Lourdes Martin-Rosa is the president of Government Business Solutions, a certified 8(a) women-owned small business that provides guidance, education and training to hundreds of small businesses on the importance of growing their business through government contracting. Lourdes also currently serves as the American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting.
In partnership with American Express OPEN, Lourdes has helped create resources and guides that offer “main street” shortcuts for all small business owners, ranging from the novice business owners interested in pursuing government contracts to the more experienced government contractor wanting to explore other methods of winning government contracts.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
After college, I held positions in advertising, sales, travel marketing and eventually entered the government marketing and consulting field with the United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) in Washington D.C.
During my position with USCC, I was exposed to entrepreneurs, CEOs and presidents of numerous corporations within many industries. This allowed me to visualize the strengths and weaknesses of business ownership. I analyzed successful businesses, asked questions when given the opportunity and began to build mentor relationships with several successful government contractors.
With a $25,000 equity line of credit taken from my home, I leaped into business ownership in 2003. However, I quickly missed the steady paycheck every two weeks and realized I needed to develop a plan for success. I became a consultant for one of my previous customers and helped grow their business through government contracting.
I learned skills working as a subcontractor with my mentor before landing my first prime government contract in 2004. To this day, my mentor and I still communicate and work together when we have the opportunity to do so.
Tell us about your business.
Government Business Solutions (GBS) provides services ranging from program management solutions to implementation, and measures supporting our government and commercial clients’ project performance needs and improving the initial return on investments.
We are an 8(a) certified, Women and Minority-Owned Enterprise, Small Business Enterprise, and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business with offices in Miami, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
We have provided expert small business programs in government contracting for over 18 years. Our core services are program management, event/meeting planning and human capital services.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
As a successful award-winning government contractor, I enjoy “paying it forward” by providing training and tips to small businesses entering the government contracting landscape.
For about 10 years, I’ve had the honor of offering expert government contracting guidance and advice, as part of the American Express OPEN for Government Contracting program and serving as the program’s Advisor on Government Contracting.
Through this program, small and medium sized businesses can access free resources to help them compete in the government marketplace. Business owners interested in learning more can visit www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting.
Separately, I recently launched a non-profit called The LEAD Program in partnership with the Small Business Administration aimed at increasing training opportunities for small businesses and established a six step process towards government contract success. Businesses can learn more at TheLeadProgram.com.
- One of the first awards we received was in 2012 during a critical time in which government and Congress had to quickly deliver tasks and requirements for the safety of many Americans. We received an Award of Outstanding Achievement from the Department of Homeland Security – Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) for the quick and outstanding human capital and training performance work we delivered.
- The second award we received was in 2013 from Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a bipartisan non-profit organization providing policy and advocacy efforts for women-owned businesses across America. WIPP awarded us with an Achievement of Excellence award for our efforts in providing training and awareness of the new Small Business Administration (SBA) Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification program. We helped coach thousands of women-owned small businesses across the nation on the importance of growing their business with government contracts.
- The third award we received was from the SBA and the White House for our advocacy efforts towards strengthening the WOSB program. In 2015, the federal government reached the 5% WOSB procurement goal for the first time in history. Our training and outreach to thousands of women business owners across America helped obtain this goal.
- The forth award we received was an Excellence in Program Management Achievement Award from Department of Homeland Security – FEMA for exceptional program management services in 2016. The services provided were program management, digitization of records and document management services over the span of four years.
Where is your business based?
Government Business Solutions is headquartered in the beautiful downtown Dadeland Miami area with satellite offices in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
One of the most important steps I took as a business owner was to take advantage of training and free resources available, such as those from the SBA. While learning how to effectively grow my business, I encountered a wonderful mentor through the SBA that provided guidance on how to avoid pitfalls and gave me instrumental advice on how to grow in the federal sector.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
I’ve learned the most effective method for acquiring new business is to establish yourself as a leader in your industry. If you are going to provide IT services, make sure you are up to date with government requirements and standards, know what budgets in the IT industry have been approved by Congress and regularly visit websites created by the federal government such as, www.cloud.gov. If you provide human capital/resource services, visit www.performance.gov to become familiar with the government’s vision in this industry.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
One of my biggest challenges is the uncertainty of federal spending. Just because you’ve been awarded a multi-year contract, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll receive funding for the life of the contract. Each annual renewal, you wait to see what decisions Congress will make that may affect your contract funding.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I needed to think quickly so I wouldn’t lose valuable employees. I immediately researched other existing contracts, subcontracts and teaming relationships to help obtain more work quickly. Luckily, we avoided losing any of our team due to government budget cuts, but it was an eye opener to how Congress’ actions cause ripple effects.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
As a CEO and president of a company, one of the most important roles is being an inspiring and motivational leader for employees during challenging times. I seek motivation from other CEOs like myself; we’ve all been there for each other during challenging times. As a business owner, I can definitely guarantee there will be hardships, but it’s how you react to them that differentiates the leaders from the bosses.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Competition drives innovation. If someone is currently delivering a better product/solution than my business is, I try to learn from them or work with them. It’s important to remember that they don’t have all of the answers and neither do you. Teaming with your competitors is one if the methods to grow in the federal sector.
I also work to distinguish my company from the competition by cementing myself as a leader in the industry. For us, that means learning how to help the government agencies we work with adhere to their mission and goals.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
The best advice I have received recently is, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Variety is an important part of business—from the services you offer to the clients that you work with. While public sector clients are a large part of our business, we also work with many private sector clients, which not only helps us diversify our skills, but teaches us to be better partners. Diversification is also beneficial so that if the market or other external factors impact a client, you can have a plan B.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
By definition, entrepreneurs are risk takers. If you are not prepared to take educated risks, you shouldn’t become an entrepreneur. Consider reaching out to mentors within your industry. The advice you could receive from mentors and advisors is priceless and could help minimize challenges and offer valuable paths towards business success. Focus on three key areas:
- Who is your customer and how/what are they buying;
- What are their pain points and how can you provide the products or services to help improve them;
- Develop strong social media relationships and offer advice as a leader in your industry.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
In government contracting, one of my favorite business communication tools is LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, I have the ability to coach, mentor and provide advice to other small businesses and government agencies on methods for growing and improving contracting opportunities. It’s also a great way to network and stay in the loop of industry news.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
One of my biggest business inspirations is Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar. Although I’ve read most of his books, I still refer back to them to help keep me grounded and focused.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
As a government contractor for more than 18 years, I’ve noticed that each year brings new ideas and challenges towards improving small business growth opportunities. I’ve had the honor of participating in SBA roundtable sessions focused on how to strengthen and improve entrepreneurial skills, training and improvements for small business programs.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
After providing small business government contracting training for so many years, we received an opportunity we didn’t even consider was possible. We recently received a contract opportunity to create a small business acquisition training program for government procurement officials.
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