For years, Tina Patterson worked in the private sector in information technology software development. After getting laid off a couple of times, she was approached by a colleague to do some side work while job hunting.
“The side worked turn into a couple of clients who would periodically reach out to me,”she said. “In 2014, I decided to stop doing side work and make my work my full-time business.”
Jade Solutions LLC focuses on consulting services in three areas: proposal and grant management, facilitation support and product marketing to a wide range of clients. With guiding principles focusing on fortitude, integrity, focus and accountability, Patterson works with clients thoroughly until the project‘s completion. When putting together proposals, she said “we help you put together a compliant, compelling response.”
Whichever area Patterson is working in, she knows “people want to feel that they have been heard, that their request has been heard,” she said. “They might not get what they want, but at least they have been heard and action is being taken.”
Patterson transitioned from the private to the federal sector after a college classmate’s wife told her that her company was looking for a configuration manager. “Because of my background as a certified product manager, the company thought I might be a fit.”
Months later after the government contract ended, the company asked her to be a proposal manager. She initially declined, but later agreed and the company won the contract.
For others thinking about entering the government contract arena, Patterson has several tips. A company needs to first determine what they want to offer to the government and who needs that product or service. “I think one of the biggest challenges I have with newer companies that approach me is they don’t know who they want to sell their product or service to so they’ve got this really wide net cast and they are trying to sell a service to an agency that doesn’t need their service,” she said.
If companies do their homework, they are far more likely to find a customer that will be interested in their product or service. “That is where (your) target should be,” she said.
Companies should also realize that being a subcontractor is okay.
“Everybody wants to be the prime,” Patterson said. “Being the prime looks great because you can say ‘I have this contract,’ but there is also liability involved in being a prime. Liability in terms of payroll, insurance coverage (and) who is going to be accountable for performance on the contract. As a sub, you have the opportunity to get paid and get some recognition for your work if you have a good relationship, but it takes some (pressure) off of you.”
One of the biggest challenges Patterson faced when she first started was cash flow. One of her first clients paid her late. The experience taught her to make her payment expectations clear. Today, she asks for a deposit from new clients and does not go back and forth with others over her rate.
“My rate is what it is,” she said. “I tell people ‘Do you barter with the electric company? Do you barter with utilities?’ They tell you what their rate is. You don’t go back and say ‘Well I know your rate is 7 cents per kilowatt hour. I want 3 cents.’That option isn’t available and I don’t offer that option. That has helped me.”
She encourages others to have multiple streams of revenue when first starting, including continuing a side hustle.
“I know we believe in instant gratification, but government contracting is definitely not the space for instant gratification,” she said. “Government contracts can take anywhere from three months to a year to find out that you have been awarded the contract. If you are expecting that contract to be awarded in 10 days or 15 days and the money is going to start rolling in immediately, it’s not.”
Success to Patterson is having repeat customers as well as ones that refer her company to others.
“It’s that moment where you wake up or you are sitting at your table and you realize ‘I’m doing this,’”she said referring to running her own company. “ ‘I’m really doing this. I have clients. I have people calling me. I am bringing on consultants to work with me. I’ve got an office space.’ That’s when personally for me it’s the beginning of that feeling of success.”
She finds achievement when a company she worked with is successful because it reflects on the work she has done.
While working on proposals, Patterson is driven in her work by helping clients to come up with the best presentation and seeing all the pieces come together.
“To me, it is like a jigsaw puzzle and the pieces are still moving up until usually a couple of days before the package is submitted,”she said. “They see the package and they realize ‘Oh my goodness we are going to do this.’…
“(I am driven) when I see that the client has the potential to win a contract and helping them to win that contract.”
This article is featured in the 2021 edition of The Daily Record’s Expanding Opportunities Resource Guide for Small, Minority and Women Businesses. Published in conjunction with the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs, Expanding Opportunities explores diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation in Maryland’s small business community. Read more from Expanding Opportunities on this website or read the digital edition.