One of the great commonalities of military service is the life changing experience one gets from positive collaboration and focus on teamwork while executing the mission put forth. In many ways, attendees to the National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo have found that these skills have served them well as they pursue their own personal and professional business missions in their lives. Part of this is re-connecting, learning and staying up to date with the programs and business opportunities they find at this annual event.
Attendees to the National Veteran Small Business Conference share a common interest in exploring networking with fellow Veterans in small business as well as companies that are interested in providing rewarding opportunities to help grow the Veteran’s business base. So ahead of this year’s conference in Detroit June 26-29, I’d like to share some stories about how the conference has helped some Veterans.
One example is Allan Arnette, with Management and Technology Solutions Inc. Falls Church, Va., and a Veteran of 20 years of service in the military.
“I want to support my fellow Veterans. I track legislation for Veterans, and I like supporting Veterans who need that legislation to be able to establish and own their own businesses. I network. I look to see what’s out there. It’s a good conference – a lot of very patriotic people go to it,” Arnette said.
“My company, Management and Technology Solutions Inc., provides program management consulting, services, and purchasing in healthcare sector. Looking ahead, I see more and more decision-makers coming to the conference. The contract officers are coming in now. They’re looking for companies that are Veteran-owned small businesses. If the small businesses meet up with them, that’s good for the small businesses,” added Arnette.
Veteran Joseph Daniluk, based in Denver, Colo., operates two highly specialized businesses as president of Superloads Inc. (transporting extremely large loads such as NASA Space Shuttle engines) and Manufacturing Contractors Inc. (making liners for nuclear waste containers). Daniluk finds the National Veteran Small Business Conference helps his company tackle the sometimes daunting procurement process with government projects.
“The conferences do help you get acquainted with the government procurement process,” Daniluk said. “Everybody is trying hard, but there are so many obstacles in this government procurement process. Our experience with the conference has been good. Last year, I met the director of all procurement for the U.S. Navy, but we don’t have business with the Navy yet.
Although consistency in attending these conferences is all part of Daniluk’s initiative to develop new business opportunities he also realizes that it not an overnight process.
“We make nuclear waste liners for the Department of Energy and we’ve have had the same contracts for 8 years. There are 22 other nuclear waste sites that haven’t gotten the need for them (waste liners) yet. We’re always hoping we are going to run into the right person at these shows who needs the liners we make,” Daniluk said.
Bill Capelle, business director for VAL-FAB Inc., a custom metal fabricator based in Neenah, Wis., and a long-time attendee of the National Veteran Small Business Conference, has first-hand experience with the benefits of conference attendance.
“We’ve been to all but the first one. We’re very involved. We missed the first one, and Lockheed Martin said to us if we want to do a lot of government business, this is the one conference to go to. It’s very, very important for networking. For the cost of a booth, that’s where people need to focus,” said Capelle.
The National Veteran Small Business Conference provides an all-important way to get the conversation going with key business targets, while allowing attendees continue the relationship long after the conference is over.
“I’d say our business has gone up 30 percent,” Capelle said. “Boeing introduced us to Northrup Grumman, for example. But you have to follow up. This is just the tool to get you to that spot. It opens doors, but you still have to do the work.”
Bethany Mulcahy is a Marketing and Communications Associate at Halfaker and Associates, which supports the Department of Veterans Affairs in planning the National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo.