Monday, July 23, 2012

If Only You Were 8(a) Certified

The inevitable reductions in the use of GSA contracts are here and they are all about you. If you are out there looking for Federal contracting opportunities, you are more likely today than ever before to hear, “I sure would like to do business with you, but only if you are 8(a) certified.”

What do these GSA contract reductions mean to you, a small business doing business with the Federal government? The answer is clear! First, it will mean less contracting opportunities for everyone.
Second, the large contractors will now be looking to survive by focusing on smaller contracts than before, essentially poaching on the market opportunities currently available to small businesses, such as yours.
What can you do about this inevitable eventuality? A key element of your defensive and offensive business strategy must be to acquire a “competitive advantage” as quickly as possible. 8(a) certification…It’s just about the “near-perfect” competitive advantage you can have in doing business, with the Federal government and its prime contractors.

How does being 8(a) certified provide you with an opportunity to differentiate you and your company, to have that “near perfect” competitive advantage? Here are a few of the ways:

            * Price – Being certified can mean that your prospective customer need not buy from the lowest bidder. If you demonstrate other important values to them to contract with you at a higher price, you can negotiate this higher price.

            * Quality – Being 8(a) certified can mean that your prospective customer can buy from you, if you can convince them that you are better, even though smaller and less experienced than most of your competitors.

            * Ease of Use – Being 8(a) certified can mean that your prospective customer can avoid developing detailed procurement specifications and having to organize and conduct complex and lengthy competitive procurements, subject to “sore-loser” protests. In other words, the 8(a) procurement process makes it “much easier” for your prospective client to buy from you than from your competitors, i.e., the “Big Guys” using just about any other alternative.

            * Speed of Service – Simpler procurements are faster procurements, and that means that your prospective customer can get your products or access to your services in a fraction of the time as that which is available through competitive bidding. 8(a) contracts can be awarded in weeks versus years. * Customer Perceived Value – Being 8(a) certified can mean that you are available quicker, easier, simpler and on more personally accommodating terms to your prospective customer than most of your competitors. Adjusting to inevitable contract scope modifications can be more easily made than with other procurement means or with the “non-flexible Big Guys”.

           * Different - Being 8(a) certified can mean that you are unlike or different from the remaining 99.9% of all other small businesses in the U.S. that are not certified, just because of the fact that you have this important procurement business development assistance tool that you can share with your prospective customer.

If you are a successful commercial company seeking to build a government practice I encourage applying for the SBA 8(a) Certification and gaining the competitive advantage along with enjoying the benefits of this nine year (9) federal certification.

For more information on support services in which we work one-on-one with you please contact Sean at (201) 916-9799 e-mail or

Monday, July 9, 2012

GSA Schedule Changes Not All Bad

On June 7, 2012, the General Services Administration announced that they are cutting 8,000 contracts from the GSA Schedule. I have been taking many calls where people are afraid the GSA is going away or being reduce in its size and scope due to the Nevada Convention Incident. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that the GSA is cutting 8,000 contracts however these are in most cases schedules that contain outdated items that are rarely if ever purchased by the federal government such as typewriters, photographic equipment, and other obsolete equipment not seen in most businesses in the past decade. Keeping these schedules open was costing $24 million dollars annually as each schedule is reported to have cost $3,000 per year. 

This cost is regardless of whether there was any business activity in those schedules. I am actually very excited by this move as it will move these skilled GSA contract administers to other areas decreasing time to obtain a schedule, and allowing the GSA to focus on newer and more innovative products. As I have not taken on a client selling typewriters in quite some time, but I have had other clients with high-tech products that fit on a schedule, but they are clustered with many other products that makes visibility and comparisons for government buyers more difficult.

I think the single biggest statistic that shows the overall success of the GSA schedule contract program is the fact that in recent years “the number of modifications to existing contracts has tripled”. This means that firms who are getting on schedule and are adding additional products and services to their schedules, and increasing the breadth of product offerings. The only logical reason one would do this is because you are being successful with your current schedule.

I would like to reiterate that this is a positive change taking place at the GSA, and if you have any questions regarding whether a GSA schedule makes sense for your firm feel free to give me a call at (201) 916-9799 or email me at

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Women Entrepreneurship: It's time to get business smart

By Kavin Matthews

Anywhere you look, more and more women are turning over to business. Formerly, a woman's place was only in the kitchen, raising up her kids, and occasionally functioning as a secretary. However, time has changed, and women have finally made their place in the world. In the year 2010, something miraculous took place. For the very first time, the number of graduating women far surpassed their male counterparts, and women contributed more to the workforce than men. The Quiet Revolution of the 1970s witnessed women leave their domicile in favor of working outside the home. However, women today are opting to remain at home; not as housewives, but as job-making entrepreneurs.

In the last 20 years, women have been launching businesses at a much higher rate than men, and tend to go for home-based small businesses. By the end of 2018, women are expected to create more than 9.72 million small business jobs, and a majority of them are conducting this from home offices all over the nation. This is a surprising figure, particularly considering the fact that women-owned businesses merely produced 16 percent of the overall U.S. jobs available in the year 2010. The recession proved tough for a lot of small business owners and a majority of the women-held businesses still haven't recuperated to pre-recession sales. Nevertheless, they adjusted themselves to a new economy. One of the most popular policy adopted by women entrepreneurs was to control expenses in order to survive all through the recession period. In fact, there was an increase of 52 percent in the number of business women employing social media to develop business, while saving money on marketing expenses.

A few facts
A study conducted by the Center for Women's Business Research show that nearly 40 percent of business organizations are owned by women. Two of the swiftest growing classes of entrepreneurs are, young women and mothers. Although more and more women are launching their own businesses, a majority of them are doing it simply as a hobby and failing to extend their businesses at the same pace as their male counterparts. This is simply one of the several problems confronted by the women entrepreneurs of today. It's a fact that women crave for more opportunity and liberty than the corporate world offers. Women with kids initiate home-based businesses since they want the freedom of planning a work agenda that balances their family and work. However, in this constant struggle of seeking balance, women have to face a lot of challenges.

Striking a balance between life and work
One of the top challenges faced by any working woman is to strike a proper balance between work and family. In accordance with a recent study, nearly 85 percent of the world's women do the daily meal preparation, foodstuff shopping, and even washing and laundry. Managing your household and working as a full time businesswoman isn't an easy job. A woman can not only take care of her kids, do the laundry and clean the house, but also prove to the world that she can be a booming business entrepreneur. Jenny Johnson, CEO of a well branded organization says that women have high expectations from themselves, but they don't receive much appreciation from the world that they fundamentally lead two full-time lives.

No matter what the world says, the fact remains that women are much better multi-taskers than men. However, this doesn't stand for the statement that women are superior to men in each and every field of life. It's just that women are more skilled at executing things differently in the field of business, and anything unique should always be welcomed.

Kavin Matthews is a financial writer who can deal with financial issues efficiently. He studied finance at Colorado State University. It's his passion to contribute finance related articles to blogs and websites to help people come out of their financial problems. To know more about ways on how to handle your debt obligations, visit debtconsolidationcare

Monday, July 2, 2012

Investment Banking Blog Series – Sell Side M&A Process

Common Questions Related to the Sell-Side M&A Process (Part 4 of 4)
By: Cyril Jones & Gregory Ficklin)

As investment bankers, RKJ Partners interacts daily with business owners and understands many of their concerns.  In our latest blog installment, we address common questions of business owners relating to the sell side M&A process.

How important is confidentiality and how can it be maintained during the process?
It is imperative to maintain confidentiality throughout the sale process and to take measures that will guard against competitors, employees, vendors and customers learning of an impending sale.  These measures include well written Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreements; generalized, nondescript marketing and educational documents, as well as thorough buyer identification and qualification procedures.  The use of an investment banking firm greatly enhances the probability of maintaining confidentiality throughout the process by providing a communication layer outside of the company and managing buyer access to information.  It is virtually impossible for a business owner to maintain confidentiality when selling independently given the natural inclination to share information and speak freely about the business.  Information should be provided in stages, and more sensitive matters do not need to be shared with potential buyers until well advanced in the process.  Experienced buyers often attempt to exploit the absence of a qualified advisor by requesting more information than they should be entitled to see without proper qualification.

How long will it take to sell my business?
The time required to market and sell a business varies greatly from business to business. In general, it can take from 3 to 18 months to complete a business sale, with the most common range of 6 to 12 months.  The pace of a transaction is influenced by a variety of factors including market conditions; desired transaction structure; use of bank financing; sales trends; available competing opportunities; business size; and cooperation of professionals, to name a few.  The most important strategy for maximizing the probability of closing a sale within the target time frame is to work with multiple interested buyers until a deal is closed.  This insures that you will not need to start the process over again should negotiations terminate for any reason with a lead acquirer.  Deals can derail for many reasons that are outside of your control; therefore it is critical to keep alternative options open and active.

Should sellers negotiate with more than one buyer simultaneously?  
When there is one potential acquirer, the buyer is in control.  However, when there are multiple potential buyers the seller is in control.  Having multiple available options will maximize the chance of negotiating a favorable sale, while making you less dependent on any one potential acquirer.  Working with an investment banker better enables a seller to actively negotiate with numerous buyers independently.  The existence of a fall-back position avoids starting the process over should a deal fall through for any reason.  Experienced buyers are less likely to attempt to take advantage of a situation if they perceive that there are additional interested parties.

How many years of historical financials will a buyer typically want to review?
Three years of historical financial information should be sufficient for potential acquirers to formulate an opinion of value and a comfort level with the business.  In today’s fast changing world, statements more than three years old are not very relevant to the operations of the current ongoing business.  In addition to historical information, year-to-date or interim financial statements are required.  It may be advantageous to prepare a projected income statement for the upcoming period as well.  You should also be prepared to discuss any dramatic swings (up or down) in sales, profit margins or expenses.

What characteristics should seller try to identify in an investment banking firm?
It is important to have a comfort level and work with an investment banker whom you can trust to achieve your sale objectives.  A professional firm should provide a high level of attention, professionalism, service and expertise to your assignment, regardless of the size of your deal.  There is a wide array of firms that claim to be M&A Intermediaries.  Locally, there are commercial real estate firms that are ill equipped to handle the complexities of business sales, or traditional business brokers that typically handle the sale of retail "mom and pop" businesses.  On a national level, some intermediaries market their services through seminars.  A true professional investment banking firm will provide unparalleled merger and acquisition representation, while maintaining a competitive success based fee structure that aligns their financial goals with those of the business owner.

RKJ Partners, LLC ( 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.