Friday, April 27, 2012

WILFONG'S THOUGHT OF THE DAY: GSA UNVEILED SOME MORE

By Hank Wilfong, Jr.


Back on April 3, 2012, we wrote Issuance NO. 4866: GSA UNVEILED. We do not know exactly what they are drinking, or smoking over at GSA, but things don't bode well for small businesses. We feel very much, that, while attention is diverted elsewhere over the money situation, our small business program is going to pot at GSA. What are the signs?
Lets start off with the fact that the person who is charged with running the small business program, Jiyoung Park, is a non-business person who has absolutely no experienced in managing business.So, how did she get hired to run our program? For political reasons, thats why. She was a must hire.

See, folk in political campaigns who are to receive positions in an Administration are often hired not so much on your professional capabilities, as on your contribution to getting the ticket elected.Everybody does it.Its just that some are more blessed with proven talent than others.The key is for the TOP to attract and insert people who have talent and who can integrate, professionally, with the career folk who run things in government. If the mix does not work, then you've got problems.We have such problems over at GSA.

We're gonna stay away from the Conference Fiasco, Congress has got their big guns trained on that one. But, nobody seems to be watching whats happening to our small business program, and the havoc Jiyoung Park is reeking with it. The latest thing is the straw that breaks the camels back.

The Deputy OSDBU, Thomas Green, is a consummate small business program veteran, with extensive contracting officer experience. Tom Green had a lot to do with the outstanding success at NASA, coordinating with Ralph Thomas, and Dan Goldin. His bona fides is impeccable. Yiyoung Park has relegated Thomas Green to a highly-paid, non supervisory technocrat. She took away his Deputy OSDBU titleand made him a Senior Small Business Technical Advisor. Now, what the "hey" is that?
What she has done is EXPENSIVE and WASTESFUL.And in the end it is DESTRUCTIVE. If it is not corrected, it will destroy our small business program over at GSA.

This foolishness at GSA must be stopped.

Its time to get serious.

Henry T. Wilfong Jr., MBA, CPA, is President of the National Association of Small Disadvantaged Businesses (www.nasdb.biz).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Managing The Anxieties Of Being A Leader

By: Stan Popovich


Sometimes, fear and anxiety can overwhelm us when we have to be a leader. Being a leader requires the ability to lead people in doing certain tasks. This can sometimes be a little scary. As a result, here is list of ways in how to reduce the fear and anxiety of being a leader.

The first thing you must understand is that you need to know what the task is that needs to be accomplished. Knowing what you must do is important and can save you a lot of time and stress. It would be a waste of time if you performed a task for a few weeks and realized that it was a waste of time. Know the task on hand and communicate this with your team members.

The next step is to develop a plan on how to accomplish the task. Get a piece a paper and write down the steps that your team needs to accomplish in order to accomplish the goal. This will save you a lot of time in the long run and reduce stress and anxiety. Once you write down the steps, follow each step one at a time. This will help reduce the stress and anxiety of rushing at the last minute to meet a deadline.

Communicate with your team members on a regular basis. It is important that everyone on the team is on the same wavelength. For instance, your company needs to develop a new advertising campaign and your team is to present the board on how to go about it. The last thing you want is to have your team members assume that they know what is needed and have them do their own thing. Meanwhile the other half of the team is going in another direction. This leads to wasted time and effort. Talk with your team members daily to be sure everyone is doing what they are suppose to.

Prepare for unexpected surprises. Sometimes things happened that might take everyone by surprise. Be flexible and when expected things happen learn to deal with them immediately. For example, some members of the team become sick and are unable to do the tasks. Instead of getting all stressed out just reassign some of the tasks to other people. Another idea is to find someone to help out for a few days. Getting upset when things go wrong can cause a lot fear and anxiety. Being prepared for surprises is important when being a leader.

Finally, do what you can today. Do not put things off when you can do them today. As a leader, it is important to have your team members do what they can during the day. Don't have them assume that they can do it next week. You never know when something may come up and being efficient on a daily basis can prevent future problems down the road.

Being a leader can be stressful but there are ways to help manage that anxiety. If you still have trouble then talk to a counselor or professional who can help lead you in the right direction.

Stan Popovich is the author of "A Layman's Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods" - an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to: http://www.managingfear.com/

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Making Enterprise Project Management Solutions Work for your Business

By Sophia Zhou         
Growing businesses need access to project management tools to improve organizational efficiency. Thus, enterprise project management (EPM) software has become an indispensable resource for many businesses.  However, a glut of EPM software in today’s marketplace is coupled by a dearth of knowledge on its effective deployment.   How can we, as business owners, managers, and executives, optimally utilize this powerful, game-changing software?
The productivity gains made possible by robust EPM software are undeniable and quickly becoming the standard for modern business operations.  Microsoft’s Project Server and SharePoint are the industry standard in a marketplace awash in project, process and collaboration management tools.  Yet these tools are highly sophisticated and simple installation is only a small step in a multi-faceted process toward achieving productivity enhancing deployment.   
All too often we see these potent tools underutilized.  Low adoption rates and inadequately configured deployments remain intractable obstacles to their effective use.   To explain this phenomenon, I compare it to building a house.  The software itself provides you with all the materials and tools needed. But, as in building a home, you require more than tools and materials.  You need planning, skill and expertise.   When it comes to enterprise software solutions, few businesses have the expertise in-house to build an effective project management capacity.

Hosted or on-site solutions
Making use of enterprise tools, such as Microsoft Project Server and SharePoint, involves strategic planning and well thought-out governance structure and processes. First, companies need to determine whether to use a hosted solution or an on-site deployment.  In my experience, companies seek a hosted solution for improved performance, easier maintenance and up front savings of time and money.

Deploy from scratch or deploy from templates
Whether your tool is deployed behind your firewall or hosted at a datacenter, configuring the tool for easier adoption is essential.  For example, my company has developed best practice-based configurations informed by the over 500 Project Server deployments we have implemented. We call this EPM FasTrack.  When we deploy for new customers, we tailor these pre-configured solutions to their specific needs. This is not to say complete customized deployment does not have its rightful place in circumstances when a customer has very unique needs.
A key component of customization must entail executive dashboards and reports – such as Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Performance Point BI - to deliver improved decision-making by leveraging data from your enterprise in real time.  For example, my company has tailored dashboards for Project Server and SharePoint  based on a user’s role (CIO, portfolio manager, project manager, resource manager), which allow users to make decisions and take action based on relevant and up-to-date business intelligence.  

Training

Last but certainly not least is the training required to make effective use of these world-class project management solutions.  Extensive experience has taught us that the single greatest obstacle to successful absorption of powerful EPM solution comes down to the capacity of the stakeholders.  Microsoft Project Server and SharePoint are potent tools, but they are complex. Most personnel lack the training and knowledge to make them work effectively. Skimping on training for cost saving will actually undermine the potential savings, efficiencies and, ultimately, the ROI of your deployment.     
Accordingly, my company has made comprehensive, on-going training and support to be a central feature of our services and we have innovated specific training products.  Our unique on-demand training system replicates live classes and includes the components that make our Project Server training the most reputable in the country. This on-demand format now makes it possible to provide company-wide training without breaking the bank.

In summary, the potential productivity gains of a well-deployed project management and collaborative solution is undeniable and should be seriously contemplated by today’s progressive-minded businesses.  But for such an investment to improve your overall business performance, know that finding the right partner is essential.  Implementation of a robust enterprise project management solution will be far more likely to succeed if your design and implementation partner understands the tool, the processes and the people aspects of a successful EPM deployment.

Sophia Zhou is CEO of EPM Solutions (www.epmsolutions.com), a Microsoft-based Project Portfolio Management and Collaboration solution software and service company, serving customers including Cisco, Boeing and US Navy. EPM Solution is an ISO 2009:2008 certified and one of INC 500|5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in 2011. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Business Success in Turbulent Times and the Use of Government Minority Business Set-Asides

By Sophia Zhou

Business success over the last several years has certainly been a challenge. But with over 400% growth from 2007 to 2011, I believe EPM Solutions is on to something.  While our success with government set-asides and SBA 8(a) programs has certainly contributed, I believe that the foundation of our success was established in our formative years.
Three keys to Entrepreneurial success
EPM Solutions was founded in 2003. We provide enterprise project management, collaboration and business intelligence solutions for commercial and government clients. What has helped our success, I believe, are these qualities – focus, persistence and knowing the marketplace.
First, to succeed in a challenging business environment, it is critical to be hyper-focused.  And to start, you need to understand your strengths and your passions.  Knowing what you are good at assures that you will have the capacity to achieve at a high-level.  Understanding what you feel passionately about motivates you to prevail during turbulent times – because they are inevitable.  As talented as you may be, you will surely face external challenges such as economic lethargy and changes in your specific industry.  It is the passion that will keep you focused through such inevitable challenges.


Knowing your passions help fuel the second critical element to business success – persistence. I have big dreams and persistence is a necessary ingredient to realizing those dreams.  Big dreams are conveyed through a vision that can be shared by others. I have gathered a strong team who draw inspiration from our shared vision for our company.  But dreams without action will amount to very little. It is the day-to-day persistence that brings results. A clear vision may help everyone on your team keep their ‘eyes on the prize’, but it is the day-to-day actions and choices that, cumulatively, lead to success. 


Focus and persistence help lay important groundwork.  The third key is far more practical: Understand the marketplace – what are people buying, what do they need. For example, the last decade has seen extraordinary growth in enterprise project management software as companies have recognized the exceptional productivity gains they make possible.  Industry standards such as Microsoft Project Server and SharePoint are sophisticated tools, but businesses have struggled to successfully deploy these solutions.  Lacking has been the capacity to implement these powerful tools to address a specific company’s unique needs.  EPM Solutions has focused our energies on this gap and persisted in becoming a leader in providing services to configure, customize and train employees to use these enterprise solutions.


Making the Most of Government Set-Aside Programs:
When determining what the marketplace demands, the minority business entrepreneur needs to be especially attuned to what the government, in particular, is buying. However, when I started EPM Solutions, I didn't even know there were government set-aside programs available.  Ironically, I think our initial lack of reliance on set-asides gave my company a competitive advantage. We had to first demonstrate our trustworthiness to procure government contracts by succeeding in the broader marketplace.


We had first established ourselves by targeting commercial clients until the State Department reached out and asked us if we had a GSA contract. We said 'what is a GSA contract?   The same thing happened with the SBA 8(a) program when government clients asked the company to consider obtaining 8(a) certification.


By this time, we were at a stage in our growth where we could strongly compete for and benefit from these programs. We had a reliable team in place and had established a solid performance history with prime contractors and government clients. I have observed that many companies in these programs do not have adequate experience and a proven reputation to take full advantage of the opportunities presented. I believe EPM Solutions is in a better position today to compete for set-aside business than it would have been closer to its founding. And there is no doubt our success with government contracting has played a part in our ability to succeed through the turbulent economy of the last several years.

Sophia Zhou is CEO of EPM Solutions (www.epmsolutions.com), a Microsoft-based Project Portfolio Management and Collaboration solution software and service company, serving customers including Cisco, Boeing and US Navy. EPM Solution is an ISO 2009:2008 certified and one of INC 500|5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in 2011.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Preparing Your Business For Sale (Article 1 of 4)

By: RKJ Partners, LLC (Cyril Jones & Gregory Ficklin)


Business owners, and their senior management teams, often underestimate the importance of planning for a business sale, which, when coupled with unwarranted optimism around transaction readiness, can often result in value being left on the negotiation table. The underlying principle is simple: properly planned and executed business sales lead to enhanced shareholder value.

Even in the best of economic times, the planning and implementation of a business sale will invariably place significant pressure on an organization's internal resources.  Careful preparation and advanced planning can significantly increase the likelihood of a successful business sale and have a positive effect on valuation. The following are proactive steps a business owner should take prior to beginning the business sale process:

Recasting Financial Statements. To enable a potential buyer to gain a true sense of the profitability of a business, the financial statements must be "recast" or "adjusted" to reflect the real discretionary cash flow that would be available to a new owner. This recasting involves identifying owner and certain family member salaries, any fringe benefits that owners customarily make available to themselves, one-time or extraordinary expenses, non-cash expenses and other expense items not likely to recur or be applicable to future ownership.

Independent Valuation. An independent valuation enables a business owner to gain a sense of a realistically achievable value for the business and confirms in advance whether or not it makes financial sense to sell the business given current market conditions.  Properly understanding valuation at the outset of a sale process will also prevent “leaving money on the table” by undervaluing the company or losing qualified acquirers by seeking an unrealistic, overvalued price.


Tax Implications. It is crucial to understand the tax implications of a sale in advance. This will provide a realistic picture of the net after-tax yield and help to determine the most advantageous way to structure the sale for tax purposes.


Growth Plan. A well thought out and realistic plan for growth can greatly enhance the value of a company. Untapped expansion opportunities equal greater perceived value for the business in the eyes of the potential acquirer.


Addressing Key Dependencies. Two key dependency areas include customers and employees. Customer dependency exists when a high percentage of the company’s revenue is derived from one or a few large customers.  Employee dependency exists when the business is highly dependent or held hostage by key employees or the existing owner, whose departure could severely impair the business.  With advanced planning and focus, reducing these dependencies can increase the marketability and value of a business.


Third Party Financing. It is important to ascertain the likely level of financing available to an acquirer in advance. Not being armed with this knowledge in advance can often lead to wasted time and compromises confidentiality with unqualified acquirers.


Likely Acquirers. Advance industry and market research can determine if it makes sense to approach certain companies.  Strategic acquirers recognize the value and synergies from gaining additional sales, territories, capabilities or complimentary revenue centers.


Team of Professionals. Before entering the uncharted waters of selling a business, it is imperative to select the right team. This includes a qualified CPA, an attorney with a background in corporate transactional work and an experienced investment banker.


Current Sales Performance. The 12-month period during which the sales process is taking place is a critical and decisive one. If sales performance deteriorates during this period, marketability and value will be negatively impacted. Working with a qualified investment banker to manage the sale process is a vital component of the sale process because it allows the business owner to maintain focus on the business at hand.


Tackling "Deal Killers" Early On. If there are issues that may potentially jeopardize a transaction, a seller is ill served by “hiding his or her head in the sand”. Eventually, these issues will surface and it is far better to be prepared and address them at the onset of the process from a pro-active viewpoint, rather than have to take a defensive posture when they are independently discovered. 

RKJ Partners, LLC (www.rkjpartners.com):  Cyril Jones and Gregory Ficklin are Managing Partners with RKJ Partners, LLC.  RKJ is a minority-owned, Atlanta, GA based investment banking firm formed to assist lower middle market growth companies in execute transactions between $2MM and $75MM.  Specifically, RKJ provides buy-side and sell side M&A advisory services, capital raising services and strategic advisory services.