Top 3 Interviews of 2022! | Dr. Kizzy ParksJan 06, 2023
[01:06] Richard C. Howard: Hey, guys! Richard here with government sales momentum. Today is a great episode. We are interviewing Doctor Kizzy Parks, and what's great about this episode is Kizzy has two very unique angles, I guess you could say, on the federal marketplace. One is she has her own consulting company and has sold over $50 million in services contracts to the government. So that's her specialty is providing services to the government and has some really great insight on not only using where your knowledge base is and what your specialty is, but how to expand past that. And she really challenges the listeners to get past what they themselves might be an expert in and how they can branch out into some new territory. In addition to that, she provides some great courses and one on one coaching with small businesses looking to do some of the same things that her company has done. Just amazing insight. She has some very unique approaches to government contracting. So stay tuned. This is a great episode. You don't want to miss it. All right.
[02:18] Kizzy Parks: Hello. Thank you so much, Richard, for having me.
[02:21] Richard C. Howard: Thanks for being on. I know it's been we talked about two or three weeks ago to have you on here, so a little bit of time went by. But I know we've been excited to get you on here and we've been getting a lot of questions to people listening to the podcast around some of the areas where you have expertise, which is kind of helping service based companies get on contract with the government. And I was wondering if maybe we could start with your background. Like, how did you even get into government contract and how did you get to where you are now?
[02:49] Kizzy Parks: Yeah, I was in graduate school, and I needed extra money. And there was an opening for a graduate research fellow at Now Patrick's Space Force. And many members in my family my dad, uncles, brothers, aunts have served in the military, army, Marines, Navy. And so I thought, oh, well, this is a great way where I can just kind of give through this research opportunity and see what happens. And so while I was there, I was actually offered the opportunity right before I graduated with my PhD to continue as a subcontractor. And I noticed a lot of people were subcontractors, and they were pretty much in a typical position. It's just they were in cubicle working normal business hours. It's just that maybe they were 1099 or they worked for a prime contractor. And I said, out the gate, I was not doing that. I said, I will be a subcontractor as a corporation, and I will go on and have other clients.
[04:09] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[04:09] Kizzy Parks: And they said, oh, okay. And so that's what I ended up doing.
[04:14] Richard C. Howard: Fantastic. So who are you actually a subcontractor? Was it a company? Was it with a company that had.
[04:20] Richard C. Howard: A government contract then?
[04:22] Kizzy Parks: Yeah, I started to learn this whole doing it easy. So there was a company who had a sizable contract with the Air Force.
[04:33] Richard C. Howard: Got you.
[04:33] Kizzy Parks: And so then they ran my subcontract through them, and throughout the years, I was placed on probably four different contracts.
[04:43] Richard C. Howard: Oh, wow.
[04:44] Kizzy Parks: Yeah. I was always a sub, always on somebody's contract and went from there. Meanwhile, I grew and pivoted into the private sector also.
[04:56] Richard C. Howard: Right. That's pretty common. Starting off as a subcontract contractor, we talked to a lot of companies that are, especially when they're just getting started, sometimes it's a little bit easier to get the experience they need by subcontracting to a bigger company and then going after it. Sounds like for you, you were just a great match for a business right away, and then you start learning about the government process and working with the government. If I could ask, as you started growing and as a subcontractor and kind of expanding, what about the government work? Kind of intrigued you? Was there something about it that you really found attractive as compared to maybe regular B to B or B to C sales or work in those areas?
[05:42] Kizzy Parks: One, it felt very familiar, and it's just so amazing the impression serving in the military has on you and your family. Where my dad had served eons ago, but the way he was and the way he raised me, it was like, oh, this is so familiar. So being there was familiar in a way. So that was one. The other thing was, I was so fresh. I had interns at Lockheed Martin. I had jobs since I was 15, but I didn't go in with this expectation of, like, this is how you should do stuff. Right?
[06:26] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[06:26] Kizzy Parks: I went in there like, oh, this is great. Let me bake you cookies and let me look. Really? I didn't know what I was doing. I really did bake cookies.
[06:36] Richard C. Howard: That's funny.
[06:36] Kizzy Parks: So I did. I was all like, oh, let me be your friend and analyze some data. So I went in there just so excited because Patrick was so open to my skill set. And I learned that it wasn't just unique to them. That also wow, the National Guard. Oh, my goodness. Fort Belvoir wants me to speak for Women's History Month. Oh, my gosh. The Army Reserve, they want me to do a segment on diversity. Oh, my goodness. So it was really cool to see that what I brought to the table added value and that I was getting paid for it. I was like, shot.
[07:19] Richard C. Howard: Can you describe because a lot of companies really feel challenged, like getting a contract for the first time or even moving from a subcontractor to a prime. Can you describe maybe how you started to do that? Because it sounds like maybe some people saw your work and were reaching out maybe a little bit more on, hey, this is how I ended up actually really starting to prime things and move along, get more some contracts.
[07:45] Kizzy Parks: Yeah, so exactly that. More and more people saw me. They either heard me speak, or somebody would hear my name at Patrick. And they were just like, who is this Dr. Parks person? Because everybody literally thought I was some older guy. Even one time in an event, somebody was like, excuse me, Doctor Parks. And this gentleman, Dr. McGuire, was like, sorry, that's not me. That's her. He was like, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. So there was like this intrigue, and then the value add, right? So that was really cool. And so what happened is, during this, I literally started contacting everyone under the sun. Different business owners, small Business Administration, small business development centers that are here in Florida. And somebody said to me, this is great, Kizzy. You're getting speaking gigs, you have the relationship that Patrick, the National Guard likes you. This is great, however comma. What about ongoing revenue? They said the way you have ongoing revenue so you sustain, as a business is you need multiple year contracts with full time or part time equivalents.
[09:02] Richard C. Howard: Sure.
[09:03] Kizzy Parks: And I was like, what? I had no idea what was meant by that. And so I was like, oh, okay. And so what I ended up doing was right around that time, I had also applied and received the eight A designation for my flagship firm, k Parks Consulting. And so we started to get past performance. I had the subcontract with Patrick. So getting that guidance of having continuous revenue, so that just was in my head. We need continuous revenue.
[09:34] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[09:35] Kizzy Parks: Second was just how to really go about doing that, where to look, where to go. And I knew that the space I was in, which was diversity and inclusion. I love it. But I was like, where am I going to really go with that? I was like, I need to expand. No different. If your whole wheelhouse was safety, you're going to reach a ceiling.
[09:58] Richard C. Howard: Absolutely.
[09:58] Kizzy Parks: So I was like, okay, I got to figure something out. So I've hired a firm that started going through forecast for different agencies. And they found an opportunity with the USDA for virtual training. And we sent them a capability brief. And they invited me for an in person interview. This was about two years, within two years of receiving my eight A. So up until then, I was still doing the one off. I was supplementing revenue through private sector and online teaching. And I was looking to Pivot to kind of get outside of DOD diversity and inclusion training.
[10:44] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[10:45] Kizzy Parks: So met with USDA and actually there's still a client today.
[10:48] Richard C. Howard: Nice.
[10:49] Kizzy Parks: We were awarded a $4 million sole source with them in 2013. And from there, it just gave me the confidence to go forward because I picked up five people and I was like, okay, now I see what everybody meant that I have this ongoing revenue. So I worked on growing that contract and bidding others. So, for instance, in Miami Garrison, I had picked up a management analyst position. I believe the period of performance was for a year. So I picked that up. I then started to partner with everybody under the sun and just try to win any kind of work. And what ultimately ended up happening was I just really started growing within the USDA. So we have sometimes it's 30 people there from the initial five. It kind of ebbs and flows. But the advice to take from that is you Pivot, you get in, you make their lives easier, and you use that past performance to then bid on other opportunities. So eventually we bid on religious positions. We have worked with the FDA. We have two joint ventures. And so all of this is front end, just with little steps to get to where we are.
[12:12] Richard C. Howard: Now that's interesting because you are expanding into other areas. Right. So now you mentioned you have a PhD, but it sounds like and I didn't ask you what is your PhD in?
[12:24] Kizzy Parks: It's in industrial organizational psychology.
[12:27] Richard C. Howard: Okay. It sounds like you have multiple.
[12:30] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[12:30] Richard C. Howard: Which is a lot of work, but it sounds like you have expanded past the kind of subject matter of that degree. Right.
[12:37] Kizzy Parks: Yes.
[12:38] Richard C. Howard: You ended up in the beginning doing some research as a subcontractor, learning a little bit about government sales, getting asked to speak, I'm guessing probably within your original kind of educational focus. Right. Or I should say, your PhD. Focus. And then we just are expanding on that. And then all of a sudden, hey, you need to start offering services and you realize diversity inclusion isn't going to necessarily get you where you want to be. You get the eight a. And now you start looking at some of these other opportunities, which is interesting because you can hire people that maybe don't have the same specialty that's needed, right? Like maybe something different than what you would offer. Is that kind of how you approach that? Where, hey, I understand what they're looking for. I certainly understand at this point how to hire people and provide service. Were you going out and finding the people that could then work on those contracts?
[13:27] Kizzy Parks: Yes. We were fortunate that in the beginning with the USDA, actually we inherited four. I proposed the fifth position and they agreed, so that was really cool. So we did that with the National Guard. That was actually our very first eight sole source. And it was for a conference. And because of the network I was involved in, I was able to successfully bring on probably almost 40 different people for this conference of over 500 people with speakers and videographer types and graphic designers. So my background really helped, as well as my networking, because Patrick, I spent a lot of time there or going to events kind of representing the client that I had. And so people just started to know me. It was really helpful and it paid off as well as it was great that we inherited the five, because then it just gave me an idea of, okay, how does this all work? How do I do payroll? What do I do for a handbook? I had no idea. Today we have a recruiting firm, we have people on the team, we have a whole method that we follow, and we literally fill pretty I've told my team we will fill any position, minus we don't fill priest positions and we do not provide any kind of sexual assault prevention response. We've done that work way long time ago. But those are the two areas that I informed the team we're not going to ever get involved in. But other than that, we have a whole wide range of positions. Because the thing is, people misperceive. They think, oh, well, I'm really good in HR, so I want to provide HR to the government. And it's like more than likely they're looking for a person to be the HR person, either on site or for that agency. They may love the fact that you have the background, but they're not really looking to necessarily hire you. So then you have to be comfortable with, okay, not only do I have to hire someone, this person represents you, your business. Every single thing that a government or military person believes about government contractor is reflected is coming across through the person that works for your team.
[15:59] Richard C. Howard: Oh, definitely.
[16:00] Kizzy Parks: Huge.
[16:02] Richard C. Howard: Yeah. Providing services too. I would say one of the challenges there is I guess it's a challenge and a benefit at the same time, which is and I can speak to the other side of that, being on the government side where we would see different contractors come in and they would switch every four or five years depending on when the services contract went up. But when we really love the people on the government side that we're working with, you hate to see them go. And you even mentioned you inherited some people there, right. So it's great for the government to be able to continue working with great people. But I think one of the challenges for the government is when we see someone we don't necessarily want on the team, right? Because you're right, that is a reflection on you as the contract holder. And so how's that relationship between you as the contract holder with the government, whether it's the program manager or the contracting officer, you know what I mean? And having that good relationship where you can say, hey, this guy, this gal just isn't working out, maybe we can pivot to somebody else.
[17:00] Kizzy Parks: Yeah, we definitely have experienced that many, many times. Okay, so we take a couple of approaches. There have been times where we've taken like a two-year kind of strategic approach. Then there are times where here's a great example and this is challenging, but it is what it is. There are times when you know, you know that your team member, whether they're employee, contractor, subcontractor, they got and they have to go and you just have to make the decision. Those who don't, they're going to have repercussions. So those are pretty clear. You just really just have to let them go.
[17:46] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[17:46] Kizzy Parks: Then there's a situation which we've had this happen a couple of times now we didn't know that's hard. So that's actually something we're dealing with right now.
[17:58] Richard C. Howard: Oh, no.
[18:00] Kizzy Parks: But at the same time, we're not surprised.
[18:03] Richard C. Howard: Okay?
[18:03] Kizzy Parks: So we're not surprised. We're doing what we're doing. We're going to come to terms. But I'm going to say this, and this has been true for the over ten years I've in this space. Anytime a situation has come up where we have to have somebody find the magic elsewhere, where we put them somewhere else, the government has always been so pleasant. Now we have had somebody walked out with security, but if it happened but they were still pleasant, we've never had a situation where it was, oh my gosh, this person is horrible. And they send them the email, right. It's always been with dignity and respect. So then you as the business owner, you have to do the same thing. So there have been multiple, multiple times where the client has basically said like, I don't know about this person or whatever language they want to use to convey to you, we make the decision and we move accordingly. And then the last part of that is there are times where we had somebody where the agency loved her, loved her, loved her, they just couldn't find the money. And so I told my team, I was like, well, let's find a position for her and she's still with us.
[19:22] Richard C. Howard: Oh, awesome.
[19:23] Kizzy Parks: Although we never hired her to work internally, the position she was hired for, it fit really well. So that's happened. But that's tricky too, because people, you may hire an aviation expert and you're like, you've been amazing, but I can't use you in my firm. And so as long as they understand and you're there to make the client's life easier, it'll all work out.
[19:49] Richard C. Howard: Yeah, no, those are good points, and this is probably going to be a good transition, but we talked easier. So you see a comment is having that relationship with whoever holds the contract on the government side, the program management team, contracting guys, it has multiple benefits, right. I know a lot of companies have approached us where maybe that relationship wasn't as good as it should have been. But when you're at least having a monthly dialogue with them, you can find out about if you're providing services, you can find out about employees that either aren't working out or maybe are a good fit, but just maybe for a different position. Right, but you also find out about other opportunities out there, especially if you ask and you're deliberate about that, like, hey, we're doing good here. Is there anybody over in this other directory or division that might be able to use our help? And I know how important relationships have been for you as far as even a philosophy and going and grabbing some government work. Can you talk a little bit about that piece as far as relationships that you have and kind of building upon that? And I know you mentioned networking too, how that's kind of helped your government business.
[20:56] Kizzy Parks: Definitely. While we have won competitive opportunities, the ones that where we have long term clients, it's through a relationship. So the relationship, it could have been we received a contract with them, but we formed a relationship with them so that they didn't just see us, as you're the 7th person to hold this contract, we know we're going to keep the people, but we really don't care who's the contract holder. Right. So we really worked with them to as I tell the team, the goal is to get into the family photos.
[21:30] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[21:30] Kizzy Parks: Like, that's always the goal. So we do that through communicating according to their availability because then it's tricky because you may have a contract that says you have to chat every week. Well, if the person the core or point of contact is like, yeah, I can't, or that's just due once a week, we're fine with that.
[21:54] Richard C. Howard: Sure.
[21:54] Kizzy Parks: We've never been in a situation where somebody came that they took away points for that or something. But we communicate with them according to that, to their rhythm. We also make sure they're always up to date on how we are, what's going on with us, vice versa. Even with the ongoing meetings, I get it. Sometimes they don't want to tell us about things, and I totally understand it, but we always communicate with them. We share with them other things that we're doing. Or like a great example I shared, hey, we got our eight extended another year because of the change with the eight. Or, hey, we're now on the GSA schedule. Oh my gosh, now we're on eight Stars. So also that just sharing some things, going on, sharing about other efforts. So then it helps them to think about how can we also leverage you or can we recommend you is really helpful. And then this last thing, this is what we do. We literally are about making lives easier. So we're not about nickel and diming a contract or we're very careful. We're not there to oversee scope. But so, for instance, there was an agency that was like, well, can we just use your Zoom account? And so they use our Zoom account all the time, and at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if anything, it's like, wow, KPC is so flexible. They allowed us to use their Zoom account.
[23:16] Richard C. Howard: Yeah. I mean, you're right. It’s making their lives easier. Just having that relationship if they can trust you, that is huge. And so keeping that dialogue open, I mean, it has so many benefits, right, from finding new opportunities to what we've talked about, kind of learning about what's good and bad happening on the contract, even. You start talking about GSA and Stars category management, right? Yeah. We've certainly known a lot of companies that were on contract with the government organization for years, and then that organization decides that they're going to start using NASA Soup or one of the big contract vehicles. And if you're not asking about that, you get left in the dust. And there are plenty of companies that all of a sudden their work went away because they weren't on the appropriate contract vehicle. And as you know, it can take a long time to get on the vehicles and align yourself with those. Yes. It's so important. I tell everyone it's a relationship game. And I guess the challenge for a lot of people is, well, hey, how do I develop a relationship with the government if I didn't start off like Kizzy did, right, or if I wasn't working for the government like Richard and I'm just trying to start selling from scratch, I mean, I can't just walk onto the army base and start knocking on doors to create those relationships. What would your advice be to a company that has a great service that they're providing, has the initiative, but just doesn't really know about? How do I start that networking?
[24:42] Kizzy Parks: One is you start with at least one small business rep. You get in with one small business rep. Maybe you pick some kind of installation near you and you attend. If there's an online or in person event, you attend it because here's the thing. Even if during that event, you don't get in with a government person, there may be other people involved in that event, like business owners like somebody or myself from IBM or Lockheed Martin. And so what you're wanting to do is have a dialogue with them, continue the dialogue, and make sure it's about them and the value you can add to them. And it's a long-term process. It's not an overnight process unless there's an urgent need that they have. Those are a couple of ways. The other way is there's different contracting kind of association groups throughout the United States. Maybe you get involved in one or go to a meeting just so that, again, you're in the conversations, you're learning. So, like, for instance, in Orlando, there's a ton of different groups that meet there. And I kind of realized, you know what? I really don't want to focus on Orlando. I don't want to focus on business development. I live here in Florida. I was like, It's too much. I can't devote the energy to that. And so you may find that your sweet spot is Maryland or Tennessee, although you live in Alaska. Who knows? But it's just at least starting with one person, getting to know them, showing value, following up, as well as you can even find people on LinkedIn. Maybe you're trying to align yourself with a certain kind of contractor, reach out, and ask questions. That's what I did. I literally just reached out to business owners in Orlando and I was like, hey, you own this company, and you were in a day. Can we go to lunch? And I'll never forget Kevin Jackson, like, all the guidance he gave me because I didn't know what to do during a capability brief in person, and I didn't know any of those things. And he gave me so many good tips, like, I still haven't forgotten them today. So then that helps too, because though it's a conversation, they may say, oh my gosh, you know what? There's this opportunity I now want to bid on because you have shared with me that you do XYZ and then you partner on something. Or maybe they bring you in as a 1099. But if you talk to no one, no one knows what you do. You have to talk to someone or at least post on social media because especially today, if we don't know who you are, you don't exist. I mean, we know Lebron James, but I mean, hey, we're not all Lebron James, so we don't really know who you are.
[27:33] Richard C. Howard: That is absolutely true. Yeah. I tell people something similar. Just, hey, extreme focus, right? Like, pick an agency. Pick an office within that agency. Start learning about their mission and start reaching out, attending the events. A lot of them are virtual because of code, so it makes it a little bit easier to log in for a couple of hours and at least hear the decision makers what they're thinking and kind of learn the language a little bit. That's all excellent. And that kind of also pivots to not only have you provided some great services for the country, which we kind of skimmed over, but it is also nice to be able to provide something to the country because, you know, it benefits the military and the government organizations that are using the people that you're providing, but also you're helping companies that can sell to the government. Do you want to talk a little bit about how you do that and what type of company you assist?
[28:21] Kizzy Parks: Yeah, definitely. So I noticed that there were a lot of gurus in this space to help you win a government contract and I found their tips to be quite scary. I started GovCon Winners to help service based small business owners learn how to win profitable government contracts. So I have a course that I offer, I have monthly coaching that I offer and basically I teach you what I actually do until a few more days. I'm still involved in business development for my main company and I practice what I preach, the techniques that I use. I do a bunch of different little quirky things and usually they work, sometimes they don't. Yeah. So basically teach you really what it takes to get a government contract. That's what I do. I also am available to answer questions. I just like to be really helpful in this space because too many people make it seem that you get registered in Sam and all of a sudden money is going to come out of the sky and you're going to be on a yacht and nothing in life is that easy.
[29:32] Richard C. Howard: No. Or you're going to get a GSA contract. And I know about the gurus because there are plenty of people that will sell you, hey, I'll register you, or hey, I'll get you the GSA contract vehicle. And they spent six months getting it and they think, like you said, money is going to fall from the sky only to realize, oh, I have this vehicle, but that doesn't mean anything, right? I got to go out and get all that work and learn how to do it. And I think what I liked about when I saw your LinkedIn profile and we started talking is you do offer some things that are very valuable to businesses. I like to see them get away from some of the people that don't have experience there. You actually have a company that has done this. So you have an interesting perspective of someone who's done a lot of government work, kind of network your way up from the beginning and now with your courses for a company that just wants to maybe learn a little bit about it on their own or with coaching, because it always is great for how vast the Federal Acquisition Regulations are. And there's so many. Questions. I still, after 20 years, still have questions and I'll reach out to subject matter experts or people in a niche like yourself that, hey, what's your technique for forming a teaming relationship to go after a contract like this? There are some interesting and creative ways to do that and for people that have actually done it. And that's very valuable for a lot of businesses. So I appreciate you sharing that. And I know we're running up against the clock here, but is there anything else? Any advice you want to give to anyone that's thinking about getting into this for the first time or maybe struggling because they did register in Sam.gov and the money is not falling from the sky?
[31:04] Kizzy Parks: I would say that the government buys everything and maybe you don't have a contract today. You definitely can get a government contract. They buy everything horse Training, Pancake Mix, they buy weapons, they buy scopes to control the hog population, they buy training, they provide staffing, they buy all kinds of things. And so if you're open minded and you're ready to go on the journey, you can totally sell something to the federal government and feel really good about it. Because that's the thing. The fact that we have contracts that keep us free from food-borne illnesses, that help keep people from basically dying from using vape products, and then we have all these other contracts too, it's like, wow, I can't believe I'm involved in this. It's mind blowing. And so that's what's really cool too. It's not just, oh, I provided these services to XYZ Company who's only focused on their bottom line. And again, nothing is wrong with that capitalist country and I love it, but it just feels really good and the sky is the limit as far as what you can do, even if it's outside of what you currently do.
[32:17] Richard C. Howard: Right.
[32:18] Kizzy Parks: You still can sell pancake mix. If that's what you want to sell, why not figure it out?
[32:22] Richard C. Howard: Exactly. You don't have to grown up in the Biscuit family, do I?
[32:27] Kizzy Parks: No, not at all.
[32:29] Richard C. Howard: No. That's awesome. Well, thank you, Kizzy Parks, for being on the government sales Momentum podcast. If anyone wants to reach out to you, we're going to show no joy of government.
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