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National Veterans Small Business Week Success Story: Ramon Erinna: Building a Military Family and Construction Business
Left to right: Ariana Erinna, Ramon Erinna, and Javier Erinna
Ramon Erinna enlisted early to serve his country – little did he know that in doing so, he would sacrifice a chance at a four year scholarship to a prestigious university in the Boston area. An honors student at Cambridge High and Latin School, he was also an outstanding soccer player recognized with “All Eastern Mass” which drew the attention of scouts and area schools.
It was the Vietnam War era and Ramon was inspired by this national movement that led him to military service. An immigrant from Panama, “We have to be innovative when we come as immigrants from other countries,” said Mr. Erinna. Ramon went on to train at Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and served at Fort Stewart, GA and Schofield Barracks, HI during his three years with the Army Corps of Engineers and then 3 years as an inactive reservist.
Mr. Erinna is raising an Army family and passed down the values of military service to his children who also serve in the Army. Ramon’s son Javier trained at Ft. Leonard Wood and is now stationed in Korea; his daughter Ariana is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army at Ft. Benning, GA and is also on her way to train at Ft. Leonard Wood – just as he had! His oldest daughter Talia, has an MBA and is self-employed just like her dad. Mr. Erinna is very proud of his family and their accomplishments - he says that “Stability and support from and to all family members at home enables you to focus on everything else”.
Ramon started Erinna Construction Services in 1996 after spending 21 years at Xerox Corporation in sales and business development. Mr. Erinna always dabbled in construction while working at Xerox, helping friends and family with side projects. Today, his company is currently VA SDVOSB certified (Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business), Minority-Owned Business certified by the State of Massachusetts and 8A certified with the SBA.
Back in 2005, an electrician recommended that he look into government contracting – so it was then that Mr. Erinna began to seek out bidding opportunities with the government. Since Ramon’s background began with the military and the US Army Corps of Engineers, he knew how to be mission-oriented and understood the requirements and detailed specifications of a military project. Through the years, Mr. Erinna has won and successfully completed a number of different projects. His company installed the solar hot water for a building at the London Derry Reserve Center for the US Army Reserve and also in Fort Devens, MA. Another completed project was a covered walkway at the Fort Devens Air Field. Mr. Erinna understands that the government mostly buys on price and value. One of his successes, he recalls, was beating out a competitor that bid 99K - by bidding slightly lower at 98K. Through his experiences, Mr. Erinna shared some tips and lessons learned:
- Don’t Price Gouge the Government – Always bid competitively based on your cost because the government always buys on value. Learn from all your bids and competitors; get feedback from the procurement officers if you do not get the award – so that next time you may win or not leave money on the table by bidding too low.
- Know Your Capabilities – Only bid on work within your capabilities to perform the job. If you bid and get awarded a job for which you do not understand the requirements or statement of work, you will rely on outside subcontractors to complete a job. Don’t put the success of the business in the hands of someone else – if they fail, you will pay the price with your bond and future work.
- Ask for Referrals – Do a good job and complete the project on time. Government relies on dependable partners, so target the agencies you want to work with and build relationships with procurement officers to make them feel comfortable with your work so that they share your name.