The skills may be soft, but they can mean hard cash for aspiring contractors.
More than 60 small-business personnel brushed up on their professional etiquette during a seminar last week offered by the county’s Minority Business Development Division to help startups and new businesses polish their interview skills and improve their professional image.
Mirinda Jackson, the county’s compliance manager, advised business owners to be prepared before meeting with prospective clients or partners and to make sure they have a full understanding of the work and the partnership terms.
“I know these are soft skills, but it’s the small things that prevent us from taking our business to the next level,” Jackson said.
She also emphasized the importance of diversifying contracts, saying businesses should never let any one organization account for more than 60 percent of their contracts.
Knowing who in the county government handles contracting — the “players” — also can help land deals, said Eben Smith, the county’s contract compliance officer. He suggested company representatives attend the county’s pre-bid meetings to network with these people and other potential clients and partners.
“You can never do enough networking,” said Roland Jones, executive director of the division.
Angela Killebrew of Vintage Investors in Springdale agreed with Jones.
“I believe for small business, networking is No. 1 in order to expand your business and find out what resources exist. If you do it right, it can raise revenues,” she said.
Killebrew said the seminar helped her understand what services the county provides and the various offices involved in contracting.
Lamon Daniels, who founded his multimedia company Umix Studios in Hyattsville, said he was particularly interested in meeting with county contracting officials.
The seminar taught him more about how the county is structured to do business and what procurement officials want out of businesses, he said.
“I’m definitely going to take the avenues to proceed in bidding,” Daniels said.
Shawn Branch of Bowie attended for her relatives who run an information technology company and home improvement business in Bowie. Her main takeaway: information on using the county’s website for information on upcoming contracts and the importance of paying close attention to the contract adminstration and procurement division.
Many attendees were not familiar with the procurement division or its responsibilities.
The Minority Business Development Division also is planning an event to connect subcontractors with primes in late June.
“We’ve been trying to mix it up and come up with different subjects matters. But at the same time, some businesses just need to go back to the basics,” said Denise Roberts, outreach program manager for the division.