Know your strengths
Making the team | How to land the right partners
- By Gary Arlen
- Feb 07, 2008
Vangent looks for partners with the right skills and location
James Partlow's move to Vangent Inc. last
year was easy. He had been working for Qwest
Communications Inc., the telecommunications
company, in the same Arlington, Va.,
building that houses Vangent's headquarters.
Taking the job as Vangent's director of procurement
required only an elevator ride up a
few floors. Now into the job for nearly a year,
Partlow has expanded Vangent's use of smallbusiness
"Small companies need opportunities.
They need to be on a program that lets them
grow, based on the opportunities we're pursuing,"
Vangent supplies systems integration and
other services to defense and civilian agencies,
with a focus on health care. Partlow's
task is to bring new partners to Vangent,
which is owned by Veritas Capital Partners, a
private equity investment firm. Veritas
acquired Pearson Government Solutions last
February and renamed it Vangent.
The company is building a roster of small-business
partners, recruiting woman-owned
and HUBzone companies in particular.
Vangent has a database of 200 potential
Vangent's Web site, which features a list of
current contracts, should be a potential partner's
first stop. Existing projects are detailed
at the contract vehicles listings in the
Partners section of the Web site, Partlow said.
Many small businesses don't do their
homework to find appropriate relationships
that match their skills.
"A lot of our contracts have definitive
requirements," he said, including insurance,
security clearances and other factors.
Resource requirements are specified in
solicitations, which Partlow said is a good
way to avoid confusion on how the prospective
vendor is to operate.
Among Vangent's recent small-business
partners are New Governance Inc., a software
publisher in Bannockburn, Ill., that supports
Vangent's Military Health Systems contract.
Longview International Technology Solutions
Inc., a Bethesda, Md., veteran-owned small
business, focuses on network support and
infrastructure design. For a project for the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Vangent has teamed with Language Learning
Enterprises, a woman-owned language translation
and interpretation services company in
Partlow and his eight-person staff rely on
the Central Contractor Registration and also
use other industry resources to find small
businesses for specific projects. Project managers
sometimes suggest partners they have
directed on other projects and recommendations
from people they meet at trade fairs.
"We search based on codes," he said, underscoring
the importance of potential partners
giving complete information when they register
with the CCR. Vangent looks for specific
characteristics such as whether a small business
is a HUBzone and is in a certain geographical
Although partners are usually selected in
the pre-bidding phase, the company still looks
for subcontractors after a contract award.
"We are very sensitive to needs," Partlow
said. "If a subcontractor provides excellent
service and support, it would behoove us to
utilize this organization again with another
opportunity."Gary Arlen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president
of Arlen Communications.