I get pretty pissed when I hear stories of how my city or state government spent thousands of dollars on out-of-state consultants, when there are outstanding companies right here in Indiana.
For example, the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana spent $72,000 on a social media consultant from Chicago, when one of Indiana’s best social media consulting firms is less than 10 minutes from the city building. Talk about job creation: in Fort Wayne, that could have easily created 1 – 2 jobs for young social media marketing professionals. Instead, the money was sent four hours, one state, and one time zone away.
I was listening to an episode of Douglas Karr’s Marketing Tech Radio show on Blog Talk Radio, where he and his guests were discussing how local and state governments, and even large companies, ignore home-grown talent in favor of out-of-state consultants. Sending our tax dollars out of state hurts our local economy because those contracts could mean new job creation, which means more tax revenue, and so on.
So why aren’t governments and larger companies hiring local companies to do the work?
Is it the elitism that says hometown talent isn’t that talented? Is it the hometown curse? Is it that the government decision makers are looking to flex a little muscle and feel more powerful?
Or is it the local companies’ fault?
Not to disparage my fellow small business owners, but sometimes if we’re not being hired by our local companies and governments, that’s our own damn fault.
It’s our fault because they didn’t know we even existed. It’s our fault because we never talked to our local governments and big companies. It’s our fault because in all of our networking and back-slapping, we didn’t realize we were networking with other small businesses, and not the real decision makers in the government or the corporations.
That’s not to say the big organizations are absolved of all blame. I mean, a simple Google search that includes your city or state will show you whether there’s a local company that can do the work. If you want a web design company for your Evansville business, Google “web design Evansville” and you’ll find bushels of them.
(And shame on any company or government body that doesn’t actively seek out local companies to do the work for them. Don’t make up some lame excuse about how you wanted a web designer that has government web design experience, or needed a marketing agency that specializes in statewide tourism, not local tourism. The truth is, you couldn’t be bothered to look.)
But while we can point fingers at government and corporations, and blame them for being lazy and unmotivated, the local companies need to share in the blame.
If a particular government agency doesn’t know you exist, did you even tell them about you? Did you meet with the decision makers in a particular agency? Have you added them to your e-newsletter list? Do you invite them to your industry events? And, most importantly, did you respond to the agency’s RFP? If you never filled one out, then of course they’re not going to hire you. As mind-numbing and aggravating as these rules are, they do exist, and you can’t fight them.
I spent most of the day at the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Central Indiana Resource Fair. It’s a day-long series of workshops to encourage small minority-owned and women-owned businesses to apply for government contracts. Apparently there is something like $3 BILLION in government contracts in the state of Indiana alone. And in some cases, the contracts go unfulfilled because no one applies for them. So the state has taken the initiative to ask these MWBEs to please PLEASE PLEASE apply for these contracts.
Applying for an RFP is not rocket science. It’s not that hard. Truthfully, it’s mostly bureaucratic busy work. Having served on a couple RFP committees when I was at the State Health Department, I can tell you that they’re tedious and boring, and a 20 page proposal is usually 18 pages too long. But, the contracts get awarded to the companies that suck it up, deal with the tedium, and submit the proposal.
There are government websites and email newsletters that tell you when RFPs are available. All you have to do is register and fill them out. Don’t wait until the winning bid has been announced before you whine about the out-of-state company getting the contract. They filled out the RFP, and you didn’t.
There are real people who work at these large companies and government agencies. They have phones and email addressess. All you have to do is call them and meet with them to tell them what you do. Don’t wait for RFP opportunities to come up, do it beforehand.
Look, if state and local government want to stimulate the local economy, they would do well to leave the building once in a while, and point their web browsers to something other than their own websites, but they sometimes can’t. I worked in state government for a year-and-a-half, and while it was never said outright, we were discouraged from associating with people from the private sector. The same is true with a lot of corporations. If it wasn’t invented there, they think, it must suck.
Government and corporations need to get over themselves and actually learn about their business communities and see what resources are available within a 20 minute drive of their office, rather than sending our tax dollars to high-dollar consultants.
But if local businesses want to get those government and corporate contracts, we would do well to skip the same old networking events and actually call up people from our government and big companies, and invite them to lunch. Attend their events, or better yet, invite them to our events. Let them get to know the local landscape, and be the one to help them navigate it. (Trust me, they’ll remember you if you help them out.)
In the end, both parties bear equal responsibility for this problem, and need to contribute equally to its solution. But someone needs to go first. Will it be you? Or will you just wait to see if your phone starts magically ringing?
Photo credit: Fotofisken