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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

YOUR SMALL BUSINESS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING BUSINESS PLAN



INTRODUCTION

When visiting the SBA website on business planning, there are major topics in the business planning process which, when addressed in a plan, will insure the success of an enterprise and assist  in determining and supporting the amount of funding needed. 
SBA Write a Business Plan

This discussion addresses the unique aspects of federal government contracting that will yield a successful plan and more importantly a successful execution of that plan in the federal contracting venue.  


Marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing must be addressed.  Free articles on strategic planning and developing a marketing plan are at the “References” Box Net Cube at the top right margin of this site. They address evolving an operations vision for an enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:


Business Plan Sample

It may assist in visualizing business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic.

NICHE DEVELOPMENT

Product entrepreneurs all face the same challenges. Those who succeed recognize they need to visualize themselves in the product development business, structuring an enterprise, generating a business plan, protecting intellectual property and then seeking industry partners and investors to bring the product to market.

In the process, copyrights, patents and royalty issues may come into play and development and distribution agreements are formed. Pricing is finalized based on cost and expense projections and competitive factors unique to the company as negotiation results are achieved with industry teaming partners, developers, manufacturers and distributors.


Service contracting to the federal government is a natural venue for small business. It does not require a product with a niche market or capital intensive manufacturing facilities. Service contracting does require skilled management and labor resources capable of performing a scope of work for which the government has identified a need and for which outsourcing to an industry contractor has been selected as the means to fulfill that need. The venue demands strong human resources management, industry teaming and an enhanced business system to price, account and bill on a job cost basis under government service contracts.


REGISTRATION

Utilize the below link to register your company.  It provides excellent guidance and background, as well as access to the PDF file on NAICS Codes which are critical for you to choose before you begin the registration process.  Give these some careful thought when selecting them.  If there is a chance your firm may wish to be involved in a field, put the code in your registration.  No one will question your qualifications at this point.  That comes later during proposals. 
Note the requirement for a DUNS number up front.  You may already have one.  If you do - use it.  If you do not, follow the instructions on obtaining a DUNS free at the Dunn and Bradstreet web site.  
When you have completed your registration at the link below you will received a Government CAGE Code, uniquely identifying your firm and its location as a government contractor. 

MARKET RESEARCH

As a small business becomes known in the federal government contracting community, successful marketing of sole source or group-designated business becomes easier, but it is always a challenge due to the need for taking early action in windows of opportunity. 
Find those windows and communicate capabilities to the decision makers and industry team members who can help you.  
If you are eligible for set aside designations make small business set asides or sole source procurements key elements in your marketing plan. 


TEAMING

Be straight-forward and honest with  industry teaming partners.

Do not violate share arrangements, teaming agreements or non-disclosure agreements. Such violations are a death knell for your reputation in the business.

Do not become known as a resource raider by hiring away from other firms with whom you have teamed.

Give it a best shot as a prime or a sub but involve the government contracting officer to resolve industry teaming disputes that may damage a past performance record.

Exclusivity is the practical way to go on any given program. Team early and exclusively and be a winner. 
Reputation is key, ethics count and  customers as well as the industry are observing.


BUSINESS SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT

Waiting for a contract award to achieve a government contracting business process is not advisable. A win may not happen at all without addressing the structure and process requirements in your proposal to convince the customer his business environment is understood.

If one is not prepared in advance and one is fortunate enough to win, then in a very short time frame one will have to evolve a business system to perform on the contract and submit a billing

This article will discuss a framework for a small enterprise to develop a business system in service contracting, which is the most frequent venue utilized to enter the government market.



PROPOSAL PREPARATION

Government contract proposal preparation is time consuming and can be costly. Meeting the agency Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements with a responsive proposal can be well worth the effort if a winning strategy can be formulated. When considering submitting a proposal to a given government solicitation, conduct a bid/no bid exercise.

By going through that process  a company  begins formulating your win strategy or it will discover that it should not bid this job for lack of such a strategy. The elements of the process are discussed below in the form of questions to ask  against topics for key consideration

This article offers guidance as a template to apply marketing operations for accommodating federal government contract proposal preparation. Proposals are special, sometimes exhausting projects, but a necessary part of doing business with government agencies. Like many other aspects of business, the more proposals that are prepared, the more that is learned and the more one can borrow from past practice for the next one.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Strategic thinking must be applied to structuring a government service contract project management capability in your company. It must involve long term planning and designing a business system as well as establishing rates and factors to bid new work and control it while interfacing with the customer.

When one plans in detail to define the product or the service one reduces performance risk. 

The project management challenge is not to launch significant and costly resources before the specification for the product is sufficiently defined, obviating the need for costly revisions or abandonment, yet knowing when the product definition and plan are suitable for release.

Good project management starts early.


SUMMARY

Consider the advice herein when developing and maintaining your business plan. Overlay approaches unique to the company against the guidance offered and place it in the standard format for business planning.  It will yield a road map for success and can be further evolved for growth.

For additional  details on these topics and other important information in developing and executing a government contacting plan, download the free books and supplements available in PDF format at the first, vertical “Box” in the left margin of this site.

Seizing the Moment






Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Unsolicited Government Contract Proposals - A Multiple Stage Challenge

image ostglobalsolutions dot com



INTRODUCTION

Most enterprises in government contracting encounter the possibility of submitting an unsolicited proposal.  The perceived opportunity arises as a result of observing a requirement that the company could uniquely fulfill, but for which the government has yet to issue a formal solicitation.

These opportunities are normally  large enough so they can't be sold off a GSA schedule or an existing contract delivery order, and do not fall under FAR Part 12, "Commercial Contracting”  

CHALLENGES AND STRATEGY

Since your product or service is not on the funding docket with the agency it does not have a funding I.D. Your job is to get the technical and project personnel enthused enough about it to carve out a niche in their program area and support a funding request for it. They do so by  to obtaining a solicitation I.D; money and authorization to buy from you.
The key to achieving the above is a good presentation revolving around your capability statement but supplemented by a pitch that should emphasize specifically how you understand the agency mission and that your offerings could further it.
Your objective should be to submit a hard hitting summary with a proposal in letter form, protected with the standard proprietary markings, through the contracting officer with whom you have already had discussions to the technical lead man in the agency and request a meeting to make the full pitch in person. 

WORK YOUR PROPOSAL IN STAGES
The following link is the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) guidance on unsolicited proposals:
FAR Guidance - Unsolicited Proposals

Be advised that you need to assert your rights in technical data and software on anything you give them that is product oriented because you have made an investment in it. When they start putting money into its further development you find them pressuring you for a deal on licensing and free use of it in exchange for funding and orders for services. That is the normal course of events and it can be managed.
Another approach is to carefully locate a platform provider that could use your product services and team with them on a larger scale, bundled program that may be going to formal solicitation.
In either of the above instances, carefully protect your idea using the tips in the below article:
You will note that the FAR guidance specifies that cost and pricing data must be submitted so the proposal may be evaluated.  Naturally you must provide that ultimately, but it is recommended you do not do so with your initial proposal submission.  Simply state you will be pleased discuss with the agency the scope in terms of types and quantities of product and services, after which you will price the result of their input for planning purposes, pending a formal solicitation with funding commitment.
If the agency or a prime gets enthused, they will ask for a Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) estimate for planning and funding purposes on what your product or services may cost. Be careful to make it conservative because those things get cast in concrete and caveat any ROM with a written statement that your ROM is not a formal commitment to a contract and that you will be pleased to commit with a formal proposal from the government through a duly authorized contracting officer under a funded solicitation.
I have had clients that have even been requested by agencies to write a statement of work for such a solicitation
The government fiscal year is a key driver in terms of available funding and getting it earmarked. Keep in mind funding for a program using your idea or a platform using it must fall within a funding cycle that begins 1 October, picks up heavily in July and August and must conclude in September.
CONCLUSION
Success in unsolicited proposals is a process:
1.   An initial unsolicited proposal submission after focused marketing is the gateway

2.   A strong presentation to the customer in person is key.

3.   Rough order of magnitude (ROM) pricing permits planning by the customer

4.   A funded solicitation is a green light for a firm contract proposal.

5    A Formal proposal submission under a funded solicitation, committing to negotiable price, schedule and delivery terms wins the contract. 

In addition to the articles linked above, please review the following 2 articles for additional guidance guidance:


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Maintaining an Ethical Company Image In 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:

Small Business Teaming

Practical Intellectual Property Management


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.