Frontline Support Solutions Team Recognized

On May 17th Jose (Joe) Perez our Founder was recognized by the Small Business Administration’s as the Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year.  Joe was presented the award by the SBA Region VI Administrator Yolanda Olivarez at the 2013 Small Business Week Awards Luncheon held at the Omni Colonnade Hotel.  Also accepting the award with Joe on behalf of Frontline was Neal Secor the company’s Senior Project Manager.  At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, Joe went on to express his gratitude by saying “… we (the Team) are grateful for this recognition.  It is great when you come to the attention of a group or public agency for the strong growth we’ve experienced over the last three years, and for the work we’ve done in support veterans’ entrepreneurial endeavors.  We have worked hard to grow our own team through a mix of veteran and non-veteran professionals.  All of it would not have been possible without the focused and deliberate efforts of all of the folks who’ve been part of our team.  But especially the leaders like Neal who make it all look easy.  That is one of the reasons why I love to get up in the morning.”

2013 Small Biz Week Award Pic

From L to R: Mrs. Peters, Mrs.Sapia, Neal, Joe, & Mrs.Olivarez

Frontline has experienced strong growth since its founding in 2010.  One of the driving mission aims at Frontline is to hire veterans and service disabled veterans into the construction and facility support services industries and teach them how to operate in the federal marketplace.  Through a team mix of veterans and non-veteran professionals they believe a strong collaborative culture will grow and produce excellence.  Once a veteran becomes proficient in the area of choice they would be encouraged to start their own veteran owned business, if so desired.

Finding Your Own Personal “Why”

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Since I’ve been on the subject of my recent attendance to a seminar follow-up, I thought I should go into a little more detail about what I brought home from that follow-up from a more personal level.  I covered how it helped me from a sales and marketing standpoint, but one thing that really intrigued me was that it helped me realize I’ve had a lack of interest in supporting anything that was outside of my main focus, that being helping vets.  This follow-up gave me a reason to think about my “why;” why I’m in business for myself and why I started it.

One of the guest speakers at this event was a young man by the name of Jason Russell.  He is the founder of an organization called Invisible Children, and he gave us a very powerful look into a world I was totally unaware of concerning the plight of children in Africa, or more precisely, Uganda.  These children, ages 5 to 14, are abducted at night and are then turned into soldiers and murderers.  I have a 5 year old son and after seeing the pictures and the videos of this taking place over the last 18 to 20 years, I’m astonished more light hasn’t been shed on this.  This one issue motivated this group into action and thus, they created a non-profit organization which has successfully started a groundswell across the country.  The President has even signed legislation early this year in an effort to help track down the instigator of this atrocity, a guy by the name of Joseph Kony.

Learning of this organization led to a change in my thinking and it occurred to me that I need to broaden my horizon of support.  I enthusiastically pledged monetary support to this organization because I have no doubt of its worthiness.  Getting back to my topic, however, this brought me to the point of my own “why,” and I encourage everyone to discover their own personal “why.”  We as Americans are generous by our very natures, but sometimes we are so inundated with pleas for help that we either stop hearing those pleas or we are too confused about who we would truly like to help.  If you fall into either of these scenarios, take a step back and take time to evaluate your “why” reasoning.  I think if you can answer why you are in business or why you choose a certain path in your life, it will help you determine who you may wish to support as well.

As a small business owner, my focus has always been on making money to sustain my business, and I am quite sure I’m not alone in that endeavor.  Making money should not be your only focus in life, however, and if it is, you may be successful, but that success will most likely be short-lived.  It’s a personal choice for all of us, but going back to my military experiences, I have witnessed some pretty horrific things as well as some beautiful things.  Hearing Jason Russell speak brought a lot of those things back to me although I haven’t been in the military since 1998.  It also was a much needed reminder that there are still people in our country who are trying hard to make the world a better place and they truly need our support and help.

If you would like more information about this organization or how to broaden your own focus, I can be reached through email at jperez@frontline1.com.

Economical Alternatives to Seminar Attendance

In the last few blog posts, I’ve elaborated on the importance of professional and self-development through attending seminars.  Seminars come in many different price ranges and I’ve paid as little as $250 per day for a seminar, all the way up to $10,000 for a four day seminar, but for the small business owner, sometimes even the least expensive ones are out of reach in the beginning.  However, there are some really good alternatives out there and I believe in taking full advantage of those more affordable avenues.

For starters, I’m an avid subscriber of Success magazine, and in each issue they give you an audio CD that delivers lessons and advice on many of the same things you find when you attend a seminar.  I carry these around in my truck all the time and in many cases, I listen to them multiple times.  They’re not long, about 15 to 20 minutes or so, but I have found that if I miss something the first few times I listen to them, I’ll usually catch little morsels after listening repeatedly.  My subscription costs about $40 a year, far less than the cost of a seminar.

I also have recordings from Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to name a few.  All of these have the same focus and that is to help me improve my business and myself.  I’ve actually listened to some of them in excess of 20 times or more and it’s no different from listening to music on your iPod in that you may hear the same song, but it still delivers a message or a tune you want to hear.  Sometimes I hit roadblocks in my work and I’ll hear something from one of these great speakers that really hits home with me at that particular point in time.  It might be something that didn’t really apply to me before, but now it’s exactly the advice I need to hear to get me past those roadblocks.

These audio CD’s are offered at a nominal price as compared to what I would pay for the cost of a seminar, meals and airfare, especially since seminars are so rarely in close proximity to where I live.  These CD’s come in the form of interviews or discussions that are easy to follow and offer great advice on subjects I take a lot of interest in.  In fact, this is the reason I do my podcasts and blog posts; I want to help those who share an interest in small business ownership and especially those who are service disabled veterans who have a desire to own a business.  My goal is to present this information in an up-to-date format where someone can go through the archives and find exactly what they need to learn more about on a certain topic.

I guess at this point, I should add my normal contact information, so if anyone wants to further discuss anything in these blogs, they can contact me.  As always, you can add your comments below or contact me directly.

Professional Development Continues After Schooling

When I was in the military, I learned steps to professional development in my chosen career.  The military has actually offered this forever and I learned valuable leadership steps from them through courses they offered.  The sad truth is, you attend school, you attend college and maybe advanced studies, but once those are completed, you are expected to join the workforce.  While this schooling is invaluable, it doesn’t necessarily offer “hands-on” experience and this is important in the real world.  Book-learned techniques are not always applicable and you have to learn flexibility, particularly as a business owner.

Once I realized the importance of continued learning, both as a professional and in my personal life, I made it a point to attend seminars that helped me in this endeavor.  As I mentioned in my prior blog post, I recently attended a follow-up to a seminar from several months back.  It was more of a retreat where I joined 19 other colleagues from around the country and a few were even from Canada and Europe.  This follow-up took place in San Diego and, of course, that location was great this time of the year.

Seminars Offer Opportunities to Hear Key Speakers

Seminars of this nature offer a terrific chance to hear some of the top speakers out there; those who take a huge interest in our country, and in this case, it was Jim Rohn.  He has since passed away, but I am very appreciative of the chance to hear him speak.  He talked about how doing well in your business and working hard at your job can have huge rewards.  His point of view is something that really interests me and it has helped me both in my civilian life and professional career.

There are so many seminars available to business owners, but I try to choose those that will help me work in particular areas of my life.  You can find an expert out there for just about anything, but you need to decide where your focus should be and then pursue learning in that area.  Usually I begin with working on areas that I personally need improvement in and then I focus on bringing that improvement to my team.

If you would like to learn more about choosing a seminar that’s right for you, leave a comment below or contact me directly.

Learning “Focus” in Professional Development as a Small Business Owner

Four or five months ago, I talked about a seminar I attended and the main theme was on the word “focus.”  This particular seminar included an actual follow-up, which is a bit unusual, but it served as an extension of what we discussed earlier.  This follow-up described how we as small business owners are literally inundated with information coming from all directions and as the leader of a company, it is our job to focus and prioritize what is in need of immediate work and what should be our focus for the future.  Identifying these priorities is important in establishing and accomplishing goals in different areas of our business, whether it’s sales and marketing or operations.  It’s important to place effort on surpassing your actual need within that particular area.

Reaping Early Rewards

At the end of this follow-up, we each did a self-assessment using a worksheet which covered various areas of our business including personal development, marketing, sales, operations, personnel and a few other aspects.  We started working on these areas back in November and the self-assessment puts you in the position of being your toughest critic.  The questions are very structured and pointed and they ask you to describe where you are now and if you feel this is where you need to be.  It illustrated to me that I’ve barely scratched the surface in these areas, yet I’m seeing self-improvement already.  The little tweaks you can do, simply by using their “focus” approach, can set both you and your team in motion.  I am now seeing a direct correlation with improvement in sales, revenues and profits.

After seeing this improvement in such a short time, I would definitely encourage small business owners to attend as many seminars as economically possible that put you on the road to fine-tuning both your personal and professional development.  The benefits are pretty amazing, as I’ve seen for myself, and I can testify to the fact that it is time and money well-spent.

If you would like to learn more about attending professional improvement seminars, contact me or leave a comment below.

Delegating of Marketing & Advertising

A little lesson I learned a long time ago is that if you are in command, then you need to command, and this absolutely applies to both marketing and advertising.  As President of Frontline, I am in charge of everything.  Following the advice of my mentors, I learned I should never delegate decision-making involving these two important aspects of business.  Now the actual responsibilities of performing needed legwork can and should be given to a person who is a true expert, or a consultant who is hired on a piecemeal basis.  Past experience has taught me that if you delegate the responsibility, chances are very high that they’re going to get it wrong.  An exception to this would be if the person given the responsibility really knows the focus of your business.

Targeting Markets within My Own Industry

Frontline’s target market is, of course, the Federal government.  This includes the V.A., the Army and the Air Force, mainly because of their proximity.  There are specific rules that must be adhered to simply because it involves the government and a proper approach must be handled delicately.  If I went out on a limb and hired an advertising and marketing agency to handle advertising to these entities, it’s likely that agency might not have any idea what the rules are, or realize the need for careful handling when dealing with contracting officers and representatives of these agencies.  Of course, there’s the legal aspect involved, but if things go wrong on any level, it’s going to be difficult to undo the damage created by improper handling.

Granted I’m not a marketer by any means, but I have a full understanding of the ethics and legalities involved in my business; so whether we’re talking about a simple flyer that advertises a specific skillset, or something more involved such as a full blown T.V. or radio commercial, it all needs to be carried out in a correct and legal fashion.

Affordability of Advertising

Advertising is most definitely a costly endeavor and it’s important to budget carefully in order to maximize ROI on the limited dollars you may have to spend.  I fall within this bracket because I have limited advertising dollars to spend, so it is even more important that I hire the right person for the job.  Again, I’m not delegating the decisions here, just the actual physical piece, and it’s important to distinguish the difference.  I place trust in the people I hire to perform these tasks, but they still must run it by me.  If I have a problem with it, they need to be able to explain to me why they feel it will work.

This method of operation extends to the sales side of our business as well.  If you have a “rock star” sales person who goes out and sells a million dollars’ worth of work too cheaply, you can’t recognize a profit, yet we’re still obligated to perform the work.  This is a prime reason why you need to have a hands-on approach with anything that obligates your company.  If you are in charge of your company, stay in charge and stay in touch with all aspects of your business.  Let the experts do the physical legwork, which is then approved by you before it goes out the door.

As always, if anyone wants to discuss this further, I welcome you to contact me.

Legislative Sessions Require Proper Presentation and Preparation

In continuation of my discussions concerning our recent legislative sessions, I want to elaborate a little more on why it is so important to be prepared in advance if someone plans to participate.

In my experience, the majority of elected officials enjoy the opportunity to discuss specific business matters with John Q. Public. They set aside designated time in their day to allow them to meet with constituents and all you need to do is set an appointment. It is also important to realize there is only just so much time they can set aside because they also must prioritize this time with committee meetings and other matters pertinent to their elected positions. Bear in mind the time they set aside also includes meeting with lobbyists, and this occurs on a daily basis because they are paid to be there to promote specific interests.

As a member of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, we began our preparations months ago by putting together a concerted agenda which addressed various issues affecting our community. I chaired the group that handled energy and sustainable energy issues in our local community. This group included several large and small businesses as well as representatives of the water and electrical utilities here locally. I represented one of the small business owners, but as a group, we all went with a single voice. We discussed topics agreed upon by our group as well as topics from the viewpoints of people who are business owners in our local industries. This provided perspective from both large and small businesses.

My best advice for someone preparing for legislative discussions is to prepare an agenda that includes concise topic points that can be acted upon. At the very least, take notes that can be acted on by your elected officials and their staff. If you approach these sessions with inadequate preparation, it wastes time for everyone. Keep in mind what I stated earlier and that is, elected officials must prioritize their daily time and agendas. If you go in fully prepared with an actionable agenda, you stand a much better chance of gaining their cooperation and attention.

If anyone would like to discuss this in more detail, contact me.

Lobbying for Interest-Specific Legislature in Texas

As I’ve stated in past blog posts, I belong to the Greater Chamber of Commerce here in San Antonio, and as a member, I participate in lobbying efforts during our legislative sessions. Texas operates it’s legislature on a biennial basis, meaning that it meets every two years. Personally I feel that this needs to change due to our modern-day speed of change in our economy and our society, but since this is what is in place, we work within the current system. Our team lobbies for small business, small minority business, women-owned business as well as veteran-owned business at the state level. Although Frontline works predominantly for the Federal government, there is quite a bit of overlap between State and Federal; thus, I take interest in both entities.

This last week was a very productive session which included seven different meetings with elected officials in the Senate and our state House. We visited with the San Antonio-Bexar County delegation as well as surrounding counties and spent the day walking around the capital and participating in scheduled meetings. I served as team leader for our eight member group and we discussed issues such as energy and sustainable energy, both of which affect our community. Our team included members from both large industrial size businesses as well as those from small businesses, such as myself.

There are both direct and indirect effects on my business stemming from our lobbying efforts. First, elected officials are able to put a face to a name in associating me with my company or a specific area of interest, that area being energy and sustainable energy issues. Secondly and less directly, our lobbying efforts represent our community from a focused and prepared agenda. Our group is comprised mainly of members from the two largest chambers in San Antonio, the Greater Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

How to Become Involved in Lobbying Efforts

Preparation for this begins with heavy reliance on our chamber staff, who facilitate our meetings and get us added to the specific calendars of our elected officials. This is planned months in advance and was actually being discussed since last year. Of course, legislators are literally bombarded by lobbyists, but those are mostly paid lobbyists who represent particular interests. Our group includes a community-wide agenda which includes many interests. Our community just happens to own both the water and electrical utilities in our area; thus, my primary focus was on energy and sustainability issues.

An Open Invitation

If anyone is interested in getting started in lobbying efforts or has questions concerning becoming involved in your local chamber, please contact me  here

Advice and Assistance for those Starting a Federal Contracting Business

When I began these podcasts months ago, I had a simple objective behind my motivation. That objective was to provide assistance to those veterans and disabled service veterans who sought to establish themselves as entrepreneurs. Although I’ve covered a lot of territory that might not seem necessarily related to that endeavor, I am still committed to this objective and it remains foremost in my thoughts.

Personal Military Experiences

My own military experiences were gained through the first gulf war era, in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti, going all the way back to Panama and Granada. Those conflicts were something I understood. When I completed my military service in 1998 I found I was much luckier than some of my comrades in that I immediately had employment in my family’s business. Although my dad’s business was still small at that time, he operated a very strong company whose clients primarily consisted of state and local municipalities. Once I joined the company, I brought a different focus to the table and suggested we pursue government contracting and certification as a minority contractor, a HUB Zone contractor and a veteran-owned contractor.

My education was furthered in government regulations and rules regarding contracting and it provided my step up into the Federal contracting industry. One thing stood out to me at that time and that was the fact that returning vets from our current military era might have difficulty obtaining this information. There are a lot of resources available for those returning vets who wish to start a business, but getting past the literal quagmire of rules and regulations can be daunting to newcomers.

Establishing Priorities

Most importantly, those veterans who have families cannot afford to wait months and months for a business to begin making an actual profit. They need to earn wages to provide for housing and food as quickly as possible. For those who are single, it’s possible to live precariously for a bit, but for many vets, even single life still requires a source of steady income. My best advice is to find employment first, and plan for establishing a business, second. What I hoped to do is provide good resources and information to those veterans who want to establish themselves as business owners, but aren’t quite sure where to find the assistance they need to begin the process. By providing these podcasts, I hope too, that they can vicariously learn through my own experiences what the pitfalls might be that are out there, and what the best steps are in becoming solid business owners.

There are three steps that are an absolutely necessity in beginning a business and they are:

  1. A good attorney
  2. A good accountant
  3. A good bank

I should add there are monies made available by the government to assist in business establishment, much like the V.A. home loans. However, understanding how to wade through the regulations and red tape to obtain these funds is a process all by itself.

Ask for help. Send me an email. Call me. Let’s talk.

 

Contracting Ethics Should be a Priority

Ethics are something that we begin learning in our childhood with lessons from our parents. Every American should strive to live by the Golden Rule, and this applies not only to individuals, but to business owners as well.

We all are aware of businesses out there who don’t make this their policy, and as a result, we usually don’t do repeat business with them. This is why you should carefully consider how you want to operate as a business owner. You should set a high standard for yourself as well as your employees, and by operating in this manner, it may very well be what makes or breaks your business.

All big companies started somewhere, usually as much smaller businesses. Their business practices helped them become bigger companies, and we’ve all seen seemingly successful and well established businesses lose their way when businesses change ownership. Many times, it boils down to ownership and what ethics that owner chooses to employ. I think most of us instinctively know the difference between good and bad ethics and that instinct should never be ignored as a business owner.

The reality is that even though a business might achieve some rewards from unethical business practices, eventually everything will crash down. Take for example, Enron and Worldcom, to name a few; these companies bloomed into behemoth enterprises and lost sight of their code of ethics. They did well for a while, but eventually the truth came to surface and it brought them down.

Since my focus here is on Federal government contracting, there are a set of rules we must abide by in this industry referred to as the Federal Acquisition Regulation. This book of rules is monstrous in size, and it binds all of us to a set of rules and ethics that aim to establish healthy credibility within the Federal contracting industry.

Competition is Healthy

Competition in the bidding process is healthy when good ethics are maintained, but there are those who will try to find a way around this process. Minority set-aside jobs can suffer breakdown just as any industry can suffer, such as the area of jobs available to those businesses owned by women. At the end of the day, no matter what job is available to a particular minority, the contracting officer needs to do their job. On the other side of the fence, contractors also need to do their jobs by providing fair and equitable proposals to the government.

Add your thoughts about ethics in business below.