“Without Sandra Ledbetter’s expert advice on federal procurement procedures, I seriously doubt whether the federal government would be our customer today,” observes Central Massachusetts PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center) client, Bill Letendre of Angel-Guard Products, Inc. in Worcester. Angel-Guard sells rescue and safety related products to municipalities, state governments, utility companies, consumers, and now—the federal government as well. The fourteen-year-old company’s product line includes ice and water rescue equipment, snow rakes, a one-person sandbagging system, a hand hole cover for utility poles, and several other ingenious, low-tech patents.
Always on the lookout to expand his company’s markets, Letendre, who is Angel-Guard’s Sales Manager, first contacted Ledbetter in September of 2002. “We had done very well with two products—an emergency flood control sandbagging kit and a U-Cover for utility poles—which we thought might attract federal buyers. The flood control kit features a large plastic scoop that allows a single person to do sandbagging unaided. The U-Cover, which provides an almost impenetrable seal for wire-filled hand-holes on utility poles, seemed a good bet in light of homeland security considerations. It’s used, in fact by utility companies in thirty states. We had excellent products with proven track records and potential federal markets, but the paperwork barrier to entry in those markets seemed overwhelming. Meeting regularly with Sandra helped me to get a handle on all that and eventually to get our products listed by the General Services Administration.”
The process began with Letendre downloading a 140 plus pages of a solicitation from the GSA web site, GSA Advantage. “Sandra broke down the submission page by page. She was so thorough the first time around that I had permanent templates to use in future submissions,” he explains. While submission forms for different products are largely the same, the 40 to 50-page attachments that must accompany each submission can differ significantly, incorporating each product’s pricing, past sales, and lots of other product-specific information. “Six months after we submitted our two 155-page documents, the GSA phoned, and said that they were impressed by our product and our paperwork. We received both contracts,” notes Letendre.
Getting on the GSA supply list involves a prenegotiated contract that prevents you from selling your product to nonfederal buyers below your federally negotiated price, Letendre continues. While a GSA listing does not guarantee sales, it does bring your product to a federal marketplace that includes thousands of potential federal buyers. In early 2004, Angel Guard received GSA approval for a third product, a snow broom, called The Sno Pro. A fourth Angel-Guard product—a Velcro-type nylon swathe for covering electrical cords to prevent trip hazards—is currently in the GSA submission pipeline.
“We’ve also helped Angel-Guard get listed on the Department of Defense E-mall procurement system,” notes Ledbetter, who serves about 250 active clients and was a PTAC director in Michigan for twelve years. “DOD’s requirements are stringent. If you can sell to them, you are in good shape to sell to other government agencies.” Some of Angel-Guard’s single-person sandbagging systems, in fact, have found their way to Iraq via sales of the flood control kits to Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
Ledbetter has created a “profile” of Angel-Guard’s products that is used to electronically search Federal Business Opportunities, the online compendium of federal procurement opportunities, and other federal and state databases. Letendre receives daily email “teasers” based on this profile that links the company’s products and markets to government solicitations. “Bill reviews these daily email synopses (teasers) and decides to further review, bid or no bid. If interested, he just needs to click on the web links to the actual solicitation, download, read, and respond,” explains Ledbetter.
“Sandra has also pointed me to trade shows that attract federal customers and vendors,” adds Letendre. In September 2003, at the Small Business Administration’s National Entrepreneurial Conference and Expo in Washington, DC, our products attracted lots of attention: we were featured on a live feed promo near the entrance of the hall and the press interviewed me six or seven times,” recalls Letendre. A week before the interview for this profile, Letendre attended the gigantic GSA Expo at the Orange City Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. “Angel-Guard was one of 2000 exhibitors pitching goods and services to 5000 government purchasing reps; we got some excellent leads,” he emphasizes. “The complex was so big that you could have fit ten Springfield Civic Centers into one of its building wings. Federal procurement markets have tremendous size and scope as well. Thanks to Sandra, they’ve become part of our business strategy.”