Moe Jafari is the founder, president and CEO of HumanTouch LLC, provider of business solutions to federal government clients such as information technology and engineering. Jafari explained to WashingtonExec his company’s work philosophy and what makes his business tick. Jafari also touched upon his experience in the government contracting world as a small and minority business owner and taking the leap from a sub-contractor to a full-fledged government contractor.
WashingtonExec: Please tell us a little bit about your background.
Moe Jafari: I founded HumanTouch in 1997. I formed the company with a goal of delivering services that bring brainpower and capacity to the federal government and help agencies meet their core missions. I spend a great deal of time listening to members of our team to hear new ideas and get a sense of potential and capabilities. I expect employees to become members of the client organization for each project—which means our people have to have both technical assurance and the business acumen to understand the varying cultural nuances of each workplace. Meshing the client understanding and the sensitivity is a craft, and this is where HumanTouch really shines.
WashingtonExec: What do you think of the current federal government procurement and acquisition climate?
Moe Jafari: Everyone needs rules to play by, and that certainly applies to government procurement. Federal Acquisition Regulations need to be strong for the government to ensure a smooth-flowing and trouble-free procurement of goods and services. Contractors have the obligation to understand all FAR implications. Security and compliance regulations have become more complex and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This is a reality of the times we live in: technology refreshes quickly, and it is hard work to keep up with all the implications to privacy, security, reliability, and compliancy. I feel it is our job to provide services that are reliable and secure, and meeting emerging regulatory guidelines is a minimum standard.
WashingtonExec: Have you found that a specific field in government contracting is easier to maneuver than others. For example, are healthcare IT contracts more complex to bid for than cybersecurity contracts?
Moe Jafari: All procurements have their own level of complexity, and if the contractor has not figured out what that is, he or she should not be bidding. To understand the RFP and bidding process, you need to either have experience or have an experienced person to guide you. We have gravitated towards Health IT because the subject area and work is both intriguing and challenging, but we support all types of clients (mostly Federal) on various IT initiatives. The key in being successful in the RFP process is to have applicable past performance so the client organization knows you will be successful right off the bat.
WashingtonExec: How would you describe the role of small business, specifically minority-owned small businesses, in the overall government contracting community?
Moe Jafari: The power of flexible, responsive, and capable small business should never be underestimated. The federal government needs the ingenuity and responsiveness that small business can bring to the table. Small business represents the engine that drives progress—we employ just over half of all private sector employees, and have generated 64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years. Small business captures the entrepreneurial spirit that is necessary to bring continued innovation and inspiration to big organizations and agencies. The synergy between the two is a healthy and productive relationship.
As for minority-owned small businesses, their involvement in government contracting has great positive impact. Research shows that minority business owners tend to hire more minorities, leading to more jobs in minority communities—and less unemployment is something that benefits everyone. Less unemployment means more economic development and less people depending on expensive social programs. And of course, diversity in business leads to a richer and more productive environment. Diversity encourages people from any background to feel empowered to contribute their talents and solutions.
WashingtonExec: What do you think are some benefits and disadvantages of sub-contracting verses being awarded a full-government contract?
Moe Jafari: The major benefit to subcontracting is the chance to learn. A small company will learn what it takes to move a large program, and they will get the capabilities that will enable them to bid on a similar project as the prime. The disadvantage is you are not in the driver’s seat, and sometimes the view can be blocked. The key to making partnerships successful is good communication. This makes a real difference in the experience the companies and client have with the contract.
The benefit of being the prime is being able to direct all facets of the program, including team members. If a business is not prepared with the right level of management and financial capability, the playground can and will get messy quickly. We have taken great strides, from developing banking relationships, getting our core executives in place, building upon corporate qualifications and investing in our staff so they can attain their own certifications.
*Featured in a July issue of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority online magazine e-Bird.