In November 2011, Diane Sumpter, president and CEO of DESA, Inc., attended the HHS VHW8 Industry Day. The owner of a small, woman-owned professional services firm, Sumpter was intent on making the most of the event. She had done her research and was certain there were partnership opportunities available with many of the large, prime contractors that were scheduled to attend.
During the busy day of activities, appointments, and sessions, Sumpter met Hudson Oliveira, the Director of RTI International’s Small Business Office. Within moments of meeting, the two began laying a possible roadmap for their organizations to work together. RTI invited DESA to RTI’s small business expo where DESA had the opportunity to meet many of the RTI’s operation and program managers. From that meeting, several subcontract opportunities arose, of which DESA took full advantage. Two years later, DESA secured a Master Service Agreement with RTI. In March 2014, after months of preparation, DESA successfully kicked off its first task order under the RTI MSA.
Knowing that making a good first impression is crucial, Sumpter impressed upon her team the importance of providing exceptional service. “I have an awesome team that always does a great job. But when you are trying to build a relationship with a new company, there can be no room for error,” she says.
“I am so excited to have another opportunity to work with RTI. This is a result of a number of things: RTI’s commitment to small businesses and perseverance in seeking opportunities to partner with us, and my preparation and persistence. And let’s not forget another very important factor, the DESA team proving time and time again that it can provide high quality service,” Sumpter says.
Sumpter also shares the credit for the successful business venture with HHS and its VHW8 Industry Day, the event that brought DESA and RTI together. “It worked,” she says. “The conference did exactly what it set out to do; help small businesses build capacity by linking them to prime contractors.”
Sumpter hopes DESA’s success with RTI serves as an example of what can happen when organizations are truly committed to diversity and building relationship with small businesses. As advice, she encourages small businesses to do their homework, always be prepared, provide excellent service, and never give up.