When it comes to winning new business, look at your own company first, said Peerless President Michael Bridges during a panel discussion at the Dayton Business Journal’s 2020 Aerospace & Defense Forum.

 “You have to understand the client’s mission … find the mission’s needs and how you can meet that need,” said Bridges. “Find opportunities you can pursue and run them to the ground. Know what you want, then put together a team to go after it.”

Along with Bridges, panelists included Elaine Bryant, executive vice president, aerospace and defense at the Dayton Development Coalition; Barbara Duncombe, a law partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister; and Jaqueline Gamblin, CEO at JYG Innovations.

For a small business seeking to grow, Bridges said the best course is to seek opportunities to serve as a subcontractor to build experience and capabilities before seeking to become a prime contractor.

“And understand your customer,” he added. “We ask ourselves three questions: ‘what are they buying? What are we selling? Why should they buy it from us?’ If you can’t answer those, you need to figure out what you’re selling, or you need to move on to other opportunities.”

Keynote speakers for the forum were U.S. Rep Mike Turner (R-Dayton) and Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory. Each agreed the Dayton area represents a strong coalition of defense, education and corporate resources that work well together.

“Dayton companies working in the defense sector are class acts,” said Duncombe.