The Buck starts here
Government contracting liaison Abbe Buck won't let a shoestring budget tie her down
Washington Business Journal - by Timothy Mazzucca Contributing Writer
Like a lot of small consultants, Abbe Buck does just about anything her clients ask her to do.
She can help devise a plan to improve a company's return on investment. She can contact sales prospects. She can write and distribute press releases. She can help a business get on the contracting schedule of the General Services Administration. She can help a business through the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Program.
Basically, she does anything -- within reason -- to help a company make money with the federal government.
Buck founded her company, Highviz Consulting (http://www.highviz.net), in 1999 after working in different capacities with the government for 12 years with Gartner Group, McGraw Hill and Lotus-IBM, among others.
Highviz specializes in helping Native American-owned companies get federal contracting work, but still helps small companies to large corporations crack government contracts. To help land clients, Highviz is a FirstGov.gov partner.
Buck is toughing out the economy through creative payment schedules for her clients. Instead of the traditional flat fee, Buck asks her clients for an up-front retainer and a cut of the profits her services generate.
"I just need the customer to stick by me," she says. "The retainer is just to keep my business going."
She still receives commissions from some of her first clients, and she's never gotten outside funding. The downslide of the economy didn't sway her long-term goals in respect to her short-term necessities. Namely, keeping her business alive with retainers.
To save on overhead, Buck has an office in her Gainesville home and rents space at Lockheed Martin's Manassas Telework Center.
Buck's talent for persuasion came from her high school days when her father forced her to learn the ropes of his profession: selling cars.
"He said no matter what happens, you'd always be able to get a job," Buck recalls. "The economy scares me, but I have a useful skill."
With herself as Highviz's only consultant right now, she can handle two full-time consulting clients and one part-time simultaneously. That earns her about $175,000 a year, she says, charging $5,000 per month as a retainer and a 10 percent commission on sales that come incontestably from her work.
However, tough economic times have forced her to consider options. The buyout idea never fit her style because she wants her business to remain small. Buck has thought about closing shop three separate times, she says, but her dogged stubbornness for success disallowed that option.
Right now, Buck is Highviz's lone consultant, with two people who perform research and administrative duties. Ultimately, she would like to have a staff of five consultants and 15 researchers. That would allow Highviz to handle about 20 clients and remain a boutique firm, she says.
"I want to stay intimate with my clients," Buck says, "and I think I can do that if I have a stable 10 to 20 clients."
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