How to build a happy relationship

Here are some tips for forming a successful mentor/protégé relationship, from Sharon Jones, director of the Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

For protégés:

Come in with realistic expectations. You're not likely to get as many subcontracting opportunities as you might like, especially early on. But you'll be learning new skills and earning needed certifications and ratings.

Understand your own needs. "A lot of small businesses cannot articulate what their needs are," Jones said. "If they don't come in with a game plan about what they need to gain, they're wasting their time."

For mentors:

Choose protégés that you already know well. Jones advises mentors to pick companies that they've already worked with.

Establish a protégé implementation plan, a measure DISA requires. Every six months, protégé firms must report on what they are learning and how they plan to implement it. "What we have found in the past, by not making the protégé more committed to the program, they are just giving lip service to it," Jones said.

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