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LaQuan McCarley is a government contracting expert who provides consulting services to help small businesses get started doing business with the federal government. Her firm, Verve Consultants provides business development, compliance, proposal management and certification services for businesses interested in government contracting. Through her 20+ years of experience, she is familiar with the demands small business owners face, she is often referred to as a “bridge” helping her clients get through the hurdles of business ownership and government contracting to reach their revenue goals. For more information www.verveconsultantsinc.com
SmallBizLady: How do you become a contractor to the Federal Government?
LaQuan McCarley: If you have already set up your business entity, have an EIN number, and a business bank account, then the next step is to complete the registration process on SAM.gov. Once your registration is approved, you are set to begin as a federal government contractor.
Tip: Take the time to understand the rules and regulations that you must comply with as a government contractor. Compliance is important to maintain an active status.
SmallBizLady: What do I need to market my business to the Federal Government?
LaQuan McCarley: As a federal government contractor, you will need to create a Capability Statement which is the government’s equivalent to resume. At minimum, your Capability Statement must be concise to the products and/or services you will provide to the government, what makes you different, past performance and company information. Capabilities Statements should be customized to your target agency. As a tip, if you know the agency you want to do work with, check their website to see if they provide any information or formats they wish to see.
SmallBizLady: How do I find contract opportunities?
LaQuan McCarley: Research is key to finding opportunities. There are many research sites and implementing a capture strategy is important to finding opportunities that are right for you. A few free tools to mention are:
- The System for Award Management (SAM) is the official federal government site where you will find all public and active contracting opportunities. SAM.gov
- The SBA manages Subnet which is a Subcontracting Network database that provides available subcontracting opportunities.
- USASpending.gov provides historical information on awarded government contracts, contract amounts and expiration dates.
If you know the agencies you want to do business with, visit their website and search for contracting opportunities.
How to Become an Effective Communicator
Meredith Bell is co-founder and President of Grow Strong Leaders. Her company publishes software tools and books that help people build strong relationships at work and at home. Meredith is an expert in leader and team communications, the author of three books, and the host of the Grow Strong Leaders Podcast. She co-authored her latest books, Connect with Your Team: Mastering the Top 10 Communication Skills, and Peer Coaching Made Simple, with her business partner, Dr. Dennis Coates. In them, Meredith and Denny provide how-to guides for improving communication skills and serving as a peer coach to someone else. For more information: https://growstrongleaders.com/
SmallBizLady: What is the #1 communication skill that is essential for leaders and team members alike?
Meredith Bell: Yes, LISTENING. It’s by far the #1 skill because it’s the foundation for all the others. Most people think they’re pretty good listeners, but in reality, they’re usually just waiting for their turn to talk. Listening involves several sub-skills: focusing your full attention on the other person, noticing non-verbals like facial expression and body language in addition to the words the other person is saying, showing empathy, and restating what the speaker said to make sure you “got” the message.
SmallBizLady: What’s the three-step process you describe that’s required to change a habit or master a new skill?
Meredith Bell: We can learn about the best way to perform a skill, but that doesn’t mean we’ll automatically start doing it that way. And that’s because our brains have physical connections for our current way of performing the skill. We literally have to rewire our brains, and that takes time.
The 3 steps that need to be completed are: 1) Focus – Decide to concentrate on improving one skill (or aspect of a skill) at a time. 2) Action – Practice the new behavior over and over. 3) Reflection – After each situation when you practice the behavior, take time to think about how it went by asking yourself 5 questions: What happened? Why did you handle it that way? What were the consequences? What would you do differently in the future? What’s your next step? Steps 2 and 3 need to be repeated many times for the new pathway to become stronger than the existing one.
SmallBizLady: In your latest book, Connect with Your Team, you describe 3 kinds of feedback. What are they, and why do they matter in business?
Meredith Bell: First, is Giving Positive Feedback, or expressing appreciation to someone for a specific reason. Most of us hear far more criticism than praise throughout our lives. It’s important for others to know what they do well, especially if it’s a behavior we want them to repeat.
Next is Giving Constructive Feedback and doing it in a way that support and encourages the other person. There are 5 parts: 1) Affirm the good. 2) Describe specifically the problems behavior. 3) Explain its impact on you or others. 4) Reset expectations and get their commitment. 5) Encourage and offer support. Too often, we hold back from giving this kind of feedback, with the result that nothing changes because the other person doesn’t realize their behavior caused a problem.
The third is Receiving Feedback graciously, so the other person feels comfortable about being honest with you. To do it well: 1) Listen without being defensive. 2) Apologize for your behavior if appropriate. 3) Thank them for their feedback. 4) Commit to new behavior and follow up to ask how you’re doing, from their perspective. We all have blind spots, and if the people around us don’t think we welcome their input, we’ll continue making the same mistakes.
How to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout
Vernon L. Williams is the Stress Prevention Strategist. He is an author, speaker, and coach with a reputation for challenging, encouraging, and equipping clients to prevent stress and burnout. From the beginning of his entrepreneurial career, Vernon has had the reputation of exceeding client expectations and helping people see their problems in a whole new light. He is the author of eight books including Top 7 Myths That Perpetuate Stress (And How to Dispel Them) The Power to Rejoice: 21 Days to Victory Over Your Problems. Vernon has created several courses including Prevent Work Stress and Positive Mindset Strategy for Business Owners. For more information: www.Preventworkstress.com
SmallBizLady: With all the books on stress, why does stress remain such a problem?
Vernon L. Williams: The simple answer is because most of the information out there on stress is based on myths. In fact, I wrote a book called The Top 7 Myths That Perpetuate Stress (And How to Dispel Them). One myth says that stress is inevitable. It is a normal part of owning a business and that all business owners experience it. Believing this myth can cause business owners to think that they do not have a choice as to whether or not they are stressed. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy – since business owners expect to become stressed, they become stressed, thus causing stress to remain a problem. The truth is stress is not inevitable for business owners. How do I know that? 45% of business owners say they are stressed. If stress were inevitable for business owners, 100% would report being stressed.
SmallBizlady: How is your approach different and why does it work?
Vernon L. Williams: Earlier I mentioned the myth about stress being inevitable for business owners. A second common myth is that since stress is inevitable, the best way to deal with it is to manage it. There are some healthy ways to deal with stress (exercise, spending time in nature, watching a funny movie etc.) and some unhealthy ways to deal with stress (using alcohol excessively, abusing drugs, overeating, etc.) The common denominator for the healthy and unhealthy methods of dealing with stress is that they only deal with the symptoms and not the cause of stress.
My approach is to help dispel another myth about stress: that stress is caused by your circumstances. We know this is false because we have all seen two people experience the same circumstance (stuck in traffic, for example), and one is stressed and the other is not. As Epitetus said: People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. So, I focus on the real cause of all stress: our thoughts about our circumstances, not the circumstances themselves. As King Soloman the wisest man who ever lived said: Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. – Proverbs 4:23. With that in mind, I teach clients to replace negative, stress-producing thoughts about their circumstances with positive, empowering thoughts.
SmallBizLady: What is your process called and what is required to implement it?
Vernon L. Williams: My process is called the Stress Prevention Method (or SPM). In order to achieve success business owners must reject common myths about stress, e.g., stress is inevitable, the best way to deal with stress is to manage it and stress is caused by circumstances. The prerequisite for my process to work is for clients to 1) admit that they create their own stress with their thoughts, 2) believe it is possible to live a stress-free life, and 3) decide to take control of their thoughts. Having met those prerequisites, instead of allowing thoughts to enter their minds and take their emotions wherever they want to take them, clients must 1) monitor their thoughts, 2) challenge each thought by asking critical questions (e.g., Is this thought going to help me accomplish my goals? If the answer is “Yes”, let it in. If the answer is “No”, do not let the thought in.) 3) Only dwell on positive, empowering thoughts.
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