Private Sector Innovation

January 26, 2022

In this inaugural episode of Government Health Insights, we discuss how the private sector can collaborate with the Department of Veterans Affairs and government agencies. Dr. David Shulkin, formerly the ninth secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Ron Dreskin, Partner in EisnerAmper’s Health Care Services Group, speak with Charles Malone, Founder, CEO, Logos BZ, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business that focuses on serving more veterans including reducing cost of care to the government and more. Charles shares with us his inspiration for launching Logos, how his experience in the Navy translated to his work at Logos, and the many lessons learned through offering his services to the government.


Transcript

David Shulkin: Hello, and welcome to the podcast that's sponsored by EisnerAmper. I'm really pleased to be here with my co-host today, Ron Dreskin, who's a partner of the EisnerAmper Healthcare Services Group. And the purpose of this podcast is to really talk about how the private sector, how companies, can collaborate and innovate with the Department of Veteran Affairs and other government agencies.

I'm your host, Dr. David Shulkin. I'm the ninth Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs. What I have found is so many companies and so many people want to help veterans. And frankly, government works better when the private sector works with them and can contribute the innovation from the private sector.

So what this podcast is about is hearing the stories of those who have successfully worked with government; who have developed companies, who have a passion to help veterans. And we're going to hear those inside stories.
In this podcast, joining us today is Charles Malone from a company called Logos. Which is an amazing company, it's a service-disabled veteran-owned small business that's currently serving VA. And it focuses on assisting the VA to optimize its outcomes; things like improved service, access, reducing the cost of care to the government, to be able to serve more veterans.

So we're going to hear from Charlie today, who's going to be our guest, about the VA space and about the projects that they're working on. But most important, to hear why he's doing this and to hear any lessons that he's learned. So, Ron, I'm going to ask you to jump in here. And let's start hearing from Charlie as well.
Ron Dreskin: Great. Thank you, David. And Charlie, thank you for your time today. We appreciate it. So our first question for you is: how did you and your partners decide to get involved with your business and offer services to the VA?
Charles Malone: Well, thanks Ron. And thanks Dr. Shulkin. Great to be here. Really a pleasure and an honor. So after retiring from the Navy, and after working in a family business, I started working projects within the VA, specifically the Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, and later with the Veterans Benefits Administration, the VBA. And I was really impressed with the government professionals that I was working with. You hear stories sometimes about the VA, and complaints from veterans sometimes. And so I was really wondering what kind of people I would come across. I was amazed, on a daily basis, by the professionalism and the heart of the VA, and the dedication they have towards serving and helping veterans. So that was an inspiration to me, especially as a veteran myself.

While there, I was working with a guy named Mitch Patterson. And Mitch and I developed a friendship, but also a real desire to have an impact ourselves. And we were working with different companies at the time, running these projects. We knew that we had something together. He was the yin to my yang, I like to say. We thought that, together, we could add value with what we provided. And maybe, in our hubris, thought that we could actually have an impact, not just helping the VA itself but also having an impact to help veterans. And so that was the genesis behind that.

Additionally, what we really find important is a strong ethos, an ethos that is driven towards excellence. And so that's the reason we have the name Logos. BZ is actually the name of the company, Bravo Zulu. That's comes from a Navy term, which comes from signal flags that the admirals used to put on the ships and NATO took it on. And Bravo Zulu means, in Navy terms, a job well done. So it's a nod to excellence. And that's what we're all about.
RD: That's very interesting. You mentioned you were in the Navy. Can you tell us a little bit about what you did when you served in the Navy itself?
CM: Oh, sure. I was in the Navy for 25 years. I was a commander and a naval aviator. I flew P-3 Charlie Orion aircraft. So this is a large aircraft that did sub hunting and also reconnaissance as well. We would go fly 10 hours. So that was a big part of my career, is flying for the Navy.

But the thing that is different from the Navy than the Air Force, is the Air Force you fly most of your career, even with other jobs. With the Navy, with a long career, you often do other things that's disassociated from that aircraft.

So I launched aircraft from a catapult off the USS Kitty Hawk. I was a catapult and arresting gear officer, and I led crews through that process. I worked in foreign policy at the Pacific Fleet. I worked also in operations, I was the current aviation operations officer for the Pacific Fleet. So we got to do a lot of work in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, with medical ship there, the USNS Mercy. Also, I worked as a commander of a battalion in Iraq. So I had 400 sailors who I worked with, in a guarding effort, seeing what they were going through but also just being in a combat zone. And, lastly, I worked at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, in Intel policy. I was the secretary of the Military Intelligence Committee there at NATO.

So the neat thing about the Navy is they let me play with a lot of cool toys, for one, but also have some really interesting jobs. I got to go to 42 countries over the term of my career.
RD:Wow. That's incredible.

So let's turn now to: what was your experience like when you sold your first job, when you sold your first project to the VA?
CM: Well, getting into VA, or federal procurement in general, is really quite humbling, especially as a new company. You start these companies because you have this resume, this capability, and you team up with people and you partner with people. Lou Celli, who was the former executive director of the American Legion, has an amazing career helping veterans. Mitch Patterson has worked for Steny Hoyer and worked with Booz Allen and the advisory board. And he has just an amazing resume. And my resume, which I described.

So you had these mature people who start this new company, and yet you have zero past performance; which is the metric for the VA for determining whether or not they will trust you in order to allow you to sell your services to them.

And so it's quite humbling to have this mature resume and then to come in with zero past performance. And so it requires that you build relationships with companies and people who have that past performance. And you have to come in humble and do what you can to add value to those teams. And so, it was quite humbling.
RD:What were your lessons learned through this process? If there was a surprise, what surprised you the most in trying to offer your services to the government?
CM:You know what really surprised me was how much the VA, in particular, wants to work with small veteran-owned businesses. Logos BZ, we're a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. That takes a while to get that set-aside designation.

And you may know this, but in 2016 there was a Kingdomware decision at the Supreme Court that emphasized the importance of the VA procurement and the use of small veteran-owned businesses. And so, that was really important. But more than just the legal requirements that the VA has, the people who work there actually have a heart for supporting veteran-owned businesses. And so that was a real surprise for me.

Recently, I was at a small business conference in Orlando, and they had representatives from the government speaking. I was listening to the Defense Intelligence Agency as it was speaking about its procurement. 21% of its procurement is to small businesses. And that blew my mind. And so it's been a real surprise that these agencies support small businesses, or at least try to. And every single agency has an advocacy office to help you bring your small business into the government and to train you and to support you. And some are better than others. And the VA is probably the best at this. But that was a nice surprise.
DS: And in fact, Charlie, I think that what many people don't realize is, is that larger businesses really need to partner with service-disabled small businesses like yourself.

So how does that work in? Just explain why the larger businesses might need a smaller company like you?
CM:Oh, that's a great point. Well, larger companies in the VA, they cannot often get contracts. When you have two competing SDVOSB, or veteran-owned small businesses, when you have two of those competing, the contracting officers really have to give them a chance first. And that's law.

And so, where before, the larger businesses who had the past performance and had the staffs to support these things, where before they might have gotten first dibs on these contracts, now they really have to team up with these smaller companies. And so, often what they do is they develop these mentor-protege relationships. That's an official designation by the Small Business Administration, the SBA.

And what it does is it allows these large companies to act as a set-aside company. They have to take a smaller portion, 49% of the revenue. They don't get the lion's share. But the small business actually can get the past performance of that larger company. And so they build a joint venture together and work together as a team. And it does this great thing of mentoring and building up these small businesses, while allowing the big businesses to come to the table as well.

So it's a neat system that doesn't always work perfectly, but pretty valuable. When you're a small business needing past performance, to be mentored by a larger company, that's a good thing.
DS:Absolutely.
RD: In the remaining time we have with you today, do you want to talk a little bit about your company, your partners? You brought up Mitch. Where do you see growth? What are you excited about in the next year or so?
CM:Well, we're entering a technological revolution in the health innovation area of the VA. And the VA has the largest healthcare system in the nation. It has so many, I think 9 million, of veterans that it serves, or something to that effect. With the Internet of things, with medical devices, with telemedicine, there are so many opportunities to help veterans as they deal with problems, oftentimes that were caused from their time in the service.

As a veteran myself, as someone who has seen veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress, or pain, or other more serious problems, physical debilitations, being able to have an impact on that is something that we strive to do at Logos BZ.

So I think that's our primary focus. And while we may focus on other industries helping veterans in healthcare innovations, we think that this is a time with technology and a time for the heart of the nation. I think there's a real focus and drive to help veterans right now.
RD:David, any final thoughts?
DS: Well, Charlie, I guess that in advising other veterans that feel the same way you do, which is that they want to help serve their fellow veterans, would you encourage them to do that? Or do you feel like there are already enough veterans groups, like yourself, out there trying to work in the VA system?
CM: I would encourage them to join the team. There's plenty to go around. There's a lot of money set aside for veterans. And I went to high school in the South and I like to cook. And one thing that we love in the South are biscuits. And one thing, if you're cooking biscuits, they rise better when they're together. You put them apart and they're going to be flat and hard. But you put them together and they're going to rise nice and be light and fluffy.

I don't know if that's the best idea or picture, but businesses tend to grow best when they work together. I would say, it's more about collaboration than competition. Usually, in most cases, one company can't fulfill all of the requirements of a particular contract. It doesn't have every capability. So it needs to find team members, or teammates, that have those capabilities. And so complimenting each other's capabilities really will win the day.

And I say, bring it on. Anything you can do to help the veterans and join in federal procurement in this way, I say go for.
DS:Well, Charlie, what a great way to end and what a great attitude, because I think it really demonstrates the values of public service and people who have given so much. And, of course, EisnerAmper wants to be part of that, to try to help work with companies to help them be more successful in serving veterans.

So thank you for your time today. Thanks for being part of our podcast.
CM:Oh, you're welcome. And EisnerAmper does a lot of great things. And I'm just grateful to be a part of this.
RD:Thank you, Charlie. Thank you, David.

Transcribed by Rev.com

About Ron Dreskin

Ron Dreskin provides strategic and operations support services to multi-hospital systems, physician groups and faculty practices, ancillary providers (such as surgery centers and imaging centers), as well as entrepreneurial ventures.


More in This Series