax, Va.-based SiloSmashers into a State Department project.

B2B Workforce Inc., an Alpharetta, Ga., software consulting firm, has partnered with BearingPoint to provide services to the Interior, Health and Human Services, State and Homeland Security departments as well as Customs and Border Protection, the Navy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. B2B specializes in software for business intelligence, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning and enterprise application integration.

Acuity Inc., an 8(a) company with about 25 employees based in Alexandria, Va., has been in BearingPoint's mentor-protege program for two years. Its tasks include software development for State Department and DHS contracts.

In search of more partners

McLaughlin and her colleagues attend about 30 conferences and business fairs annually, such as the ones run by the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. Last month she identified three prospects at the Information Processing Interagency Conference, run by the Government Information Technology Executive Council.

BearingPoint uses many of the same subcontractors repeatedly, but McLaughlin said, "We try to rotate our list for opportunities." Each of BearingPoint's project groups keeps track of favored partners, and the various sectors of the company talk to each other, she added. "Word travels if you're doing an excellent job."

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications Inc., a Bethesda, Md., research firm; he can be reached GaryArlen@columnist.com.

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