In this coronavirus era, in which schools have had to follow the preventive measures against…
The Information Technology specialist, now Federal Government supplier, explains how he achieved his goal of doing business with Uncle Sam.
For businessman Abel Herrera, full transparency in the business world is vital. With that premise in mind, he stopped being an employee in 2004 to start his own consulting business.
As he built his client portfolio little by little, he became convinced that entrepreneurship was for him. Thus, in 2005, he created IT Data Solutions, the IT services company that he runs and which, since last February, has a federal contract.
Stated this way, it would seem that everything was a bed of roses for this graduate of Management Information System, but truth to be told; his first work experience was in construction and basketball camps.
The executive tells us that, “while I was studying [at UCF College of Business], I was also playing basketball for college, and when you’re on a scholarship, in the majo division, that becomes your ‘job.’ So, summer was the only time I was allowed to work, and those were the only jobs I could find”.
Herrera recalls that after graduating in 1996, he went to several job interviews in order to work on his professional field, but in every single one he was required to have previous experience. That experience came later at Franklin Templeton, where, in just nine months, he brought stocks from $35 to $130 and Assets Under Management from $250 million to more than $600 million.
His full transparency policy
With that achievement in hand, but without the expected recognition, the young American man of Cuban descent decided it was time for him to start his personal project. Among other reasons, he claims, “I wanted to start my own business where the people who worked with me could know how much I pay them and how much I charged my clients, under a policy of full transparency”.
In times when everything evolves rapidly, mainly due to changes in information technology, this transparency in business and his know-how led him to achieve two important achievements.
The first one was working with clients such as the Miami-Dade County and School Board, The Children’s Trust, and Broward County Public Schools, among many others; and the second one was gaining a five-year contract with the Federal Reserve Board of the United States.
The advice of Rafael Marrero & Company
Rafael Marrero, senior advisor on federal contracts for Hispanics, was the one who put this entrepreneur on Uncle Sam’s path. “Rafael guided me, introduced me to people who are doing the same as us, advised me on what the Federal Government is and helped me understand the proposal process”
“This process” ‒he detailed ‒ “is not like in the private sector, in which, if you have connections, everything is easier. I have worked as a contractor in the private sector for 20 years, but to work with the Government you have to understand their language, and that is very difficult.”
It is precisely because of the complexity of acquiring a federal contract that Herrera appreciates Marrero’s advice so much. «I would never have done it without having Rafael guiding me. In just three weeks, he changed everything: the Capability Statement, the business cards… He convinced me to go to Washington, and that’s what we did.”
When they went to DC in April 2018, they visited the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where Marrero introduced him to “Government insiders” and, in October of that same year, they went to the National Conference, where he met the contracting officer who told him about the federal proposal that they were about to announce.
Particularities of his federal contract
“Normally”, Herrera explains, “the Government posts [the opportunities] on the Federal Business Opportunity website, but this one with the Board is not like that, it is by invitation only. So they invited me and other small group of companies. In the previous five years, 42 companies participated in this contract and, now, of those 42, only 18 entered”.
In his opinion, the most relevant thing was that, apart from those 18, only two new companies have entered, and one of them was his. “I did this in less than 11 months without having a federal past performance. Of course they consider what you have done in the private sector, we’re very proud of had been chosen. We are absolutely happy to have done it.”
In these five years of government contract, IT Data Solutions will be offering services inherent to the information technology infrastructure, as well as maintenance and security in current and future facilities of the Federal Reserve Board.
The work of the “godfather”
To this day, the now Government supplier continues to work with Marrero to obtain the HUBZone Certification. If he gets it, it will be added to the 8(a) certification from the Small Business Administration and the GSA Schedule 70, both certifications he already has.
About his famous mentor, Herrera highlights three features: “First, his knowledge of the Federal Government; second, he gives you a complete solution (he doesn’t do things half baked), and third, I consider him a friend. That is why I tell to all those who want to work with the Government, that he will explain to them from A to Z everything that needs to be done. To be honest, Rafael Marrero opens the doors for you».