Veteran Awards Inc., located in Snohomish, Washington, recently completed the Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) START program. The VIP START program is geared toward companies interested in entering the federal market and becoming procurement ready. The training took place from October 8-11 in Potomac, Maryland.
According to Geoffrey Surprenant, president of Veteran Awards, the training was intense, but beneficial. “It was the most comprehensive training on federal government processes and procedures that I have ever been to,” he states. He notes that the book weighed about 8 1/2 pounds and “we went through every single page.”
He initially heard about the program nearly a year ago when he was sent an email asking if he was interested in participating in VIP START. As a veteran who owns his own business, Surprenant already had some experience in the government world. “I applied and waited about a year for a response,” he states, thinking that maybe he didn’t get in. As it turns out, he did. With a high number of applicants, it seemed the process took a bit to narrow down to those accepted.
While Surprenant felt the application process was relatively simple, there are some requirements to get into the program. According to VIP, participants must be a C-level executive in a veteran-owned small business operating for at least one year with one year of revenue generation; must be a W-2 in their company, or full-time employee, and spend 100 percent of their time in their business; and be a small business. “It’s definitely not for the new companies,” he adds. “You have to have some time under your belt.”
The training, which took place during the day, covered topics ranging from financial, legal, laws, types of business (S-Corp versus LLC for example), human resources, banking, budgeting, and more. Surprenant adds that there were also panel discussions and receptions afterward where attendees could ask questions and network with instructors and peers.
“(The program) did a good job of preparing me for the federal government realm,” he believes. “If you want to learn about the federal government, you have to go to the source.” In addition to the comprehensive education, he states that he also benefitted from the networking opportunities, forming friendships and even possible partnerships.
“I’ve known since I started the company that I wanted to make the federal government a part of my business,” he emphasizes. He also shares a bit of advice for those interested in going the same route. “This is education and training. If you have an expectation that you’re going to immediately pick up millions of dollars in contracts, it’s not going to happen. Set your expectations realistically — don’t do it unless you’re fully prepared.”