Building Bridges and Paving the Road to Opportunities
November 2009 - Vol 1, Issue 6
DBE Spotlight - Stephanie Barrett & Francine Perkins
Count On it Business Services, Inc.
FRP Enterprise LLC
Stephanie and Francine both work as public relations specialists for highway construction projects. They are hired by general contractors to act as a liaison between the public and the contractor and provide up-to-date information to the traveling public about construction projects and timeframes. In addition, they provide information about traffic control operations, lane closures, and expected delays.
Their work begins early in the project life cycle. About 2-3 weeks prior to construction, a flyer campaign is begun along the route to set the stage for the work. This allows residents and businesses to voice concerns early in the process. In this way, the PR person can establish a relationship with those affected by the work and become the main point of contact for concerns and complaints. In addition, PR includes contacting newspapers and in some cases, keeping a website up-to-date.
DBE Connections caught up with both Stephanie and Francine to learn more about their work.
Q: How long have you been in business?
Stephanie: I've been in business since 1989 as a full charge bookkeeping and payroll company and started with PR in 1996. I became certified as a VTrans DBE in early 1997. I started doing PR on the Shelburne Road project, which was the first VTrans project to require PR work. We learned as we went along.
Francine: After many years of working in the highway construction industry, I started my PR business in 2006. I became certified as a DBE the same year.
Q: How much of your work is on VTrans-funded projects?
Francine: One hundred percent of my work is on VTrans-funded projects.
Stephanie: I've worked on two or three projects this year, including Route 15 in Colchester/Essex and Interstate 89 in Fairfax/Georgia. I also equip office trailers for contractors.
Q: How do you stay informed about upcoming VTrans opportunities?
Stephanie: I stay informed via the VTrans Contract Administration website: http://www.aot.state.vt.us/conadmin/advertising.htm .
Francine: I also check the website. I encourage DBEs to review all the special provisions and contact contractors directly to determine their interest in your services.
Q: What about this work appeals to you?
Francine: I see myself as part of the team with VTrans and the contractors to make sure that people are heard. I want people to know that someone is dedicated to making the construction experience as positive as possible.
Stephanie: This is very interesting work. I love working with people and the public. I have a good rapport with the engineers and people that I work with.
Q: What are the biggest rewards of being a business owner?
Stephanie: When a client comes into my office and I've added to their business success, I feel great.
Francine: The biggest reward is seeing a project through to a positive conclusion and getting good feedback from all involved.
Q: Any final thoughts on communications for the DBEs reading this newsletter?
Francine: It's important to meet with people ahead of time, especially at pre-construction, to get things ironed out early.
Stephanie: I encourage businesses to explain to customers what it is that you do and how you do it. Also, stick to what you know best and don't be afraid to hire someone to do the tasks that you don't do well.
|A New Goal for DBEs in 2010: Establishing or Upgrading Your Website|
Today, most small businesses need an online presence as much as they need a phone, a mailbox, or e-mail. Websites have become a primary selling tool and a vehicle for showcasing the scope of a firm's work. Given the popularity of search engines like Google, many potential customers begin their search for goods and services online. A website that is designed to be an effective Internet marketing tool can be extremely valuable for a small business.
Like many small business owners, our DBEs often recognize the importance of having a website, but lack the time or resources to establish and maintain a site, or don't know where to begin. Good News: The VTrans DBE Supportive Services Program is here to help! We can assist with the cost of training and/or software for the design, development, and management of websites for VTrans certified DBEs, or if you prefer to hire a developer, our DBE Supportive Services consultant will coach you through the process. You can even hire a DBE to design and develop your site! Here's some quick links to help you get started:
There are many online resources that will walk you through the initial analysis of issues relative to setting up a website: Should you hire a developer or do it yourself? What type of website do you need? Selecting a domain name; Choosing a web hosting service; Designing a website; etc. Here's a site to help you identify and answer some of the threshold questions:http://www.smallbusiness.com/wiki/Business_website_basics
Web Development and Management Training:
Two Vermont based firms offer a wide range of computer training, including classes and webinars, to assist you in designing, developing and managing your website. The VTrans DBE Program can assist you with the cost of training and or software to establish or upgrade your website. Check out the training schedules at KnowledgeWave
, a SymQuest Group Company offering classes in South Burlington, Montpelier, and Rutland, and Panurgy Learning Center
, located in South Burlington.
Work with a Certified DBE Firm to Develop Your Website:
If you determine that you don't have the time or expertise to devote to this project, but you still want an effective, first-rate site, contact Terri Parent or Catherine Mcintyre at Stride Creative Group in Burlington. Check out examples of Stride's websites and other marketing products: http://www.stridecreative.com/portfolio/web/web-1.html
|10 Reasons Why Proposals Don't Win|
(In No Particular Order)
The Proposal didn't follow the Request For Proposal (RFP) instructions.
Did you return the proposal with requested forms or documentation missing?
Didn't submit the required number of copies? This makes you look either sloppy or stupid. Go through the original RFP and highlight every instruction - make a checklist of them if necessary -- to ensure you've crossed every "t" and dotted every "i" with your submission.
The Proposal has spelling and grammatical errors.
Nothing says "amateur hour" like a proposal riddled with typos or incorrect word usage. Your spell-checker isn't going to catch everything, so read the proposal out loud (slowly) to see if it makes sense. Have someone else read it, too.
The Proposal is too long.
Watch out for burying the prospective client under a lot of verbiage. More is not better. Edit. Cut out repetition. Make it easy for the client to skim through your proposal to hit the high points they're looking for ...
The Proposal is badly structured.
... and make sure the prospective clients find the high points where they expect to find them. You certainly don't want to make your prospective clients have to work to find the information they need, particularly when they have multiple proposals to review. Follow the structure of the RFP scrupulously and respond to its layout requirements. Yet still remember you're telling a story to your client of how you intend to meet their need, with a beginning, middle and end.
The Proposal is badly formatted and packaged.
Style counts for a lot, particularly these days when everyone's got desktop publishing software and a color printer. Take some time to format the Proposal nicely and consistently in a clear, readable font with plenty of white space - just like your competitors are going to do. A 10-point Courier text with stingy margins will not impress. Add pictures, graphs, headers, and color when appropriate (sparingly, like seasoning).
The Proposal is too technical.
You're the expert in this field - that's why the prospective clients are asking you for a proposal. Don't inundate your proposal with buzzwords or jargon, or painful details of your methodology. Sell your expertise using language the clients can understand, while letting them know you know what you're doing and you can prove it.
The Proposal doesn't express a clear understanding of why the services are being requested.
Why did the prospective client put out an RFP in the first place? You'd better know why, and let the client know that you know. If you just regurgitate verbiage from the RFP, the client will think you just don't get it. If you don't get it, how can you meet their needs? Let them know you have the solution they're looking for - hopefully with added benefits they hadn't even thought of.
The Proposal doesn't address all the requirements in the RFP.
Ouch! Be sure you comb through that RFP again and again with highlighters and post-it notes to make sure you address each and every one of them. Double-check the corollary details: have you provided an acceptable delivery schedule? If there is a part of the contract for which you will need assistance from an outside source, be sure to outline it in your proposal what subcontractors you intend you use.
The Proposal doesn't clearly lay out the assumptions or the basis for the proposed costs.
Explain your pricing. If you can't specify (and justify) what you're charging for, how can your prospective clients fairly compare you with your competitors? And if the prospective clients specify a budget in the RFP, respect it.
The Proposal lacks documented past performance.
Don't forget your testimonials and client references. You're using this Proposal to sell yourself, so include contact information to give your prospective client a clear picture of past success, happiness and all-around client satisfaction.
A few other things to consider when writing the Proposal.
Anticipate the questions your prospective clients are likely to ask, and answer them in advance. And don't forget your "Thank You" to the prospective clients for giving you this opportunity.
|Using Social Media for Marketing Small Businesses|
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM
Emory Hebard State Office Building
It seems like everyone is talking about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter these days, but can you use them to enhance and grow your business? Social Media and Social Networking are all about building relationships and trust. Lisa Wood, owner of Performance Web Solutions in Stowe, will explain how to leverage the power of these online networks to build your business and reach your goals. Lisa helps small businesses and entrepreneurs grow their businesses on the web through site development and online marketing. This seminar is designed for Northeast Kingdom businesses that are interested in improving their financial positions by securing more business more consistently at a lower cost.
Speaker(s): Lisa Wood, Performance Web Solutions
Fee: $ 25.00
|Introducing . . . The DOT Biz Journal|
The Premiere Newsletter for Small Businesses in the Transportation Industry
The US DOT/OSDBU is pleased to announce the 2009 Fall Edition of the newly renamed DOT Biz Journal available for download. In this issue we highlight the recent launch of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) Bonding Assistance Reimbursable Fee Program. We also have a feature on the new Pilot Entrepreneurial Training and Technical Assistance Women and Girls Program, a joint program between the US DOT and Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and is part of a broader effort, led by the White House Council on Women and Girls, to ensure that federal programs and policies take into account the distinct needs and concerns of women and girls.
We also provide an update on activities funded through ARRA for transportation-related projects, as well as information on the FY 2010 Procurement Forecast which is now available online on our new and improved website.
Other articles include an introduction to the recently confirmed Federal Highway Administrator, Victor Mendez, as well as to the newest member of the DOT/OSDBU team Ed Cafiero, who will serve as Business Enterprise Development Officer. Furthermore, we have our regular features including Follow the Recovery Money to assist you in identifying potential contract opportunities and the Calendar of Events.
|Vermont Chamber Webinar: How Vermont Can Do Business with the Government|
Are you a Vermont business interested in securing a contract for business with the U.S. Government? If so, join the VT PTAC for an online seminar (webinar) and conference call with Bill Masterson, Robin Miller and Joanne Spaulding, They will cover how the Procurement Technical Assistance Center works to help shepherd Vermont companies through the process of identifying and securing federal contracts for more business and job creation.
Note: If you do not have access to High Speed Internet, you may still participate by dialing in on the conference call. The Vermont Chamber will be glad to send you a written version of the webinar presentation afterwards or you may download a copy
from the online schedule. For the latter, click here.
|SBA Launches New Online Training Course|
Winning Federal Contracts - A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs
WASHINGTON ─ Women who own small businesses will be able to use a new online U.S. Small Business Administration training course to learn how to identify and take advantage of federal contracting opportunities. The new training course, Winning Federal Contracts: A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs, is part of an ongoing government-wide initiative to promote opportunities for women-owned businesses in the area of government contracting.
This free online tutorial is a practical and easy to use guide that walks a woman-owned small business through the contracting process. SBA is committed to ensuring that women-owned businesses receive at least 5 percent of federal contracts and believes better training opportunities are central to meeting this government-wide goal.
"Federal contracts can provide unique opportunities for women entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their businesses and create jobs, particularly during these tough economic times," Administrator Karen Mills said. "It's also a win for federal agencies, by contracting with women-owned small businesses; they are working with some of the most innovative and dynamic companies in the country."
The SBA's Office of Women's Business Ownership oversees a national network of more than 100 Women's Business Centers (WBCs) that provide education and training to help women start and grow small businesses. In addition, the SBA has 68 district offices and other resource partners throughout the country available to train and counsel women-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking government contracts.
"This online training course makes critical information and training available to an even wider array of women entrepreneurs and small business owners," said Ana Harvey, assistant administrator for SBA's Office of Women's Business Ownership. "SBA wants to help ensure they have the tools and resources they need to compete for and win federal contracts."
The Winning Federal Contracts course is designed to help women entrepreneurs learn about the federal procurement process and to prepare them to compete for contracting opportunities. The self-paced guide uses audio and script to provide information about contract rules, how to sell to the government and where to find contracts.
The Winning Federal Contracts course is available on SBA's Web site at www.sba.gov
or directly at www.sba.gov/fedcontractingtraining
It is indexed by subject matter, and includes direct links to additional contracting resources.
|Websites We Love|
|For this PR & Communications Issue of the DBE Enewsletter, we've compiled some websites .|
Working Solo Resources (not only for one person businesses!)
SME Toolkit (they have sections on DBE/WBEs, too)
Association of Small Business Development Centers - Resources
(Check out the Small Business Digest)
|Welcome New DBEs|
|Essential Data Corporation
585 Villa Ave 2nd Floor
Fairfield, CT 06825
Phone Number: (203) 359-1400 Fax Number: (630) 839-6450
Scope: IT Consulting, Specialized in Technical Writing, Business Analysis and Training
Glass Depot, Inc
John & Marla Williams
4451 W. 5th Avenue
Gary, IN 46406
Phone Number: (219) 949-1705 Fax Number: (219) 949-1706
Scope: Supply Window, Doors Acrylic, Mirrors, Hardware, Glass and Glazing Material
H & S Environmental
160 East Main Street
Westborough, MA 01581
Phone Number: (508) 366-7442 Fax Number: (508) 366-7445
Scope Environmental Remediation Services
M J Ouellette and Daughters Inc
PO Box 34
Caribou, ME 04736
Phone Number: (207) 496-0411 Fax Number: (207) 493-3077
Scope Excavation, Dump Trucks, Pipe Sales, Installation of Pipe and Materials, Septic Systems, Excavator, Pay Loader, Bulldozer, Road Grading, Infrastructure Installation, Road Building, Foundation Digging
|A Note from the Editor . . |
The construction seasons seem to come and go so fast! As the current season starts to wind down it is time to begin planing for the next one. For many it is a time of tying up loose ends, clean up and maintenance. It is often hard to try and be proactive and to use this as a time to consider training, business development, reviewing what worked / didn't work during the last season and taking the next steps to make your business stronger and to be more active on government contracts. Consider taking some time to identify what your business needs to help you achieve the goals you have identified, we may be able to help. We have in the past helped to organize matchmaking events, held trainings and we would like to continue to be able to provide this valuable resource, but we need your help to make sure that we are providing the right types of trainings and events to best meet your needs. We want to hear from you. Tell us about the types of training and support that we can help to facilitate either through our DBE supportive services or our program partners and we too will put on our thinking caps so that we can also be proactive before the next busy construction season! We have given you a head start with one idea in our article Establishing or updating your web site
. . . .
me with suggestions, ideas and any questions for future issues.
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless" Mother Teresa
November 12, 2009
VT Chamber Webinar:
11:00 AM - 11:30 AM EST
Presented by VT Procurement Technical Assistance Center
|November 17, 2009
Using Social Media for Marketing Small Businesses (read more)
8:00 AM to 9:30 AM
Emory Hebard State Office Building
US Small Business Administration (SBA)
9AM-10AM OR Noon - 1PM
|December 8, 2009
VTrans / AGC Meeting
1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Agency of Transportation, Montpelier, VT
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Agency of Transportation, Montpelier, VT
Colleen Montague ●DBE Program Manager ● Vermont Agency of Transportation
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ● Tel: (802) 828-2715