Army veteran Babette Peyton, founder of the Young Entrepreneurs of the Universe consultancy in Chicago, was among those attending the two day mentoring session. Photo by Craig Roberts.

'Sustainability is key'

Nearly 40 industry and government officials spoke during the 74th annual American Legion Small Business Training Program in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28. One of the speakers, Deirdre White-Randall, a small business specialist and program analyst with Government Services Administration, emphasized that "sustainability is key." White-Randall was referring to sustainability in the environmental preservation sense, but the theme was echoed throughout the two-day workshop in other contexts.

Nearly 200 veteran-owned small business operators, or owner hopefuls, registered for the event staged by the Legion’s Economic Division. Attendees were given 12 hours of intensive instruction on how to do business successfully with the U.S. government, and, equally importantly, how to sustain their relationships and stay in business.

Experts from the private industry, as well as the speakers — who represented defense contractors such as Boeing, Raytheon, BAE and L3 — spent part of the first day outlining the types of products and services sought by the government. Speakers from financial and legal firms then presented overviews on business financing, bookkeeping, tax reporting requirements and related topics.

The second day of the program was the "nuts and bolts" session covering the specifics of preparing business proposals, filing out proper paperwork and generally navigating the government contract procurement process. More time was given to outlining small business accounting requirements, financial audits, etc.

Finally, staff members from the offices of U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., explained current and proposed federal legislation affecting veteran owned small businesses (VOSB) and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB), as well as the requirements imposed upon government agencies to do business with them. Attendees were afforded liberal question-and-answer opportunities throughout the workshop.

The next American Legion Small Business Training Program will be conducted during the organization’s annual national convention, Aug. 24-30, in Indianapolis.