Creating government contracting opportunities through free teaming partner platform
Stephanie Alexander and Katie Bilek are the co-founders, Partners, and “matchmakers” at govmates, a free teaming partner platform for government contractors. Founded in 2015, govmates represents more than 50 federal agencies and has successfully made more than 7,000 matches between businesses. Large and small government contracting businesses alike use the service to form teaming arrangements and win mutually beneficial bids for federal projects. Earlier this year, govmates and Offit Kurman established a strategic marketing partnership to better serve the nation’s largest concentration of government contractors..
In addition to their roles at govmates, Stephanie and Katie each act in an executive leadership capacity in organizations adjacent to the matchmaking space. Stephanie is President of BOOST LLC, a back-office support firm for government contractors; Katie is Senior Vice President at Republic Capital Access, a finance company for government contractors.
For this interview, Stephanie and Katie spoke with Offit Kurman Business Law and Transactions Practice Group Chair Michael N. Mercurio.
MIKE MERCURIO: Going back to Govmates, walk us through the functionality of how it works. How does it operate?
KATIE BILEK: It’s free for any small business to join. They simply go to govmates.com and they create a profile. In that profile we’re collecting anything and everything that matters from a teaming perspective: capabilities, customers, contract vehicles, NAICS codes, clearances, set asides, revenue range—you name it, we’re collecting that data. And then once they create that profile, boom, they’re eligible for teaming introductions.
On the flip side, we get incoming requests from all the large systems integrators and defense primes seeking teaming partners, usually based upon very specific criteria: “Hey, I need an 8(a) business with NASA past performance at Glenn with NAICS code 541712”—we have five of those, by the way. “Hey, we need a small business with special operations vehicle maintenance OCONUS past performance”—we have four or five of those as well. But, quite simply, if you’re in Govmates, our algorithms hit on keywords in your profiles and you’ll get matched up to whoever is making that request if you’re fit.
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: I think one of the key points of Govmates, too, is that we do all the work. Once you’ve entered in your registration and have gone online, you update it as you add more capabilities, more prime vehicles—any other past performance that is important—but we do the work behind the scenes. We prepare the reports, there’s nothing else for you to do. And so you’ll get an email from us when you’re hit upon by one of the large guys in one of our search results.
MIKE MERCURIO: So, matchmaking, networking—I know you both are very consummate networkers—but it requires a generosity of spirit. Where does that come from?
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: One of the reasons why I started the company at my day job, BOOST, is to help people grow their companies. And I think Katie and I both feel passionately about this community, and about giving back. What’s better than that? It’s fun on the upright. We want to see people win more contracts; we want to see them get teaming opportunities, have more past performance. It’s good for the ecosystem—it’s just good. It’s good karma!
MIKE MERCURIO: How do you guys divide your loyalties and your time between two businesses: the day business and the after-hours business?
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: I’ll let you answer that one.
KATIE BILEK: We’re just really good at multitasking, quite honestly.
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: That is true. Some days we both are on the road a lot, and we both work flexible schedules. As a partnership, we’ve figured out a way to work together, where whoever takes the nearest alligator to the boat.
MIKE MERCURIO: So you’re both smiling, and I know you guys to be very happy—what’s the secret to have a good business partnership?
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: I have my opinion—I have the world’s best partner, because Katie is amazing; she’s driven, she’s phenomenal, and I couldn’t expect more out of a business partner.
KATIE BILEK: Communication is key. And I think we know each other really well. We’ve been working together for a long time now. In the nonprofit world, we both serve on the board of a veterans’ organization, so we know how we react in any kind of situation. I would say we communicate really well between one another, and so expectations are always set.
MIKE MERCURIO: What are the challenges of being a woman CEO, if any?
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: I think the challenges that you have as a CEO are the same challenges that everyone else has: How do you manage your growth? How do you get more revenue? How do you build your values? How do you hire the right people? Everyone has these challenges. That’s what we see in our clients, that’s what we see in our own companies, that’s what we see actually in govmates as well. Would you agree?
KATIE BILEK: Yeah, I firmly believe we live in a meritocracy, so people will look at us for our accomplishments, not our gender.
MIKE MERCURIO: Is there is something such as good luck in business, or is success in business attributable to something else?
KATIE BILEK: I do believe that timing is important, but showing up and putting in the hard work—that is really critical, and quite honestly not many people are willing to actually put in the work and work really hard at something. I think also having passion behind that work is important—that leads you to being in the right place at the right time, i.e. luck, but I firmly believe there’s got to be a ton of hard work behind that.
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: In the beginning especially, when you first start, it’s a grind. You have to be able to see it through. To Katie’s point, you have to have the passion; if you don’t have that, then why are you doing it? There’s got to be some drive internally that makes you get up and get back at it, whether you get knocked down or not. And so, the more opportunities you prevail yourself to, the more you get back up, the more that you are out there and you’re doing it, the luckier you are.
MIKE MERCURIO: If you had to describe you partner in one word, what would it be and why?
KATIE BILEK: Stephanie is unshakable. Regardless of what comes our way, she will be ready to go to battle and fight until the very end until we’re victorious. Nothing shakes her.
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: That’s so funny. My word for you was going to be “driven” because I think that Katie is extremely driven and focused. You tell her where to go and she just goes—no stopping, no complaining, no whining, no excuses—just get it done.
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