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Business owners soak up advice on landing government contracts

People in the News
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Gloria Larkin has made a career out of advising business owners how to navigate the intricacies of securing government contracts.

Larkin, president of marketing consulting company TargetGov, shared snippets of her wisdom this morning at the City of Columbia Small Business Week Conference.


“It’s your day, it’s your time, it’s your year to grow,” Larkin told a conference room full of business executives at Spirit Communications Park.

TargetGov is a creation of Marketing Outsource Associates Inc., a full-service marketing company based in Linthicum Heights, Md., that Larkin founded in 1997. It has won clients billions of dollars in federal contracts from military and other government organizations.

Larkin, the author of The Basic Guide to Government Contracting and The Veterans Business Guide: How to Build a Successful Government Contracting Business, is the past National Procurement Committee co-chairwoman for Women Impacting Public Policy. The organization represents more than 6.2 million women nationwide.

Small businesses owned by women, minority, disabled and veteran owners work with TargetGov, as do large systems integrators, product companies, manufacturers, resellers and distributors.

Larkin discussed how all business owners can get their foot in the door with government agencies via an often overlooked introductory and informational tool: The capability statement.

Larkin told the audience that one piece of paper can accomplish more than an expensive, glossy brochure by precisely pinpointing what a company’s abilities and offerings are and how they can benefit a customer.

“This one, single-page document can turn things around for you,” Larkin said.

Capability statements help create critical first impressions and define business strategy while appealing to three layers of decision-makers: Small-business representatives, contracting officers and program managers, Larkin said.

Larkin demonstrated the power of capability statements by sharing two case studies. In the first, an electrical company found declining business with a 20-year customer perplexing. Hired to find answers, Larkin persuaded the skeptical owner to prepare a capability statement, which he then took into a meeting with an executive from the long-term client.

The executive, despite the 20-year business relationship, didn’t realize the company provided all the listed services and vowed to share the capability statement with all his relevant contacts.

Another company, a communications firm which had never done business with the government, was able to show in its capability statement how it could help an agency that ended up naming the firm a subcontractor on a $300 million contract.

“I’m not talking theory,” Larkin said. “I’m talking about the reality of how this works.”

Capability statements are, by design, word-heavy documents light on graphics or images.

“Don’t use pretty pictures of people smiling, because they don’t say anything to your target,” Larkin said.

TargetGov has helped prime contractors, subcontractors and teaming partners receive lucrative contracts from agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

Reach staff writer Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7543.

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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