I recently had the opportunity to provide the keynote address at the annual “Keeping the Promise” event, hosted by the California Disabled Veterans Business Alliance.

The theme of the event was “To those who have borne the battle…” – a reference to comments made by President Abraham Lincoln on 1865, speaking of the duty owed to the returning veterans of the Civil War.

I was proud to have been able to address the assembled group of veteran business owners, and even more proud that VETREPRENEUR magazine published my keynote remarks in their July 2011 issue.

I am sharing the content of that address here.  Please take a moment to review AND  let me know what you think.


Good Morning and on behalf of more than 300,000 HP employees around the world, allow me to thank you for your service.

Now to some that may be a knee jerk cliché.

But, I am proud to tell you that at our company, respect for those who go in harm’s way is imbedded in our culture.

The theme for this year’s Keeping the Promise Expo includes a quote “that this nation care for those who have borne the battle”.

This powerful statement comes in part from President Abraham Lincoln.

In 1865, President Lincoln stood on the East Portico of the Capitol to take the executive oath for his second term as President of the United States. Weeks of wet weather preceding Lincoln’s second inauguration had caused Pennsylvania Avenue to become a sea of mud and standing water.

Thousands of spectators stood in thick mud at the Capitol grounds to hear the President. As he stood to deliver his second inaugural address, he faced a country that had been bruised and battered by civil war.

The war was one of the costliest and deadliest wars on American soil. It separated families, brought domestic suffering, and pitted brother against brother. There was hardly a family in the south that did not lose a loved one – a son or brother or father.

As President Lincoln gave his address, the end of the war was only weeks away.  And as he addressed a war-battered nation, he made a promise that has become one of the defining characteristics of our great nation – “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan…”

This is a part of our Nation’s promise.  But as we all know Keeping the Promise is not only the duty of government, but
of corporations as well.

We have thousands of veterans including disabled veterans working throughout HP.  We have tens of thousands of families whose sons and daughters are on active duty protecting what we do and what we take for granted every day in this country.

My job is to make sure that a fair share of the billions that HP spends each year on every imaginable product or service from software to toilet paper and from driving to janitorial work is shared with you and with others like you and with women and minority owned companies as well.

We set high goals and we meet them and we exceed them.

Tomorrow many of you will participate in Business Matchmaking and meet with buyers from government agencies and major corporations.  Now, many of you may not know how that program came about.

My friend Chuck Ashman who introduced me came to HP seven years ago with the idea of putting our company together with the Small Business Administration to help companies like yours get opportunities they have not had before.

It has been remarkably successful.

I have met with companies in every industry in every part of the country and I want you to know…it works!  In the past 7 years, we have been able to bring more than 75,000 entrepreneurs together with buyers of every product and service.

We have facilitated 7 Billion Dollars in contracts and enabled them to create thousands of jobs.

So, tomorrow I hope all of you will take full advantage of the Business Matchmaking sessions and open some doors and hopefully pursue some new selling situations.

Tonight you will be part of a very memorable ceremony. Veterans who have served and sacrificed will share dinner and a program with many on active duty and those who await their chance to serve.

I live in Houston but I am originally from Oakland and I have heard all the political arguments “Pro-War”  and “Anti-War”. Well, I don’t know anyone who is really pro war but I hope that everyone in the room tonight and throughout this city and this state and this country will put all the political rhetoric aside and remember we are pro all who serve.

Your Keeping the Promise theme should be a mantra for every American every day. We should be Keeping the Promise with jobs, with small business development, with good healthcare, with respect, with programs like yours.

There are no better advocates to further that “Keeping the Promise” theme than Rich Dryden and your CALIFORNIA DISABLED VETERANS BUSINESS ALLIANCE.  As you know, the Alliance formed in 1994 following the establishment of the
Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) program by the California legislature in 1989.

The California DVBE program set a 3% goal for DVBE participation in state contracts for goods and services.

It also required eligible DVBEs to obtain certification of their capabilities by the state’s Department of General Services before they could participate in the program.

Your CALIFORNIA DISABLED VETERANS BUSINESS ALLIANCE has raised the bar for the country and your Keeping the Promise theme and the services you offer should be emulated in every state and nationally.

We at HP look forward to continuing to support your California activities and to urge others around the country to follow your example.

I think it is very important that the business community realize that you are not saying give me a contract because I was injured.

I have heard the REAL message which is Give me a Level Playing Field.  If you have been gone for a tour or two or three, of course those companies here have a giant advantage in pursuing sales.

The 3% contract concept and any doors that open are just a small gesture of fairness to those who deserve it most.

Now I would be wasting an opportunity if I did not share with you some of the shortcomings, some of the mistakes and some of the missed opportunities that happen when small businesses try to sell the government and companies like HP.

1. Do your homework.  With the internet, there is no excuse to pursue a company without benefiting from what can easily be learned from their previous contracts or other material on their web sites.

2. Get it right. Accuracy and professionalism can only help in every document or communication that comes out of your company.

3. Explore Teaming.   Perhaps with other disabled vet companies and with those who are not veterans but want an association to be able to pursue contracts they cannot earn themselves.

4. Social media can help.  Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and a long list of other tools are, in essence, a way to advertise your goods and services and to expand your own networks free of cost.

5. Think International   We at HP do business in 170  countries.  There are opportunities again requiring some homework but nothing that will stop you from trying to find totally new markets.

6. Be “value driven” – Lead with a compelling value proposition that both defines what you do and distinguishes you from your competition.

Certainly, these steps won’t guarantee success, but they can provide a bit of  a competitive advantage for your company.


I will say it once again – “that this nation care for those who have borne the battle”.  Although Lincoln lived only a few weeks after making these remarks, this promise lived on after him…and continues to be the duty of Federal, state and local governments, and Corporations and small businesses alike.

I commend the California DVBE Alliance for leading the charge, for providing services to disabled veterans throughout the state and for making sure that we all work to keep the promise.

Thank you.

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