Fairfax, VA – Highlight Technologies achieves the ISO/IEC 27001:2013 for the Information Security Management System (ISMS) planning, deployment and provisioning of services that supports the IT infrastructure used to protect company, customer, and partner information. The audit was conducted by SRI Quality Registrar, an internationally accredited registrar for management systems standards.

ISO/IEC 27001:2013 is a process-based security certification that recognizes organizations that link business objectives with operating effectiveness. The certification ensures that Highlight demonstrates the ability to secure assets such as financial information, intellectual property, employee details or information entrusted to us by third parties. We have proven effective implementation of documentation and records management, top management’s commitment to their customers, establishment of clear policies, good planning and implementation, good resource security and management, and efficient process control, measurement, and analysis.

“Our achievement of this certification means that we bring secure, consistent practices to our supported programs, and we can help our customers achieve the same level of security using the standards inside their organization. Highlight takes information security seriously and we will continue to provide exceptional support to our customers, partners, and employees,” said CEO Rebecca Andino.

About Highlight Technologies, LLC

Highlight Technologies is an award-winning woman owned, ISO® 9001:2015, ISO 20000-1:2011, ISO 27001:2013, ISO 44001:2017, and CMMI®-DEV Level 3 appraised small business that provides IT development and transformation, secure IT operations, and mission support services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Our customers include National Security (DHS, State, Army, Navy, DISA, the Joint Staff, DTRA, Intel), Health IT (USAID, USDA, NIH, HRSA, EPA) and Citizen Services (FCC, FDIC, FTC, GSA, HHS, SBA, Education, Labor). For more information, please visit www.highlighttech.com.

Highlight Becomes First U.S. Company to Achieve ISO/IEC 44001:2017 Collaborative Business Relationship Management Certification

Fairfax, VA – Highlight Technologies, LLC is the first company in the United States to achieve the ISO/IEC 44001:2017 certification for Collaborative Business Relationship Management. Highlight will join the other companies in the United Kingdom with this distinguished achievement.

ISO/IEC 44001:2017 is an international framework that specifies requirements for effective identification, development and management of collaborative business relationships within or between organizations. Application of this standard will help enhance business performance, reduce costs, increase competitiveness, improve innovation, and manage business risks.

“This is an incredible milestone for the company and Highlight is proud to be the first U.S. company with this certification. The award speaks to Highlight’s mature business processes and allows our customers to benefit from and forward this leaning approach to relationship management.” said CEO Rebecca Andino.

About Highlight Technologies, LLC

Highlight Technologies is an award-winning woman owned, ISO® 9001:2015, ISO 20000-1:2011, ISO 27001:2013, ISO 44001:2017, and CMMI®-DEV Level 3 appraised small business that provides IT development and transformation, secure IT operations, and mission support services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Our customers include National Security (DHS, State, Army, Navy, DISA, the Joint Staff, DTRA, Intel), Health IT (USAID, USDA, NIH, HRSA, EPA) and Citizen Services (FCC, FDIC, FTC, GSA, HHS, SBA, Education, Labor). For more information, please visit www.highlighttech.com.

HighlightCast Episode #4 | Location, Location, Location

 Adam McNair:  Welcome to the next episode of the Highlight and cast. It’s Adam McNair. I’m joined by Kevin. 


Kevin Long: Hey, guys, how’s it going, y’all? 


Adam McNair: So appreciate you tuning in again, we are going to continue on. Miniature little series here. 


Kevin Long : Upsizing your business. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, scaling of business and trying to make sure that as you grow. Things don’t break you, and ideally what you want to see is that the experience of somebody working with you, whether it’s as an employee or as a customer, is consistent. 

Kevin Long: And that you can maintain your successful culture as you grow. 

Adam McNair: And I think we’ve all seen that. I think we’ve all seen, you know, the small neighborhood business where you said, oh, that’s a really great. Place and whether it be a restaurant or a service provider or any number of things. All of a sudden when they get very, very. 


Kevin Long: Yep. 


Adam McNair: Color. 


Kevin Long: Out the window. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. And I think if anybody’s ever gone to the beach in the summer time and you see a restaurant where. Just because of their location and the situation they are doing so much business that they cannot even help to to think about quality and they bring you the wrong food and it’s not cooked correctly and it took them 2 1/2 hours and they kind of don’t even have time to apologize. And you, you don’t even almost feel bad about it. You just like you people. There’s no way that you can accommodate the number of people that are in this establishment, and there are 100 people waiting for tables and. You know that sometime at the end of the day, whoever gets the cash register from that business will be glad they did all that business. But you’re sure that in the moment where everybody is completely just in the way that, that they probably wish they were doing something else. So before we get into that, I was going to share a a really good use for the. 


Kevin Long: In the weeds. Yeah. 


Adam McNair: For the highlight cast so. About two consecutive weekends now I’ve I’ve driven someplace with my kids in the car, and once they knew that we were doing a podcast for the business, they were curious and they said we’d like to listen to that because the only other podcast we really listened to is Car Talk, which don’t ask. Me. Why? 


Kevin Long: As the car talks amazing. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, but you know, you would think it at 4:00 and 7:00. They probably would not be all that interested in distributor cap conversations, but they seem to like it. So they said. So if you’re doing a podcast, we would like to listen to it and I put the first episode on. And they were completely silent for a good solid 5 or 10 minutes and I thought, man, where magic really right. We are just something else. Clearly, totally engrossing. Captivating and. I turned around and looked and they were both completely stone asleep just. Totally asleep. And I thought maybe they were tired, right? Clearly it wasn’t connected to the fact that we were talking about. 


Kevin Long: It couldn’t possibly be us. 


Adam McNair: No, no, certainly not us, nor the fact that we were talking about government wide contracts. So the same. 


Kevin Long: Fascinating stuff, yo. 


Adam McNair: Right. That’s why. Wait. Exactly and so. The following weekend I was driving them again. We were actually going to the beach that weekend and we were driving and they said, can we listen to that show where you and Kevin talk again? Amazing, I said. Absolutely we can. So I fired up episode 2. I figured hey, this way they. Can learn about security clearances. I mean, you never know. It’s never too never. You. 


Kevin Long: Never young. It is never too early. To keep your credit clean. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, that’s right. Starting on your SF 86, I mean, I start on that early, right. And if you think about it, my sons only ever really lived in two houses. So now is a good time for him to. 


Kevin Long: If he starts filling it out, he can just keep it with him. 


Adam McNair: Fill it. Daughters never. She’s only lived in one house. It’s even easier for her, right? 


Kevin Long: Super easy. She’s probably a great PHP programmer too. Let’s bring her on. 


Adam McNair: Probably true so. I put episode 2 on. And and this was in the middle of the day. So this I can’t blame on fatigue or anything or darkness. They were both completely sound asleep. In a matter of minutes. Yeah. So so #1. 


Kevin Long: You’re welcome. 

Adam McNair: Great way if you need to take a car trip with your kids. I find letting the highlight cast put them to sleep for you so that you can. 


Kevin Long: The dulcet tones of Adam and Kevin. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. So that was so that seems to be great and honestly that may become the, you know the listenership of the podcast, it really it’ll be like you know, on iTunes, there’s this small subset of the government community that listens to it, but then it’s just. The top of the charts for the for the yeah, the kids section so people can get their kids to. 


Kevin Long: Mummy blogs. It’s amazing. Go to sleep. But Rock Nocera’s and dust. 


Adam McNair: I guess we’ll just take that as. A compliment that we’re we’re taking the stress out of government contracting, that they feel so safe from the comfort factor. 


Kevin Long: I like that. Highlights on the job we can go to sleep. 


Adam McNair: That’s right, yes, Speaking of. So a couple of things to talk about. About scaling a business, one of them that is. It’s really topical for us here because we’re in the process of securing new office space, but it’s something that is is a big challenge for any business because you go from this point where you have staff that can telework, but. You don’t really have the personal interaction. You lack some of the collaboration ability to sit in a room and do things together. And it also sometimes doesn’t either. It either doesn’t feel like you’re part of the overall company if you’re all remote where it doesn’t quite feel like you’re a real company. Yet if you don’t have an office. Then you have this constant. Ebb and flow of I need offices for 10 people, 12 people, 14 people. Real estate traditional real estate is not really set up that way. 

Kevin Long: How long you want to sign a lease for, right? 


Adam McNair: And they generally want 5-10 years. So a couple of things that that I wanted to bring up is that #1. Until you absolutely need something different, coworking is phenomenal. If you haven’t ever looked at one of these Co working spaces and there’s a lot of different branded ones, there’s there’s we work and there’s Regis and there’s office key and there’s there are a lot of different ones and they all have their kind of. Their niche, their take on it. Some of them are trying to be more fun. Some of them are trying to look more techie, some of them trying to be more kid babysitting or fitness center friendly. They are so flexible and so good. They’re great. Now for your headquarters. It may not work great for that because you want to maybe have your identity a little bit more honed in, but a lot of them you can actually block off a big part of that facility and put your logo on the door and everything. They’re just handling the elasticity of your space requirements. And all of the ancillary stuff that you really probably don’t want to do anyway, I mean. 


Kevin Long: It’s the place we’re working in in Saint Louis. It’s a great space, very techie for incubators. It’s. It’s pay pay as you go seat by seat, but if you want more space they’ll get you more space. You you literally can get a door put, slap your your logo on it and they’ll handle reception. They’ll handle mail, they’ll handle security. They’ll handle real estate taxes. That and and you just space is a service. It’s amazing. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. And the, you know, comparing it to the traditional way of getting. Space. So we’ve got a project just as an example of that. Has been in different phases of everybody on site. Then the government didn’t quite have space for our folks. So then we were teleworking. Some then back on site, now we’re going to be almost exclusively off site. If we were to just go out and go to it, to a building and say, look, we we want a space that is, it doesn’t have to be super fancy, but just good enough for it for this project, how many people? Is it well? It’s a good question. It it kind of goes up and down a little bit over time. It’s been as low as maybe eight people. It’s probably been as many as 20. What they hear is you need space for 20. People. 


Kevin Long: Yep. 


Adam McNair: So you have to sign a lease for the maximum you would need cause otherwise. 


Kevin Long: You’re not. You’re not guaranteed to be able to. 


Adam McNair: Expand right and and if there’s no contiguous space available, you kind of stuck. So I say, OK, well. We’ll get it for 20 people. Fancy build out or not so fancy build out you say? Well, it doesn’t need to be so fancy like I don’t need laser lights and whatever else, just whatever kind of a standard and they say, OK, well, that’s going to end up being about. 50 sixty $70.00 a square foot to build it out. But don’t worry, we’ll pay for that for you. Oh, well, that’s great. So for that build up, we’re just going to need, we would do that if you signed a 7 1/2 year lease, you go whoa. My contracts only got another three years left on them and I hopefully will be here for longer than that and the recompete will happen and the the program will continue and it. Will be funded. And everything else. But I don’t want to sign it for that long. They go. Oh, well, if you’re only willing to take it for for three years. And your options would be. Don’t really do any build out. Well, but there’s there’s no offices. They’re like, well, but you could probably get cubicle furniture. Well, yeah, but that’s going to be really expensive. Well, well, yeah, I guess. Or they say, well, we would, we would pay for it, but. 


Kevin Long: Sure. 


Adam McNair: We’re going to need you to. To pay a 30% premium per square foot, it’s really at the end of the day what they’re trying to recoup is their money. And so if you want to sign a one year lease or 10 year lease, they want to recoup their build out cost. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. 


Adam McNair:  

Regardless of what? That is so that really I think only. Works. Well, your headquarters, I mean your your headquarters office, there’s a certain amount of. Of staff. That I’m pretty sure that you’re going to need, but. Number one, it would be nice to find some space where there is some flexibility to evolve and grow, but not have to take the maximum that you think you might need. And I think that goes a lot into your into. Your real estate search. But then also, what’s the right level to build out where you’re not wetting yourself to a space? 10 years is a long time. 


Kevin Long: And the company’s been around for 10 years. I mean, when Rebecca started highlight, you think that she imagined a space like this or or where? What we’re going to need through the next year. It’s it’s impossible to predict. 


Adam McNair: Right. And the challenge that we’re facing right now is so we are 100% full as of next week with the other couple of folks that are going to be starting here at. Headquarters. We have a name attached to every desk and we have as many desks and offices as what will fit, so we’re in the process of taking additional space. 

Kevin Long: Little bit. 

Adam McNair: But when you go look at the build out, so many of these buildings. They’re not really in the business, nor are they interested in supporting your business model. So figuring out your business model when you decide you’re going to negotiate a lease. Somebody that will give you 8000 square feet of office space now but will guarantee you. Maybe 2 to 3000 more in that building are on that floor. When you’re ready for it. Those kinds of things are really important. Or that you’re going to take a core amount of space next to a Co working facility so that you can be there and that, you know, you have some elasticity next. Door. You know, back to the the Co working piece. They really provide all of those things that in addition to sunk costs that you end up signing onto for years and years and years, a lot of times requires a person to manage things like the Internet connection into the facility. That takes effort. The stocking of refreshments, the coffee machine, all of those kinds of services. If there are plants, somebody has to take care of them. These Co working spaces are usually nicer than any office you’ve ever been in. And they have. 


Kevin Long: Yep. 


Adam McNair: Cafeterias, snack machines, video games, beer on tap, espresso machines, everything that is is handled for you down to the level of things like they offer printing. Sometimes it’s a per page cost or sometimes it’s. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. Free coffee, yeah. 


Adam McNair: Included in your monthly a certain amount of pages are included in your monthly subscription, but. A lot of times you don’t print that much meat anymore. We don’t print very much. 


Kevin Long: No. 


Adam McNair: We we’ve added. We replaced our printer a while ago, but. We don’t print proposals out anymore. Really. They’re all electronic submission. 


Kevin Long: Or never. Yeah, it’s the fact that it’s a an MFP. I mean, we use it to scan things that we have to have wet ink on more often than anything. 


Adam McNair: Right. Yeah. Because we really all of our all of our personnel files and everything else have all been digitized long ago. So we we really don’t keep paper nor do we create a lot of paper. So going to one of those Co working kinds of facilities. They handle all of those things as services down to the level of providing A receptionist, so if somebody comes to meet with you, there’s somebody to greet them and direct them into the right into the right, you know, area. It’s generally a monthly commitment. You know it’s the kind of thing where you can say I’ve got nine people this month. I need 9 desks. And then you need 12 next month and they just sell you three more. And when you don’t need them, you can. You can return them. 


Kevin Long: Yep, and they tend to come with conference room space. So you’re not spending money on a per square foot basis on rooms that you’re not using all the time either. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. And the the, the big expense of those kinds of facilities. Giant conference room giant training room. If you’re going to use that for an hour or two a month, paying for the hour or two a month as opposed to leasing. 1000 square feet, that is your training environment that I mean is is effectively costing you? At least 20 to $30,000 a year it it is significantly better to go to go that route. So I’m a big advocate of the. Of the Co working solutions, I’m also an advocate of. Being very, very protective of. How much you fall in love with the build out and how long an agreement that you you decide to to sign. Have there been offices you’ve worked in before that were? Essentially, they felt like afterthought offices, offices that were almost empty offices that people probably wish they didn’t have. If they could have gotten out of. 


Kevin Long: The lease, as often as not, it’s been government site and so they don’t get a whole lot of of of choice in that. But the the startup when we first started, I first started working out in Arlington on Kent Street. You know, it was I was like employee number what, 20 or something like that and you know. They had that office. Because. They could afford it and it was the space and it was close enough to where the customers were were going to come and see them. And you know, I I sat at a desk that wobbled for a year. 

Adam McNair: Yeah, the the spaces that you lock yourself into. I mean, it’s I think lots of businesses can change a lot of. Especially ours. Can really ebb and flow and change almost overnight because one of the things that we hear people talk about is, you know, well, what do you think is the percentage that you’re going to win that job or not at the end of the day, it’s binary. You either going to win or you’re not. So you don’t kind of need an office in Atlanta. You either do or you don’t. And so. You end up with an award document coming in, and now all of a sudden your company has fundamentally shifted the center of gravity someplace and. Whether it’s having a remote office not having a remote office, having a Co working space, if you have a remote office that was to support a project. They usually feel like uncared for unattended offices. You walk in and there’s almost cobwebs across everything and and and you don’t. You don’t want to. To go to the effort, because it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to really curate and take care of that office because people don’t. 


Kevin Long: Right. Use it very much. It’s contractor white walls and and contractor grade entry grade carpet and the the cheapest furniture that you can find because it’ll be there for a few years. 


Kevin Long: And then it’ll go away. Yeah, it’s disposable office. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. And the and the the. The type of people. That you have also dictates a little bit about the space, and that’s one of the difficulties I’ve always had. When you talk to a real estate. The agent and the build out architect. They end up talking to you about, well, what kinds of people are going to work in this space? Well, I can describe my headquarters staff, but the actual projects that might get housed there. What do you think are the different space profiles? If you were going to be doing maybe application development as opposed to? Doing tier one on our site help desk work. 


Kevin Long: Sure. Yeah, big difference. You don’t you don’t need giant white boards if you’re doing help desk, you need. You need shift like space where people can come in and sit down, put on their headsets and and and do their work and then. I’m I’m I’m assuming if it’s tier one, most tier one, you know it’s at least two, maybe 3 shifts so that you know you’re you’re churning space over again and again, you know you’re you’re going to want locker space, you’re going to want places where people can keep their things that are theirs but not necessarily at the desk that they sit at. If you’re doing a help desk, if you’re doing app Dev you. You need to have, you know, whiteboard paint, put up on your walls and. Places where people can, you know, draw giant diagrams and and figure out all of the crazy things that I. Don’t even begin to understand it. 


Adam McNair: Anymore? Well, and you know. That used to be very much a construction challenge. It was. Let me get a guy out here or a team out here with two by fours and drywall and go ahead and build out different spaces. There are furniture solutions for things like that, but I went to. A giant showroom, kind of the furniture of today or tomorrow. Whatever demon it was. Outside of. Cleveland or Mason. OH, wherever their big distribution center was. And they they invited us out because I had to buy a tremendous amount of furniture and. He described that problem for him that we want this space to be flexible for lots of different use cases. Don’t worry. This furniture, we can move these sliding partitions. We can have some of them be sound deadening. Some of them can be whiteboards. These desks can be different. You can swap in and out whether you want them to be locked drawers or unlocked drawers, or you want it to be the the little pull out drawer that also acts as the guest chair. And all of these kinds of things. Wow, that’s amazing. And that furniture for the size office, I was looking at opening was going to be slightly short of $1,000,000. And then you’re back into that, that. Scenario where you’re asking the landlord would you be willing to pay for $1,000,000 worth of? Furniture. And there’s answer will be sure. 


Kevin Long: Give me a 10 year lease and I’m. 


Adam McNair: Happy to and all they want to do is have you sign up for so long that the financial numbers, if you looked at it, are obvious that it makes good sense for them to give you $1,000,000 because they’re basically just loaning it to you because you’re going to be paying it right back to them over the course of the next. 12 to 14 years. So one of the questions that I’m asked at times is. How do you decide? What kind of office space we’re sitting in and how nice it is, and that really comes down to a couple of things. What’s available in the area, because I mean people’s commutes, you can’t change. I can always get a different coffee machine, but if the office is in a terrible location for you, there’s only so much that that can be done about that. What are the kinds of things that in the places you’ve worked that you felt were kind of the most important to the feeling of the office or like to your experience in that office? 


Kevin Long: What floor it’s on. How many windows you got? Is it interior or exterior? Facing light has a lot to do with it. Honestly. Then what sort of amenities they’re willing to put in? You talk about like coffee machines and things like that. That. And those are just easy. For. People like us to cope with, but from a real estate point of view, you know you care about location. You care about parking, you care about what else have I cared about? Location, real estate parking. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. And also if there’s some kind of food service in the building. Oh, that’s usually nice. I mean. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. 


Adam McNair: I think that’s. When you can’t go get something for lunch quickly and it turns into a 30-40 fifty minute just transit time. Because I mean, we’re here in the DC metro area. You come up to a couple of different stop lights. It it can easily eat up 30 to 45 minutes and you haven’t gotten any food and you haven’t eaten it yet, so it’s just it it it takes a major hunk. 


Kevin Long: Yeah, absolutely. 


Adam McNair: Out of the middle of the day? Absolutely. That’s. It and the. That the interesting thing I think when you when you look at the. The stock of real estate that is available if you decide that you’re going in the. Standard traditional building construct is. It’s very, very hard to find a building that has everything, because a building that has all of that good location, food in the building, fitness center, in the building, on a bus line, plenty of parking, all of that. Is usually so in demand that they only want to give out entire floors because the best the best client for a traditional commercial real estate broker is. I’d like your entire building. I’d like to sign up for your entire building. I’d like to put my logo on top of it. We can discuss whether it’s a 10 or 20 year lease, but here’s all the build out I want do everything I want. You sign up, you have one tenant to collect from and you get one check a month forever and that’s it. Most people don’t need that much space. Most people don’t even need an entire floor. They might settle to take an entire floor if they had to, but a lot of times you’re trying to find out. Well. My ideal amount of space can I get my ideal amount of space from a building and a lot of times they don’t want to subdivide it so you end up. In the. I don’t want to call them less attractive. What I’d call them is they just don’t have everything. You’re not going to get all of those nice to haves in one of those buildings and they say, oh, oh, and by the way, you only need 8000 square feet. No problem. We’ll go ahead and chop this floor in half. We’d be happy to give you half of it and that’s that is, although that does change somewhat geographically. In the DC area, most of your the floor plate, the actual how much space can be on a floor is usually around 20,000 square feet. When you get out into the Midwest in places like that, a lot of their buildings are a little bit smaller and a lot of them are already divided up. Hardly anybody. In. Ohio. Needs 20,000 square feet. It is very, very common for you to find three and four and 5000 square feet in blocks and then it becomes a challenge to find as much contiguous space as what you were looking for. So it that is a little bit of a market driven thing. And the other thing that is is a consideration. If you’re ever going to look. 


Kevin Long: This one. 


Adam McNair: Look for a rectangular building. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. 


Adam McNair: Buildings look so cool from the outside. Oh, look at this. It’s shaped like the letter S it has this giant glass atrium and the shape of a triangle that sticks out of the middle of it. They’ve locked this corner off so that it can all be windows. 


Kevin Long: And what everyone wants is odd shaped rooms. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. You know what’s hard to put in a room shape like a trapezoid? A. Desk. Or a table and so one of the things that if you’re trying to keep your facilities spend down a little bit is trying to figure out the most efficient. Use of the space that you’re going to lease. And if you’re leasing a building that is shaped like a hexagon. The chances are you’re taking 20 to 25% more space than you need it because there’s. East. 1/2 a dozen rooms in your office where you say, well, they don’t actually need all that space, but what the heck are you going to do with that little slice of space? I I looked at one that it was an interesting idea for a building, but it had it. The entire inside of the building was a trapezoid shaped atrium that went floor to roof and it was glass. 


Kevin Long: Yep. 


Adam McNair: Vault. What do you do with? All those offices. Because everybody in those offices can see everybody else in all those offices. So it’s not really a private office, it’s. 


Kevin Long: No. 


Adam McNair: Maybe a conference room, but you can’t put chairs against it because it keeps having these angled walls that turn away from you because it’s a trapezoid. Yeah, so, so those are some things that. 


Kevin Long: This it’s a trap. That’s amazing. 


Adam McNair: Impact the decision and then really it does get down to the different finishes and where the most return is and. If you can find a space that’s already mostly built out now, real estate agents won’t tell you this, they’ll say, oh, don’t worry, that landlord will rip this stuff out. It’s no big deal, and landlords will all tell you. Don’t worry, we’ll do whatever it is that you want, but you’re going to. End up paying for it. 


Kevin Long: Nothing’s. 


Adam McNair: Free. Nothing’s free. And so if you can find a space that there’s any way that you can visualize, you know what? I could live with all of these walls. I would just need these couple of things changed. That’s all money. You don’t have to pay for every time they rip a wall down and carry new drywall in and frame something up and put something new in. That’s something that you just ended up paying for. That’s just essentially what happened. 


Kevin Long: Money. Absolutely. 


Adam McNair: The the the other you know facilities consideration I think is. How often are people that are on programs really going to use your space? If you if you build out, we’re going to have a design center center or an Innovation Center. Are they going to come out and we’ve worked places in the past that had all of those kinds of things that were showcases for technology. In test labs, have you seen much ability to use those things from a program standpoint? 


Kevin Long: No, they were all. Those tools, yeah. The only people that ever really used them were business development bringing out customers. That’s it. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. So that’s kind of what I’ve seen as well. You know, when when I’ve had people on site and kind of the things that we do here is when when somebody says we’d like to have a development environment to do some things that need to be piloted in prototype before we could add them to the baseline of the environment, you go out and you spin up at. An instance for them in Amazon or Azure, whichever is the best link it to their environment and allow them to do their prototyping there. 


Kevin Long: Use the cloud. That’s what it’s there for. Yep. 


Adam McNair: Because they don’t want to come out here. And, you know, if people commute to your headquarters every day, they at least understand that commute. If you have a project in DC, we’re very close to DC we’re widow, 13 miles from the city. But the people that commute to those programs are from all over. The place they. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. 


Adam McNair: Have they are all probably 15 to 25 miles from there. But a lot of them all other directions so. 


Kevin Long: All other directions, yeah. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, I think. That’s that’s something that has always been interesting to me because almost everybody that you see has some sort of a. Development lab, something that I’ve always felt is generally not that useful to people on projects. Having some hoteling space they can come in and sit down. It is nice. 


Kevin Long: Hotelling space is great, necessary, I think. But yeah. And what if you’re doing prototyping and something that can be done off site? You know. Let them do it off site if they want, I mean or. If you can do if you need Co location for design work on it. OK, you can do that on customer site or you could do you know a day out at at sort of a a facilitation space. But you know coders can code just about anywhere. Giving their headphones and let them. 


Adam McNair: Go right and that that is a good point and and again that ties back honestly to a lot of the coworking options is that if if what you need is a couple of days for people to get together. They will all rent. You A room? You can get a giant conference room with plenty of Wi-Fi and free coffee and everything else. And have them all work however they want and whatever hours they want. That that usually also I think does does work pretty well. You know the the other thing I think we we might want to chat about during this episode is. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. 


Adam McNair: That linkage between the sales, here’s how we would do innovation and here’s how we would do. Prototype development. It does feed into the proposal process pretty, pretty significantly. 


Kevin Long: Sure. 


Adam McNair: When did you start getting involved in? Proposals in this industry. 


Kevin Long: Gosh, I I started with it. I helped do some commercial stuff very little bit at at the start up, but at with government stuff, it was when I was. Essentially. Working with government project lead, who said Kevin I would love to have you come work over over here. Help me put together a reason to do it right. And so when he was going to a different part of the agency, he wanted to bring some folks along with him. And so. Started working, you know, very small pieces of that for for writing and a little bit before that I got to do some color team reviews. So starting with reviews as so. Gosh. What? Call me. I was a senior programmer but a mid project manager when I first started really working with it. 


Adam McNair: It it it’s the it’s it’s something that. So many people that I I talked to can’t stand the proposal process. And. I think a lot of that is probably either the way it’s handled or the hours on which it’s handled. 


Kevin Long: The expectations that are levied on the participants. 


Adam McNair: Yeah. So what was was most of yours? Was it go ahead and work all day  

and then in the evening, yeah. 


Kevin Long: Oh yeah, absolutely. It was you. You have your day job. Awesome. Keep doing that. That’s wonderful now. Now, now we we’ve got this section. We want your help on what we’re doing a review at 8:00 AM. Thank you. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, and that that I think the the scaling from. We’re going to have everybody work themselves, just absolutely bleary eyed on this to it’s a repeatable process and it’s something that we are going to all consult on and make sure we get the right answer. Written. Down. That’s a a maturity and a scaling, but honestly. I see a lot of places where proposals are very, very painful at any size. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. Where it’s. You know, an evening and weekends. All the time. I mean, I’ve seen small, medium and large companies all operate that way and you know, sometimes, you know, last minute Q&A comes in and things need to shift because they’ve not moved the deadline and you know. I. Mean proposal manager’s job is to be a galley drummer and make sure everyone’s rowing. But you know, I mean it does. It does not have to be as. Painful as it is, a lot of places. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, I feel like the the the big stack up of oh, my God, we all have to be here all night. Is very, very few and far between that. OK, here’s an amendment we changed something. It’s substantial. It’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s still due in two days. It’s very rare and I haven’t anything like that happened in in a long time, honestly. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. From a it’s pretty rare to have a prop go from 100 pages to 50 pages back to 100 pages. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, I I think that’s brings back flashbacks. That’s that’s that’s a Side Story that is probably for a different podcast that is probably not. Yeah, the the rewriting of. 


Kevin Long: Over beer. 


Adam McNair: From 300 pages to 100 to 50 to 100, back to 300, back to 100 or maybe 3 volumes that were all 100 and we just won’t go there. It’s it’s just it’s just better that we don’t. If anybody’s listening to this that actually knows which one that was. I’m sure everybody’s laughing. So I still feel the same way. Got that one that I ever did. So that helps. Yeah, anyway. 


Kevin Long: But it’s very rare is the is. The important part of that. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, it it is rare and I think honestly the the scaling of a proposal. Process. Is more about the maturity of it than adding people to it. Because usually because. It’s about delivering a project and that’s kind of what we do as a company. You honestly almost have more resources than you need at any given time to write one or more proposals. Because, OK, well, you guys all know how to do this. You know, you folks, you do this, you do that. It becomes, I think, about two things about coming up and sticking to a schedule that doesn’t, where everybody else out. But then also having your process honed so that from. Comprehensively throughout the process, you actually know what you want to propose and what you want to propose. It can be executed. Yep. Also what? 


Kevin Long: What you want to propose? I mean what? What is the special sauce? That is how you develop something, what you know? I mean, do you have a particular way that you like to develop software, you know, can you get that sort of defined and then see how it fits around a particular proposal? Do you have a particular way that you found that works really well for O&M? For server maintenance, for database administration and and figuring that out as a company, you know what makes you you how do you do these things? Goes a long way. I mean, you don’t want a boilerplate everything. I mean, I’m sure everyone has been around, has worked someplace that boilerplates everything and that doesn’t win a lot either. But knowing how you approach particular problems, I mean the government has similar problems all over the place. And so. You know, knowing how you approach different things gives you a starting point for ways to be able to approach each of those proposals. 


Adam McNair: Yeah, technology challenges. Every agency is unique, but the challenge is they face from technology standpoint. You know when, when, when Windows goes from one version to the next. It will be unique in each agency, but that’s a thing that has to be done when you’re going from physical servers to the cloud. That’s that’s a thing that has to be done. There is a lot of commonality. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. 


Adam McNair: The the discipline that I think is required that. It’s hard to infuse into the process consistently is let’s make sure we sit down and really start thinking about the right way to solve this problem and then write it that way. And then when you’re reviewing, you’re saying what we decided we were going to do. Does this really say? And be clear that in the way that we’re going to do it. 


Kevin Long: Absolutely. It drives me absolutely up a wall when I’m given a pink or Red Team review copy and they say here’s the SW. Here’s our our response. Give me comments and if I haven’t been in the solutioning session, I can tell you do you answer? Do you answer the mail? I can’t tell you. If you’re telling the story that you want to tell. And so coming up with with what with what your solution is. Right. What is going to be the differentiator? What what are your wind themes? I mean are you driving them home? You have to have that up front and you can’t just, you can’t wing that? 


Adam McNair: Yeah. And I also think that. Being disciplined to make sure that what you propose. Is your opinion of the right answer? It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is, but based on our experience, we think this is the right way to accomplish. Your your requirements. And then. We know that we can actually deliver it that way. That’s one of the reasons. I mean we do this here, but I. I prefer to work with organizations where their proposal shop and the proposal organization is integrated in some way with the service delivery team. You know we we do that. We’ve even gone to the ISO 44,000 standard is collaborative business relationship management which we’ve implemented because. It forces rigor and audits around making sure that those two sides of the process are linked. But. It improves that likelihood that what you. Said you were going to propose that when you show up to deliver it, that when you’ve gone from being the technical expert to being the delivery technical expert, that that actually is what you’re supposed to deliver. 


Kevin Long: Yeah. And that the PM on the ground that shows up at the kickoff, you know. Isn’t surprised about what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s yeah, it is so important as as someone who’s on the execution side, I. I love having input into what’s being sold because you know that we’re we’re the ones that that are on the hook for it. It doesn’t matter if we agreed with it beforehand or not. As soon as we get that award, it’s ours to deliver and we’ll ours to figure out how to so much better. When, when. We’re all a part. Of it. You know from from the get go it’s it’s. Yeah, it’s only it’s only way to to to to really create a really cohesive solution to. 


Adam McNair: I think it so. So I would say that the scaling there is really not so much about adding people to it. It’s about scaling the maturity of the process to make sure that you’re. You’re only bidding things that you think you know how to do, that you are proposing them in ways that you think would actually do the work, and then you’re handing that off to operations, which we will certainly talk about, you know, later. I think we probably have a couple of minutes if we wanted to touch on. Have there been? Times where you’ve supported programs, and I know you’ve you’ve generally been the prime I think more so than the sub, but that you’ve supported programs where all of a sudden you showed up to do delivery and it seemed like the proposal that was that was written to to to win that work had basically no connection with what it seemed like you you showed up to to support. 


Kevin Long: Sure. I mean it’s a, I mean, I mean even as even as a prime it’s we we’ve shown up at at places where. Where they said we love what you wrote. It’s great. That’s awesome. You you said exactly what was written down for. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re going to do this over here and you’re going to help us. And you sit there. You pick your jaw up off the floor and you say great. 


Adam McNair: All right. Because that, I guess that’s the other side of the coin. We’ve certainly seen where you’ll walk in and and your your core, your cotar says we’re not really sure who wrote these requirements. We’ve been on the job for about a year and we think this procurement package was submitted 2 to three. You know, months before that and. This isn’t really what we do anymore. So yeah, that certainly does happen. But from a delivery side, have you seen the somebody promised something? Yeah. 


Kevin Long: Oh, promise. Different. Yeah, usually over. Promising what what can be done in a particular period of time. So I I haven’t, I haven’t been a party too much to people promising the impossible. Like literally impossible. Just so. Yeah. You know, in the first two months, we’ll be able to get you. X. And then. Have to sit down and explain. We can be working on that in the first two months we have a month transition where we’re learning about what you do. We then are picking things up and executing and and working out the kinks there. And you really want us doing that first, right? 


Adam McNair: Yeah. Yeah, I’ve been a subcontractor a few times on on some of these big programs where. You showed up and it. It made it feel like the people that wrote the proposal had no idea about that work and we had a. Homeland Security’s audio visual infrastructure program many years ago that. Just the clearances that were bid to access the information in different areas didn’t allow those people to actually access the information they needed. Yet some people that were bid with TS clearances that didn’t that didn’t need them. And then you had some people that were uncleared that were bid, that they couldn’t go into the room where they were supposed to do their work because it was open storage and they couldn’t go in. 


Kevin Long: Ohh no. Oh wow. 


Adam McNair: And. And the fundamental understanding of who works from where and how many people it was. It’s just is so painful, and it does a real disservice to the people on the ground trying to do the work and the customer who finds out that there really was no thought. To a lot of the things that somebody wrote an answer that sounded good, but it wasn’t really thought out or practical. So I have seen that happen and it’s about as painful. I mean, it makes you want to rip your hair out there. The the one program. That we were supposed to have. We were supposed to staff a 47 person team on that big program to do a lot of their infrastructure work, and by the time we were hiring people, having them show up and then having them come call us back and say I’m down here to do Linux. They don’t use Linux. And you’d just pause and everybody would stare at each other and say, OK, we’re we’re going to get you on the company’s mobility board, come back here and. While you’re down there, can you ask anybody what kinds of? 


Kevin Long: It’s like, what do they need? 


Adam McNair: What do they need? And so I kid you not one of the people that we had bid as a on the on the database. Dude ended up becoming kind of our our deputy PM to try to staff the program because he at least had been badged. Even though after he got badged and showed up he found out that he couldn’t actually technically support their tech stack, but at least he had access to the people and could could help us try to triangulate what we needed and. 


Kevin Long: Didn’t have the technology stack. Wow. 


Adam McNair: We’d be on staffing calls and sometimes the prime wouldn’t even be on and. That program we never ended up with more than 14 or 15 people on that program and we eventually made the conscious decision that. These aren’t growing pains. This was fundamentally flawed. We can’t support this and in good faith tell people that they might want this job and send them down there. It’s time to move them to. Other programs and. 


Kevin Long: The juice is not worth the squeeze. Wow. 


Adam McNair: Exactly. Yeah. So that’s the proposal side of the business and I think for you know, for the next episodes. Talking about how you take your delivery side contracts and subcontracts and operations and make sure that they can handle the requirements of the business and continue to pay the right level of attention and be ready to handle new projects when they come in, that would probably be those would be good topics. For there and so I’d say for both of us. Thanks for listening. To the show. 


Kevin Long: And goodnight kids. 

The the views and opinions expressed in this episode are those of the hosts and do not necessarily reflect highlight technologies and or any agency of the US government. 



Highlight Technologies was recognized at the RecognizeDC 2018 GovCon Summit as one of the top Impactful companies in government contracting. CEO Rebecca Andino accepted this award on October 4, 2018 in Tysons Corner, VA.

The GovCon Summit – RecognizeDC Celebration is the premiere fall awards program that recognizes 30 government contracting companies and their contributions to the local economy and the marketplace, as well as their impact, innovation, vision, and focus on veterans.

For more information about the RecognizeDC, visit https://www.recognizedc.com/.

About Highlight Technologies, LLC
Highlight Technologies is an award-winning woman owned, ISO® 9001:2015, ISO 20000-1:2011, and CMMI®-DEV Level 3 appraised small business that provides IT development and transformation, secure IT operations, and mission support services to more than 20 U.S. federal government customers. Our customers include National Security (DHS, State, Army, Navy, DISA, the Joint Staff, DTRA, Intel), Health IT (USAID, USDA, NIH, HRSA, EPA) and Citizen Services (FCC, FDIC, FTC, GSA, HHS, SBA, Education, Labor). For more information, please visit www.highlighttech.com.