Acumen Environmental

Kerri Valdez, Acumen Environmental

Tell us a little about Acumen Environmental, how you got started, your growth and your team.  Be sure to mention any small business certifications you have secured.
Acumen is a local certified woman owned/minority/owned DBE that provides environmental services throughout Colorado to include asbestos, mold, lead, soil remediation as well as demolition and Emergency HAZMAT response.  Acumen was established in September, 2012 and completed its 1st project in July 2013.  After providing 14yr of service to the non-profit sector in the local community I was laid off (May, 2012) and forced into unemployment.  At this low point in my life is when the decision was made to open up an environmental business; this was because my husband and two sons were already working in the industry.   Acumen’s revenue has grown 28% YOY (year over year) in the last 4 years and now has  a team consisting of 9 key administrative personnel to include 3 estimators, 2 project managers, 1 office manager, 1 office assistant, 1 marketing director and 1 safety officer.  Acumen employs an average of 23 workers/supervisors and up to 55 employees during peak season.

When did you first connect with Colorado PTAC and how have they been able to help you in this journey?
In (June 2012) I connected with PTAC for the 1st time and was introduced to Dennis Casey.  PTAC quickly introduced me to both SBDC and SBA resources available to my small business.  Having had no business background, no money, bad credit and no real experience in the field I was entering; PTAC was key in providing business education training courses and on-going support with proposal writing, marketing, introduction to RFP Search Engines, and overall business development. Acumen continue to take advantage of the services offered by SBA, PTAC and SBDC to support the development of our key personnel through free training seminars and support services made available.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in working with the government and how did you overcome them?
Some of the challenges in working with the Government early on included learning the Government language, acronyms and getting educated in certified payroll and wage determination regulations regarding Davis Bacon. Through SBDC, PTAC SBA’s seminars, webinars and outreach events Acumen’s key personnel were able to obtain the necessary education.  Acumen needed to understand the waiting period for payments on government projects and adjust to having no real control over when payments would be received.

What projects have you won with any government (prime or sub) and how did Colorado PTAC contribute to those wins?
Acumen has been awarded federal contracts and has served in both prime and subcontractor capacities.  Presently, Federal based contracts represent approximately 15% of Acumen’s total work load.  Colorado PTAC has contributed to several of Acumen’s awards by providing leads through “Bid Match” outreach on line system.   PTAC has also assisted with the creation and subsequent updates of our capabilities statements aimed to market to the Federal Government.  Additionally their review and feedback process has been instrumental in advancing our proposal outlines and bid spread sheets.

What is your favorite government project you won?  Please mention the value of the contract and why you feel the project stands out.
Providing on-going environmental support and responses to Fort Carson Support Services has earned Acumen $380,641 since our inception.  Each response action is unique and specifically assists the government in restoring and revitalizing its community by reducing or eliminating environmental hazards and concerns.

How important was it for you to use other business assistance organizations such as the Small Business Development Center and the Small Business Administration in addition to Colorado PTAC?
Business assistance organizations have played an incredibly important role for Acumen.  From providing search engine knowledge and training, to job tracking and forecasting, to receiving federal government leads and assisting in Acumen in navigating the federal marketing terrain.  Acumen has greatly benefited from the various training and out-reach seminars and marketing events programs held by each business assistance organization.

What advice do you have for any company, particularly those in your industry that is just starting out in government contracting?
To use the resources made available through the business assistance organizations and take advantage of all of the free training, search engines, and marketing events available within the community.  To use these resources to assist you in establishing any small business certifications that you may be eligible for and that may give you an advantage in your market place.  To recognize that nothing is going to fall in your lap; that you must be aggressive and deliberate in your pursuit to make yourself known, accessible and reputable.

What’s on the horizon for Acumen Environmental, are there new markets or program you are looking to pursue?
Acumen has recently been accepted (03/2018) into the SBA’s 8a Business Development Program; we are excited at the opportunity to further market in this arena.  Acumen is hoping to expand from our existing  15% Federal Based work  to 50% or more being acquired through federal government procurement opportunities.  Acumen’s hope is to eventually grow our business in a way where we are able to acquire long term sustainability, employ more people, and give back to our local community.

Please share any further thoughts.
Acumen is very grateful to have been embraced by each of the small business agencies and by the overall community as a whole!  We will continue to prioritize community and business relationships and will deliberately open and walk through new doors .  We look forward  to both exploring teaming and partnering opportunities that may advance our situation as well as assisting new start -up businesses with their new business adventures.

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