Small business broadcast covers progress, initiatives, priorities

By Sara Moore DLA Public Affairs

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The Defense Logistics Agency has been very successful in small business acquisition, and customer outreach and market research are key to maintaining that success, an official from the office of the secretary of defense said July 23 at the DLA small business and acquisition broadcast.

Kenyata Wesley, acting director of the Defense Department office of small business programs, spoke to acquisition professionals at the McNamara Headquarters Complex and through video teleconference to employees in several field activity locations, where he outlined the department’s priorities and initiatives.

“I will tell you, one of the things I always love to see is the fact that you’re not resting on your laurels based on your past success,” Wesley told the audience. “We all have to be effective. We also have to be aware of change around us; we have to push for change.”

DLA has been increasingly successful in small business acquisition, Amy Sajda, director of DLA small business programs, said at the beginning of the broadcast. The agency has exceeded its DoD small business contracting goals two years in a row, with $7.4 billion going to small businesses in fiscal 2013 and $8.5 billion in fiscal 2014. DLA is on track to exceed the 32 percent goal in fiscal 2015 also, she said.

DLA’s success comes from the fact that its acquisition professionals have learned to identify when small businesses are effective and present the best solution, Wesley said. To continue that success, he emphasized, acquisition employees need to focus on market research, customer communication and industry outreach, he said.

Market research should be done by employees throughout the acquisition field and should involve collaboration with the customer, Wesley said. Acquisition employees need to ask the right questions to determine whether companies are technically competent, he said, because understanding the marketplace is the basis for the entire acquisition process.

“Market research is the basis, the foundation, for your entire acquisition, and if you get that wrong, you put your customer, which is the end user – that warfighter – in jeopardy of failing the mission,” Wesley said.

When conducting market research, it is vital to communicate with the customers to understand their requirements and perspective, Wesley said. In an era when the art of customer service is lost, picking up the telephone and calling a customer can make all the difference, he noted.

“Call your customer, ask them questions, get their perspective of what’s important in their procurement,” he said. “If you don’t do that, you’ve turned around and put yourself and your customer at a disadvantage. I think if you do that, you’ll find out you have a happier customer; you’ll have better results.”

Wesley also stressed the importance of outreach, which helps small business professionals ensure the marketplace is full, vibrant and viable. Knowing what small businesses are out there and what capabilities they have means acquisition professionals will know where to turn in the event a supplier goes out of business or can’t support a contract, he said. He encouraged employees to think of outreach beyond conferences and to visit suppliers and see their operations and products.

Small business contracting is an integral part of Better Buying Power 3.0, Wesley noted, with small business initiatives rolled into almost every part of the guidance. BBP is a process that can be difficult, he said, but it reaps many benefits for the agency because it forces innovative thinking and changes that can take the department into the future.

“It’s meant to make us more efficient,” Wesley said of BBP. “It’s meant to actually drive us to make better decisions, improve competition and improve our technology focus.”

To highlight DLA’s success with small business contracting and how it ties into BBP, DLA Vice Director Ted Case shared two success stories from agency field activities. The first, from DLA Aviation, showcased a long-term contract for a communications cable for the Marine Corps. The contract was competed as a Historically Underutilized Business Zone set aside and awarded to a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business.

“This contract award demonstrated the Better Buying Power tenet of increasing small business participation, including more effective use of market research,” Case said.

The second success story came from DLA Land and Maritime, which awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to Ace Electronic Defense Systems, headquartered in Aberdeen, Maryland. The requirement was competed as a 100 percent set aside for small business, and the result was a 9 percent savings per unit price.

“This contract award is a great example of another BBP tenet, promoting effective competition,” Case said. “We’ve done a lot in small business, but there’s still a lot more to be done. All of you here and around the agency can and do make a huge difference each day.”

Wesley covered several other topics specific to the acquisition workforce, including subcontracting requirements, pending small business goal requirements for overseas contracts and the separate small business career field. He took questions from the audience before handing the podium to Matthew Beebe, director of DLA Acquisition.

“We truly do have an acquisition community here who are passionate about the small business program,” Beebe said. “What we put in motion years ago is paying off huge dividends now, and what we’re doing this year is going to be paying dividends years in the future.”