Ridewell Corporation – Springfield
The contracts got rolling when Mary Love, MO PTAC specialist for the Rolla/Springfield area, decided to cold-call the Ridewell Corporation, makers of truck and trailer suspension systems sold around the globe and found in large vehicles from Mercedes, Mack and Blue Bird trucks to mammoth military transports. The 45-year-old firm, located just north of Springfield, has about 200 employees, more than 70 patents and multimillion dollar annual revenues.
Bruce Barton, director of engineering for Ridewell, was intrigued. So much so that he attended a training session on doing business with the government at Missouri State University in Springfield.
“That was the starting point,” says Barton. “I had always thought doing business with the government was daunting!”
He was better prepared after attending the seminar but “Mary was really the key component,” he says. “She got us excited and confident enough to do this.”
Love says that’s what she’s there for. “My job is to facilitate sales from Missouri manufacturers, and an established, responsible firm like Ridewell — it just seemed a natural for government contracts.”
She was right.
Barton says it took a few months to navigate the complexities of contracting, adding that the learning curve included finding out that the federal government already had Ridewell products listed in its catalogs. Other contractors had been supplying Ridewell suspension parts to the government at increased prices — until Barton and his team stepped in, selling directly to the government and saving the taxpayer money in the process.
He says that bidding is now pretty smooth.
“Mary found us some contacts and helped us navigate our way through the maze, and now we bid parts on a daily basis,” he says. “Most of these replacement or service parts get shipped to Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) depots at various points around the country.”
DLA is the Department of Defense’s combat support agency, whose depots in 48 states and 28 countries provide everything the military needs from powdered milk and wheat to suspension and weapons parts.
Barton and his team have gotten so good at bidding, in fact, that DLA has honored the firm with back-to-back annual awards for meeting or exceeding quality and shipping standards, he says.
What’s the secret to a successful bid? There is no magic bullet, he says. But being more reflective than reactive helps. “Once you get over the learning curve, you can take a good look at the solicitation, and look at past pricing for that item, and that gives you a gauge for bidding. It’s like eBay on steroids.”
Barton estimates his company has grossed more than $1 million over the past three years from government, especially DLA contracts, but that these contracts represent less than 5 percent of the company’s business. It’s not a company financial mainstay, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, he says.
“PTAC and these contracts have been very good for us. We are quite pleased. It (government contracting) is very competitive. It’s not high-margin, but it’s still good business.”
– Bruce Barton, director of engineering for Ridewell Corporation
As a result, he says, Ridewell weathered the recession better than most, and has not been forced to lay off employees. “That’s a sign of a good company, turning a profit even in hard times,” he says.
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