Category Archives: Small Business

Make GWACS and IDIQ Contracts Part of Your Government Contracting Strategy

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”  By Mark Amtower

“Government Wide Acquisition and Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Contracts (GWACs and IDIQs)  will continue to grow, with or without you.

If you don’t have a prime spot, look for a partner company that does.

As new programs and projects will be on hold for the foreseeable future, agencies will be turning to contracts that are in place. As has been noted by Bloomberg Government and my research, GWACs and other IDIQs like OASIS have experienced significant growth over the past few years.

SEWP, the NITAAC contracts (CIO-SP3, CIO-SP3 SB, CIO-CS) and Alliant and Alliant SB each had banner years in in fisal 2016, and reports from each contract shop indicate that thus far this year there is continued growth for each vehicle. OASIS is experiencing similar growth.

The apparent downside to this is if you don’t own a prime spot on one of these contracts, you may be out of luck. While those with prime positions certainly have the edge, any company offering products or services that fall within the scope of these contracts has the opportunity to partner with a prime to gain access to these contracts.

The program managers for Alliant, SEWP and NITAAC have all stated publicly that this is a viable option, indeed, an encouraged option, for those not on one of the GWACs or other IDIQs.

There is a big upside for the small contractors already on these contracts. Partnering with other companies allows them to bid on more RFQs that come though the GWAC, thereby reaching a broader audience.

We know that the large contractors have gone after smaller contracts and task orders in recent years and this trend will continue.

To counteract this, small contractors, especially those with prime spots on the GWACs, need to aggressively seek partner companies to go after more of the task orders coming through the GWACs. When smaller contractors are successful in responding to RFQs that go through the small business side of these contracts, the more likely it is that more RFQs will follow. When fewer responses occur, the small business task order pipeline dries up.

To fully leverage GWACs and other easy-to-access (from the government buyer point of view) contracts, you need to create your own advantage, not wait for someone to level the playing field.

We know the proactive outreach on the part of the contract program managers helps grow these contracts. Joanne Woytek of SEWP makes a habit of meeting with all of her contractors. I know Bridget Gauer and her staff at NITAAC and Casey Kelley of the Alliant contract pursue a similar approach.

There are also several things contractors should be doing, including:

  • Proactive contractors on each contract have learned how to leverage these contracts. This includes knowing which agencies prefer which contracts and focusing efforts on growing that business.
  • Contractors that do their homework and develop a deeper understanding of and relationships with targeted agencies win more business from those agencies.
  • Contractors that know when to bring senior executives and other experts to certain meetings will win more business.
  • Contractors that communicate with and leverage the relationship with the GWAC/IDIQ program office always do better than those that don’t develop that relationship.
  • Contractors that develop deeper relationships with OEMs and focus on particular technologies tend to do much better than those who will sell anything to anyone.
  • Contractors partnering with carefully selected companies to respond to RFQs will likely have a higher win rate.”

About the Author

Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Government Shutdown? Stakes for the Military and What Contractors Need to Plan

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“MILITARY TIMES”

“Congress could cause a partial government shutdown next month, with proposed defense spending at the center of a looming feud between Capitol Hill and the White House.

Currently, the Defense Department and most other federal programs are running off a continuing budget resolution that expires at the end of April.

The White House plan includes a $25 billion boost in base defense spending for the final five months of the current fiscal year, and at least $18 billion in cuts to non-defense programs over the same period.

The extra money is for “urgent warfighting readiness needs,” President Trump said in an accompanying letter to Congress. It’s also necessary, he says, to begin a “sustained effort to rebuild the U.S. armed forces,” and to address shortfalls in everything from personnel and training to equipment maintenance and munitions.

Standing in the way is a new agreement from congressional Democrats to lift the defense spending caps known as sequestration — without corresponding spending increases for non-military programs. Party leaders have refused to do that for the last six years.

To overcome Senate procedural rules, Republicans would need at least eight senators from outside their party to approve any spending plan.

Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated that any “poison pill riders such as defunding Planned Parenthood, building a border wall, or starting a deportation force” will force Democrats to oppose Republican budget plans, even if that means a partial government shutdown.

The White House’s fiscal 2017 proposal does include $1.4 billion for the first phases of building a wall along the Mexican border.

What does this mean for the Pentagon, and rank-and-file military personnel and their families? Earlier this month, House lawmakers voted 371-48 in favor of a $578 billion spending bill to keep the military operating through September, roughly matching the White House’s request but allotting the funding differently — and excluding proposed cuts to non-defense programs.

That measure is currently stalled in the Senate.

The last extended government shutdown occurred in October 2013, resulting in unpaid furloughs for civilian workers employed by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. That disrupted some basic services on military bases and installations, and delayed implementation of some military pay and benefits.

The White House spending plan for the remainder of 2017 also includes $5 billion in new funding for overseas contingency operations, including $1.4 billion for the mission in Iraq and Syria, and $1.1 billion for ongoing operations in Afghanistan. Another $2 billion for be set aside for a “flexible fund” for the war against Islamic State militants, to “maximize the impact of U.S. counter-terrorism activities and operations.”

A partial shutdown this year would not affect VA operations, since its full 2017 budget was approved by Congress last fall.

The administration’s fiscal 2018 budget plan also includes a stark divide between defense and non-defense spending, with a $52 billion boost for the military and $64 billion in proposed cuts to the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal programs.

But lawmakers must resolve spending plans for the current fiscal year before fully engaging in that debate. ”

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/trump-fiscal-2017-budget-plan-government-shutdown

WHAT IS A GOVERNMENT CONTRACT STOP WORK ORDER?

Image: Eybeam.org

“SMALLTOFEDS”

“During the Federal Government Shutdown of 2013 many enterprises received stop work orders on contracts.

Stop work orders are serious matters and require special handling to comply with government direction and to manage risk.

The below article specifies the purpose of a stop work order, actions that must be taken upon receipt of the order and the relationship of the order to resumption of effort, funding constraints, contract terminations and associated business risk.  It also discusses the principal options and equitable adjustment terms and conditions available to you if you undergo a stop work on a government contract.

Continuing effort on a contract after receipt of a stop work order is high risk.”

https://rosecoveredglasses.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/what-is-a-government-contract-stop-work-order-2/

 

 

 

 

Astutely managing your options is a far better approach.

 

Innovating Federal Contracting: Be Careful What You Wish For

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“FEDERAL TIMES” By Michael P. Fischetti

“We’re all aware of — and perhaps have participated in — the criticism of today’s model of contracting with the federal government.

However, when  change is forthcoming, criticism and second-guessing is swift in response and often before the results of such innovation are yet known.

Recent examples include lowest price technically acceptable selection strategies, transactional data reporting or other transaction authority. All of these initiatives have resulted in constituencies warning, criticizing or outright objecting to their use for numerous reasons. The mantra “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” comes to mind.

So what’s the contracting officer or program manager to do? Everyone wants innovation in acquisition, but not really? Take risks, but make sure everything works out well? Leadership has your back, as long as [insert favorite oversight authority or trade association here] is supportive. Buy more commercial, but make sure [insert favorite administration, agency, industry priority, or compliance and socioeconomic statutory and regulatory requirements here] is adhered to and included.

Under a new administration, there is a sense of unpredictability. Everything is on the table across multiple government policy areas — acquisition included. Thus, along with optimism that true “reform” could actually occur, there is conversely fear as well that, yes, true “reform” might actually occur! Perhaps the many subsets of today’s government contracting community should be cautious and prudent in criticism of today’s acquisition system, and thus be careful of what they ask for. One is reminded of the line from Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … [I]t was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

The credibility of today’s professional pundits and promoters of acquisition change is under threat. What if change really occurs? What if the innovation we all say we want actually happens? While there will always be individual winners and losers in such a scenario, one winner might be empowering those innovative acquisition professionals in government and industry interested in program results; those invested in improving what is acquired versus how it’s acquired. Another winner might be the American taxpayer.

Time will tell. Hang on to your seats and let’s see what happens. ”

NCMA ED

Michael P. Fischetti is the Executive Director of the National Contract Management Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Xpress Offers Truck Driver Apprenticeship Program for Vets

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U.S. XPress Apprenticeship Program

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“U.S. Xpress launched its Military Recruitment Initiative back in July 2016 as part of the company’s commitment to providing veterans with an opportunity to start a new career in the growing logistics industry.

Don Davis and his wife, Rebekah nearly doubled their combined income when the two military veterans became commercial truck drivers and started making long-haul trips between Chicago and the East Coast for the Chattanooga-based U.S. Xpress Enterprises.

“We’re used to being away from home in the military,” said Dan Davis, a 33-year-old veteran of the Army and Navy who twice served in Iraq. “Truck driving is definitely a great career if you don’t mind spending time by yourself, which a lot of us did in the military.”

Davis used his GI bill to get his commercial drivers license through a truck driving school and continues to receive GI benefits to supplement his income through a veterans apprenticeship program that U.S. Xpress joined last month.

As part of the Post 9/11 GI Bill Apprenticeship Program, veterans may receive tax-free educational benefits while training with U.S. Xpress to become truck drivers or diesel technicians. Participants can receive up to $25,700 from the Veterans Administration over a two-year period, depending on their years of military service, on top of their salary from U.S. Xpress.

Professional truck drivers can usually expect to earn between $50,000 and $70,000 based upon which driving opportunity the veteran qualifies for at U.S. Xpress. Combined with the GI Bill benefits, military veterans in the apprenticeship program can earn up to $82,000 in their first year with the company.

If a veteran chooses to enter the program as a diesel technician, they can expect to earn between $35,000 and $50,000 depending upon experience and performance.

The GI bill benefits, which typically take 90 days or so to process, are granted tax-free to the recipients.

Wayne Roy, a 31-year-old Marine who served from 2004 to 2008 as a motor mechanic in the military, joined U.S. Xpress last August after going through truck driving school and is able to supplement his drivers’ pay with what is left on his GI Bill.

“I love to travel, and this helps me make this transition into what I hope to make my career,” Roy said.

U.S. Xpress hopes more veterans use their GI Bill benefits to go into truck driving. According to the American Trucking Association, the industry needs at least 25,000 more truck drivers, and the shortage of drivers is likely to increase as qualified drivers age and retire and the demand for truck shipments increases along with the economy.

“We value the strong work ethic and leadership experience veterans can bring to our company,” said Eric Fuller, chief operating officer for U.S. Xpress. “Beyond that, veterans have a sense of productivity, accountability and a ‘can-do’ attitude that will serve them well in trucking, which is why we look to hire veterans in every aspect of our company.”

U.S. Xpress launched its Military Recruitment Initiative back in July 2016 as part of the company’s commitment to providing veterans with an opportunity to start a new career in the growing logistics industry.

“Our veterans have always played an essential role in keeping our country strong, and now, we want veterans to put their skills to work as a U.S. Xpress truck driver and serve our country in a new way — one that will help keep the transportation industry moving forward and our economy strong,” said Fuller.

“I truly believe our new apprenticeship program will help make this possible by giving veterans added financial stability as they transition out of the military and into a new career.”

https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/u-s-xpress-offers-apprenticeship-program-for-vets-to-fill-truck-driver-jobs-1.457208#.WL296W_yvcs

 

Managing Risk in Small Business Federal Government Contracting

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The challenges and difficulties for the small business in government contracting are not so much in the areas of barriers as  they are in lack of knowledge (which I concede is a form of barrier but one that can be dealt with)

Large business and government agencies take advantage of the small enterprise lack of knowledge or make poor assumptions regarding what a small business knows about the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and associated Cost Accounting Standards (CAS). This leads directly to abusive practices.

A prime example of an abusive practice is large corporations signing  teaming agreements during proposal efforts and then not awarding  subcontracts to the small enterprise as agreed, keeping the majority of work for themselves.

Agencies take forever these days to put in place actual prime contracts after source selections and award to a small business. They do not realize that a small enterprise does not have deep pockets and must have cash flow to sustain a new program with new employees.

Funding levels on IDIQ and Omnibus programs are insufficiently committed and the small enterprise is not adequately informed about limitation of funds and  funding exposure.

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2007/09/limitatoin-of-funds-and-funding.html

I have seen enough small  businesses succeed in the government contracting field that I am  convinced that the government needs more active roles in education of  the small enterprise and more trained contacting officers that understand the limitations of a small business.

The most common traumatic situation I encounter is with newly  established businesses who have won their first government contract and  have no CAS compliant job cost accounting system in place to bill it  out. The government has assumed that capability will materialize and  when it does not they audit the bills, find no backup and shut down the  cash flow until the system is fixed. At that point the business can fail. The company should have been educated much earlier in the process about these requirements.

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2012/09/what-small-business-should-know-about.html

The number of poorly performing SETA contractors in roles not suited  to them in contract administration support is increasing in federal  agencies. These firms need to be vetted and better managed for the  omissions and commissions they contribute to the above.

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2012/07/is-small-business-federal-government.html

Not every small enterprise can get  into a class on government contracting at George Washington University,  The Defense Acquisition University or send their personnel to lengthy  and costly seminars conducted by organizations like the National Contract  Management Association. These are  great education sources but do not  come close to filling the complete requirement and they cost time and money.

The contracting officer and his staff as well as larger enterprises need to be upgraded in the skills necessary to guide – not abuse – the small business in federal government contracting.

New FOIA rules Open Contractors to More Risks of Disclosure

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY”

“The amendments create a “presumption of openness” limiting the federal government’s discretionary power to withhold requested information.

Government contractors and grant recipients must proactively respond when a FOIA request potentially targets confidential and/or proprietary data that has been shared with the government.

Last summer, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (Public Law No. 114-185), which adds to and amends the Freedom of Information Act.

Importantly, the 2016 FOIA improvement Act did not change FOIA Exemption 4, which protects from disclosure “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person [that is] privileged or confidential.” Under Exemption 4, the government is prohibited from disclosing trade secrets or other proprietary/confidential information that any submitter has shared with the government.

Unlike with some of the other FOIA exemptions, in their interpretation of Exemption 4, courts have determined that the government lacks any discretion to disclose trade secret or commercial confidential/proprietary information in response to a FOIA request.

The 2016 FOIA Improvement Act was passed to accelerate the FOIA process and to compel government FOIA officials to provide as much information as soon as possible in response to a FOIA request. The act now imposes a penalty (i.e., the waiver of the statutory FOIA fees) on the agency for failing to provide a timely FOIA response. The act also requires that the FOIA response segregate exempt information from releasable information in the same document, as an agency can no longer simply refuse to produce any document containing exempt information.

In addition, the Act requires the agency to produce electronic copies of documents/data, which can be instantly disseminated by the requesting party, rather than paper documents, in response to a FOIA request.

Furthermore, the act requires the creation of a federal government FOIA portal that allows the same FOIA request to be simultaneously submitted to multiple agencies. As a result, submitters must be poised to respond immediately as soon as the government provides notice that a FOIA request seeks disclosure of the submitter’s data and/or documents.

As an initial step, whenever any person or entity first shares information/data with the government that it does not want disclosed to any third party, the title page and each subsequent page of the confidential document or data should be plainly marked as containing “confidential and proprietary information which is exempt from disclosure under FOIA.”

Next, when the agency contacts the submitter (as FOIA requires) to tell them that a request seeks the disclosure of their information, the submitter should promptly respond by identifying:

1) The specific information within each responsive document that is exempt from disclosure.

2) The particular FOIA exemption (there are nine) that prohibits disclosure (as stated above, Exemption 4 protects trade secrets and confidential/proprietary data)

3) Why that exemption applies to each identified section of data/information that the submitter seeks to protect.

Also, the submitter (or submitter’s counsel) should attempt to maintain an open dialogue with the assigned agency FOIA official throughout the FOIA process to promptly address and resolve any disagreements about what should and should not be disclosed before the agency takes a final disclosure position, which is often difficult to unwind.

Finally, the submitter must be ready to assert a “reverse FOIA” action to prevent the disclosure of trade secrets or other confidential/proprietary information in the event that the agency disregards the submitter’s exemption recommendations before the agency releases the submitter’s trade secrets and confidential information in response to a FOIA request.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/02/17/insights-proxmire-foia-advice.aspx

 

These College Students Invent Things for the Pentagon And Maybe Find a Business

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“WASHINGTON POST”

“After a test run at Stanford University last spring, the accelerator is starting similar courses at least a dozen universities.

A Pentagon-funded unit called the MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator, gives students a modest budget to try to solve military problems using off-the-shelf products.

The Defense Department’s Hacking for Defense program (which, despite its H4D handle, does not focus on cybersecurity) is a graduate school course designed to let students invent new products for the military. Students without security clearances — including some foreign nationals — are put to work on unclassified versions of real-world problems faced by military and intelligence agencies.

The University of Pittsburgh, University of California at San Diego, James Madison University and Georgetown University are among those trying to replicate Stanford’s success.

To spearhead its effort, Georgetown hired a former Special Operations Marine with a deep Rolodex and a long history of doing business with the Pentagon.

Chris Taylor’s first career had him jumping out of airplanes and serving on hostage rescue teams as part of the Marine Force Recon unit, an elite intelligence-gathering team tasked with “deep reconnaissance” missions in dangerous combat zones.

He became an instructor in the unit’s amphibious reconnaissance school, where he taught enlisted Marines skills such as how to covertly approach military installations from the sea and survive undetected in the wilderness.

“He’s been good at teaching, leading and just selling ideas for a long time,” said Bob Fawcett, a retired Marine who worked with Taylor at the Force Recon training program.

Taylor spent evenings studying accounting as he worked toward a college degree, the first step in a lucrative career on the business side of the Bush administration’s military buildup.

He became a top executive at Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm that was at the forefront of a booming mercenary industry working in Iraq and Afghanistan, until its reputation took a turn for the worse over a deadly shooting involving its employees that launched a congressional inquiry and was eventually ruled a criminal offense.

He served at private security firm DynCorp and founded a small but profitable company called Novitas Group, which handled job placement for Veterans.

His next challenge: helping Georgetown’s students navigate the Pentagon.

One team of students in Taylor’s class is working for the Army Asymmetric Warfare Group, a Pentagon sub-agency, to find new ways to track social unrest in crowded foreign cities by mining Twitter and Facebook. Another group of students is trying to combine augmented reality technology with advanced facial recognition software, hoping to build something that would allow U.S. forces to constantly scan crowds for individuals known to be a threat. Another team is looking for ways to counter the off-the-shelf drone fleets that the Islamic State claims to employ.

“This is like the greatest educational experience you could possibly have if you’re interested in national security,” Taylor said.

The program’s managers in the government say the main point is to familiarize techies with the Pentagon’s mission, but their trial run at Stanford also showed a degree of success in spinning off businesses.

In Stanford’s trial run, four out of eight student teams raised additional money, either from the government or from private investors, to continue their work beyond the course.

One is a satellite imaging company called Capella Space. The company’s founders had initially hoped to sell satellite imaging services to government space agencies, but pivoted toward the private sector after interviewing more than 150 industry experts as part of Stanford’s course.

“We realized that if you really want to work with the government in what you’re doing, they want you to be a commercial company — with commercial revenue — and they want to be a subscriber to your service,” said company founder Payam Banazadeh.

Capella Space has a satellite launch planned for the end of year, which it hopes will be the first step in sending 36 ­shoebox-size satellites into space. The company is funding it with an undisclosed amount of venture capital raised from Silicon Valley Venture investors including Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.

It remains to be seen whether efforts at other universities will have the same success.

Even before Georgetown’s class launched, for example, the university’s strengths and limitations were already on display. Georgetown is known for deep connections to the Washington establishment but is overshadowed by other elite universities in certain technical disciplines. It does not have an engineering school, for instance.

One of the problem sets that the government sent for Georgetown students to work on would be on an unclassified basis for the National Security Agency, following in a Stanford team’s footsteps.

Taylor touted the opportunity to work with the NSA in seminars advertising the course, but couldn’t find a group of students that he thought had enough technical knowledge to take on the challenge.

But those who did join Taylor’s course are making early progress. Just a few weeks into the program, students looking for a way to track terrorists using social media had come up with a prototype that they coded on their own.

The group spent the class working through ways of quickly translating posts from Arabic and more easily geo-locating individual tweets and Facebook posts. Taylor wondered aloud whether the system might be enhanced if they paid social-media users small sums of money for what details they knew about the posts.

Next, he wants to open the course to other Washington-area universities, poaching engineering students from rival colleges around the region.

“Imagine what we can achieve when [national capital region] universities band together with a unity of effort toward national security problem solving,” he said in an email.

“It. will. be. awesome.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/business/capitalbusiness/these-college-students-invent-things-for-the-pentagon-and-maybe-find-a-business/2017/02/19/558ac8f0-ea25-11e6-80c2-30e57e57e05d_story.html

 

Goals Vs. Strategies – Be a Student of the Market

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“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

“Strategy is not the goal, it is the path.

Paraphrasing Harvard’s Michael Porter, strategy is the orchestrated choices you make to attain the goal, the positioning, sales, marketing and business development activities employed that will get you from point A to point B.

For some companies, strategy is “we are going to be the biggest company in our niche,” or “we will grow by bidding on anything even close to what we do” or “hey, let’s do cyber, that’s hot” or some other vague, shiny rock goal. This is often accompanied by “bid on anything” or the “email everyone in the government” approach.

For many companies in our market “growth” is the strategy, but how to grow is the mystery, the big question. The “how” is your strategy, and it is not applying the fad tactic of the moment, nor is it the reactive “bid on anything” mode some companies seem to operate in. Chanting and burning incense work nearly as well.

A winning strategy is predicated on setting attainable goals, creating a viable but flexible plan of attack, then dedicating sufficient time and resources to reach the goal.

One of my favorite growth stories involves Craig Abod’s company, Carahsoft. Although Carahsoft sends people to my workshops, I did not advise them directly, so what I share is simply what I have observed as an outsider.

Carahsoft launched in January 2004 with absolutely no fanfare. Craig Abod had been a major channel player in two previous incarnations- Falcon Microsystems and DLT. Carahsoft stayed largely off the radar for the first three years until it started getting Inc 500 growth awards, CRN partner awards, WashTech Fast 50 awards, and other recognition that meant staying off the radar was no longer an option.

Since day one, the primary marketing tool has been webinars coupled with live events. The upcoming webinars and events are displayed on the front page of the company web site because they are so important to the Carahsoft strategy. You don’t have to look for them, they are front and center. When you add premier products and a well-trained sales team to this mix, you have a winner. One aspect of the strategy seems to involve becoming a major source of information for the federal IT community.

Sales for Carahsoft topped $1 billion by 2011 and $3 billion in 2016. That, ladies and gentlemen, is extraordinary growth.

But growth is a goal, not a strategy. The goal was to grow a value-added reseller. The strategy in this case was predicated on what Craig knew worked. Nothing fancy, no employing the latest fad, just representing great products, providing feds with information and education on those products, showing them how and why to use them, and where each fits in the IT scheme of things. Then deliver. The last component is to have the right delivery vehicles – contracts – in place. Carahsoft has several.

I have no direct knowledge of what Craig’s goals were (and are), but I assume the initial goals were realized. And I am curious to see the next stage of Carahsoft’s development.

I share three similar stories in my WashTech column, Literal Lessons from the Trenches.

Among other factors when developing a strategy is monitoring the “why” of the successes and failures of others in our market. Frequently lessons from outside our market are applied, and fail, due to the unique features of government contracting.

The application of market lessons learned and then applied to your current situation leads to more predictable results. How did X, Y and Z companies grow? What did they do? What can we learn from them and do those lessons apply to our situation?

Simply monitoring bid boards and responding or looking for an email list is not a viable strategy, yet many companies predicate their growth on just that. For them, I predict a different outcome.

Realistic goals and timeframes are necessary in order for companies to grow. Then you need a viable strategy for marketing, business development and selling. This has to include how you sell: from GWACs and IDIQs, through sub-contracting gigs, bidding on your own, and more.  In our market even the best marketing fails if you don’t include the vehicles Feds buy from.

While B2G strategy is not rocket science, it does involve becoming a student of the market.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/01/31/insights-amtower-goals-strategies.aspx

About the Author: Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower

 

What Small Business Should Know About “FEDBIZOPPS.GOV – The Federal Business Opportunities Web Site

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This posting will provide strategic guidance on FEDBIZOPPS and factors for using it in small business marketing to government agencies and prime contractors.

A PUBLIC DOMAIN ACQUISITIONS BULLETIN BOARD

Established as the public announcement vehicle for all federal procurements over $25K, FEDBIZOPPS is a web-based, “Public Announcement Bulletin Board” to satisfy fairness in government contracting laws mandated by US law. It is a terrific market research tool and an absolute necessity once a solicitation has gone formal to stay abreast of modifications, changes in proposal due dates, questions and answers and other necessary information that contracting officers are required to make public. The site has recently been expanded to include a special section on federal government “Recovery and Re-Investment” Contracts.

WHAT ANNOUNCEMENTS MEAN

FEDBIZOPPS is the mandated posting point for contracting officers in all federal agencies. It is also the required notification point for GSA schedule solicitations, contract award announcements of all types and other information that is required by law for communication to the public in a fair and open manner regarding federal government procurement of supplies and services. The site contains “Sources Sought” and bidders conference notices, government requests for industry comment on draft RFP’s and formally published solicitations with proposal due dates. The current FEDBIZOPPS “Agency Tab” lists 126 agencies:

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=agency&mode=list&tab=list

A solicitation posted at FEBIZOPPS generally means that a procurement has received funding and the contracting officer has been authorized to start the source selection process.

Often misunderstood, is that much has occurred in the way of marketing activities by companies in advance of notices formally published by the government on FEDBIZOPPS. By the time the formal, solicitation is published it is too late to market for setting a procurement aside for a small business designation if it has not already been established as such. In addition, formal solicitation publication closes the window on self-marketing by HUB Zone and 8(a) firms for set asides to them individually without competition. In short, businesses have been marketing for the requirement long before it became formally announced at FEDBIZOPPS.

Finding a solicitation that is ideal for your company for the first time on FEDBIZOPPS is excellent market research insight into what the agency publishing the requirement is buying. However, a careful bid/no bid analysis should be conducted as to whether it is prudent to go through the expense of a proposal if the opportunity has not been a new business target for your firm earlier in the game. Please see the following article on completing a bid/no bid analysis:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2007/02/federal-government-contract-proposal.html

NAVIGATING THE SITE

Start by registering at FEDBIZOPPS. Many of the features available to users are not accessible without a registration. Begin some careful searches by key words into agency solicitations that could use your products and services. The FEDBIZOPPS user guide is available as a free download at the “Boxnet” cube of this web site to the immediate left of where you are now reading. Study it before you complete your registration. Be specific in your key word selections on the feature that allows direct emailing to you of announcements by agencies.

The data base is huge and it is best to move from specific key word selections to the more general with experience to avoid being inundated with meaningless solicitations. Some companies establish a separate email address for the FEDBIZOPPS mailings to keep the results out of the mainstream of other business. The mailings are totally automated so there are no marketing factors to consider in setting up such an arrangement.

As you examine the solicitations, see who has indicated an interest in bidding them among your competitors and the primes you are pursuing and then target such projects for participation by your firm either as a prime yourself or as a subcontractor. Pay particular attention to “Sources Sought”, Draft RFP “Request for Industry Comments” and similar announcements that indicate an early requirement taking shape.

For active solicitations that you wish to monitor, check the “Follow” Box on FEDBIZOPPS to receive updates and announcements by email. Once the solicitation reaches the formal RFP stage and a due data for a proposal has been established, if you have decided to bid the job the “Follow” feature is especially critical.

If there is a bidders conference and you intend to bid the job, make plans to attend. When questions are solicited you may ask them but remember that your question and its associated answer will be published by the government so be careful not to educate your competition to your win strategy in the process.

You do not have to indicate you are interested in bidding the job by registering as an “Interested Vendor” in order to bid a solicitation. Some companies prefer not to advertise their bid intentions, seeking to avoid competitors modeling their firm.

A MARKET RESEARCH SOURCE

If you are new to federal government contracting and wish to determine the best market for your supplies and services, observing what a given agency is buying on FEDBIZOPPS is a key factor.

Keep in mind that the decision makers in government contracting are the technical managers and process people behind the scenes in an organization (either government agency or large company). They have the budget authority, program responsibility and accountability. These people pass their decisions on to buyers and contracting officers via signed requisitions. Buyers and contracting officers are really no more than gate keeping staff members, knowledgeable in legalities, terms and conditions and who sign on behalf of the agency or company AFTER an internal review by the executives who have technical and management responsibility.

Thus your real marketing targets are behind the gatekeepers and little is achieved by marketing to a contracting officer or buyer. This rule of thumb applies with prime contractor contracting specialists and administrators as well as government personnel. For further details on the roles of these personnel please see the following link:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2007/06/federal-government-contracting-customer.html

Once again, bidding an active solicitation after it has hit FEDBIZOPPS may be too late. The idea is to use them for market research so you can target similar projects earlier in the process. Research the technologies and services in which your targeted agencies and primes are involved through trade magazines, Internet articles, web sites, employment hiring fairs and industry conferences.

Focus your marketing campaign on finding evolving projects you can use as vehicles to approach teaming partners and agencies directly with a marketing campaign geared to your capability statement. Develop a solution to the specific needs of the project and present it to gain their attention.

Your principal challenge as a small product and services provider is finding evolving programs and projects into which your capabilities fit. Once you have found such targets it is then a matter of marketing brusquely to get into the game with eye catching solutions and capabilities.

SUMMARY

When a procurement becomes public on FEDBIZOPPS it stays public, but many invisible strings behind the scenes are likely already attached to it by aggressive and talented companies who may have sculpted the requirement with the agency, assisted in writing the statement of work or influenced the structure of the specifications to favor their products and services. All this is good, competitive marketing practice in the government contracting venue, just as it is in the commercial marketplace.

Use FEDBIZOPPS as discussed here in consonance with the following teaming and marketing articles:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2009/05/small-business-teamiing-in-government.html

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2009/07/multiple-front-marketing-in-small.html

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2006/12/marketing-small-business-in-federal_17.html

FEDBIZOPPS is an absolute necessity once you make a bid decision. It is an extensive resource prior to such decisions and if utilized prudently it can enhance your small business government contract marketing plan dramatically.

Don’t Let Your Structure Curse Your Business

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   Image:  “Small Business Trends”

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Bob Davis

“A company’s structure, the way that it is internally organized, can be a good or bad thing.

On the plus side, structure in a company provides a sense of stability. On the negative side, structure can stifle creativity and productivity.

It also can engender silo thinking because it causes employees to consider change and new business opportunities through the lens of the silo they work in.

Often structure rationalizes fiefdoms within a company whether they are responsive to management’s needs or not. Additionally, culture is a key construct of all organizations.  Structure underpins and perpetuates a company’s culture.  It engenders a company’s culture for good or bad.

Another layer of complexity that embeds structure within a company is budgets.  Unfortunately, in our industry, budgets do not serve as managerial guides; they rule!

The clear majority of existing company structures were created and driven by the company’s early successes.  In other words, company’s structures have grown organically since Day 1 of operations.

If your company was newly created today, would it have the same structure?  I argue probably not.  Since the company’s services, expertise, customers, employees by-and-large, and market segments have changed since the start of operations. A new structure would better respond to current market conditions.

Structure is not forward looking. It evolved based upon the company’s history.  It does not enable a company to quickly adapt to new opportunities or threats.  Over the years, we have read about companies that pursued the last penny of revenue without changing their company’s rigid structure while they steadily went out of business.

With ever changing customer priorities, technology preferences, and competition, companies must become adaptive; they must be able to respond to their target market(s) as it evolves and not as they perceived it to be from an outdated perspective.  Taking three years, give or take, to respond to new market conditions is too long.

The company’s structure should facilitate the execution of strategy and not be a deterrent to the execution of stated strategy.

New strategy equals new structure.

This requirement is because changes in strategy require changes in structure e.g. new budget outlays in terms of how resources will be allocated to ensure successful execution of the new strategy.  Structure should follow strategy not vice versa.

As mentioned previously, structure engenders a company’s culture – good or bad.  This is the main reason why culture is virtually impossible to change.  When a company maintains the same structure and budget schema, year-end-and-year-out, employees may not see the need for change that seems obvious to senior management.

Who owns a company’s structure?  In other words, who is responsible for ensuring that the company’s structure is effective today i.e. contributes to achieving growth goals?  Who assesses whether the existing structure will enable strategic execution and is responsive to current business conditions?  The company’s board of directors/advisors and top management own the company’s structure.

And there is another piece.

Someone, trusted by top management, must be able to perform strategic thinking as in strategic marketing thinking to be able to envision and reconcile the company’s capabilities, assets, resources, infrastructure, and culture with its evolving, external market environment.

If the company does not possess this skill, then a marketing communications firm with management consulting expertise could be engaged.  Otherwise you’re just reshuffling the deck with the same cards.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/01/27/insights-davis-company-structure.aspx

About the Author

Bob Davis has over 35-years’ experience in the federal information technology industry. He has held senior positions with products- and services-oriented, high-tech IT companies during his career. Bob has successfully worked for large- and medium–sized companies, and small businesses. Leadership positions have been held in business development, marketing, and program management. Bob has a doctor of management from the University of Maryland University College. He works for a medium-size company in our industry.