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Monday, July 1, 2013

MAINTAINING AN ETHICAL COMPANY IMAGE IN SMALL BUSINESS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING

 
                           Photo Courtesy “We Pay Dot Com”

INTRODUCTION

In the age of modern communications, lighting fast news, social media and exposure to world events, an ethical company image is vital.  

This article recommends several key actions in the small business contracting venue that you can take to favorably maintain your company ethics image.  

SERIOUSLY AVOID ORGANIZATION CONFLICT OF INTEREST (OCI)

OCI can lay waste to the best planned marketing strategies. Careful screening of new hires, procurement types and the business environment is necessary to preclude wasted time, expense and legal implications in the event such conflicts occur.  

OCI clauses in solicitations and contracts require that companies certify their organizations and personnel as not having a procurement integrity issue with regard to a pending contract award or disclose what may be deemed an issue and provide mitigating factors to still be considered.  For more on this matter please see the following article:

UNDERSTAND DEFECTIVE PRICING (DP)

A reputation for defective pricing leads to accusations of waste fraud and abuse in government contracting.  DP is mostly about what a contractor knew regarding company prices at the time a bid was submitted and what the contractor did not disclose in the supporting data regarding the likely cost outcome of the contract. 

Actions taken by the government and litigation resulting from defective pricing become part of the contractor past performance record and must be disclosed during competition for other programs. Read more about defective pricing at:


USE PROTESTS SPARINGLY

There are occasions when protests are warranted.  However, in recent years they have become a culture within federal contracting and a costly disruption to procurement.  

Reduce the likelihood of a protest being filed against your winning proposal effort at award by carefully scrutinizing conflict of interest, ethics and small business qualification credentials. Do not maintain you are what you are not. You will be audited and discovered. 

Do not develop a reputation within the contracting community for filing protests.  It may work against you indirectly during source selection and directly in terms of companies not wishing to team with you. No one likes a sore loser. 

COMPLY WITH NON-DISCLOSURE AND TEAMING COMMITMENTS

Companies seek industry partners who know the rules and who keep their commitments.
In addition to technical, management and product synergism, astute and valuable teaming partners respect and understand your intellectual property rights. They expect the same knowledge and respect from you. 

Negotiate thorough and well understood non-disclosure agreements and teaming arrangements.   Perform in accordance with your obligations; your reputation for doing so will follow your small business.  

For more on this factor please see the below links:



CONDUCT EFFECTIVE CUSTOMER RELATIONS AND SURVEYS

Stay attuned to your customer's perception of your business.  Insure your top management visits and stays in contact with your most important customers, accompanied by your project managers and marketing personnel. 

Process a survey to your key clients requesting feedback and constructive suggestions.  Review your past performance data base information regularly and take corrective action where you have been rated low or received negative marks.  Demonstrate improvement and broadcast the achievement to the functional heads of the agencies you serve.  Please see the below articles for more details in this vital area:


PRACTICE CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CSR)

Your management and employees are your emissaries to the public.  Convey your behavioral expectations and, to the extent you can budget for them, encourage  participation in community charitable events to increase company visibility.

If you can technically support social services organizations, do so and seek contracts where your technical expertise may be brought to bear on their challenges. You company will be recognized for it. 

CONTROL PRESS RELEASES AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

Establish policies and focal point control for review and approval of announcements on the Internet of a public relations nature.  Never release a press announcement regarding a contract award until you have signed the deal. 

Insure employees in the social networking, marketing/sales and customer relations venue understand the line between regular communications in their jobs and making an enterprise business commitment or formal announcement.  Errors in this area are hard to retrieve. 

CONDUCT ETHICS TRAINING

Company ethics go beyond decrees to personnel regarding professional conduct and honest business practices.  Business ethics must be tailored to the company service or product venue, relationships with clients, industry partners and suppliers. 
Training in company ethics is vital. It is a form of communication. It is not an academic pursuit, although elements of it may include learning new information. Still, it is not schooling in the sense of personal improvement as much as it is communication of company policy and expectations on the topics discussed here and others like them.

The best organizations make sure everyone from the chairman of the board to the janitor understands that training is a privilege, a right and a requirement and that it will be conducted as a matter of record for everyone.

Some training will be global, such as policy, corporate ethics and human relations. Other training will be specialized, such as changes in law, company policy or technology implications by functional areas.

Training must be sophisticated, interactive, and responsive to changing times and contain feedback mechanisms to gauge effectiveness.
SUMMARY

A small business ethics image is different than a product or service "Brand Identity". The latter focuses on that which the customer receives from you in the way of products and/or services. 

A company ethics image is how the organization is viewed in general from a public perception as positive or negative.  That view is held by customers, your industry partners or prospective partners, regulators and the average citizen. 

If carefully sculpted your public ethics image can be a vital element in business success; if neglected it can pose a high risk to your enterprise. 



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