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How grit and being involved helped build a life-raft for small business during COVID.

If you’ve been to a recent NSBA event, you’re likely familiar with Bill Belknap as one of our resident contracting experts. Over the past seven years, Belknap has been a fixture in issue committees, webinars, and NSBA events. But what really separates Bill from the rest of the pack is his ethos on small business and service, which he’s developed through more than 40 years of experience in the military, corporate America, and as a Small Business Owner.

After growing up on a farm in Indiana, Bill was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point where, he graduated in 1981. Serving 20 years in the Army with combat units and then in acquisition, his final assignment was Director, Army Science Board (ASB). ASB is a federal advisory committee that provides independent outside advice to senior military leadership on science and innovation. There, Bill developed a core competency on creating proactive policy solutions in a nonpartisan environment.

Retiring after 20 years in the Army with numerous awards and accolades, Bill’s knack for innovation carried him to the world of big business, specifically Pfizer Inc. At Pfizer, he managed a site that generated over $1.5B in annual revenues. Bill learned the value of consensus building and stakeholder relations at Pfizer, two skills to which he attributes his success in small-business advocacy.

Bill then decided to set out on his own, founding AEONRG, LLC, a veteran-owned small business that provides construction services to federal and state agencies. Since 2012, Bill and his team have been awarded over 180 government contracts. The company built a reputation as one of the most admired small businesses in Eastern Pennsylvania culminating with receiving Chester County Chamber’s 2023 Small Business of the Year Award.

The Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry Awards Luncheon

In that time, Bill has become a steadfast voice for small business, serving on several different NSBA Issue Committees and Policy Groups, and currently on the NSBA Board of Trustees where, he is the Vice Chair for Advocacy, overseeing all NSBA policy decisions.

As COVID significantly affected his business starting in March of 2020, Bill became a strong proponent in NSBA’s fight for the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Having fought for the legislation that served as an operational “bridge” while many businesses were forced to shut down, Bill said, “I can’t over-emphasize the importance of being in-touch with policy and participating in the policy process for small businesses. NSBA has made a huge difference in my ability to be involved politically.”

One value that Bill credits for success in his career is: GRIT. To Bill, grit is the art of “incorporating extreme perseverance and aggressively seeking resources to help overcome any obstacle or to achieve business goals.” Grit enabled him to find success in the Army, build a sustainable business, and weather the COVID storm.

Bill believes that his grit isn’t proprietary—in fact, it’s his advice to all new and current business owners. When asked what words of wisdom he’d like to impart onto members of the small-business community, he said, “if other people can successfully start and grow a business, so can I. And, so can you.”

Please click here to learn more about Bill and AEORNG, LLC.


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