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The Magic of Leaning In

Dr. Joey Rivera of Rivera Consulting Group accepts his award as Indiana District 2017 National Small Business Week Small Business Person of the Year

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced that the federal government reached its small business federal contract awards goal of 23% for the fourth year in a row.  Not only did they reach their goal, but they beat it by over $9 billion dollars.  What this means is that during FY 2016 the federal government awarded 24.34% of their prime and sub-contracting contracts to small businesses.  These are the kind of numbers that make small business owners, like Indiana District Office’s 2017 Small Business Person of the Year, Rivera Consulting Group’s Dr. Joey Rivera, very proud they took advantage of SBA resources such as the 8(a) program to earn their slice of the federal contracting pie.

Rivera Consulting Group is a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) with expertise in Information Technology resources and Cyber Security.  Rivera says he wouldn’t be where he is today without SBA.

“My first encounter with SBA was in 2005 when I went to a SBA seminar on how to do business with the government.”  Rivera was freelancing doing IT projects on Fort Knox at the time and says, “I looked around and saw that everyone else had contracts, and wanted to know how I could do it.  This (seminar) is where I learned about the 8(a) program.” 

SBA’s 8(a) Certification is a nine- year business development program designed to assist entrepreneurs to become more competitive in the marketplace. The program utilizes several tools including marketing advice, business strategic planning, and federal contracting provisions, so businesses know how to take advantage of federal contracting opportunities.  

“A lot of times, people think federal contracts fall out of the sky,” Rivera says.  “They don’t.  What 8(a) does is allows you to reduce the amount of competition you will have when competing for contracts.  SBA and the 8(a) Program provide the tools, they give you the resources, but you need to build the house.”  

“They start out with the 101—this is the framework, the structure of business,” continues Rivera.  “Then, SBA provides you with information about what’s out there, but they’re not going to build your house for you.  What do you want your house to look like?  SBA’s not going to decide that for you, you need to do that.  SBA does a good job of telling you that, if you’re willing to listen.  Bottom line, you need to do the work.  You have to stay on top of things and do the work to build your house.”

Rivera eagerly took advantage of what SBA could teach him and successfully expanded his one-person business into an IT and Cyber Security consulting empire with over 175 employees.  Over the years, Rivera says it hasn’t always been easy, but SBA staff have been there to help him out; especially SBA Procurement Center Representative Kathy Ragland,  

“She (Ragland) really went to bat and fought for me when I was a subcontractor,” Rivera says.  “Early on, I was subbing for a large contractor who tried to hire all my people and make me go away.  These were the first people that I hired and losing them would have devastated me,” he reflects.  “I immediately called Kathy and SBA got involved.”

“At the time, I made numerous phone calls to the agency involved (i.e. the Contracting Officer, Small Business Specialist, and whoever else I could get a hold of) who may have had any dealings with the prime contractor, in order to bring the issue to full attention.  I wasn’t sure at the time if I was able to accomplish anything that could assist Joey through my phone calls, but I do remember I didn’t stop trying to reach the right person who could assist Joey at the contract level. My constant push for help in his behalf eventually paid off,” Ragland says.

“They put on the pressure,” says Rivera.  “We are where we are today because Kathy got involved.”

Currently, Rivera has contracts with multiple federal agencies throughout the nation such as Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, and others.  He is also setting his future sights on other avenues such as the EAGLE 6 project, which focuses on cyber security and protection of personal records such as medical and personnel records. Rivera is working with Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Eli Lily on the program and anticipates product launch in approximately five years.  Rivera says this lean in philosophy is “the magic,” which involvement with 8(a) and SBA has helped him capitalize on. 

“Lean in is not about throwing caution to the wind, but strategy based on repeatable revenue,” Rivera says.  “You can’t stay with the tried and true because you have to bring a premium value to your business, so you have to invest and lean in to what the market will want five years from now, 10 years from now.  It’s all about forward thinking and keeping the gas pedal down.” 

Company Name: 
Rivera Consulting Group
Sellersburg, Indiana