Raffa Gibbard: Establishing Success One Contract at a Time!
Learn how Raffa Gibbard won more than five contracts one contract at a time after waiting for two years!
Gibbard was a former army engineer stationed in Afghanistan and Kuwait, but came back to the United States to take a vocational rehab. That’s when she learned how to do government contracting and afterwards built her company in 2017.
Currently, she has over ten years experience in both construction and contracting with the Army.
Gibbard is also part of GovCon Giants where she shares her knowledge and experience of the VA Entrepreneur / Employment Track. You can listen to that podcast here.
WINNING HER FIRST AND SECOND CONTRACT
Raffa Gibbard didn’t win a contract right after building her company. In fact, she waited for years for an opportunity to come.
She was then part of GovCon Giants and the North Carolina Military Business Center. She was also part of an apprenticeship program where she learned to do sales and marketing and took advantage of the Small Business Administration’s resources.
Then after over two years, she won her first few contracts. These were two fencing jobs, but from different federal buyers.
She didn’t really face any problem with her second fencing job in Indiana, but her first contract in North Carolina almost never happened.
She actually won that first fencing job last March 2020, but because of the COVID lockdown, the federal buyer kept putting it off until October of last year.
However, she again faced another problem because her fence installer ended up closing his shop and declared bankruptcy.
Because of that, she needed to find another fencing company. Fortunately, the new installer provided more staffing and manpower which made the job easier and faster.
Right after doing that contract, she then went to Indiana to also do the second fencing job. She found a company who’s willing to be her sub and they were able to execute it.
“Things just don’t happen as people think, like I said, get awarded, ‘Oh, next week we’re in there, we’re gonna finish it four days, and now I’m invoicing and I get paid.’ It takes a little bit of elbow grease, a little bit of tears, a little bit of breathing because to get— sometimes, it’s just obstacles and we don’t see those obstacles that we go through.”
ALMOST LOSING MONEY
The third contract that Gibbard won is a tile job in DC. This job, although there were challenges at first, opened two other contracts for her company.
The problem that they encountered was that the buyer’s chosen tile color was actually too light and is not the shade that they think it was.
This was a problem because Gibbard already paid for everything, from her crew’s hotel to the tiles and other materials, and if their sub will pull out of this project, she will not get any returns.
Fortunately, they were able to put the tiles in place… and the federal buyer even gave them two other contracts: the first one is for a ceramic tile and the other one is the same set on their first contract but for elevators.
BEING CALLED BY THE CONTRACTING OFFICER
Right after that, a contracting officer called her to bid for two asbestos removal jobs with the Salisbury Veterans Affairs.
Because this opportunity is not publicly posted and the CO was the one who called her, she directly made the paperwork.
“Oh, it felt great. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Really? You want me to do this?’ So, when he gave it to me, I had the paperwork back to him within probably two hours, and the next day, I called to make sure everything was right.”
HER NEXT GOALS
Although Gibbard is happy that she won contracts after years of waiting, she knows that she hasn’t arrived yet and she needs to look for more.
“You know what? I still don’t feel like I’ve arrived… I’m still under 200,000. And I have people who are relying on me… So, I still have a little anxiety, but it’s not so much the fear of failure; now, it’s more, ‘Can I keep it going?’”
She plans to be in the position to work on a huge contract, like an eight million parking garage contract or some hospital construction, in the future.
ADVICE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
1. Put in the time and effort.
Gibbard believed that anyone can be in her place, as long as they put the time and effort to keep working and staying true to their goals.
“There’s nothing interesting about what I do. I’m not charismatic. I, you know, I got here because I just did the work. I just kept pushing.”
2. Have endurance to face challenges.
Gibbar’s success didn’t happen overnight. She waited for years and she had a lot no’s before she came to her first yes.
The key is to have endurance to face all of those setbacks and problems. While trying to make ends meet, she joined organizations and industry days and reassessed her business over and over, until the first contract came in.
“It (Success) isn’t necessarily something that happens quickly, but I really believe if you’re committed and you keep pushing, it will eventually, opportunity will present itself to you.”
If you want to learn more how Raffa Gibbard won more than five contracts after waiting for two years, then be sure to click the resources below.
06: Establishing Your Success One Contract at a Time! – Raffa Gibbard
031: Raffa Gibbard & Renona Riddle Brown: Women Entrepreneurs Discuss VA Veteran Employment Track