President George W. Bush receives an enthusiastic greeting at the Women’s Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Summit. (Photos by Peter Cyngier.)
STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - When a talented panel of businesswomen joined together at the Women's Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Summit held at the Cleveland Convention Center in early March, a familiar face was among the group. Dr. Roseann M. Cyngier, president of Cyngier Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical, Cleveland, spoke on "Entrepreneurial Opportunities Through Government Procurement."
Cyngier also met with the keynote speaker, President George W. Bush. "I sat in the center front, approximately 15 feet away from him during his whole keynote address," she said. "It was an encouraging speech - addressed to us women and small-business owners that employ an amazing percentage of the workforce."
On the panel, Cyngier provided expert advice about how to navigate the procurement process, how to win contracts, and where emerging opportunities exist for doing business with government.
"Operating in a construction trade dominated by men has been a challenge since I entered the heating and air conditioning business 23 years ago," she said in her speech. "Much planning, dedication, and preparation have gone into the formation and growth of Cyngier Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical."
Cyngier's company has over 23 years of experience providing service and installation to commercial, government, and residential customers, including a five-year contract with the U.S. Navy. The contractor has serviced various county facilities, including the 911 computer room, and has done business at the local government level with many contracts. Cyngier has had the boiler contract at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for over 13 years.
Dr. Roseann Cyngier poses with Rep. Steven C. Latourette of Ohio.
Procuring Government Contracts
"Yes, the government is a monstrous entity, but it is made up of people
," said Cyngier. "And yes, there are all kinds of forms to fill out, but none of them are difficult."
Cyngier said that before you can look for procurement, you must be sure you have something worthwhile, even different or better to offer. "There are over 300 HVAC and electrical contractors in the local phone book," she said. "Why might you choose Cyngier?
"Get your act together first."
She listed several key points. Planning - Have a business plan. "Ours is the best Carrier Corporation has ever seen among its dealers," she said. "If you are going to bother to do something, bother to do it right." Capital - Have assets and cash to do business. "Businesses may be inspired by dreams, but they don't yet run on them," she said. Finances - Have a solid line of credit, especially if contracting with some government agencies. "I have had to wait almost a year for payments on local government contracts," Cyngier stated. "The federal government generates less paper than the local government. How would you like a customer who automatically adds late charges in their payment if it is at all late? Clean up any bad credit problems if applicable." Training - Invest in training for yourself and invest in training for employees. "Good employees bring good customers," she said. "Unhappy employees lose customers." Marketing - Cyngier believes in marketing "herself."
"My photo is on every ad, every business card," she said.
"I am the Cyngier â€˜brand.' This brings me phenomenal name and face recognition at the license bureau, bank, children's school activities - even when I went to buy bikes from an ad in a paper. The person said, â€˜Oh, you're the heating lady. We have five of your fliers in our drawer. We don't need anything yet, but we plan to call you when we do.' The word here is credibility." Sales - The sales must result in customer transactions for service or commodities. Cyngier is the only woman to receive the Million Dollars Sales Award from Carrier Corp twice. Acknowledgment - "Thank customers - buyers, liaisons, people who put you in touch with an opportunity," she said. "They are more likely to assist you with new business and referrals in the future." Networking - Contractors should promote their businesses everywhere. "I have sold service agreements while standing in a prescription line for one of my children," Cyngier said. "Make it easy for people to reach you: Web site, e-mail, answering service, easy, memorable phone numbers (ours is 846-COOL). And get involved in organizations like NAWBO [National Association of Women Business Owners]."
The Do's And Don'ts Once a contractor's house is in order, Cyngier said there are some do's and don'ts to bidding on government jobs. Do be real. Don't ever pretend to be something you are not. Do not consider being a "pass-through" company where you do not actually do the work. Offer what you genuinely have to offer. Do complete every single blank on a government form, whether paper or electronic. Don't ever leave a line blank on a bid form or application. If it is not applicable, write "N/A." Do be realistic in pricing. Know your costs. Build in a reasonable profit. Profit is what makes a business successful and helps you grow personal wealth. It is not a dirty word. Don't ever price yourself so low as to break into the market and then figure it out. Some contracts even have bid maximums and minimums for which those outside these parameters are considered invalid and unreasonable. Do use your best pricing. Don't believe all government agencies truly pick the lowest bid. "I have personally seen only the federal and county government have a true rating system for fair evaluation," she said. Do your homework. If similar bids, or last year's repeating bid is up, find out under the Freedom of Information Act what happened previously. Don't expect to get an answer overnight or the day before the bid closes. Plan ahead. Do read and understand all information that is being requested. Did the government ask for proof of certifications or licenses? Did the government ask for names of contacts for your customers for similar work? Did the government ask for financial records? Don't expect to send this information separately or later via mail, fax, courier, or e-mail. All requested information must be returned with the bid package. Do get your bid in on time. Don't blame the post office or any courier service if it is late. Plan ahead for arrival at least one day before it is due. Call to confirm receipt of bid. Do find out who won the bid. Know your competitors and how they operate. Figure out what you could do better. Don't harbor grudges or ill feelings toward those who won the bid you wanted. It will not change the results and will just make you miserable inside. Move on.
"Once you have a government award, you must make the government your favorite customer; perform above the standards."
Cyngier believes that her people are well qualified to tackle government work.
"Our craftsmen and staff take pride in their work and we take pride in them," she said. "The Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News selected Cyngier Heating and Air Conditioning as â€˜The Best Contractor to Work For' in the whole Midwest and Great Lakes Region in 2001. And you can be the best in your field of expertise."
Cyngier enjoyed chatting with President Bush and hopes to see him again soon.
With the upcoming November elections, President Bush may be visiting Ohio a lot. Cyngier hopes so and has invited him to visit. "No President has ever been elected without winning the Ohio race," she said.
Publication date: 03/29/2004