Small companies, new ideas
- By Gary Arlen
- Oct 12, 2007
"With technology changing so rapidly, we are always looking for suppliers to meet our ever-changing requirements and who are connected to the customer." ? Lynn Livengood, Battelle
At Battelle Memorial Institute, historically known for its research and development proficiency, the new manager of supplier diversity programs sees small businesses as another source of innovation.
Lynn Livengood, who joined Battelle in late summer, said she wants to build on and integrate the capabilities of small businesses and units within Battelle to develop new synergies.
Battelle's commitment to developing strong relationships with small businesses is underscored by its increase in small-business subcontracting.
"We had a 60 percent increase in reportable performance to small businesses" in fiscal 2006 compared to 2005, Livengood said. Overall, Battelle has directed more than 40 percent of its subcontracting to small firms. "We strive to [maintain] this balance of work," she said.
Because Battelle pursues technology and science-related work, its need for small-business partners constantly evolves. It has retained some small-business teammates for extended periods but also seeks new expertise.
"We are on the leading edge of innovation," Livengood said. "With technology changing so rapidly, we are always looking for suppliers to meet our ever-changing requirements and who are connected to the customer."
Livengood said that as a multidiscipline organization, Battelle is seeking a wide range of expertise and capabilities.
Battelle's wide range of projects, including information technology but extending into the health sciences, energy, transportation and security sectors, has created an increased demand for small-business specialists.
"We vigilantly seek reputable suppliers who offer competitive advantage in technology, price, quality, delivery, responsiveness, speed and innovation," Livengood said.
Battelle sponsors outreach events and takes part in programs set up by its customers. Livengood and her team use the Central Contracting Registration database along with Battelle's database and industry associations, such as the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council, to find additional partners.
As Livengood focuses on the kinds of suppliers to target, she expects to set up local and regional meetings nationwide, probably in late 2008. No schedule has been established.
Battelle tries to bring subcontractors, suppliers and vendors onboard early when pursuing a contract. This may start 12 to 18 months before a request for proposals is posted, allowing the team to develop strategies for pricing, delivery and management.
Livengood said potential partners should identify specific clients and projects on which they can contribute skills.
Livengood urged companies interested in doing business with Battelle to complete the online supplier application on Battelle's Web site. "Information is entered into a searchable database that allows program managers, capture managers and anyone interested in locating businesses for projects or proposals to search by capabilities," she said. When a partner has been selected for a project, Battelle assigns it to a small-business specialist. The specialist provides one-on-one counseling to improve teaming opportunities throughout Battelle operating divisions.
Battelle's due diligence on potential teammates includes a review of capabilities and past performance, along with financial stability.
The review encompasses reference checks, Dun and Bradstreet reports and occasional site visits.
Battelle's two current mentor/protégé agreements demonstrate the variety of projects the company handles. One is with XMCO Inc. a woman-owned business in Warren, Mich., which is working on project management assignments under an Army contract. The other protégé is Federated Information Technology Inc., a Washington-area service-disabled veteran-owned, 8(a) Historically Underutilized Business Zone company, which handles IT projects for a Homeland Security Department contract.
"We are mentoring [XMCO] in the areas of armoring, chemical/bio and fuel cell technologies," Livengood said. For the Federated Information Technology projects, the focus is on "interoperability, technical skills, financial organization and business planning."
Livengood said the company has continuing needs in knowledge management and decision analytics, managed application services, software development and other areas of IT expertise.Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications. He can be reached at GaryArlen@columnist.com.