Department of the Navy Gold Coast Interview with Ms. Emily Harman
Director, Office of Small Business Programs Department of the Navy
Why is the Department of the Navy (DON) Gold Coast important to the Office of Small Business Programs?
The DON Gold Coast is important because it helps us to reach out to many kinds of small businesses at one time and provides an opportunity for small businesses, large businesses and government to connect for a couple of days. Furthermore, the conference affords small businesses the opportunity to showcase how their products and services can help the DON maintain maritime superiority.
In the context of bringing businesses together with the government do you have specific goals for the DON during Gold Coast?
The goal is to reach as many small businesses as possible and communicate how to do business with the Navy and Marine Corps. One way of measuring that is by the number of attendees. I’d love to see the number of attendees/registrants top the 1500 we had last year. To accomplish that, we must conduct more outreach prior to the event. That is something that I’m working on with NDIA. Additionally, our office recently hired a Public Affairs Officer, Ollie Cooperwood. We’ll work with NDIA to develop a Strategic Communications Plan to reach the kinds of companies that we haven’t reached in the past, that haven’t come to Gold Coast — companies from across the country. That is one goal; to reach a broader audience. The way we measure that is by the number of registrants and where they are coming from to attend the conference. .
NIDA can provide some additional metrics for your office on the registrants, specifically regarding new or previous registrants, their business type and region.
That information would be useful because it would allow us identify areas where we need to expand our reach. The end goal is reaching those small businesses that can help the DON grow its industrial base, modernize its processes, expand its capabilities and maintain its competitive advantage throughout the world.
Small Business participation in the NDIA San Diego Chapter has always been strong. The numbers quoted are consistent with that participation and point to strong small business support with the region.
That’s great! I’d like to see Gold Coast participation by small businesses that have done work with the government in the past grow. These businesses have been tested; they know how to work with the government and can help other small businesses by sharing their experiences and providing advice. We are also seeking participation by companies that have never done business with the government; – non-traditional suppliers. As the DON looks to modernize, small businesses traditional and non-traditional will be at the forefront, offering agility, flexibly and solutions to complex challenges the Navy and Marine Corps face at home and aboard.
Has the Office of Small Business Programs done work with the Small Business Administration district office specifically to expand the outreach for the DON?
The DON’s small business professionals in the San Diego area work closely with SBA’s Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs). DON’s procurements are reviewed by a Navy or Marine Corps small business professional, and also by the SBA’s PCR. The SBA PCR is a great resource because they help us ensure that we’re providing maximum opportunity to small business as prime and subcontractors.
I’d also like to reach out more to the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). Not just in San Diego, but across the country, to help them understand the DON’s commitment to small business utilization and how they can help small businesses contribute to the DON’s efforts to build a more capable Navy and Marine Corps that can meet the demands of the maritime environment.
The DON only has 76 full time and about 79 part time Small Business Professionals. We need the SBA, PTACs and SBDCs to help us communicate our message to industry. We developed the small business enterprise strategic framework. You’ll be able to find a link to it along with this interview on our website.
Our vision is to create a culture of small business inclusiveness across the DON— A culture where more people are comfortable talking with small business, understand what small businesses can provide the DON, and understand how they can better communicate with industry. We are working on changing that culture. You notice our framework doesn’t talk about meeting a goal. We do have a goal – that 16% of our total obligations are supposed to get to small businesses as prime contractors. We focus on finding small businesses that can help us complete our mission. Goals become much more obtainable when the focus is “mission first.”
We want small businesses that understand the Navy and Marine Corps’ mission, understand what we buy, and are willing to work with us to enable the mission success. Ultimately a measure of success won’t be shown by just two days at Gold Coast. Many times it takes two to three years for a small business to with their first prime contract. Whether they get work as a sub or prime contractor the DON needs the agility, innovation and flexibility that small businesses offer.
Has Gold Coast proven successful in helping the DON achieve its goals in the past?
Yes, if you look at the DON’s fiscal year 16 obligations, over 13 billion dollars were obligated to small businesses as prime contractors. That’s more that has been obligated in the past several years. The Department’s small business obligations are going up and Gold Coast helps us continue on that trajectory.
Gold Coast is unique, in that it is one of the only events that include all ten of the DON’s acquisition commands in one place. The focus is broad, but the appeal is equally broad?
Broad focus, broad appeal. Companies that attend Gold Coast need to do their homework first, so they can get the most out of the two-day event. Companies need to review our website, learn about our ten different buying commands and figure out who buy’s what you sell. For example, a construction company needs to connect with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), even if you are a construction company that would pave a runway for aircraft. You wouldn’t go to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) you go to NAVFAC. Doing that homework and understanding the lay of the land before they go to the event will enable a company to understand the commands that buy their products and services. They also learn how those products and services benefit the DoN and support the warfighter mission. Another way to learn about the DON is by reading our recently published Small Business Executive Summary.
Who should companies expect to meet at Gold Coast? Technical or Acquisition representatives? Companies will need to prepare differently depending on who they may meet with.
The DON’s small business professionals will be there as will technical personnel. We can’t guarantee participation by specific technical personnel, but we are advertising and working to get their participation.
Should participants be prepared to have both technical and acquisition discussions?
Yes, and small business needs to be prepared to talk with the large systems integrators. The large systems integrators typically send their small business liaison officers (SBLOs) to Gold Coast. Small business representatives need to be prepared to discuss teaming opportunities with the SBLOs. These are the types of partnerships that help small businesses grow.
Is there a message that you’d like to pass to attendees and potential attendees?
The main points are:
Do your homework in advance to maximize your event experience. The right people will be at Gold Coast to allow your success in providing the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps products and services of value. To be successful you must be prepared.
If a company has never done business with the government, they should visit their local PTAC (Find your local PTAC) or Small Business Development Center (Find a Local SBDC) to gain a better understanding of how to do business with the government. Professional Associations are also good resources for understanding the government and its processes, network and learn from those who have been there and done it successfully.