Tag Archives: Small Business Federal Government Contracting

5 Steps to Stand Out From The Government Contracting Crowd In 2018

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Small Business Standing Out in a Crowd

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

“How can they stand out from the crowd to get some of those precious government contract dollars?

Several things come to mind but these five are usually at the top of my list. I have included a reference for each to a previous WT article.”


“Networking

We all understand that this market is driven by relationships: who you know, who knows you, what they think of you and you of them, and what you might be able to do together or for one another.

In the summer of 2012 I wrote an article on networking, which is a big part of the relationship puzzle. Where you choose to spend your time is critical. You have limited time and there are always many venues where you can network. Picking the venues which yield the best return on investment, where you can meet prospects, customers, partners, media and others, is a key component to help you stand out where it matters. You must be seen. Here is my column.

Strategy

I have been in numerous meetings where an executive will have goals, sometimes nebulous, sometimes well-defined, but they lack a strategy for reaching the goals. Knowing your goals is important, but without a game plan you will likely go nowhere and you will certainly not stand out. Read more here.

Differentiate

Clearly enunciate what you bring to the table. This can be a combination of things that make you and your company unique, or it can one really strong area of competence.

Combinations can include technical expertise, deep relationships with an agency, SMEs, owning a spot on preferred contracts, set-aside status and more.

The more you can differentiate in terms that appeal to government buyers the more you stand out. Read more.

Agency (account) based marketing (ABM)

I wrote about this back in November, but it is worth repeating.

Since the mid-1990s I have been advising companies to maximize their presence in agencies where they are known before they try to migrate to “greener pastures,” which are often pastures where they are not know. If you are selling in a cabinet level department to one or two divisions, why not expand to other divisions within that department? This is often a saner approach than migrating to another cabinet department or independent agency.

It is much easier to stand out when you are doing more business with your best customer(s).

Social selling

This is another recent column topic. Social selling is an adjunct to traditional selling, leveraging social networking platforms to start and manage relationships with customers, prospects, partners and others.

Social selling is the process of finding buyers and influencers on a social networking platform (I prefer LinkedIn), getting on their radar and sharing information that will make you and your company stand out from the competition. There are many social selling tactics that you can use, depending on who you are trying to influence.

LinkedIn is pervasive in the government contracting community and by adding valuable insights on social media you will most definitely stand out.

You can’t stand out by being part of the herd.”

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. 

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2018/01/17/insights-amtower-2018-strategy.aspx

 

 

 

 

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Introducing Federal Government Contracting Into Commercial Small Business

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Image: FCW.com

INTRODUCTION 

Many inquiries have been received from commercial firms and startups regarding entering the small business federal government contracting market. Topics relevant to the issue have been posted at this site since 2006, but a comparison has not been made between the commercial and government environments to benefit readers. The purpose of this article is to compare small business federal government contracting as opposed to selling commercial products and services. The comparison may be useful for those who are considering melding commercial and federal government business or starting an enterprise involving both venues.

WHAT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING IS – AND IS NOT

Small business federal government contracting is not rocket science – to succeed you must take what you do well in the commercial market place or what your experience leads you to believe you can plan successfully as a commercial enterprise and then apply it in a slightly different manner from a business perspective to accommodate federal government contracting requirements. Very few companies enter federal government contracting without some commercial experience and success. Very few startups entertain contracting exclusively to the federal government without commercial work to sustain operations while the more lengthy government procurement process is being pursued.

Federal government contracting is controlled by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Bid and proposal types are driven by the nature of the supply or service being procured. No one reads the FAR cover to cover – It is a source book for when you need it. The FAR and associated regulations are taught in only a few colleges, such as the Defense Systems Acquisition University at Ft. Belvoir and the George Washington School of Government Contracting. Very few CPA’s are familiar with the US Government FAR Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) and I am not aware of any questions regarding CAS on current CPA exams. In general one must grow to understand these requirements and that usually happens by doing business under them.

BUSINESS DRIVER COMPARISONS

The following are some common driving business factors and a commercial versus federal government comparison for each:

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The above are not all the driving factors you should consider when weighing the differences between commercial and government work, but they are some of the most significant. Becoming a government supplier may not result in the highest profit-making product/service line in your enterprise but the venue has the potential to pay the bills and be a major platform for stability and long term growth. It should not be your only endeavor but it could be a major element of your total business plan.

Please see the  Table of Contents  at “Smalltofeds” and the free downloads of books and materials there for further details.

Intelligence Watchdog Finds Contractor Abuses

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“POGO”

“Dozens of instances when contractor employees fudged their timesheets, billing the government for time they were not at work or when they engaged in activities either personal in nature or outside the scope of the contract.

38 substantiated cases  – loss to the government of more than $2.5 million.

Last week brought news that another Booz Allen Hamilton employee was accused of improperly removing sensitive material from the National Security Agency (NSA). Harold Thomas Martin III was charged with theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials. The government alleges Martin took documents and digital files containing information that, if disclosed, “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

It was another black eye for Booz Allen, which was NSA surveillance program whistleblower Edward Snowden’s employer. It was equally embarrassing for the U.S. intelligence community, which pays contractors like Booz Allen billions of dollars each year to help run its global operations and keep a tight lid on our country’s more sensitive secrets.

Just days after the Harold Martin story broke, U.S. intelligence contractors were again in the spotlight. On Sunday, VICE News reporter Jason Leopold posted hundreds of pages of Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) investigative reports. The documents contain the juicy—and occasionally disturbing—details of misconduct investigations conducted by the ICIG, the watchdog office that oversees the federal intelligence agencies. Most of the cases involved employees of Booz Allen and other prominent contractors.

Specifically, the documents contain dozens of instances when contractor employees fudged their timesheets, billing the government for time they were not at work or when they engaged in activities either personal in nature or outside the scope of the contract.

The ICIG also found that some contractor employees, while working on extremely sensitive intelligence programs and operations, risked exposing classified information by using non-secure networks and computers. They did so while working for some of the government’s most trusted private sector partners: Booz Allen and SAIC are among only a handful of private firms that collectively employ nearly all of the intelligence community’s contractor workforce.

The implications of the VICE News revelations are enormous. Not only did the contractor employees rip off taxpayers, they also compromised national security. The ICIG reports bolster POGO’s concern that contractor timesheet fraud is especially rampant among intelligence programs due to a lack of transparency and insufficient contract oversight. However, they also give us a reason to be optimistic: they show that the intelligence watchdog takes its role seriously and doggedly pursues allegations of wrongdoing.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2016/10/intelligence-watchdog-finds-contractor-abuses.html

 

 

New Federal Fiscal Year – Have You Managed Contract Funding Risk?

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INTRODUCTION
As the federal fiscal year draws to a close and the new year opens this month, an astute contractor will have examined the funding status of all government contracts for risk.

Limitation of funds and funding exposure must be a vital topic for every government contractor.

THE FUNDING CHALLENGE


Many federal contracts are funded incrementally, usually based on the government fiscal year that runs from 1 October to 30 September. Although the government may negotiate dollar price ceilings for cost plus and time and materials contracts or firm, fixed total price arrangements, the contracts themselves may be incrementally funded, particularly if they extend over two government fiscal years. A contract may contain negotiated prices or a cost ceiling but also specify an incremental funding value.

The contractor is required to inform the government when actual costs incurred plus obligations to suppliers or payroll on a specific contract reach certain thresholds of the current incremental funding specified in the contract (usually 80%). The government is then obligated to further fund the contract.
In the event the contract is not funded further, the contractor has the right to stop work before he exceeds the incremental funding. Some contractors choose to operate on “risk,” continuing to perform on a contract while exceeding the incremental funding in booked cost and obligations.
The government is under no obligation to reimburse the contractor for invoiced amounts exceeding incremental funding. Nearing the end of a government fiscal year, a contractor may find delays in funding reaching all the way to congress. This situation must be managed with the government contracting officer. Limitation of Funds and Funding Exposure


STOP WORK ORDER
In the current political climate with a new Presidency at hand, Sequestration still in vogue and new fiscal year appropriations being incrementally approved by Congress, contractors may receive stop work orders from agencies unless their contracts were fully funded in the previous fiscal year.   Even then, the government reserves the right to de-obligate funding on contracts, which can effectively bring them to a halt.

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

Upon receipt of a stop work order you have no guarantee of payment for any transaction date-stamped in your accounting system after the date of the stop work order (or the commencement date of a stop work order specified in a Contracting Officer’s Letter).

Applicable charge numbers in the accounting system must be closed until the stop work order is lifted and any effected suppliers and subcontractors must be notified to do the same.

To the degree the government has made progress payments or has any other form of payment invested in a physical product to date it has ownership rights. If that is the case, treat the physical material work-in-process as government owned, store it as such without performing any more effort on it and await further disposition.

To the degree the government has not paid anything on the contract or delivery order they have no ownership rights to the physical product and you are free to complete it and sell it to another customer (commercial or government that has not stopped work). If the government recommences the order, quote a new price and delivery from ground zero.

At the bottom line a stop work is blunt and to the point.  Treat it as if you will never hear from this customer again to manage the risk.

To the degree you do hear from the Contracting Officer again and he or she has the funding to recommence work, be prepared to submit a proposal for what it will take to start the effort and a realistic delivery schedule to complete the it, but do not build any retroactive costs incurred during the stop work period into your logic and expect to bill them; they may not come to payment fruition.

Continuing effort on a contract after receipt of a stop work is high risk. Astutely managing your options is a far better approach.   What is a Government Contract Stop Work Order?

SUMMARY

Having a limitation of funds and funding exposure process in the company should be a standard part of doing business.  A, shrinking, remaining funding level condition on incrementally funded contracts should trigger a risk analysis and government notification process throughout the year.  The federal fiscal year-end brings an additional element of risk to the process with the annual budgeting, approval and appropriations process required by law.

Defense Company Merger Mania and Manic Spending

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Mergers and Bloated Waste

“HUFFINGTON POST”

“Rather than saving money, the mergers created industrial behemoths with greater leverage over the Pentagon.

With only a handful of major firms to turn to in the procurement of major weapons systems, the Department of Defense’s ability to keep a lid on mushrooming weapons costs has been diminished.

And a company like Lockheed Martin, which has $46 billion in revenues and claims to have a presence in every state in the union, has enormous financial and political clout. This gives Lockheed Martin the ability to prolong programs that serve its corporate interests whether or not they are in the national interest.

Lockheed Martin held its annual media day this week, and CEO Marillyn Hewson assured those attending that the company was financially sound and poised to lead the industry in developing the next generation of military technology, from military lasers to hypersonic weapons. But the bulk of the company’s revenues rely on old-fashioned techniques — buying up other companies, profiting from the sale of big-ticket weapons systems, and pushing foreign sales.

The news of the year was the company’s purchase of Sikorsky from United Technologies, a move that will make Lockheed Martin the primary source of helicopters for the U.S. military. It was the company’s largest acquisition since the 1990s, when Lockheed and Martin Marietta merged, aided by hundreds of millions in taxpayer subsidies to pay for such questionable items as golden parachutes for executives impacted by the merger.

Lockheed Martin wasn’t the only company to grow through merger during that era — Boeing bought McDonnell Douglas, Northrop and Grumman merged, and dozens of other deals were made. At the time, the argument for allowing — and subsidizing — these combinations was that it would reduce overhead and result in better weapons prices for the U.S. government. But as former Pentagon official Lawrence Korb noted at the time, “past history indicates that these mergers end up costing rather than saving the government money.” And so it has been, as Lockheed Martin has racked up multi-billion dollar cost overruns on major programs like the F-35 combat aircraft and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

A case in point is the F-35 program. If it goes forward as planned, Lockheed Martin will end up being the only supplier of fighter aircraft to the U.S. government, leaving the taxpayers in a “take it or leave it” position with regard to the company’s product. A recent analysis by the Project on Government Oversight has catalogued the myriad performance problems with the F-35. Most importantly, even as the Pentagon accelerates spending on F-35s and assures us that the plane is ready for prime time, the Pentagon’s office of independent testing has noted that it won’t even be known whether the aircraft will be sustainable in combat until 2022. Thus far, test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base have only been able to fly about six sorties per month due to excessive down time for maintenance. The high tech testing simulator that is supposed to assess the F-35s capabilities has itself had serious development problems. And the aircraft coming off the assembly line now have even more problems than the ones that came before.

Given this reality, entrusting the entire future of this segment of the combat aircraft industry to this one company makes no sense. This is particularly true when one considers that, as a 2015 report by the National Security Network has shown, the F-35 is destined to be inferior to the aircraft it is replacing.

Despite all of the above, the Pentagon wants to push forward a 400-plane “block buy” of F-35s that would put billions of dollars in Lockheed Martin’s coffers without providing evidence to suggest that the aircraft being purchased will perform as advertised. Over the next few years, Lockheed Martin will almost certainly put more effort into securing this funding bonanza than it will to creating innovative new products.

Rather than throwing all of its eggs in one basket, the Pentagon should scale back the F-35 program and fill in any gaps in fighter numbers with upgraded versions of current generation F-16s and F-18s. Not only would this save billions of dollars per year, but it would dilute Lockheed Martin’s emerging monopoly over the fighter aircraft market and provide an insurance policy in case the F-35 continues to have debilitating problems that raise questions about its ability to serve as the aircraft of the future for the Air Force, Navy and Marines. Expect Lockheed Martin to fight any movement in this direction tooth and nail. Instead, the company will lobby get even more F-35s funded than the Pentagon is requesting. One of Marillyn Hewson’s proud proclamations at this week’s media day was that fact that Congress appropriated funds for 11 more F-35s last year than the number called for in the president’s original budget request. Expect more of the same this year.

Defense companies thrive when global conflicts drive up military expenditures, and Lockheed Martin is no exception. The company has made increasing its exports a top priority. In her media day speech, Hewson pointed to turbulence in Europe, the Middle East and Asia as good signs for Lockheed’s export prospects. She wasn’t so crass as to point out that war is good for business. Instead, she said that “It’s clearly a complex threat environment our customers are facing, and we want to remain well-positioned to help them address these unprecedented challenges.”

One step in helping its customers cope with “a complex threat environment” has been the expansion of production facilities for the company’s Hellfire missile system, which is used on Predator and Reaper drones as well as on helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Lockheed Martin has no expectation that peace will break out and undercut this burgeoning market. As company vice-president Frank St. John put it in an interview with Defense One, “I don’t see events in the world changing dramatically over the next couple of years . . . [T]he conflicts that are requiring the use of our systems are lingering, so anticipate that we’ll be producing at a pretty high level for some period of time.”

The Hellfires are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Lockheed Martin’s foreign sales. Attack helicopters and combat ships for Saudi Arabia and missile defense systems for European allies are the biggest moneymakers on the horizon.

Pushing costly, untested weapons systems and profiting from foreign conflicts is hardly innovative. If we are going to realign Pentagon spending with the realities of current challenges and rein in dangerous arms transfers to regions of conflict, Lockheed Martin will have to adjust its financial strategies accordingly. Explaining how it will do so would be an excellent topic for one of the company’s future media days.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-hartung/lockheed-martin-making-mo_b_9486334.html

A Thank You & 4 Gifts from Ken Larson at “Smalltofeds”

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October 2015 Promo

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Approaching my 10th year in volunteer small business consulting, I appreciate the nearly 8,000 individuals who have contacted me for advice. 

You have come from many venues through the Micro Mentor and SCORE Foundations, Linked In and other social media sites. It has been a pleasure serving small business. 

My work with you has kept me active in retirement, in touch with my profession and engaged in a continuous learning mode as we follow the world’s largest consumer – The US Federal Government.

Please feel free to download any of the 4 free books available here:

SMALL BUSINESS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING

I plan a 5th Edition of “Small Business Federal Government Contracting” in 2016. 

Thank you and my best wishes for success to you all.

Ken Larson

FREE SMALL BUSINESS GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING BOOKS AND SUPPLEMENTS

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The table of contents below reflects free small business federal government contracting books and reference materials.   You may download the book, Small Business Federal Government Contracting and its supplement from the first, vertical “Box” in the left margin of http://www.smalltofeds.com. Blue topic titles are the basic book and red topics are contained in the Supplement.

Use the links beneath the table to access more recent articles since the publication of the book and the supplement.

(Please click on image to enlarge)

RECENT MATERIAL LINKS (Not included in Above)

SMALL BUSINESS COMPANY TRAINING

MANAGING INDUSTRY TEAMING RELATIONSHIPS

UTILIZING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT (FOIA)

GOVERNMENT CONTRACT BID PROTESTS

UNSOLICITED GOVERNMENT CONTRACT PROPOSALS

VITAL TIPS FOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT

FIXED PRICE VS. COST PLUS IN CONTRACTING

MAKING AN ASUTE BID/NO BID DECISION

THE TRUTH IN NEGOTIATIONS ACT (TINA)

You may also benefit from the free “Reference Materials” in the second, vertical “Box” in the left margin of the site.   Contract agreements, incorporation instructions for all the US states, guidance on marketing and business planning are all included.

Other books by Ken available as free downloads in the “Box” include:

“A Veteran’s Photo/Poetry Journal of Recovery
From Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ” 

“Odyssey of Armaments” My Journey Through the Defense Industrial Complex”