Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce
Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce

Episode · 1 week ago

Leading as a Unit with Andres Fernandez & Sarimá Gracia

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This week we sit down with Andres Fernandez and Sarimá Gracia, Co-Founders of A+S Ideas Studio, a creative services consulting firms that has worked with with the Federal Government, helped us launch this podcast, and has worked with companies like Toyota, Lincoln, and FIU.

Andres and Sarimá lead A+S Ideas Studio as a true unit, which means that their clients are always getting the best of both of them, rather than just one at a time.

In this episode, we talk about how they serve their clients, how they pivoted through the pandemic to actually support their clients, their approach to building their team, and their secret sauce for leading a top-performing creative services firm.

Uncle Sam’s Secret Sauce is hosted by Rafael Marrero, Founder and CEO of Rafael Marrero & Company, which helps small companies do business with the world’s biggest customer: the U.S. Federal Government.

You're listening to Uncle Sam's secret sauce, a Raphael Morrero and company podcast. This is a show for US small business owners and decision makers looking to grow their business. You're about to hear a conversation with successful entrepreneurs in the fields of construction, janitorial, cybersecurity and more. Here you'll learn how to sell to the government and what the secret ingredients are for effective marketing for small businesses. Let's get into the show. Thank you for joining Uncle Sam's secret sauce Andres Fernandez and study. Welcome to the show. All right, and no super awesome to be here. Actually, we've been wanting to get you guys on the show for quite some time. You guys are very, very busy cats. I know that for a fact, and rightfully so. Right you run an incredible, very talented agency. Tell us, for the benefit of our viewers and our listeners, the name of your agency and your website. Let's start there. Where a plus s ideas studio, and our website is ww dot a plus s ideas dot com. Very good, a plus s and for the benefit of our listeners, how did you come up with their name? Well, it's a funny story because we do advertising and we hope with branding and coming up with names and things like that. And for hours it just went by. How do people know us? Right, we came from being a DUP, meaning partners in English advertising agency, after eight years of working together, and everybody will always just say just as a plus s. In the emails were always like a plus S, how can we do this, or how do we do that, or we need to get this done, and so when we went on our own, it was just kind of like we need to just go by a plus S. that's what everybody knows us and it worked. Yeah, and you know how they say ladies first, and in this case it's the opposite. It just rolled up the tongue. Easier to say a plus sum whatever. I'm always conflicted every time I email you, guys. Who Do I put first? You know, but it's a plus as it always happens to be. I guess s plus a. They didn't have the same ring. And when you interact with us, it's really with either of us. You're really dealing with both of us. So we operate like the unit. So, which I mean not not skipping ahead, but that is one of the things that we take pride on and I think it's actually what sets US apart and why people keep coming back to us, is that they know that when they're dealing with a pluses, it's like a unit. It's both of us and we get copied on every email, on every conversation. So it doesn't matter if you know and this happens to be on vacation or something happens, I will know exactly what is happening with that project and vice versa, and that has worked very well for us. I think it's one of the things that definitely sets US apart. It's just they know that a pluss means that there's two people behind there, but they act like one unit, common voice, a common voice and a common vision, and I can speak to that actually because, folks, for those of you who are unaware, Sadima and Andres or Andres and Sarima Bass we're actually the firm that designed Lao Sam, which is Uncle Sam's secret sauce and the genesis of our podcast. They were actually the folks who put the substance and the beauty to the words and the manuscript that I put together in the first edition of our Amazon Bestseller. They actually came up with the aesthetics and the concept. It became a big hit, and I want to say that part of this, the big success of the book, is the way it was graphically explained right, the way it was graphically portrayed. For those of you that haven't seen it, do yourself a favorite. Go to the a plus s website and check out in the government tab, there's a section on their projects, okay, and you're gonna see incredibly good design work, not to mention my book right, and you'll see very good photographs, by the way, very well taken, good lighting and everything of details right. The book is designed with the aesthetics of a cookbook, because that's what we wanted people to do, is cook up their own success and government contracting, and it was designed with the aesthetics of a cookbook, short chapters written in Layman's terms. It wasn't a very technical book, and that's what made it so successful, because people could relate to it. It was government contracting handbook for the rest of us, especially for the rest of us in the Hispanic community. Right. That was the first number one in Spanish. And then be approach, right, the graphic approach. I think was also the second part of the equation, right. So thank you for that. And for those of you who haven't seen this exquisite work of art, go to their website and you can also visit Amazon type in La Sam and you'll see the beautiful cover and the interior part of the book the way it was designed. We're very proud of it and that's one of the things we do, is we focus on storytelling and understanding what any piece be it advertising, book,...

...whatever, what it needs to communicate, what it needs to convey to the audience, and so we're very proud of that works, as we are of everything we've done. Yeah, one of the things that we again also take pride on is we went on our own eleven years ago and part of the what we wanted to do was that be able to work, touch and feel the projects that we were dealing with after coming from very big agencies where, you know, we worked with very big clients, I mean Toyota, for Lincoln, Mercury, American Airlines, like just ginormous clients that were amazing, obviously, for our careers and all the learnings that we've had throughout all these years. Uh, it gets to the point that you're so far removed. So we were able to just kind of come together and be able to go back not to basics, but to the relationship building, but part of like there's a smaller business or a big business that has a problem, but we get to be part of the whole entire process instead of just one piece of it. So we your book, for example, not only personally we know you and we have learned so much from you in this process of government contracting, but we saw how personal this was for you and how important it was. So we wanted to make sure that we could show that also for you in that book. So there was a lot of thought and love that went in there and those ingredients, but also lots of right. There was definitely a lot of Hart in there. So, if I may, just as a client of yours, right, because I'm also a client. Not only were you clients of the firm, but I am a claim of a plus S, and one of the things that I admire, aside from the fact that, as you pointed to earlier, is the commonality in views and in communication and one single voice right and a single version of the truth, which is very hard in today's environment when you're doing business with third parties. Part of what I credit to your successes your ability to take complicated, hairy stuff and just like, break it down for people right, make it all low with ease. And you will see this graphically, and I can cite multiple examples of this, not just in the way you laid out the book, but you know, you represent very prestigious organizations and folks like the Ministry of Tourism up the Dominican Republic, and you manage multicultural marketing platforms. Right, how many languages? Please tell us about let's tell people what we're talking about. We're talking about the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, and tell us about that client and what you offer that client, please. Sure. That was, I would say, the founding client for a plus S as it exists today, twelve years ago, actually, twelve years, twelve years, twelve years. Yeah, I mean the Dominican Republic Tourism Ministry, the currency of that country the day today, livelihood of that people is tourism. Absolutely, they have other industries, of course, but tourism is what drives that country. So they came to us through a partnership with colleagues from our past lives, as they say again, because relationship building is what it's all about. And we've created already four or five versions of their website over twelve years. Four or five versions, while it's in seven languages. Seven languages, so Spanish English. What are the others? Spanish English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Russian. Was that seven? And there's a smaller brochure in Japanese. Actually the website actually links out to a Japanese brochure. It's not the full blown website in Japanese, and we've learned, we've picked up some of those languages in the process. You know, we definitely can read it. Yeah, and you're maintaining that web presence, that's such a robust web presence for so long. You start, you know, identifying certain words and stuff, but I mean the keys the Ministry of Tourism wanted to give all of its visitors, all of the tourists that come to the country. Obviously the reason why there are seven languages is strategic. They are looking at where our tourists coming from, to the island, to the country, or where do we want them to come from? Right? So we spend countless hours looking at analytics, business intelligence. All of those things factor into the way the website is designed, it's put together, the languages, the content. It's seen very steady, very robust growth throughout the years. Right now it's in the millions of visitors per month, multiple millions of page views, constant growth. It also was very important during covid for them. Yes, exactly. That's a perfect segue that. Imagine, for a country that depends on tourism, what covid was like. That's the definition of scary right. However, I mean the country, the government is run by very, very smart people, very committed people. They actually have one awards worldwide...

...in terms of recovery of of the tourism industry in the face of the pandemic. They vaccinated one hundred percent of the tourism and hospitality workers in the country and it's a model for the world. So, in partnership with them, we created a very robust section of the website that maintains not just tourists who want to go visit the country informed about what's going on, what are the regulations, the safety measures, etcetera, but it's also a reference for the media worldwide media excited by the CNNS of the world, the Reuters BBC, I mean they linked to the covid section of the website. It became the authoritative source of information about the country's response to the pandemic. So, yeah, it's been a great experience and we were blessed and honestly thrilled to count them as clients for this long. I mean that's an amazing longer than a decade. Than a decade, quite frankly, I think it's a great example and that's why I'm glad that you're calling this out, because there are government agencies throughout Latin America and also in the United States, that could benefit from a plus s and their creative approach and their way of taking on projects, right like the project that the Ministry of Tourism, which is the pillar of the Dominican economy right so during covid the fact that you are able to help them maintain the level of interest in tourism, their main source of income, speaks tomes, speaks volumes of your commitment and the level of work that you can provide. So, for those of you just joining our podcast, we're here with SADIMA and Andres Fernandez of a plus s idea studio, and they have a great, great creative agency that helps you express your very difficult ideas and get them into terms that people can relate to. That's, I think, part of the storytelling capability that you bring to the table. And they serve a wide range of industries aside from tourism. What are some of the other areas that you serve? That is one of the beauties of doing what we're doing is that we get to have a very diverse portfolio, which we love. We get to work with craft breweries, for example. We were able to help winwood brewing company, was the first craft brewery that came to Miami when the craft brewery craze was starting to happen. They were not even permitting in the area to have craft brewery. So we were with them from inception all the way to the creation of everything for them for their look and feel, their website, obviously product design, and we got them even to help them do events and they were very successful for four or five years, so much that then they were able to sell to a bigger conglomerate and now they're like training wheels were taken off and they are on their own and doing amazing because of them. Then we did other work for other craft breweries. One of them was on branded brewing company, which is the largest craft brewery in south Florida. They're located in Hialeah and was also a very interesting project because this client from Texas to come to open this ginormous, amazing craft brewery in Hialia was definitely a big interesting challenge. So to be able to figure out that whole strategy and look and feel and how to go to market about it, etcetera. It was the same thing. We had them for around three four years in terms of length, and help them get all set up and then we also see them go into the world and do amazing things, speaking again of why we love what we do and like what I think sets us apart. At a perfect example, and speaking about Covid is that imagine they opened their doors and like two months later the pandemic hit and they had to close obviously their doors, and I feel like in any other format of agency there probably would have been which happened, and we saw it happened with many, many agencies. You know, budgets get closed, they're not being able to spend money, people lost their jobs and it ended right. We pivot with them and we were like, listen, we understand where you're at. We didn't even charge for our services for a couple of months. We helped them figure out their whole delivery. We were like, okay, so you have servers and you have bartenders there, what if you start using them for delivering their beer and figuring out what platforms to put them in, how to do it, how to figure all that out? It's when above and beyond, obviously, what our scope, quote unquote, was, but we helped them solve a business problem and we take a lot of pride in that to be able to look at things and have the flexibility, to be able to go, okay, we're not going to just let these guys fold because this is happening. We're all adapting, so how can they ADAP as well?...

And that was a really big thing. I carried that very heavy in my heart. And then from there we have, for example, a couple of law firms, local lawyers and lawyers that have pretty big firms. That has been also a pretty big niche where we've fallen into and I think our attention to detail has helped us grow on that and it's all been word of mouth. It's a difficult category because this is usually not a very creative, quote unquote, category, but we've been able to do very awesome things with that. And then we have a Florida allergy right. And Yeah, we have healthcare. We have clients. Not to get too granular, but we have clients in healthcare, higher education, F IU, for example, very large public research, university donor campaigns. Also, right, big donor campaigns. Right, big donor CAP, which we've been involved with, specifically with the Fu Foundation. We've done lots of work, not just digital and marketing, but also publication design, which is one of ours. And then nonprofits. We have done work for local all the way to national, Washington DC based nonprofits. Yeah, and that has led us to the latest one that we're working on, which is called Charlie Mike Dot Org, and we're in the process of helping them do everything from their branding to their website to figuring out even some other programs. It's a really amazing project that is coming up so soon. We're probably going to have to do one of these just to talk about that one, of course. Of course of course, and I see that you have a very interesting team and resources that you rely upon. Right. You've put together a very, very strong team to execute on these projects. You have stellar photography, right. You can do indoors and outdoors or product photography for catalogs. I've seen it. It's high quality, world class. You also do great publications, I know that for a fact, like magazines and annual reports. I've seen some of the work there. I'm not going to spill the beans and I'll let you talk about that in a minute. But as of the last few years, you decided to diversify and also enter the world of government contracting, and so tell us about some of those socioeconomic certifications that your firm has and special designations for the benefit of our listeners from the private sector and also the government, both contracting officers and potential teaming partners. Or, Hey, any major PR firms out there that are in government looking for an ad a firm or any other designation. Please share with us your special designations and small business starts. Okay, well, that is a mouthful and usually what I say is removed like three from the list, and we don't have those. But thanks to your Raphael Marero, we've been able to be so we are women owned, minority owned, eight a hub zone. On the private sector, we have an MSDC and we bank, so the women on these W OSB, but we also have economically disadvantaged women on small business, so I d W OSB, and then we have a G S, a schedule as well, pretty much everything, and then we have a team member that is our subject matter expert who, with is a better own owned small business, and we depending on the project, especially anything that has to do with the Department of Defence, which we've been lucky enough to be able to start getting contracts with. The partners up with us, and it has been really good. You've got just about every certification, every small business certification known to mankind. Really Yeah, which is Great. It's a door opener and it can help you qualify for small business set asides and it gets the conversation going and also lets you compete in a very, very niche market that is set aside and you're marked for small, disadvantaged businesses or women on, depending on what the case may be. Also, hub zone, which you're in a hub zone right now. Tell us about these specific projects. Tell us about your first big win that you're like, yes, this is our you know, our first hit. Let's call it our first hit, line drive hit. You scored where you scored, and that on basis with the federal government. What was that project? The first one. I'm gonna let us say the title because it is very long and I can never get it right. So and but it's the first one that we got. Well. So the first government project that we've got is with the U S China Economic and Security Review Commission. It reports to Congress and their mission is to evaluate constantly, year round, the relationship between the US and China, which we know is such a critical relationship in those two key areas, which are economics and security. Right. So throughout the year they produce a number of different reports on different topics and then they produce year and fiscal year and massive report. I mean this is massive, massive, it's like a very thick tom it's multiple sal security as well. Get a lot of salsa. So that big report has all the tech e call data older analysis.

I mean these are very, very skilled folks. But then they also produce what they call an executive summary, which is what the actual Congress men and women the Congress people will actually read. So their staffers read the big thick publication and they, obviously the Congress people, use the executive summary to get up an understanding and a bird side view of this very important relationship. We designed that. We've done it for three years in a row. So one interestingly, the way we came into that project was we had responded to an RFP from that organization for something else. We can very, very close. I mean we were finalists and then when we were getting debriefed on that response, Sadima happened to be in D C for the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce yearly Legislative Summit. Yeah, there you go, the legislative summit. So, you know, being nimble as we are, we reached out to the USCC to abbreviate it and said Hey, we're gonna be in DC. Can we need to understand, to get to know more of your needs beyond this specific project that we had pitched, and that's how it came about. They learned that we do publication design. We had just finished doing something for F I you. They loved it and now, three years into it, we've done that multiple times and then said email can talk about the next big project. This one is big as in big. Please, like baby. Talk to me. What's the big project? Tell me. Well, with us, we've got our G S, a schedule and our yes, very, very awesome going through it. We got notified about this awesome opportunity with the Department of the Air Force and we submit it and we got it, and this is the second year that we're working with them doing their bi annual report and it's, I can say so, beautiful. Yeah, it's just one of those things. Like the subject matter, it's amazing, the photography is insane. You learn, obviously, so much and you realize like how capable and all these things that are available in our defense, for lack of better word, and then our subject matter expert, who is the other team member, that it's part of our team, works very directly with us and with them, and that we have an amazing relationship because we get to talk planes and very nuances that normally I would not know about. It right, and like every time that the conversation, we're like on the strategic side and we're doing this, and then the conversation goes into the different noises that plane makes and, like you know their experiences in battle and all of these things. So it's been a very great experience to work on the government side of things, but still in the human side of that, right. So also very proud of being able to have and build with these guys an amazing relationship where usually is very stern, right, ma'am, and they have all these codes, right, like we're gonna tag up and then we're gonna vector and make sure this and that, and sometimes we're like what does that mean? And then don't like kind of like abbreviates. For us it's like, oh, they're meaning to me or they're meaning to check in. You know, they have like all their acronyms and then go. But it's been great. It's been a great experience and, like we mentioned before, it's been two years now with them. We're working on the second version as we speak. We just admitted some of the revisions today and that's our big one. It's the it's the air force, and we know that with them we're going to continue doing things very, very interesting, because one can write literally like a case study on how you went about this, and I'd like to do that. Actually, you present a very interesting case study of how you went about to win Your Business and the way you've been working. It's a slow, gradual process, right. It's not gonna happen or night. It's going to be about eighteen to twenty four months. Right. How long did it take you for actually close and win your first contract? Well, the first one that China Commission, I would say, yeah, it was like a year, a year of going and then, yeah, after we got our G S A schedule, which also takes obviously time, which is what I tell people. These things take time. You've got to commit to it and put the time and the effort to it, was another almost another year, but you won business up front, so that's good. And you know what Sadima and Andres did. That was correct. Was If you notice folks, and here's where you can pick up some good nuggets of information from their experience, learn from what they've done right so that you can replicate their success. Number one, they got their socioeconomic certifications right to get the dialogue going. Number two, they prepared, hands down, I think, the best capability statements that I've ever seen. If I say different, Andres is gonna Smack me after this. He's gonna Will Smith me right after this podcast. They put...

...together a very, very compelling capability statement and very professional and it's different from others. In case you haven't seeing it, go to their website, download a copy and also take a look at the beautiful work that they've done for Uncle Sam. So they've continued their commercial work while developing and gaining traction on the federal side. Right. So a two track, a two tiered approach, very important. Right. You don't abandon what you're currently doing to do just all federal work because there's a ramp up period. And Remember, government people are just like we are. We have bias. Cut My hair with a certain barber, I like to go get my beer trimmed by a certain person, I like my shoes to be fixed by a shoemaker. We all have preferences. Right. Government buyers are not different. Right. They are adverse to risk. And when you're new to the game and you're an unknown entity, guess what, you're all risks to them. Right, it's their reputation, their name, and they don't want to put their job on the line or their reputation or their ratings, their performance ratings as a contracting officer. So get the certifications, get the G S A schedule if one is needed by your five target agencies. Right, not everyone uses a g s a schedule, so don't come out swinging and get every single G S A schedule, and I d I q known to man focus on the ones that your top five agencies use. In their case, they got a professional services schedule, a professional services schedule which helps them for advertising, integrated marketing solutions, right aims. I know it's recently changed, but basically it's a professional services schedule for graphics, for Desktop Publishing, for Web design, right, and related areas. And for those of you that don't understand what a G S A schedule is, a G S A schedule is a master contract, a Master Services Agreement that has pricing that you negotiate based on the invoicing that you've historically had with your preferred clients and you extend to the government your preferred pricing right. So if the government finds out that you're highballing them, they're gonna come back and say, you know what, we need to renegotiate these rates or you can lose your contract altogether. Or even if your Lobo them, which is also good, it's important. So you have the Masters Services Agreement. So they decide to contract you for higher dollar amount, they can they use that schedule. How long are the G S A schedules that you have? How long are they good for? It's a good question. I don't have that. I think it's every five years. Right. You have to negotiate and then there's at like annual escalation rates, but you can have them for a total of up to twenty years. Right. You can renew them. So think of it this way. You have a delivery partner, right, a creative agency, bilingual, multi lingual creative agency that does work in tourism, in law, in higher education, nonprofits, does work with veterans, does work with the military armed forces of this country. Right. So let's say that you want to hire them and it's a multi year engagement. How can you right this up if you want to work them business? Well, a way to do that is to use their G S A schedule and be able to contract them based on the rates that are stated there in, or to negotiate based on what the government has in the Kitty. So certifications, she has a schedule, attend events, right. That's another thing that Sadi did if my notes served me correctly. So you were at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the annual legislative summit. I was speaking there, I remember because you were in my session and you said, I gotta go have an appointment. So she pulled the Sadie and disappeared, and there she was, you know, the Puerto Rican wonder woman was. She was on the scene and she got in front of the decision makers. Because here's another thing, right, for those of you who have not met Sadi, when loser draws, she's gonna get in your face and she's gonna be there in the parking lot waiting for you to come out to ask you the question. So she showed up, got the face to face, spoke to them and guess what, they realized that there were other talents that they could leverage from this great supplier. Right. So that they did, and here we are and their projects executed to aid are flawless. They have very, very good ratings from their performance. By the way, when you were getting your g s a schedule, tell us about your open ratings. What score did you get in your evaluation? An out of a hundred. That tells you right there I'm still looking for that two percent so I can go and I'm sure you guys gonna hit it sooner or later, because you're always all about continuous improvement. I can attest to that, believe me. They will get it type A and committed. So they're they're full on, and so are their delivery partners in different realms and their teaming partners, because they self perform. So the good thing about working with a plus s is they're not going to outsource their work. You'RE gonna work with locals and they speak your language, whether it's English, Spanish or any other of the seven languages that they're accustomed to working with. So, contracting officers, if you're looking for a very talented, creative agency that is capable of working in multiple languages, both knus and the continental United States and o Konis outside continental United States, whether to civilian, military or Intel Agency, a plus s should be your...

...go to agency because they have the right stuff. They've worked with the subcommittees that report to Congress and produced annual reports that are breathtaking, very well put together, and the one that really caught my eye, I gotta Tell You, was the air force catalog that you put together. That was like incredibly well put together. Okay, good design, I mean not good, stellar design, the typography, the infographics, just the overall aesthetics. It's very, very high end. Folks. You should take a look. Go to their website. What's your website again, please, Um, a plus s ideas dot com. Very good. So you can also check them out on Linkedin. Sadima and Andreas are both on Linkedin. You should reach out to them and speak to them and connect with them and get a copy of their capability statement, set up a zoom call with them to discuss their capabilities, conduct the capabilities briefly. I trust you will be impressed. They will not disappoint. I strongly recommend them. They are the responsible parties for La and for the name that we have, you know, the graphics for this podcast, which is Uncle Sam with a jar of salsa. So we have hot chili sauce in there, very very spicy sauce, and they're the folks responsible for the aesthetics of my best seller on Amazon, Uncle Sam's secret sauce in Spanish, which was so what is another way to get ahold of you? What is the telephone number for the office it is eight hundred number a three, three, eight, three, three for two, seven four to seven, five, eight seven seven, five, eight seven seven, and that's the toll free number for a plus s, the creative agency that we are interviewing today with Satima Ga and Andre Ernand is, the founders and partners of this great firm that they started together after deciding to strike out on their own and launch their own firm. Now you both are from different parts of the world. Let's tell me a little bit about your family background, because you've converged in this Jambalaya that is south Florida, but you're both from different parts of the world. Where do you help from, Sadima? Well, I'm more readily from San Juan Puerto Rico. Okay, very, very proud. I was born and raised there and went to school there and graduated high school, Art School. Then I went to for Lauderdale to go to the R Institute of Feradodale and then from there I ended up in Los Angeles for a couple of years working with Sachi and Sachi on the awesome Toyota Account. Moved there for another almost eight years and then I ended up at Zoobie advertising, where I met and Fernandez. So that's where you guys met Zubie. Yeah, we were at Zoobie advertising, and so I worked in Toyota on the general market side of business for those eight years and then I went to Zoobie advertising, which was Hispanic, and that's where I met Andres and we worked there with Lincoln, Mercury, Ford, American Airlines, J and J. I mean so many different great brands. And then after at twelve years ago, we opened a plus's idea studio, which is crazy to me to say two of years, because it has flown by. Time flies now, Andreas, you're not from Puerto Rico, you're from another part of Latin America. Where are you from? Correct? I was born in Columbia, born and raised in Colombia. So my family is I have some Spanish heritage on my dad's side. My grandfather went from Spain as a teenager to South America and then I moved to the US in the year two thousand, so twenty two years ago I got a great work opportunity here and I've been in journalism and advertising. That's been kind of mixed of work that I've done over these twenty two years. I was going to tell you because I recall reading about you and you were actually a journalist or you are a journalists. You are practicing journalists and folks. That is evident at the way he takes detailed notes and his approach to launching projects Andres and I can attest to this. Is a very detailed oriented individual. Takes very, very good notes, sends out very good meeting minutes, very detailed down to like the last side in the meeting, so you will. That's one of the things that I appreciate was the thoroughness and the detailed character of the notes and they're very action oriented and want to make sure that they're representing the client well and it is evidence, believe, and if you need anything explained, this man can do it. Definitely a gift and it sounds Cliche, but it isn't. It is very hard sometimes to be able to put in writing people's thoughts or ideas and things like that, and the way we will have meetings and then come out of it and then he puts them in writing and you go, Oh my God, that's exactly what it needed to be right, and that takes a gift. It's skill. It's a big skill. Yeah, to be able to convey that and sometimes tell the story right. There's a little bit of storytelling there. What there is storytelling? There's neural linguistic programming, N LP and approaches to storytelling so that people cann neckt with the ideas and Andres does it very,...

...very well. I can attest to that. So we've seen that you've been able to deliver some very, very high quality materials. You have repeat customers. Now that you have a G S A schedule, you're going to continue knocking on doors. Have you considered any J V S or mentor protege agreements? We have, and we've had a couple of different conversations that we haven't pulled the plug on them yet. It's just there was one that we were very close to and then covid hit and changed the game significantly. It's something that obviously were still looking into if we think it will be a good step for us, for sure, we just haven't found the right partner just yet. Yeah, and to add to what Salima just said, for us, partnering is something that's in our blood. We've been doing it forever in the private sector. The way we launched our business not that there's anything wrong with one approach or the other, but we didn't want to go the route of getting a huge office, hiring dozens of people and then be up at night seeing how are we going to make payroll, you know. So our approach was more geared towards partnering with other firms that are experts at different things, that we have been working with for years and years, and just bringing the right team to every project. So to us, partnerships, two at ventures is second nature and we're open to that. Of course. We haven't done one yet, we're open to it. Of course it's in our nature. Like some of the work we have done in the private sector. A lot of the work we have done has actually been in partnership with other companies, where everybody brings to the table their best skill set or a relationship or whatever, and we put together, you know, the best possible product for the enspanient. Absolutely, and I can speak to that having been your clienter, being your client and receiving in the quality of product that you turn out. Also, I've seen the projects that you've performed for the Air Force and other government agencies and they speak tomes, they speak values of your can livement to high quality the outputs. We're getting past this covid nonsense and this big pandemic. We're almost in the endemic stage of the pandemic of the covid nineteen. How have you've been able to keep the doors open and what are some of the things that you've done creatively to keep the lights on during this very challenging time? Because, I mean, fortunately, you can work remotely with covid right. You've been able to do that because you're a creative agency. You don't require that brick and mortar presence. But knowing your style of work, and I've seen this, and the way you do your projects, from the photo shoots to meaning with the clients of the presentations, there is some level of interaction required, right when you're doing photo shoots, when you're doing product catalogs and things like that, in coordinating all that right on site. How have you been able to manage that and what kind of changes have you implemented to make sure you're able to keep the lights on during this time? Well, one of the things that helped us was that when covid hit, the whole world became virtual, right, and everybody was working virtually but we've been doing it or for many years, so nothing changed on our way of doing business in that sense, right, we've always done some meetings, we've always connected, we are clients. We already have in place all these different partners that we've worked with. So turning those lights on or off was already something that we were used to doing. Like we mentioned, even for that one client on Brandon Brewing Company, they still needed to continue. So we still had to take pictures, we still had to get the product out, et Cetera. So we were very nimble, we were small crews. We all tested, we all were our masks, you know. We went to like a smaller crew because we could adjust like that, and then we just continue to do what we've been doing, which is attention to detail, just, you know, figuring out how to make it work, being nimble, being able to pivot and change the way that maybe we would do something. Okay, usually it takes a crew of eight people. Okay, so now we're going to go down to three. And does that mean that they have to be outside that door? So we're not all together? Then so be it. So we figure just making ways of continuing the process and I will also add that, because the world will became virtual. More opportunities came in because now people it was okay to do it right, especially on the government side of things. A lot of the times the opportunities were like, you have to be physically in that office to do the work. They had to learn and pivot that. No, now they have to allowed for you to be remote. So that opened another door for us and because we've been doing it for so long, we showed them that we had experience doing it. I also think that all our certifications help us, not only on the government side of things, but also on the private side, because when you go to a client and you show them that you've already been vetted by the United States government, it shows just how not only we have five stars in the in the better business bureau. No, the United States has literally looked through all of our financials. Are shows who we are. There's you know for...

...a fact that it's we've been vetted, is the best word that I can come up with. That's an excellent point, and especially clients that have that are in the private sector but have tried to even approach government contracting and have seen its daunting right, once they see that you have all these different certifications that you're not only got but have maintained. That says a lot. I mean that's almost like a pre vetting sort of without a doubt that it is helpful. I've seen that People Andres and Sarima or folks that are in the private sector, when they do work with companies that are aid a certified or that have gone through a rigorous vetting and boot camps where you have information drilled into your head, with all these training sessions, people that are on the delivery side, the firms that are participants in these programs, are a lot better trained and poised to do quality work. They are better at turning in a compliant response instead of giving you like this, all this marketing babble. Right, they give you what you ask for, because that's one of the things in the proposal response, and I don't have to sell you on this. You've seen it firsthand. You have to follow every single t that or re single eye and cross all your teas and make sure that you sign the right lines and then you submit the right data and deliver it on time before the deadline, otherwise you're excluded. Right. It makes for a better contractor, and I think that's part of the whole developmental process. There procurement and contract readiness, and that's basically what my firm specializes is, which is the front end part, which is the stand up service, getting people and helping them get their ducks in a row, like our logo suggests, and I would say that. I would love to add that without your help and guidance, we would have not made it happen. I mean you mentioned how the two approach this right. We continue doing work on the private side while we were going after certifications to be able to do work with the government for our type of business and for the size of business everywhere. We could not abandon one to start the other. It had to happen simultaneously, and when you are our size and as involved as we are, it is impossible to go and do this on your own. Because we tried, and we have extremely attention to detail, very smart, capable of people here sitting at the table, one of them way smarter, and still it was so daunting. It is extremely difficult and when we found you, Rafah, and you were able to go, you know what, I got this part from you guys. We were able to then continue to do our business and continue to be able to make our business grow like we were doing, and we knew you had our backs on figuring out and getting our literally docks in the road to be able to then get these certifications in place to then be able to do the other part, which is what we're working on right now. But without your help that would have not happened. We would have still be going in circle in that in the government portals, and it's it's daunting. It really is daunting and frustrating and sometimes you don't know which way is up because you get stirred crazy, you get it's so much paperwork, so many processes, so many requirements, so much just a lexicon alone. Remember the I will never forget to look on Andress's face the day we had the boot camp, the sales training boot camp. Please describe, for the benefit of our listeners, the graphic that you send Sadima, and you said this is how I feel today. Well, literally, are mentioning it and that's the picture that I have in my head, like visually. That's what I said. It is funny, as I was driving to the location where we were having the boot camp, there was this gigantic drill on the side of the road of some giant construction project, like a drill that goes into the earth, that it was bigger than a semi truck. So for description purposes, when you say gigantic and the traffic light I turned, I see the giant drill. I had the world with all of snapping a picture of it and sure in up by the end of the day I sent setting textures. At this time, I feel, but you know what. Joking aside, though, one important thing is so you find a partner that can help you get all your certifications, but it's not like you're handing that off to somebody else and it requires involvement. I mean it does. It is a partnership. It's not an outsourcing, which is it's a key distinction there. We tried on our own and couldn't find which way it was up which way was down. Then we found the right partner, but it was a lot of work. But at least when you are being guided by someone WHO's an expert at this, who gets the result and gets the job done, then you know that the effort that you're putting in collecting all the information, writing all the descriptions, all the capabilities, etcetera. You know where you're headed right. Well, something else that I want to add, which I mean without sounding corny on in any way, but it's the truth, and now that we're talking about this,...

...it just became very clear to me. It's the same way that we tell our clients, right, like, can somebody go with their iphone and take a decent picture? Yes, can somebody take a crack at writing something for their business? Or there's so many different platforms already of doing yourself things. Can you get it done? You probably will be able to get it done. Is it gonna be the best way to get it done? Are you gonna be able to spend the time? And for us, time is money, for all business owners, time is money. So where is it that you're putting all of that time, which, at the end is money? Are you getting the best result? We say this to our clients in terms of their business, right, like you were running a business, you don't have the time to do all of these other things that need to happen. So that's why you hire professionals to do it, the same way that I have my accountant, which I tell him all the time charge me. There is no check that I love writing the most, and the check that we write you at the end of the year that I know that all our stuff and then outstanding, etcetera. The same thing happens with this side of the business, with the certifications, and I will add this again, grappa, not because we love you, but because it's the truth. It's not only knowing the subject matter, but also how that subject matter is explained to you. Can somebody else maybe help us get our certifications? Perhaps, but the experience wouldn't have been like the one that we had with you, because, again, the way that you explain how things are, why is this important? Why is not you helped us. Also sometimes take a crack o our own stuff, because we're so close to it, and be like, well, maybe word it better this other way, because this is the way that the government contracting officers are used to seeing it or are familiar with this language, etcetera. So at the end it goes down to that if you're trying to grow your business and you're doing that, you have to hire the right people to help you get there, and doing it all yourself sometimes it's just not the right answer. Thank you so much, for those words sad and Andres you learned so much during the last twelve years, and especially during this ramp of period in the government and in the private sector. Can you give us three tips, three secret ingredients that you both would recommend to our listeners of your selves security for success, three net takeaways that they can look at and say, you know what, these are my three ingredients that I would definitely recommend people pay attention to if they were in considering following in your footsteps. What are they? Oh, this is a good test, because we haven't talked about this before. And make the first one please. Well, the first one, I think, is find somebody that believes in the same things that you believe in if you're going to have a partner in business, so you can go at it together in one voice, with the same Ghanas you know, the person that you have doing this venture with has to have the same principles, same values. You know, the word needs to matter and just so you know and every part of you that whatever you're putting out there that person can respond to and vice versa. Yeah, okay, so I'll take the second one, which kind of segues from what Salima just said. which is your word matters. I mean your word matters a lot. You'll always run into situations in business where things might not go the way you expected them to go or the way you are used to performing. Just be upfront and communicate with clients if something is off, if something is delayed for whatever reason, just communicate. You know just your word matters. That's something that has guided us from day one, even from before we started. A pluscess is if we commit to doing something, we don't go for after business just to add zeros and dollars to our bottom line at the end of the year. We go after projects that we know that we will deliver and that when we give a client or word that we will deliver it all, we have really a reputation and our word. That's right, your reputation is is a currency. Your reputation and your credibility is a currency, and I can't say this enough. Believe me, it's great to have smart clients like Sadima and Andres because they hold you to a higher standard. What am I saying here? I'm saying here is when you work with individuals like Andreas and Saimid. I can attest to this because I lived it. Okay, they will hold you accountable, just like they hold themselves a Kount of one. Believe me, you will get detailed notes since saying no, this is what we discussed, not this, right, but it helps you up your gain. It helps you become a better provider, it helps you become a better consultant and to treat your clients in a better fashion. And, above all, you learned from each other. Right, just like they picked each other and they aligned with like minded individuals. They set the proper expectations and communicate right. It's all about expectations management, which is what Andres is saying.

Not Treat everything as if it were a project. Right, and when you develop that mentality that you are implementing a project. Well, projects have a cost, they have a timeline and deliberables. Right, and Andress Point is brilliant because it says communicate good batter and different always set the right tone by telling the truth and by aligning with your client right. Change is inevitable. Change orders are sometimes inevitable. That's why you have them, right in projects, so you can have scope creep, especially in projects. There's always gonna be scope creep, right, there's always gonna be up scope or down scope right. So you're gonna need a change order. You'RE gonna say, Hey, you're asking me to do all this other work that wasn't really part of the scope of work. And knowing and and they are team players and they'll work with you, but it's going to get to a point where, listen, this is not a winning proposition for us unless we rescope this document and we submit a change order because we're doing all this extra work for you. They always go above and beyond. But please learn from this, because communications in projects are very important to make sure that your client understands that you are delivering as promised and that there are any challenges or issues, you're going to find a way to mitigate them in first and foremost, communicate about them honestly and clearly. Never stop learning would be my third one. Never Stop Learning, be humble enough to know that you don't have all the answers, but be curious enough to find them right and I think that for us that is the biggest thing and one of the things that I think that keeps us so nimble is that, because we work with different entities and different clients, were always have to be on the vanguard of like, okay, this is the way that it's been done, but it's this is still the best way to do this right. So we're always trying to figure out what is the right tool. We are working right now, just just trying to do a brief example on a project that was scope a certain way right the way that they came they were very clear and actually very, very descriptive of how they wanted to do something, which is the reason why we suggested a certain platform to build this project in. As always happens when you start creating and the creative juices start flowing, other ideas came to life which are very good ideas, but they are completely out of the scope and how we first figure out the project, and not only the scope or how we figure out the project, but the platform that we decided to use cannot do what these new ideas are right. So our approach to them, it wasn't no, you can't do this or this was not in scope. It was like, Oh wow, that is amazing, it will look great. We do think that that would be a great way to do that, but if this is something that is a must, then we need to go back for a second and figure out and we think how we're going to approach this, because it changes the scope and it changes the deliverable. But it didn't become a negative thing. It wasn't as a change order, you know, like no, it's just kind of like continuing to be able to see the project for what it is and then be able to pump the brakes at the moment that it's important, that it's like, okay, way before, before we start. Then we have to like kind of like we look at this and some people who go, no, I already sculpt this and this is what it was. Right, but you take that approse, then you kill that project at that moment, you're not going to deliver what everybody will be happy at the end with. So just take a minute, step back, take a breather and okay, how can we approach this a different way? Right, and I think that that comes from staying in that like we're always learning and evolving, kind of a mentality. Fascinating stuff, good stuff. I can't thank you both enough for joining us today on Uncle Sam's secret sauce. We need to have you back to talk about this nonprofit that you're working on right now and some of the new projects that I know you guys have in the it's just a matter of time before you you win. The next big thing. For those of you joining us, this is mare with Uncle Sam's secret sauce, and today we've been joined by Saima and a great team of highly creative individuals that are capable of delivering your messaging, your branding and your outreach needs on time, on budget, in the right form. For having us. Until next time, thank you for joining us. Based in Miami, Florida, Rafael Morrero in company is a management consultancy founded in two thousand eight by Dr Raphael Morrero. The firm helps other veteran owned, minority, women and small businesses break into the federal marketplace and do business with the world's richest and most powerful client, the US federal government. To learn more, visit Raphael Marrero Dot Com. You've been listening to Uncle Sam's secret sauce, a Rafael Morero and company PODCAST, keep connected with us by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player and giving us a rating that helps us to keep delivering the latest in business growth strategies and, ultimately, learn what Uncle Sam's secret ingredients are.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, M.

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