Stronger Together: How Partnerships in Industry Create Greater Value

Earlier this month, The Lectern blog on Federal Computer Week discussed a refreshing and moving piece on a new type of mentor-protégé model being developed by Skylight, the firm owned by Chris Cairns, a former Presidential Innovation Fellow and 18F-er. This initiative demonstrates the importance of real partnerships and value creation when small businesses find ways to add competitive value to the market, and themselves.

In the typical mentor-protégé relationship between a large business (mentor) and the small business (protégé), the large business helps provide developmental assistance to small businesses, in addition to having opportunities to form joint ventures. In the joint venture, the firms can compete together for government contracts reserved for small businesses. A joint venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned, or HUBZone businesses — as long as the protégé qualifies for the contract.

However, Skylight is findings ways to help other small businesses through their program Guidelight. This program goes beyond standard mentor-protégé models, as Skylight is helping other small businesses with growth, all aspects of strategic management and execution, and all through their own firms client base as they are a small business themselves.

As Dr. Kelman stated in his blog:

…”Skylight is a small company, which doesn’t have a small business subcontracting plan and thus no requirement to hire small-business subs. Any subcontracting opportunities they make available from their prime contract dollars come out of their hide. Furthermore, in traditional mentor-protégé efforts, the subcontracting opportunities are chosen from the mentor’s existing prime contracts. As a very small firm, Skylight doesn’t have many prime contracts to provide subcontracting opportunities, so it will have to locate some itself from its network.”…

I not only hope this program is successful, but also hope other firms reimagine how they operate in the federal sector. Through my own consulting firm providing B2G services, I would always tell former clients interested in federal government contracting, or with small footprints looking for growth, that they need to be prepared for what only can be described as a blood sport.

Hopefully these types of partnerships helped grow the capabilities available for the public sector. Non traditional firms can be an excellent source of innovative capability not readily available or found in typical government contracting processes, so it really can be a win-win for all.

I look forward to hearing more about this program, and others like it.

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