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Essential Things to Know About the 2017 National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE)

Essential Things to Know About the 2017 National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE)

Recently, Three Wire, CEO Dan Frank, Solutions Engineer, Wes Jackson, Sr. Client Executive, Keith Foley, and Director, Business Development, Katie Koehler, attended the National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) in St. Louis, MO. In its seventh year, this conference connects Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) with Procurement Decision Makers (PDMs) from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other federal agencies, state government, and commercial firms. As a collective effort, the conference affords PDMs an opportunity to conduct hands-on research and participate in product demonstrations all under one roof.

Team Reflections:

Dan Frank – Founder, CEO

“While at the event, I learned about a potential new Veterans Affairs (VA) approach to set-aside RFPs in which all companies (small and large) would be able to submit a proposal, called a “tiered evaluation.” VA would first consider SDVOSB proposals, to determine if the proposals have a fair and reasonable price. If so, VA would award the contract to a SDVOSB. If not, other categories of businesses (e.g., VOSB, 8a, etc.) would then be considered. Ultimately, if no small business has a fair and reasonable price, the contract could then be awarded to a large business who does. This could have major impacts to small businesses who partner with large businesses for set-aside work.”

Wes Jackson

“The Three Wire team met a variety of people this year at the conference. There were several PDMs and senior executives from the VA there, as well as a multitude of current and potential industry partners. We met leaders and team members from organizations who can augment things we already do, which led to some exciting discussions.”

“It is fun to engage with knowledgeable people in talks that range from the future of IT, to what other industries are doing with today’s technology, to how the Government will build tomorrow’s public services.

“It was good of the VA to make so many PDMs available both for one-on-one discussions as well as several breakout sessions.  Hearing directly from our key stakeholders like this, helps the industry formulate plans and contemplate innovations that can solve the most important problems the VA is facing. So many times, in this industry, you see solutions looking for a problem. Gaining insight and having real dialogue helps us focus on the right things and not waste time and taxpayer dollars on solutions that don’t quite hit the mark.”

“I was particularly interested in hearing that VA is making progress on the path of modernizing its application ecosystem through the use of APIs.  Those efforts and innovations will mean that future apps will be far easier to develop, secure and operate.”

Keith Foley

“The Three Wire Systems team had a tremendous time at this year’s event.  Our mission especially hit home within Industry and Government engagement to collaborate on addressing the needs of our veterans.  We discussed a wide range of technical and operational areas that the VA needs help from partners such as Three Wire to modernize and transform healthcare delivery.”

“Of particular importance is the alignment of new business approaches and technologies for VA to stay ahead of healthcare demands and produce greater health outcomes for veteran care.  Cloud, Managed Services, Agile Development, Analytics and Accountability within IT are areas that we’ll continue to focus on and drive change within the agency.”

“It’s exciting to see Technology reaching a point of rapid delivery and mobility to remove legacy stove-pipe systems and improve communications which tie directly back to saving lives and enhancing the quality of life for the people who mean so much to our country.” 

Katie Koehler

“I was able to meet with over 30 companies within 48 hours, most SDVOSB and some large companies who are very interested in our Call Center capabilities and would like to partner to bring more efficient and effective performance to VA. It is extremely exciting to know others are interested in the great work we’re currently doing for veterans and want to expand and grow with us.”

“VA is changing as it grows to better support veterans, from both a healthcare and benefits perspective and there are so many good businesses and entrepreneurs that want to help VA during this transition. I heard a VA PDM say how excited he was to meet with so many people who had their hearts in the right places vice just looking to ‘get rich’. “

“With a stack of business cards in hand, new insight, and inspiration, we look forward to each follow-up to reconnect and continue the conversation.  Those follow-up meetings inevitably lead to new partnerships, great new ideas, and a wealth of new opportunities for the coming year.”

To learn more about Three Wire Systems, visit us here.

The Importance of Full Spectrum Support for Veterans in the Workplace

The American Council on Education estimates 1.5 million U.S. veterans will be transitioning to the civilian workforce over the next three-to-five years – a 30 percent increase over historical norms. As increasing numbers of veterans enter the workforce, it’s important for companies to recognize that veterans offer unique and versatile skill sets as potential employees. It’s even more important for companies to provide full spectrum support for the transitioning veterans.

“Full spectrum support” goes beyond hiring a veteran, and includes training organizational leaders and managers in veteran-specific issues, such as financial guidance, educational assistance, stress management tips, and emotional and family support. Through Three Wire’s VetAdvisor Program – a peer-to-peer coaching program tailored to support veterans through all phases of transition from military to civilian life – we work tirelessly to ensure businesses and veterans have the custom tailored support necessary to succeed in both their personal and professional lives.

Bunker Labs CEO and U.S. Navy veteran Todd Connor points out that “…while plenty of Americans and industries strive to support [our vets], they often don’t know how to interact with them.” Veterans live and work in a military culture that is often foreign to the civilian population. Day-to-day business environments and operations are usually very different.

Bunker Labs’ research also found that 25% of veterans want to start businesses in their local communities. Civilian mentors and professional networks each serve to support “vetrepreneurs” while navigating a successful entrée into their chosen industry. Fortunately, there are many resources available to the vetrepreneurs including programs supported by the SBA (Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Boots to Business, Contracting Support for Small Business), the Department of Veteran Affairs (Vet Biz, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal) and the National Veteran Small Business Coalition.

Government initiatives such as the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, the Veterans Employment Center at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and organizations such as the Veteran Success Resource Group support veteran employment and those who employ former military members. As the preceding initiatives and programs continue to grow and operate, and as more companies harness the power of the veteran experience, veterans will prosper in the civilian and commercial workspaces.

At VetAdvisor, we are the “First in Veteran Centric Care” and offer a mission-centric focus that cultivates and celebrates the years of military skills and service that veterans bring to bear. Some of these skills include a strong work ethic, attention to detail, managerial and organizational skills, sense of teamwork, and a calling to serve a purpose greater than self.

Improving the veteran’s experience in the workplace – providing each a full spectrum of support – includes being aware of what the veterans’ needs are and implementing the appropriate support mechanisms to address those needs. At VetAdvisor, we endeavor to partner with organizations seeking to recruit, retain, and actively engage with veteran employees as part of our Human Capital Management service offering.



Veterans Day Thoughts

By Dan Frank
CEO,  Three Wire Systems, LLC

America spoke, Trump is our next president. Where does he go from here on one of his key campaign issues of veteran support? Let me guide the way.

A recent Small Business Administration (SBA) study found that military service exhibits one of the largest marginal effects on self-employment, and veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Historically, 50 percent of World War II vets went on to own or operate a business and that 40 percent of Korean War vets did the same thing creating millions of jobs for of their fellow citizens.

In stark contrast to these statistics, consider that since 9/11, only 162,000 veteran businesses have been creating 324,000 jobs. Hypothetically, using Korean War rate discussed above, our most recent veteran generation should have started 1.4 million companies employing in excess of 2.5 million jobs. Veteran entrepreneurship is on the decline. Why?

It’s complicated, but here is an anecdotal account: Last week I attended the Department of Veterans Affairs National Veterans Small Business Engagement conference in Minneapolis. As an old, bald guy, I noticed lots of other old people in attendance. Essentially zero millennials or Gen X in attendance.

Are the young vet guys/gals developing the next ride haling app and chasing venture dollars in Silicon Valley? Most certainly are not doing this. It simply appears that more vets now “get a job and settle” according to Joseph Kopser an Army veteran and co-founder the Ride-Scout app. He blames a lack of in-service mentorship opportunities for current military members. But is it DoD’s job to prepare transitioning service members for entrepreneurship?

So here is the Big Idea for a scalable veteran entrepreneurship program for President-elect Trump.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the Cadillac of all GI Bills and already encompasses rich benefits. Entrepreneurship training is covered, but only thru Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) run by the SBA.

First, let’s eliminate this rule and expand the options from government run facilities and programs. There are plenty of co-work spaces, non-profits, contractors and volunteers to create an eco-system of options for the budding vet entrepreneur. One option run by the government is ridiculous. Entrepreneurship is not a government core competency.

Secondly, for veterans not interested in a college education track, let them take the equivalent tuition and stipend funding they would have received for their college education and let them use it either fund their business or offset living expenses during their business start-up phase. This will require oversight to ensure that the vet is legitimately involved in their business, but program oversight is a government core competency.

Finally, let’s move upstream with entrepreneurship education within DoD as suggested by Army vet Kopser. There is a huge opportunity within the DoD/VA Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Every transitioning service member must attend TAP classes as they transition from the military to civilian life. For those soon to be vets interested in self-employment, a breakout class could be offered and designed to incorporate the details of my first two suggestions above.

With the right training and funding, I believe we can increase interest and change the downward trajectory of veteran owned businesses. President-elect Trump, Three Wire stands ready to serve.

The Behavioral Interview

Behavioral (also referred to as Competency based) interviews have recently grown in popularity and many organizations now use them. Unlike traditional interviews, which are based on open questions that the candidate can speculate about what they think they might do in the future, behavioral interviews focus on past performance and behaviors.

The behavioral interview will give you the chance to showcase your competencies such as knowledge, skills and abilities using specific examples from your past experience. The prospective employer doesn’t want to hear what you think you can do in the future; they want to know what you have done in the past and how you did it. The thinking is that your past performance is the best indicator of future performance.

In a traditional interview, it’s easy for the candidate to let their imagination run wild and say exactly what the interviewer wants to hear: “Work late nights and some weekends? No problem. Increase my travel to 100%? Sure thing.”

In the behavioral interview, you will have to back your gung-ho work ethic with real-life examples, detailing how you handled specific situations. You will most likely be asked the specifics and to quantify your answer as much as possible, allowing the interviewer to check your facts with references, should it get to that stage.

The bottom line is that the behavioral interview is not about potential scenarios. It’s about what you have done and how you did it, making it very tough to just give answers the interviewee thinks the interviewer wants to hear.

Click HERE for sample behavioral interview questions and tips for answering them.

Let’s Get Positive with a New Outlook

Have you ever heard the saying, “Think positively and good things will come?” Does it make you roll your eyes and grumble or do you really take that advice to heart?

Regardless of what you think when you hear someone talk about positive thoughts leading to positive outcomes, there are some correlations between the way we think and the way we live. Positive thinking is more than just a fluffy, feel good, emotionally charged term. Positive thinking does NOT mean that you skip around all day wearing a huge smile denying that negative and difficult situations arise. Feeling and thinking have two separate definitions. Happiness is an emotion, a feeling. Optimism is a belief that good things will happen in the future.

Positive thinking has both psychological and physical benefits. People that are able to maintain a positive thought process are better able to cope with stressful and difficult situations. They are less likely to have cardiovascular disease, they have a greater resistance to the common cold, and they have lower cholesterol levels. Positive thinkers not only have an increased life span and better interpersonal relationships, but they also show slower signs of aging compared to those who have a pessimistic belief about the future.

What you THINK leads to how you FEEL which leads to how you BEHAVE. If you think positively, you will feel more positive and your actions will be positive.

So, how can you increase your daily positive thoughts?

Meditation is great way to increase optimism. It builds long term skills such as increased mindfulness that lead to a positive outlook on the purpose of life, to increased social support, and to decreased illness. Meditation can be done in groups or individual exercises. Some exercises are designed for a quick 5 minute rejuvenation and some are designed for a 30-60 minute relax and revive, chose what best fits your schedule and give a try.

Write positive things down. Write down one thing that you are thankful for or one thing that you are looking forward to in the morning. Starting your day off like this could lead to a day full of positivity. People that write positive things down are able to focus more on the positive, experience an increase in mood, and have fewer visits to the doctor.

Schedule time to play. We schedule meetings, appointments, business lunches, etc. on a daily basis, so why not schedule in some time to do something enjoyable. It may be an exploration, trying a new hobby, playing with children, or attending a fun event. Whatever it is, scheduling in some fun increases contentment, increases joy, gives you something to look forward to, and provides opportunities to learn and build new skills.