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Michelle Sherod, founder and president of Accounting Legal & Logistics Solutions Inc. dba ALL Solutions Inc., an accounting, legal, logistics, cost and price analysis, public administration, financial and strategic planning firm (commercial cleaning, too, but more on that later) in St. Louis, had a good relationship with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). 

So why wasn’t she getting anywhere with DLA Troop Support?

The 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 aviation and weapons parts. Its logistics can be fearsomely complex and backlogs literally fatal, which is where experienced logistics and analysis firms like ALL Solutions come in.

The lawyer, accountant, public administrator, Eisenhower Fellow and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation board member — Sherod wears quite a few hats — had previously landed a nearly half million dollar contract with the DLA to examine its on time aviation spare parts delivery, so she was puzzled by DLA’s initial lack of response. She knew this contract was different, requiring examination of contracts at both the macro and micro levels. She was also smart enough to admit she wasn’t sure what the contract was asking for in places.

Sherod needed answers.

She also knew how to get them.

Woman seated at desk with diplomas and awards behind herMichelle Sherod, founder and president of ALL Solutions.

Carolyn Jones, a Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (MO PTAC) procurement specialist in St. Louis who had advised Sherod from the business’ start in 2011, encouraged her to keep reaching out to the contracting officer and technical customer for clarification.

The mission of MO PTAC, a BDP program, is to help businesses — including small, disadvantaged and women owned firms such as Sherod’s — win federal, state and local government contracts. Jones helped Sherod obtain 8(a) certification, which gives small, disadvantaged firms preferential bidding on certain projects. She also helped her obtain Woman Owned Small Business and Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business certification, another plus in the world of government contracting.

So is having MO PTAC on your side. Jones has decades of experience on both the government and contracting sides, and knows how to read complex RFPs. She pored over the contract with a fine-tooth comb and gave Sherod valuable suggestions on how to proceed. Sherod then initiated conversations with the right people in DLA, confirming something she already suspected — no ALL Solutions employee had enough experience analyzing such contracts.

So Sherod hired microcontracting and other specialists, bringing her employee total from 16 to 26 and securing the nearly $1 million contract.

And this is just the beginning. The DLA has options to extend the contract to more than $3 million, and there’s every indication ALL Solutions will get it.

Sherod says she couldn’t have done it without Jones.

“Carolyn has just been a phenomenal resource from the time I started my business,” she says. In fact, Sherod says Jones is so responsive she calls Jones her officemate. “Carolyn is always the one I call when I am not sure what organization to talk to, or if I need assistance with some aspect of a contract. I am grateful for her wisdom, her insight, how she so expertly handles the issues I have to deal with.”

Sherod’s resume includes Big Eight accounting firms Deloitte & Touche and Ernst and Young; Southwestern Bell (now AT&T); staff attorney for a national law firm; the Missouri State Auditor’s office; even aide and regional director for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. Calling her inexperienced would be like calling LeBron James an adequate player. But she says knowing when she doesn’t know has been a major key to success.

“I am able to say with all respect and humility, ‘I don’t have a clue. Can you help me?’ A lot of business owners can’t acknowledge that they are in over their head.” She realized that very quickly working for McCaskill, she says, walking into meetings with knowledgeable and emotionally charged audiences and having to deal with it, instantly. “You have to get over the fear of asking for help. I have no fear.

“I talk to a lot of accountants, attorneys, people like that — I say, ‘You don’t have to do the work,'” she says. “You have to know what you agreed to do, find qualified people to do it,                                
then monitor the work to ensure you do what you were contracted to do. That’s my business model. I get a lot of raised eyebrows when I talk about that [her model]. To grow a business, you have to be willing to let go.”

And seize the day: ALL Solutions recently bid and secured cleaning contracts with the Walgreen’s pharmacy chain. What, exactly, does an attorney and CPA know about cleaning warehouses and distribution centers?

“Not much,” she laughs. “But I have family members who have worked for cleaning companies the past ten years,” and she’s starting small, purchasing only essential equipment and a van to haul it all in. She also works out of her home, saving on overhead. “I’m not going to take jobs we are not qualified for, in terms of staffing, time and resources,” she says. “A lot of cleaning firms struggle in how to manage their books. I can teach family members about pricing,” she says, and expects the cleaning arm of ALL Solutions to grow organically and turn a profit, too.

“What the past three years have brought is just amazing,” she says — thanks in large part to Jones and MO PTAC.