COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Nearly 50 suppliers from across the country took part in a two-day training session Sept. 11-12 at the Defense Supply Center Columbus on how to do business with the Defense Logistics Agency.
The free Training, Knowledge and Opportunities class – known as a TKO – is offered through the DLA Land and Maritime Small Business Office and is designed to teach suppliers new to federal government contracting how to be successful.
“You’re one of the most integral parts of this supplier-customer relationship process,” said Jamieson Duvall, chief of DLA Land and Maritime’s Operations Research Branch. “We have a vested interest in your success because we also have a vested interest in our Warfighter’s success.”
TKOs are open to any business – large or small – that wants information on working with DLA, said Ryan Snyder, service-disabled veteran-owned small business program manager for DLA Land and Maritime’s Small Business Office.
The TKO kicked off with remarks by DLA Land and Maritime Small Business Chief Coleen McCormick, followed by nearly two dozen sessions moderated by Snyder featuring experts from across the command as well as the Defense Finance and Accounting Service-Columbus.
Topics ranged from solicitations and quoting requirements to first article testing and cybersecurity. Several suppliers praised the packaging and shipping modules.
“The packaging requirements scare a lot of businesses,” said Annalyn Ang Jones, owner of a distribution company based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “DLA is different from other agencies, so we wanted to be well-versed on packaging and shipping rules so we won’t make mistakes.”
Jones traveled several hundred miles to attend the TKO and considered the trip worth it.
In July, she decided to take the leap into government contracting with her 4-year-old small business. To prep for success, she signed up for the TKO. Jones said she attended one in 2015 but thought it would be good to have a refresher and learn about any changes that could impact her as she pursued government contracts.
“I’ve dealt with several other agencies and DLA Land and Maritime is at the forefront, leading this in a way because some agencies say they have a supplier university or small business program, but they don’t have workshops,” Jones explained. “They may do an annual expo but nothing like this. This TKO walks you through what you need to do, where you need to go and shows you how to submit your stuff. If everyone offered this, it would be so much easier for all small businesses that would like to supply the government.”
Jones’ sentiment was echoed by many companies attending the workshop.
Kalk, a business development manager for a Michigan City, Indiana-based vacuum technology company, said the manufacturing company is looking for more ways to get their products into consumers hands. The company recently gained a contract with another federal agency, and he learned about DLA Land and Maritime’s TKOs through that agency’s liaison.
He recommends any business planning to pursue government contracts attend a TKO.
“If I would’ve known about these TKOs when I first started, it would’ve greatly helped me,” said Kalk, during the workshop’s second day.
Kalk’s biggest takeaways from his two days at DSCC were the Borrow Program/Reverse Engineering module and the session on Alternate Sources. He believes the main reason businesses are put off from working with the government is due to regulations, but the workshops clear up a lot of the confusion about perceived “red tape,” he said.
“I think people get scared off. They don’t understand until they come to a TKO that there are people here that will answer your questions. In the past, I saw a lot of people who wouldn’t even try federal contracting. But if you’re patient and work the process, anybody can do it,” Kalk added.
One of the biggest benefits of this training is the in-person interaction, said Jon Ferguson, a DLA Land and Maritime small business specialist.
“TKOs are like a confessional,” he said, describing the back-and-forth exchanges that often occur throughout the workshop.
Suppliers meet and hear from subject matter experts covering a variety of timely topics while also having the opportunity in an open forum to have their questions answered.
“If a supplier is having a problem or needs to understand DLA’s thought process on something and doesn’t know who to talk with, this is where TKOs come in,” Snyder added.
By allowing suppliers to ask questions directly of experts, they also learn who to go to in the future for answers as well as understanding common mistakes nd pitfalls that can lead to rejection when bidding on contracts. Many times suppliers can even get issues resolved as a result of attending training.
Snyder said the ultimate goal is to establish dialogue with businesses as they learn more about the federal government’s buying process, where DLA fits in, and how customers and suppliers can get what they need.
The next free TKO session is scheduled for November. For more information or to register for the class, visit http://www.dla.mil/smallbusiness.