K. Austin DeLorme - hot air balloon pilot, world traveler, athlete, wife, and mother to two humans and a husky is like a 5 ft. nesting doll -
This kind and adventurous woman is also a former Air Force officer, a scientist with a Masters in Nuclear Physics, an expert and trailblazer in advanced military technology, the former direct advisor to the Air Force Undersecretary of Acquisitions at the Pentagon and now, a consultant to commercial companies facing the myriad barriers to federal marketplace entry.
Austin is one of Focusing Forward’s newest consultants, but she’s not new to the game. During her 10 years of active Air Force duty, she served as an acquisitions officer with a focus on early-stage science and technology development and transition. She was one of the handful of captains to co-found AFWERX, a program fostering innovation within the Air Force that, in conjunction with the Air Force Research Lab, seeks to facilitate cutting-edge tech capability transitions - bringing in advanced tech from the commercial sector to address complex problems faced by service men and women. AFWERX also oversees the Air Force’s arm of the DoD’s SBIR program, and Austin was a key player in efforts to restore the AF SBIR program to its original purpose – expediting and streamlining the acquisition of commercial products and technology into the federal marketplace. At her role in the Pentagon, she advised on and rewrote related policies and she tested and advocated for better tools and processes that can foster stronger relationships between the commercial and government sectors.
Getting innovative tech capabilities into the hands of government agencies that could most benefit is still a notoriously complicated and problematic process, despite Austin’s advocacy and policy work. When it comes to federal marketplace entry, the numerous barriers include cultural and regulatory processes that mystify companies seeking government revenue. Austin spent more than half her career studying these barriers, so she understands them better than almost anyone, and it’s fueled her passion for how she now serves her clients.
After stepping away from active duty in 2020, her pivot to consulting was a natural fit. Not only does it allow her more time with her family (the original impetus for the decision), but she can also keep supporting the vendors she’s passionate about helping. It’s clear that even though there are other consultants that also have government and strategic operational backgrounds, Austin is uniquely qualified in her field because of her extensive network, experience, and background to help companies find and submit proposals for the right opportunities that will support their specific goals.
In her own words:
“I don't generally advocate the shotgun proposal approach--the biggest real value I bring to a team is allowing them to hone their focus and stop wasting resources on distractions.”
We all recognize the value of our time. That focus is what makes Austin’s consulting work priceless to the clients she serves.
Austin graciously allowed me to ask her the following questions. Hear what she has to say about her experiences, her consulting, and her exciting life!
Who are your clients and what are some of the primary issues you tackle with them?
I support non-traditional vendors who are either just starting out in the government market or who are looking for a more strategic pathway to government revenue. I help them understand market opportunities, strategies, and tactical approaches towards recurring revenue. Often, clients are focused on the wrong stakeholders, or pursuing pathways with interest but no funding - I help them align their goals with what's feasible and to develop and execute a plan with a clear understanding of the cost, risks, and opportunity associated with it.
Please tell me more about the short-term wins you get for your clients as well as the work you do in the broader arena of ongoing advances for government acquisitions.
Knowing where to apply and who to talk to helps to create those short-term wins. The art [of developing proposals] is putting time, energy, and money into proposals and opportunities with the potential to go further. I don't generally advocate the shotgun proposal approach. The biggest real value I bring to a team is allowing them to hone their focus and stop wasting resources on distractions.
What uniquely sets you apart from other consultants in your field?
Many strategic consultants have an operational background or come from higher up in the government, so they can provide introductions and top-level guidance. There are also consulting teams that shotgun proposals to every open opportunity - they bring in dollars but have no direction. I have the experience and network to understand how to assess operational value and support a team through the acquisition pipeline. Government infrastructure is designed to develop technology from the inside and then push it out. After years studying ways to go from the outside in, I can offer unique insight on how to do that well, and my approach is tailored to each company based on their specific goals.
What do you love most about your work as a consultant? What is most challenging?
I love helping entrepreneurs directly. It's gratifying to do the tactical work that, for years, I was only able to advise on. I'm allowed to get attached to the tech and the teams in a way that I was never allowed to while in uniform, and I get excited to play even a small part in their story!
What is a piece of advice you would have given to your younger self?
My message would be, "be patient". You will be everything you want to be in this life, but likely not all at once, and that's okay. Be patient. People aren't hearing you because they have their own thoughts, so don't shout - just repeat and be patient. Things will change if you hold steady. It may not be as fast as you'd like, but keep your eyes facing forward and be patient.
Just for fun…what is the best book you’ve read recently?
4000 weeks: Time Management for Mortals: It’s a great read that helps you think about how to prioritize your time on the macro level, as well as having greater acceptance for what you can't get to. I was a high performer before children. I ran marathons, volunteered, had a big social group, and worked hard; and if I couldn't fit it all in, I just slept less! Having two young kids has made me grapple with my mortality. Being the mother I want to be while also "succeeding" in other areas of my life has been a challenge. This book gave me a new perspective and a clearer head when it comes to defining success and setting realistic expectations.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
My family is everything. My husband is a pilot. Our boys are 1 and 3, and we have a 10-year-old husky mix. We love to travel together. When I'm not working, I'm on an adventure - whether it's in the backyard or in Europe.
A big thank you to Austin for taking time to answer my questions and share with us.
To learn more about Austin and her consulting work, please visit her LinkedIn page.
To inquire about having Austin consult for your company, please visit our
Contact page (subject line: Austin DeLorme Consulting) or give us a call at (571) 309-5884.
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