Raytheon’s Lee Cooper: Small business partnering dos and dont’s

Lee Cooper has spent the last 23 years of his career focusing on business development.  As vice president of business development for Raytheon Technical Services — one of the six companies within Raytheon — Cooper has helped his team grow revenue to nearly $3 billion. Here he shares a few steps to successful business development and how small business partners can effectively approach Raytheon for partnership opportunites.

What does it take to have a successful BD organization in today’s market?

Lee Cooper: You need a growth-oriented strategy that’s based on an understanding of your market and core capabilities.  Also essential is a strong BD team: BD managers, customer-facing managers, and customer relationship executives — people with a philosophy of requirements pull-solution delivery. Then obviously you have to have the resources to implement the strategy — and it’s not just good people, it’s proposal people, engineering people to help with the proposal, pricing people who help write the proposal. It’s also about having proven tools and processes that can help ensure you have a successful capture effort as you move forward.

What advice would you give a small business wanting to partner with Raytheon?

Lee Cooper: Get to know our business.  Once you have an understanding, you need to match up your core competencies to the areas we’re pursuing, the markets and customers we’re working with or chasing.

How often do small companies stop by your office?
Lee Cooper: Probably two to three times a week. I try to describe our business, our customers, our core competencies and our pipeline of opportunities.  Once they actually talk to a capture manager or a business development manager, it’s critical that they illustrate what they’re bringing in terms of additional benefits to the solution we are already trying to provide our customers.

What specific benefits do small businesses bring you?

Lee Cooper: A lot of times the benefits that they bring— and I’ve categorized them over the years — could be technical skills that we don’t have.  They could bring a customer understanding that we don’t have.  They could have domain knowledge of financial systems that we don’t have or that we need more of.  They could have tools or intellectual property that we don’t have maybe.  They could be geographically in a location that we’re not.  If we don’t have anybody in Butte, Montana, for example, and we’re bidding something out there, then obviously we would need somebody local who understands that environment.  So we try to ask them what they’re bringing to us that would help us successfully support the solutions we are proposing to our customers.

What role does pricing play in your decision?

Lee Cooper: Small businesses do need to be competitively priced for their market and for what they’re offering.  We always ask what small business category they might qualify for because we obviously have to meet the setaside requirements of the various RFPs that we chase.

What’s the biggest mistake small businesses make in wanting to partner with you?

Lee Cooper: A big mistake is when they come in and say, “You know the FAA requires that 23 percent of your work be set aside to small business and, by the way, it’s broken out in this category … so much to a woman-owned, so much to an 8(a) and hub zone …”  Of course my reaction is, “That’s right, and we were meeting those requirements before you got here and we’ll be meeting them after you leave.”

What are your top goals for the year?

Lee Cooper: We have significant international business as it relates to homeland security, such as nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and biological weapons. We are now looking to expand into adjacent markets, such as border protection and infrastructure security.

What areas would you like to strengthen?

Lee Cooper: While strong, we’d like to further strengthen the execution of some of the processes and tools for capturing new businesses.  It’s about building on current strengths.  Last year our win rate was 74 percent on competitive bids. That said, in some cases we spent more money chasing the opportunity than we should have. So we’re developing an even more robust machine to chase new business.

What’s something most people don’t know about you personally?

Lee Cooper: I’ve coached high school girls basketball for years.  I also play golf in the summer.

Interview conducted by JD Kathuria

Read more interviews here: https://blog.executivebiz.com/category/interviews/

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