BTU #241 - Government Contracting Entrepreneurship with GCO (Scott Davidson)

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Why Listen:
When you think of government contracting and legal regulation, you probably don’t think about entrepreneurship or an exciting opportunity. My guest today, on the other hand, does, and it’s clear that he loves what he is doing, and that’s one of the reason he’s been so successful at it. We talk about his unexpected transition from the Army due to injury, and how that led him into government contract work, and just two years later, starting his own company in the space. We talk about starting a company, we talk about the  world… the surprisingly interesting world of government contracting. We talk about having a background in the work you do at a startup and how important this is. We talk about why Veterans are well suited to both entrepreneurship and the government contract space. We also have a great conversation around work/life balance and boundaries, as well as starting a non-profit.

About Scott:
Scott Davidson is the CEO and Managing Principal of GCO, a consulting company that positions government contractors and their legal counsel for success in the federal marketplace, helping them mitigate risk in a highly complex and regulated environment. He served in the US Army for 9 years as both an Enlisted and Officer doing Signal, Air Defense Artillery, and Counter IED work. With GCO he has prepared, negotiated and awarded over 500 GSA Schedules since starting the firm in 2009.

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Selected Resources: 

Transcript & Time Stamps:


Joining me today from Washington, DC is Scott Davidson. Scott Davidson is the CEO and Managing Principal of GCO, a consulting company that positions government contractors and their legal counsel for success in the federal marketplace, helping them mitigate risk in a highly complex and regulated environment. He served in the US Army for 9 years as both an Enlisted and Officer doing Signal, Air Defense Artillery, and Counter IED work. With GCO he has prepared, negotiated and awarded over 500 GSA Schedules since starting the firm in 2009.


How did you approach your separation from the military?

I loved the Army and being in the military and I thought I was going to do at least 20 years. But things don’t always go as planned. In 2007, I was injured in Iraq doing counter IED work. When I was recovering from a surgery, I was sitting in a room watching FOX News. They were reporting on the shooting at Virginia Tech as well as the scandal at Walter Reed. I thought I was going back to Walter Reed for my recovery but ended up going to a Warrior Transition program and a rehab center in Georgia.

Soon after I was told that I was being medically retired. It didn’t sink in because it just wasn’t anything I had envisioned for myself. I was told this in April and was retired by June. So I didn’t have time to prepare for my transition. I was completely unprepared. It was an abrupt change but at the same time, I was ready to just be home with my family.


What advice do you have for military members during their transition?

There are so many resources out there to help you. I really advise you to plan ahead. If you set your timeline up, you really can prepare yourself. You know the day your contract ends so plan backwards from that. And take advantage of the opportunities that are out there. There are so many great programs out there - IVMF, Entrepreneur Boot Camp, and ACP are a few.

Your military experience is one of your greatest strengths. I look back at the things I did in the military, and I had some really challenging experiences. Basic training is not a cake walk. You made many sacrifices in the military and honed your physical and mental toughness. When I hire military folks, I know that they will be trustworthy and be able to handle high pressure situations. You didn’t know what you were getting into when you entered the military but you adapted and rose to the challenge. In the civilian world, the majority of the time, you usually have a really good idea of what you’re getting into so it really doesn’t even compare to you experience as a member of the military.


How would you explain GCO?

We are very specifically designed to help businesses set themselves up for success on the regulation and compliance side. Government contracting is a great way to go if you’re starting a small business. Almost everything you did in the service translates into something you can sell to the federal government. The government buys everything.

We are on the side of setting these businesses up for success. GCO ensures that on a multitude of fronts that your business is prepared to do business with the federal government.


Are you a detail oriented person?

Yes. When I separated, I had zero expectation of getting into the government contract world. I had a criminal justice degree when I joined the service and then did eventually earn an MBA but I really didn’t have business experience as I was leaving the military.

I had started applying for different jobs because I just didn’t know what was out there. I was in contact with an Air Force veteran working at EG&G as a Vice President. I applied for a role there and he brought me in for an interview. He hired me and then it all went from there. I learned quickly that I was very good with a specific contract - GSA Schedule. GSA Schedule is 10% of the business the government does. There are specific regulations that go along with GSA Schedule. Eventually I decided to take the risk of starting my own company focused on GSA Schedule contracts.


What advice to you have for listeners regarding whether they should go directly into starting their own business or if they should get some experience in corporate America first?

If you’re going to start a company, really figure out what you’re going to do. For every successful t-shirt company, there are 10 others that have failed. So make sure you are prepared and ready. People think there is a romantic and cinematic experience with entrepreneurship. But that’s not really realistic.

You need to have a background in what you want to do and if you don’t, learn it. There are great resources out there for veterans. Syracuse has IVMF and other entrepreneurship programs. There’s Patriot Boot Camp and Bunker Labs is also amazing. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, I would be surprised because there are so many resources out there for veterans.


Why do you think veterans are well-suited for the government contracting space?

The SBA did a study and found that 1 in 6 veterans will start their own business during their lifetime. So the entrepreneurial spirit is within us. Most people that join the military have a self-starter attitude.

If you’re going to go down the entrepreneurial path, you need to understand it’s not a 9-5 endeavor. Most day’s you’ll be doing 16 hour days. But the positive is that every hour you put in, you’re putting in to your own business. So it’s not going to be 40 predictable hours a week but I also thinks that what makes veterans successful in this space. Because they have experienced this before and succeeded.

Dr. Haynie from IVMF told me something that has stuck with me - ‘The discipline of making time for your family is important too.’ That’s especially important for entrepreneurs. You will be busy for your business but you still need to carve out time for your family.  


Can you talk to us about your non-profit organization BourBiz?

It’s been a labor of love. I was abruptly separated from the military. There was a young e-4 that was being medically retired at the same time as me. Her short time memory was extremely affected by an injury she had suffered from an IED. I remember seeing her crying and I asked her what was going on. She told me of how she can’t remember her medical appointments because of her injury and that that was never going to improve. That moment always stuck with me.

I met Justin Constantine a couple years later and he was a retired Marine JAG. In 2006, he was in Iraq getting out of a vehicle, a sniper shot him and it hit him in the head. In the time that followed, he came over an incredible amount. When we met, we were talking and agreed that we felt that there was a barrier for veterans to gain access to resources that could help them. We also wanted veterans to continue to feel camaraderie after they left the military.

We started putting on events for veterans to expose them to different resources that are available to them. What BourBiz is an experience in which veterans are focused to various networking resources. So we have CEOs from various companies, yoga classes, nutrition specialists, educational representatives -- all kinds of different opportunities for veterans.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

Military members have been through incredible challenges. But there’s so much you can get out of it. If you’re still in, take advantage of every opportunity that is available to you.

If you love the military, stay in for 20 years. I encourage selfless service. When you get out of the military, turn around and help the military members and veterans behind you.