How Lynn de Séve Grew From Phone Room Standout to a GSA Schedules Leader
Now president of her own company, Lynn de Séve shares wisdom she has gained over the years to bring more people to the security industry.
SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum, an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, networking and professional growth events and thought leadership opportunities.
For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Lynn de Séve, president of GSA Schedules, Inc.
SIA: How did you get into the security industry?
Lynn de Séve: After having great success starting out supporting the government sales staff qualifying and setting up leads over the telephone, at the encouragement of my supervisor I stepped up to the next level in sales administration, moving to a new company. I went from phone room standout for government sales to a new position supporting the national government manager for a large broadcast video/CATV/security integrator.
My expertise and responsibilities grew simultaneously as I was baptized by fire doing business with the government. It was very exciting! I learned on the job, under pressure and with almost fearless confidence from my boss that I was up to the task. My boss, Owen Wood, was a pioneer in GSA Schedule contracting for the video and security marketplace.
I prepared agency quotations, completed various required government forms and reports, learned who to call for expediting on urgent projects, worked inside sales calls, prepared and helped to maintain the company’s GSA Schedule contract.
We had typewriters, no computers, no fax machines and government forms with carbon paper. We wrote letters for copies of requests for quotations (RFQs). I eventually moved from administration to also making sales visits to government agencies in the Washington, D.C., area and beyond. I became well acquainted with government purchasing staff, government end users and manufacturer representatives in the security industry.
But the biggest boost or push to focus on security was from a young manufacturer representative, Brian Dolan, who opened many doors for me throughout my career and was the inspiration for starting my consulting company. Brian brought to me the first of many clients in the security industry and opened some giant doors over the years.
How does your organization serve the industry?
I founded my company in 1984 with the first customers coming from references from my contacts/business partners I met in my prior job experience. Since our start, we have provided support services to assist companies in the preparation and submission of GSA Schedule contracts primarily for the security industry, although there is obvious overlap into fire alarm systems, building controls, other technology and, of course, IT. We work with suppliers and integrators to help each client build plans for selling to the government by submitting a contracting vehicle (the GSA Schedule contract) that will fit with their company vision.
We research the industry for important facts, assist in preparing all the required documents and assist with pricing and terms negotiations and implementation of the contract. After award, we offer on-call support to help maintain the GSA Schedule contract in good standing and provide necessary contract administration support. We are very actively engaged as members of SIA, serving on various subcommittees, and participate in GSA industry events. These efforts greatly benefit our clients.
What is your current role?
I am the president and leader of my company. As the senior consultant for our clients and their GSA Schedules programs for federal purchasing and state contracts, I take a very active role with solving contracting problems, expediting, guiding client staff on compliance, brainstorming and keeping them current on regulatory changes while advising on important happenings in the industry. I like to facilitate partnering among my clients. I communicate and participate on the GSA Region 7 Contractor Research Panel.
I serve on the SIA Board of Directors and chair the SIA Procurement Policy Working Group. I am very enthusiastic in my participation with the SIA Women in Security Forum as part of their steering committee. There were scarce numbers of women in the security industry back when I started my career. Most of my gender were secretaries or receptionists, with a very few ladies in sales or purchasing. I am very interested in advancing other women in security. I believe the opportunity is tremendous, and no job function is out of bounds.
What types of job functions do women fill in your company? Is there diversity of roles in your company, or do women gravitate toward certain job functions?
It has not always been the case, but currently women fill just about every role in my company’s business efforts, from operations to accounting, contract administration, consulting, IT operations and business development. There is always overlap in support processes, and cutting-edge knowledge is required to support our clients. Working within my company requires good organization skills, excellent communications skills, knowledge of government contracting and GSA procedures, business software skills, patience, strength and a great deal of multi-tasking. Good time management is essential to keep up with the fast pace of effort.
With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry? What impediments do you see for achieving this, and what could remedy some of these impediments?
Diversity in the workforce is absolutely essential to achieving business success, as our security clients are also diverse. Having different perspectives for introduction, problem solving or growth opportunities can help in finding interesting solutions. We need to encourage women to step out and take a chance. We must work together to instill confidence by including women in technology and all areas including top management.
I see tremendous opportunities for women in the security industry in technology, finance, marketing, management, etc. Support from our coworkers to encourage reaching for that better job makes a difference. Companies that invest in additional education for their staff will encourage the younger generation to join our teams.
What do you see as important trends in the industry?
COVID-19 has put a different spin on so many things. How do we move forward in this unprecedented time as people start to return to the office? How do we keep our customers when we are living in a virtual work world? I am working harder than ever. There are Zoom or Teams meetings all day and then paperwork in the evening when things settle.
Everyone I speak with seems to be doing the same but also while managing their family at home, juggling work and kids teaching their lessons; however, working from home while gaining the lost travel time has also seemed to have really increased our productivity. The coronavirus pandemic has also sparked some new ideas in the security world for touchless technology that we are seeing in product showcases. Sometimes these difficult challenges provide innovative ideas that might otherwise remain undiscovered.
More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your focus area of government contracts?
The year 2020 is one of historical change for government, specifically GSA Schedule contracting. The General Services Administration (GSA) is in phase 2 of their reorganization and consolidation of all the GSA contracts into a single contracting vehicle. All contractors must accept the change to their contracts for the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) Consolidation no later than July 31; then phase 3 will begin when each company with multiple GSA Schedule contracts will work to combine them into a single GSA contract.
There is a focus on category management and a realignment of products and services. We are working hard to advise our clients as we learn the new codes or “special item numbers” that apply to our GSA contractors. These codes are important, as they are used by government agencies to advertise their opportunities in the GSA eBuy program, an online tool for posting government RFQs for GSA contract holders only. One big area of concern and uncertainty for government contractors in security is related to the prohibited products regulations and understanding the scope with the release of the second part of Section 889 of the National Defense Authorization Act.
What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?
We had to reorganize our workspaces and tools to be able to continue to work effectively when our office building closed because of COVID-19. The GSA program reorganization and the resulting required changes for all of our clients happening at the same time have made for some very long work days and weeks. The biggest concern we had for our clients was related to the new regulation of limiting price increases to 10 percent per year, no exceptions!
Once a contractor accepted the MAS Consolidation modification, this and other revised regs prevailed. Zoom and Teams meetings have kept us busy and in touch but also put a bit more humanity into client relations. Comic relief has helped in difficult negotiations or to make someone more lovable when their unprofessional child, cat, dog or bad hair day appears on the screen.
What are the biggest opportunities your company – and the industry – are seeing?
Although some of our client’s team members were furloughed initially because of COVID-19, most of our security clients have seen steady or growing business opportunities. We have had a lot of interest generated (and questions) from increased activity following participation in webinars. I think we reached more people in some of these new virtual events. GSA’s reorganization has generated a lot of calls and questions. We see many opportunities to provide some additional services.
What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?
We have a great need for more people to enter the security industry. Diversity is a plus and youth essential. My hope is that our efforts will bring new awareness to the opportunities that are present and encourage other to join us in the security industry. Based on our wonderful SIA Women in Security Forum volunteers and tremendous enthusiasm from our male counterparts, I am greatly encouraged by the response so far.
We are spotlighting the success and efforts of women to encourage and acknowledge them via social media. We have just announced a scholarship program for women in security through SIA. We are recognizing women in technology and business to encourage others. It is our desire to bring recognition to the accomplishments of women in security and to encourage others to do the same.
What is your best advice for women in the industry?
If you believe, you can! I was a single mom and raised four great kids while running my business. The security industry provided so many different paths of opportunity for me. I worked hard and was fortunate to have some great mentors that pushed me along. This is a great career path for anyone. I am humbled by the incredible women I have met who are having successful careers, but we need more ladies now, and the industry is looking for you.
Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?
The strongest, kindest true believer and greatest influencer in my career was Brian Dolan. I cannot thank him enough for his friendship, his confidence in me and all he did to promote me and my company over many years. Although he is no longer with us, he is forever in my head and heart. It was his idea for me to start a GSA consulting business for the security industry. Honorable mentions go to Jack Crouse, Ken Cordrey, Sheila Brannan, Jeff Penny, Don Erickson and my SIA tribe. My membership in the Security Industry Association has helped me to continue to grow my business in building lasting relationships.
How do you define success?
Success is having the same clients for over 20 years. Success is the appreciation I get from my clients when we achieve a goal or solve a problem together. Having my three daughters working in my company tells me I must be doing something right. After all that hole punching, copying, collating and stapling over the years of their youth, I never dreamed they would actually be working by my side as adults. The partnerships and friendships I have built over the years in the security industry brings great satisfaction for our efforts and makes me feel successful no matter the yearly receipts.
What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?
The security industry offers many opportunities in different career areas for women, youth and a diverse workforce. There is a growing support system, including the SIA Women in Security Forum and other “women in security” groups poised to help women on this career path offering educational programs, scholarships and opportunities to participate in industry events that were previously not as inclusive of women. This enthusiastic movement is cheering for your success and opening opportunities to you. The security industry is a tight, generous group of people who have big hearts for each other, the future and those they work to protect.
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