How the Georgia Department of Administrative Services is committing to creating small business engagement in the state

Welcome to the first episode of The Playbook, a brand new series on the Atlanta Small Business network. Every week, host and UGA SBDC consultant Mark Collier sits down with some of Atlanta’s emerging entrepreneurs, seasoned small business owners, and resource experts. In this segment, Georgia governor Kemp has launched an ambitious and very worthwhile initiative to make Georgia one of the leading states in the nation for small business engagement. In support of this initiative, the Department of Administrative Services, or DOAS, has developed and implemented several outreach activities in support of that initiative. 

Today, Collier is joined by Telisha Farrow Jackson, Small Business Outreach Specialist with the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, who elaborates more about DOAS’ role and peels back the layers on how small businesses can take the necessary steps to do business with the state of Georgia. 

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome into the PlayBook Telisha.

Telisha Jackson:
Thank you, Mark.

Mark Collier:
Listen. I’m confident that Governor Kemp’s initiative is going to be very well received by small businesses across the state and where I would like to begin today’s interview is with you sharing for the viewers, the high level mission of your agency DOAS.

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely. Well DOAS we survey by supporting our state agencies, our partners through products, services, and information. These agencies, they need this in order to fulfill their requirements and responsibilities to Georgia residents. And so we continue to provide resources and guidance to help them achieve those goals. And there are five programs under that umbrella, and one of them would be the risk management, surplus, fleet management, HRA, Human Resources Administrative, and then where I work, the state purchasing division.

Mark Collier:
All right. Well, listen, your commissioner, commissioner … I forgot his name. You have to help me with that.

Telisha Jackson:
Judge Alex Atwood.

Mark Collier:
Judge Alex Atwood. He was on it ASBN last year, interviewed by Jim Fitzpatrick. And since he’s been on last year, share with me what initiatives DOAS has undertaken since his appearance here.

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely. Yes, Judge Atwood. He provides a lot of information and about DOAS, I can solely speak and majority speak just with the state purchasing division where I work, but there are so much that’s going on all throughout the Department of Administrative Services. Just within state purchasing, we develop and implemented several outreach activities, including a Virtual-Symposium as of November of last year.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. With the pandemic that was a requirement?

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely. Our first one was back in February, but even throughout the pandemic, we were able to bring networking platforms to our suppliers and small businesses through the Symposium. We’ve also introduced the supplier connect informational sessions and we’ve launched the small business procurement readiness workshops.

Mark Collier:
Those are all initiatives that have taken place within the last year?

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely. Within the last few months, Mark. So yes.

Mark Collier:
That’s fantastic. For businesses who are potentially seeking to do business with the state of Georgia, walk me through some of the high-level preliminary steps that those businesses need to take?

Telisha Jackson:
Sure. Well, there’s a five step process that we call through our team Georgia marketplace, and we like to sing the song, five easy steps, but in actuality outside of just registering with the state of Georgia, that’s going to be first and foremost.

Mark Collier:
And that’s done on the website?

Telisha Jackson:
On our website, through our team, Georgia Marketplace Platform. After that, or in the midst of that. You want to make sure that you identify yourself as a small business and along with any other certifications or such as minority, or any veteran owned certifications that you may have. You want to identify those. Keep your contact information up to date. That’s very important because in order to get those notifications through our platforms, we would need to be able to contact you with accurate information.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Make sense.

Telisha Jackson:
Select more than one category for your NIGP codes. A lot of businesses don’t realize that those NIGP codes are significant when getting those bid notifications. And they don’t always recognize where they fit in with those. So you can register as many NIGP codes as you like.

Mark Collier:
Well, I’ve heard that in some of my clients that I consult, I tell them don’t overload that category because then you’ll become a Jack of all trades and a master of none. That’s good advice.

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely. And finally just prepare a capability statement, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, Mark. But even in this virtual environment, it’s important and imperative that our suppliers and small businesses understand that that capability statement is key for networking and getting their business out there, what they do, how they do it, what they can provide in a short time and make it concise and impactful for whomever you meet because in our virtual environment, we’re not face-to-face anymore. So we’ve got to say what we’ve got to say and get on, on our ways.

Mark Collier:
All right. All right. Once they go through those preliminary steps, then there’s something you shared with me called a supplier debriefing process. Share a little bit more with me about what that is and what that entails?

Telisha Jackson:
Well, sure. The supplier debriefing process really has come about through the interaction with our suppliers who have unsuccessfully bid or bid on state contracts. Then the supplier debriefing process comes into play. It’s simply an informational session just between the entity and the unsuccessful supplier. It just provides information on the evaluation and the award process. A debriefing, it gives unsuccessful suppliers an opportunity to communicate with that issuing officer on the evaluation process. How their proposal was evaluated, what was successful or unsuccessful in their proposal? What was good, what was bad? What could just be tweaked? And what was lacking and the rationale for the award behind it?

Mark Collier:
All right. Resources, now we can talk about resources, obviously small businesses need support in the initiative. What resources are available to small businesses to best learn how to bid on state contract opportunities?

Telisha Jackson:
Oh, great question, Mark. I would say the best resources are to take advantage of our statewide sourcing events, things like fleet management services implementing. They have some in management consulting, software and telehealth and telemedicine with all the things that are going on virtually. Training and networking opportunities that we in the state purchasing division provide in our training. We have the small business symposiums as I’ve talked about, business readiness workshops. And in addition to that, we have ongoing supplier training and orientation, and webinars. And those are live events that take suppliers step-by-step through the process of bidding and through our team, Georgia marketplace in our platforms like our GPR.

Mark Collier:
Okay. All right. If a company has bid on state contracts in the past and have been unsuccessful, as many of my clients have been. What steps or redress should they undertake in order to improve their chances of future success on bidding for state contracts?

Telisha Jackson:
Well, of course, I go back to take advantage of that debriefing process. If it’s over a certain amount, it’s automatic, if it’s under a certain amount, then the supplier can request that from the issuing officer. In addition to that, we know that the state looks for quality, responsiveness, innovation and diversity. And sometimes small businesses may not be able to reach all of those components at one time. But in the process, I would just encourage them to listen, learn, try, and mitigate the risk by understanding the process, the procurement process. What it is they’re going through, understanding what it is that they have to offer the goods and services and what the buyer is looking for, whether it be colleges, universities, other state entities, municipalities, and just be confident and continue to bid, just keep doing it, keep doing it.

Mark Collier:
Persistence is the key.

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
All right. Now, many small businesses in Georgia, they’re under a million dollars in revenue. By default, they’re at a disadvantage to some of the larger businesses who can take advantage of economies of scale and some other advantages that larger businesses have. How can smaller businesses best position themselves to compete against those larger companies on state contracting opportunities?

Telisha Jackson:
Prepare and bid.

Mark Collier:
Prepare and bid. All right. And watch your numbers. I’m sure. Because that’s very impressive.

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely. And that’s a part of the research. You’re right. You want to be competitive, you want to make sure that you understand your competition. A lot of times we look at competition and we’re like, oh, back away. But that’s the time that you really want to engage with your competition, especially now in this environment and with new contracts that are coming up with the state that could actually end up being an opportunity for you to partner with another small business or a business as opposed to always competing with them.

Mark Collier:
No, that’s a great point. I mean, partnerships, alliances, teaming arrangements have become paramount for many small businesses during this pandemic because of the uncertainty and also the problems that they’ve been having in terms of generating business in a pandemic year. Speaking of goods and services to the state, what are some of the goods and services that are in the highest demand by the state right now that small businesses can look at, engaging in?

Telisha Jackson:
Oh, my, do we have time to name them all?

Mark Collier:
Give me some of the top three or five. How about that?

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely. Well, that it’s broken down into goods, services and technology. Within that, the state buys just about everything. From complex IT systems and web designs to uniforms, promotional items, asphalt, rock salt for our Georgia DOT trucks, mattresses to linens to baby formula. It’s incredible, boats and playground equipment for the schools.

Mark Collier:
That’s eyeopening.

Telisha Jackson:
Yes. And so, having said that, a lot of the things that are purchased or bought are really just depending on the category or the time. Right now, like I said, telehealth, telemedicine, technology. Now we have a management consulting contract that is out there. And again, I would say the most would be construction, janitorial.

Mark Collier:
Construction, janitorial, kind of the top two?

Telisha Jackson:
I would say so, Mark, at this time.

Mark Collier:
Okay, all right. Now the current pandemic year has driven a lot of alliances as I alluded to earlier. Have you seen that dynamic playing out more amongst kind of vendors, contractors and suppliers in your ecosystem over DOAS?

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely. Most definitely. One of the most recent statewide contracts amidst the COVID or 19 pandemic has been the easy IQC, which I mentioned earlier when we were talking about businesses being domiciled in Georgia.

Mark Collier:
That’s an acronym.

Telisha Jackson:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
What does that stand for?

Telisha Jackson:
That stands for the Indefinite Quantity Construction Contract. I’m glad you asked. But this is a contracting procurements system that provides facility owners and end-users to contractors and for immediate repair of small and medium-sized construction projects. These projects include anything like restoration, alteration, modernization, rehabilitation, and minor new construction sites and structures that may go up.

Mark Collier:
All right, Telisha Farrow Jackson, small business outreach specialist with DOAS. I want to thank you for taking your time out of your busy day to come in and share on the PlayBook some of the ways small businesses can engage in doing business with the state. And I’m hopeful that many small businesses will take advantage of that because Georgia needs small business engagement and outreach to make their state great.

Telisha Jackson:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
Appreciate it.

Telisha Jackson:
Thank you for having me, Mark. It’s been a pleasure.


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