There are a lot of things I wish we had understood sooner in the process, including the importance of investing in a proposal and capture team. There was a time I didn’t think we could afford it, but quickly came to understand we couldn’t afford not to have it. Not only does it allow you to work more efficiently, but when partners see that you have made the investment in a full back office support team, it shows professionalism and gives them confidence.
It is important to look for ways to invest in the foundation of your company as you grow. For us that has included our own accounting team and internal technology lab. It has also meant investing in our engineers with additional training and certifications. It means hiring great staff and investing in them to ensure we have the best and brightest to shape the VERSA team. This ultimately will provide a better experience for our customers and our partners. We’re moving toward getting our facilities clearance this year; we actually have an interim secret clearance now. If I had known how important that could be to supporting potential customers with those requirements, we would have made that one of our earliest targets. This was all a part of the learning process for us as a company, but the key takeaway is that you have to invest in your future. Whether it’s making an investment in your staff, investing in personnel certifications like CCIE’s, CCNP’s, VBrick, MCSA, etc., or investing in company certifications like ISO, CMMI and a facilities clearance. This demonstrates professional commitment to clients, and ensures you have the best processes in place as you move forward and mature as a company.
VERSA started off as a small effort working for a single customer. We were self-sufficient and comfortable in our own world. I wish I had known from the beginning that although that was a safe place to be in the short term, it would take teaming agreements with other small businesses and large companies for us to grow. Those relationships can be formed starting from day one, by taking advantage of networking opportunities through organizations and conferences like HIMSS, AFCEA and DHITS. Personal relationships that are based on trust can help guide problem solving and the resolution of issues later on.
They can also be formed as you work through projects since there are often other companies working on other areas of the same larger effort that can offer an opportunity to make connections, to share knowledge and insights. Relationships are formed when you act as part of the larger community, sharing pipeline knowledge and expertise with others. As you grow and evolve, those relationships must continuously be nurtured. Naturally as we grow, so will the opportunity for growth for our partners. We believe there is enough business out there for everyone to succeed.
Transitioning from a Small to Large Business
As a small business, it is imperative for VERSA to establish and maintain long term relationships with our business partners, rather than just focusing on a single project or a single engagement. We want to engage with companies that can partner with us to jointly build a pipeline of targeted opportunities that we can pursue.
We have learned over time that planning an exit strategy needs to be a 5-year plan. We also learned that it’s important to be armed with as many contract vehicles as you can and to have great partnerships with both large and small businesses which ultimately strengthens VERSA as a post 8(a) company.
Just as we received guidance, we also mentor others, offering joint pipeline reviews, as well as growth and marketing strategies to smaller businesses. We know this is counter-intuitive in this industry, but we believe that we all need to help each other. We like to think that nothing is promised to any of us, so being part of, and helping build a community of respect is key.
That same community can and should exist with clients, both past and current. When they truly know you, know your names, and know that whatever size or success your company has realized, they can expect the same quality performance and commitment, then you have a relationship that will sustain growth and a continued trust that you will support your clients’ business mission.
Trends for 2019
The opioid crisis is high on everyone’s list and it has been mandated by just about every Government agency to have an impact in some way to help reduce this crisis. Whether from the perspective of policy, technology, or predictive analysis, it is a priority that many agencies will touch. Using big data analytics across supply, abuse, enforcement and treatment to better predict, identify and target areas in need of improvement will likely be a key component of the solution and something we are currently focused on.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also getting a lot of buzz these days, and the potential there is tremendous. If we look at it through the lens of an algorithm, AI gives us a better opportunity to drive that predictive function. All it needs is reliable data, which every agency possesses. Using appropriate tools to farm data, and having the ability to perform real data analysis, the opportunity and future lies in your ability to isolate good data and convert it into useful intelligence.