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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Term “Talent Pool” Is Obsolete

Image: "webrecruit.co.uk"


Talent is fluid today. It is also being re-defined.  Thus, what used to be considered a “Pool” (either captive or available) is now a technologically-equipped, high speed resource of communicators with motivated skill sets seeking opportunity.
Economic hardship has also put a hard, cynical edge on many.  Selling must occur both ways (employer and employee).  To an extraordinary degree the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectation contribute to it.
Loyalty has taken a back seat to the above.  Recruiters, companies and entrepreneurs must recognize these hard facts of life. 
Values
As long as values for the organization are base-lined and maintained in the enterprise mission statement and clearly promulgated in objectives to the employees, then it becomes a management maintenance challenge with regard to employee acquisition and retention.
The fact that individual value systems may or may not align with the organization values or changes in them is a communications issue. If the conflict is too stark - people will not join a company, will not perform if they join and leave or be fired as the a usual result.
In a free society organizations and individuals have choices.  "At Will Employment Contracts" are taken literally. In not so free societies other conditions exist that impact     values.  Conditions there are dictated by governments or stark economic conditions.
With the global competition for resources and employment these days, business and governments must view the value issue in its simplest terms and not make a complex science out of it.
People, companies, jobs, resources and success will be achieved through supply and demand.  All will change to acquire the balance necessary for success
Managing Talent
The most successful organizations pair experienced personnel on a staff basis with junior ones as models. Each has individual assignments and reports to the boss but the senior party is the example in the process/experience-driven aspects of the job and is available to answer questions.
The younger individual infuses the older one with energy and new ideas much like osmosis. The result is a hybrid of old and new that works and has been put together by a team.
The above approach works extremely well, imposes on no one, results in the young and old learning by observation, satisfaction and recognition for collective efforts and reduction in the boss’s work load; a win-win all around. 
Know how much leadership to offer and how much to let the individual grow on his or her own. 
Strike the right balance between specific and generic guidance so the unique individual traits of the workers come through in the business model.
Let the employee have a role in solutions to problems, system design and success of the firm. When you do so, your talent will remain stable and grow with you.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Remember the Small Business Instant Depreciation Tax Break


Image:  "CPA Tax Adviser"
"New York Times"

“Nearly all small businesses, even the very tiniest, should consider taking advantage of the deduction.

The deduction is essentially limited to small and midsize companies. It begins phasing out when a company spends more than $2 million a year on qualifying purchases, and is eliminated entirely for those that spend more than $2.5 million.

The deduction works like this: If a company has a $90,000 profit and decides to spend $50,000 of it on new computers, the company would normally write off the cost of the equipment gradually, deducting a portion of it each year over the span of the computers’ useful life. But Section 179 allows the business to deduct the entire $50,000 cost at once in the year the equipment is purchased, reducing the company’s taxable profit to $40,000. (The deduction cannot exceed a business’s total net income.)

Section 179 was once a fairly limited tax break, with an annual cap of $25,000 or less. But in 2003, Congress temporarily raised the limit to $100,000, and in 2008, as the recession set in, it raised the cap again to $250,000. In 2010, hoping to stimulate more spending, Congress increased the limit to $500,000, allowing businesses to use the deduction toward expensive items like factory machinery and trucks.

But each increase was a temporary measure requiring annual reauthorization to prevent the cap from returning to $25,000 — and Congress developed a habit of waiting until the very last days of the year to make a decision. In 2012, it missed the calendar deadline completely and passed legislation on Jan 1, 2013, retroactively raising the deduction limit for equipment business owners had purchased the previous year.

“The uncertainty drives my clients up a tree,” said Paul Neiffer, an accountant with CliftonLarsonAllen in Yakima, Wash., who specializes in the agricultural industry. “Not knowing each year if it will be extended prevents a lot of our farmers from pulling the trigger on buying equipment.”

From now on, they will know. Signed on Friday by President Obama, the 233-page tax deal includes in its myriad tax breaks one that permanently sets the Section 179 cap at $500,000, subject to inflation adjustments.

Mr. Kortesmaki said he was confident enough that Congress would once again lift Section 179’s cap to go ahead this year with his planned capital purchases, even before the legislation was passed. But other business owners held off — and this year, the deal came too late for some, Ms. Wuebben thinks.

“You can’t plan to spend that kind of money with just two weeks left in the year,” she said. “We might see some activity this year, but the real benefit for us will come next year, when customers can plan ahead for it.”

Some companies do try to jam in qualifying purchases before the calendar year ends. Last year, Congress raised the Section 179 limit for the year on Dec. 16. The next day, the prices farm machinery sold for at auctions increased compared with just a few days earlier, according to Greg Peterson, the owner of Machinery Pete, a site that tracks equipment auction prices.

“The response is nearly Pavlovian at this point,” he said. “The farm audience had grown so used to this annual silly dance of wait-and-see on our friends in Washington.”

Making Section 179’s higher limit permanent will cost taxpayers $77 billion in foregone revenue over the next 10 years, according to a government estimate. The tax break’s aim is to stimulate spending — but does it work?

An analysis by the Congressional Research Service found that expensing allowances like Section 179 appear to “have a minor effect at best” on how much businesses spend on capital goods. Expectations for future sales growth, not tax considerations, motivates most of the investment in the kinds of assets eligible for expensing.

The main advantage of expensing allowances, the report suggests, comes from simplifying the tax accounting business owners face on their capital purchases.

Still, owners like Mr. Kortesmaki see the tax break as a crucial one for helping their small business grow a bit bigger.

“I’d rather invest that money in my business than pay taxes on it,” he said. “Having this become permanent makes my business planning for the next few years a whole lot easier.”

Small Business Gets Tax Break

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

ACHIEVING AND UTILIZING A GSA SCHEDULE


Update:  

The General Services Administration hit its [1 October 2019] deadline to consolidate 24 acquisition schedules into one set of terms and conditions for products and services.  GSA released the newly consolidated schedule solicitation on FedBizOpps. For further details please see:  GSA finishes schedule consolidation on deadline


I. INTRODUCTION

Your small business is established in the federal government contracting sector. You have become a member of the government contracting community by registering with System for Award Management (SAM). You have proposed, negotiated and have been awarded your first government contract(s) and have a successful past performance history with the government in selling your products and/or services.

On several occasions open solicitations or procurement activities have referenced a ," GSA Schedule", as a qualification criteria or as a venue by which to buy items or services you can supply. This article will discuss the GSA schedule program, how to apply for and negotiate a schedule for your company and how to utilize it as a sales and marketing tool.

II. THE GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION (GSA)

From the GSA Web site:

"Founded in 1949, GSA serves as a centralized procurement and property management agency for the federal government. GSA manages more than one-fourth of the government’s total procurement dollars and influences the management of $500 billion in federal assets, including 8,300 government-owned or leased buildings and 205,000 vehicles. GSA helps preserve our past and define our future, as a steward of more than 420 historic properties, and as manager of USA.gov, the official portal to federal government information and services. GSA’s mission to provide superior workplaces, expert technology solutions, acquisition services, purchasing and E-Gov travel solutions and management policies, at best value, allows federal agencies to focus on their core missions.

GSA’s Disaster and Emergency Operations Vendor Profile form puts small businesses on the government’s radar so they do not miss out on federal contract opportunities in a time of disaster. More than 1,500 small businesses have used the online form to identify themselves."

Putting it simply the GSA is a federal government buying agency. It performs many buying-related activities which you can read about at the GSA Web Site:

http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/100000

GSA is empowered to accept procurement requirements from all other federal agencies, locate and source qualified bidders and negotiate pricing for supplies and services on behalf of the government. Although all federal agencies perform procurement themselves that is peculiar to their individual domains, a vast number of products and services, particularly those common among agencies, are procured by the GSA. Over the last 10 years the GSA has sought to establish economies of scale through volume buying.

III. THE GSA CONTRACTING PROCESS

To equitably compete and pre-position terms, conditions and pricing for supplies and services, the GSA divides what it procures among various commodities and services lists with generic schedule designators. The agency also assigns procurement contracting officers to each schedule who conduct regular open advertising against the schedules through solicitation. The schedule numbers and contracting officers are listed at the following web site:


Each open solicitation for a generic schedule is published at FEDBIZOPPS, the portal for all federal government solicitations over $25k. The open solicitations contain details, specifications, terms, conditions and pricing instructions for the specific items on the schedule. Contractors prepare proposals in response to the open solicitations and submit them to the schedule contracting officer. The proposals are audited and negotiated like any other federal procurement. The term of the negotiated schedule is usually multi-year and can be as long as 5 years in duration so being able to develop and hold your pricing for the period of performance is a key factor.

Upon completion of negotiation, a specific supplier is granted a company-unique schedule identifying number under the applicable generic GSA schedule. The pricing, terms, conditions and validity duration are set for the specific company and the schedule number is unique to the firm. The company schedule is then authorized by the GSA for publication on the web for use in subsequent proposals to government agencies. The company GSA schedule is listed at the GSA Advantage Web Site and becomes part of the data base which government buyers can search.

Granting a GSA schedule to a company does not constitute a sale of goods and services. It simply establishes the pricing and the contract vehicle for readily buying from that company by a federal agency. A GSA Schedule saves time and effort for the buyer and it can be presented by the seller at his web site as an expedient way to get under contract with a federal agency. The agency places the order through the GSA. The GSA adds a small fee to the price of an item or service which the contractor collects from buying agency and pays to the GSA. The fee funds continued GSA operations and services. Under competitive conditions, sellers are authorized to offer discounts from their GSA schedules in the proposals to prospective agencies. State governments are also allowed to buy off GSA schedules.

Federal agencies can put in place blanket purchase agreements (BPA's) through the GSA with specific companies for long term buying. GSA also conducts Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC's) for IT and other technologies. Recent examples of a GSA GWACS for large and small business are the Alliant and Alliant SB Programs.

IV. BASIC STEPS TO APPLYING FOR AND NEGOTIATING A GSA SCHEDULE:

A. Register Your Company in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) Data Base
If you are not familiar with this process please utilize for guidance the menu item at this site on registering your small business for federal government contracting:

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2006/12/registering-your-small-business-for.html


B. Obtain Your "Open Ratings", Evaluation

Open Ratings is a service run by Dunn and Bradstreet that the GSA uses. It out sources what would have to be done by the GSA Staff in terms of initial past performance ratings in response to GSA Schedule Applications. Here is a web site to learn more about it:

Open Ratings


The site explains the process and shows some sample reports.

C. Locate your Generic GSA Schedule:

Examine the major generic schedules listed and determine the best match for the products and services your company offers. Note the name and contact information for the contracting officer designated for the schedule. Also note the open solicitation link to the FEDBIZOPPS. Carefully review the solicitation completely and determine that you can comply with the specifications, terms and conditions and requirements in the document.

D. Contact the Schedule Contracting Officer with Your Statement of Intent and a Concise Capabilities Statement

This is where the marketing phase of the process begins. It is best to contact the contracting officer with a statement of capabilities (CAPE). Your CAPE should be brief, concise and electronic. It should highlight the information in IV.A., B. and C. above and the management, technical and past performance elements of your products and services. Establish by letter (preferably electronic by email) your intent to submit a proposal for a GSA schedule to the contracting officer. Also confirm your anticipated proposal delivery date by telephone if possible and confirm by email. Highlight your CAPE as a qualification criterion for a company schedule award under the generic schedule you are proposing against.

E. Carefully Prepare and Submit Your GSA Schedule Proposal

Respond to each requirement carefully and in the order presented in the open solicitation. Pay particular attention to the requirements for cost and pricing data presentation. Utilize for guidance the menu items on proposal preparation and negotiation at this site. Understand that your proposal may be audited, particularly for previous pricing history related to your products and services. The contracting officer may negotiate with you the final pricing make-up of your products and services based on audit results and history. Since GSA schedules are in the public domain it is worthwhile to examine the reports available through the GSA web site on previous awards for the same or similar products or services. In addition, most companies who have GSA schedules post them at their web sites so you can get some insights into competitor pricing by looking at the fully loaded rates and their respective escalation from year to year by going to the sites and analyzing the rates located there.

F. Schedule Award

When you are awarded your GSA Schedule it should be prominently displayed at your web site and contained in your marketing literature. You can offer it to prospective federal and state customers and you can discount from it under competitive conditions. Please read the terms and conditions regarding required sales necessary on your schedule for it to remain in effect. Within a specified time frame it is necessary to have a designated dollar value of sales activity or your schedule will automatically become inactive.

Carefully follow the directions in your schedule contract for collecting the GSA fee from your agency customers as a function of pricing quotations and payment. The fee is calculated as a designated percentage over and above that which your schedule prices display. It must be collected by you as a function of your quotation to your customer.

SUMMARY

In addition to featuring your schedule prominently at your web site, your GSA rates should be included in your market literature and your schedule number should be included as a reference in your new business proposals. A GSA schedule permits a quick ordering process for your federal and state clients. In your dealings with prime contractors to which you aspire to subcontract you can reference your schedule as valid pricing which they can readily include in their proposals to government agencies. A GSA schedule facilitates teaming with other synergistic small companies in proposing large scale efforts.

Keep in mind that obtaining a GSA schedule does not guarantee new business will come to you. Very few companies await government agencies to find them by searching the GSA data base. Most small businesses actively market their schedule to targeted agencies as an expedient way to contract with them or as a qualification criterion for new business awards.

  

Managing Risk In Small Business Federal Government Contracting Business System Development


INTRODUCTION

Most small enterprises must undertake some form of business process augmentation when entering federal government contracting.


The natural inclination for small business is to immediately jump to buying computer software tools or services in an effort to expedite the business system growth process. That propensity is often enhanced by suppliers who maintain their product or service is “DCAA Compliant”, has been “Validated by the Government as an Earned Value Management System (EVMS)” and other similar claims.

This article will address cautions and tips regarding an immediate jump to software or services as a means of growing a government contract business system. It will recommend some rules of thumb to insure wise business system development decisions, specific to your company, for managing the associated risks.   


UNDERSTANDING THE REQUIREMENTS


The US Government learned decades ago that it cannot impose specific business systems on contractors.  One of the last great attempts to do so was the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT).  It was abandoned in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and replaced by a set of industry criteria now known as Earned Value Management Systems (EVMS). 


Similarly, the Federal Government Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) determined that job cost accounting systems could not be imposed on contractors. Over the years they have developed and maintained a set of Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) which governs requirements for accounting on government contracts. 


The GSA and similar agencies maintain policies on travel, human resources and wage/rate determinations that are not specific systems, but minimum standards as well.  A small business entering federal government contracting should research the above and similar requirements in such areas as quality assurance, inspection and acceptance and export management.


PROCESS COMES FIRST – MAXIMIZE WHAT YOU HAVE


Given a thorough understanding of the requirements for a government contract business system that fills the need for your specific product or service delivery, the next step is to examine existing processes to determine if they can meet the need or be minimally supplemented to do so.


Finding a need for major process changes or enhancements in the existing business system is the beginning of a requirements analysis to determine the labor, process change, planning, costs and eventual selection of new automated tools that fit the company and that need.


Many start-ups and small enterprises find they can crutch their existing job cost accounting system for service contracts with spread sheets instead of buying an expensive, data base oriented, software package or services initially.  As the company grows into government contracting and the number of transactions and associated revenue warrants the expense,  the firm can then evaluate more expensive packaged software tools or services and ease into them with a plan to minimize disruption.


A government contract award drives many things in government business, but small firms cannot wait until that event to position at least the minimal processes necessary to perform, price new business, function lawfully in the human resources area and submit supportable detail in billings. 


Please see the following articles for guidance on minimal business system requirements for small business federal government contacting.


What Is A Small Business Federal Government Contractor?


Pricing Small Business Federal Government Contracts


Small Business Job Cost Accounting Basics

Small Business Federal Government Contracting Business System Development


RULES OF THUMB FOR SELECTING AUTOMATED TOOLS


From strategic planning to marketing, from forward pricing to job cost accounting, from subcontracting and vendor/contractor management to human resources policies, the small firm finds itself undergoing a business system design project upon entering the government contracting venue.


Understand the requirements first, review existing processes and tools next, develop a thorough requirements statement of what must be done in the way of enhancements and then consider automating.  While performing your analysis keep the following 5 rules of thumb in mind:


1. An electronic computer software package or service is not a system. One cannot acquire a system by acquiring them. 


2. One acquires a system by conducting systems analysis, achieving a design and processes by working with the people who will run the system. This is hard work and time consuming. Processes are improved and made more efficient by modifying user behavior not by automating it.


3. Once system and analysis and system design are complete one can prudently choose tools to assist in running the system. The adequacy of a computer tool or service is driven by the requirements of the most efficient system design.


4. The biggest mistake implementation teams make is to believe they are buying a system when they buy a software tool or service or let the tools drive the systems analysis process. That is like asking a mechanic to drive a wrench from New York to St. Louis. It has resulted in millions of dollars wasted and plummeting efficiency in many organizations, large and small.


5. It is necessary to design a system and processes unique to the company to meet user requirements before going shopping for computer tools or services.  If you do not you will be pigeon-holing your company into becoming a slave to the company that owns the software source code or service. If you want anything changed it costs a big buck.



Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Small Business Federal Government Contract Proposal Preparation

Image:  "Eventbrite.com" 

INTRODUCTION


Your marketing efforts have resulted in locating a solicitation for supplies and services that is exactly suited to your business. The solicitation by the government may be a result of your self-marketing efforts or you may have located it at FEDBIZOPS, the gateway for all federal government business in excess of $25K. The fact that the government has now converted a project requirement into a formal solicitation means that the funding is available for a contract and the authorities within the government agency have authorized a source selection process.

BID/NO BID DECISION

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 you will begin formulating your win strategy or you will discover that you 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 yourself against topics for key consideration. Affirmative or non-affirmative answers to the topical questions and ability to fill in the blanks below will drive your decision to bid or not bid a solicitation.

A. Customer:

Do you know this customer? Yes __ No ___
Does this customer know you? Yes___No ___
Do you have any idea of the available funding for which the customer has obtained authorization? Yes___No ____
Specify the marketing contacts which have been made with the customer thus far:
Date:
Contact:

B. Supplies and Services:

Specify the supplies and services to be delivered in the prospective contract:

Line Item (s):
Description:

Are the supplies and services in the RFP Statement of work a good match for what the company sells? Yes ___No ___
Is the RFP Statement of Work specific enough to identify risks? Yes____No ____
Is the RFP schedule specific enough to determine the delivery requirements? Yes____No____
Can the delivery schedule in the RFP be met? Yes ___No _____
Specify the delivery schedule for the prospective contract:

Line Item:
Delivery Date:

C. Contract Type/Value/Start/End Date:

Does the proposed contract type (FFP, CP, T&M, etc) suit the nature of the work? Yes___ No ___
Specify the contract type for this program: _______________.
Are there any unusual terms and conditions specified in the government RFP? Yes ____No___
Specify any unusual terms and conditions: ___________________________________________

What is the Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) value of the prospective contract? $___________.
What is the anticipated start date of the contract? ________.
What is the anticipated end date of the contract? ________.

D. Company Strengths:
Is this prospective contract for effort in which the company has strong skills? Yes____No ____
Specify the strengths the company will utilize in meeting the product specificaton or statement of work:


E. Company Weaknesses:

Are there any company weaknesses in meeting the product specification or statement of work? Yes ___No ___
Specify any weaknesses for which the company must compensate and manage associated risks:


F. Teaming Arrangements (If any):

Does your company plan to team with other companies in the performance of the prospective contract? Yes ___No ___
Identify the other team member companies:


Will your company be a prime or a subcontractor? Prime___Subcontractor ____
Have NDA's and Teaming Agreements been executed? Yes____No ______

G. Competition:

Is this a sole source set-aside procurement to your company? Yes____No____
If this is a competitive procurement, identify the prospective competition and their associated strengths/weaknesses:


H. Win Strategy:

Identify the proposal features and themes which will be utilized in the proposal as descriminators to win this program:

Management:



Technical:



Cost:


I. Proposal Budget:

Estimate the man hours and dollars for proposal labor, any travel expenses, shipping, packaging, samples and other expenses associated with preparing the proposal. The government does not reimburse the contractor for proposal preparation under the subsequent contract. Proposal expenses must be included in the cost center overhead or G&A and accounted for as marketing expense allocated across the cost center or the company.

Labor Hours __
Labor Dollars $______
Material _______
Travel _______
Reproduction _______
Samples (if any) _______
Packaging/Binding/Ship _______
TOTAL $_______

J. Bid/No Bid Decision:

If you can answer "YES" to at least 5 of the questions under paragraphs A through D above, it is likely you should bid this procurement.
If the answers to 7 of the 10 "YES" or "NO" questions under paragraphs A through D above are "NO" it is unlikely you should bid this procurement unless the answer to G is "YES". Even then, examine your answers and carefully review whether this business is suitable for your company. If the answer to E is "YES", it is unlikely you will bid this procurement successfully unless the answer to G is "YES". Even then, determine how you will overcome the weaknesses you have identified in your company associated with doing this work before you decide to bid it. Carefully compare the competitive analysis under Item G to the win statagy under H before you make your final decision.

K. Decision:

BID _____
NO Bid _______

YOUR PROPOSAL

You have decided to bid a prospective project. You have downloaded the RFP from the government agency and the clock has started on the proposal due date.


Visit the federal government on line certifications and representations web site and complete the standard information there, which can be utilized for all federal agency proposals. Certifications and representations are required for virtually every proposal submission. That web site is at:


System for Award Managment (SAM)

The following information addresses the proposal process. It is from an independent consultant named Deborah L. Kluge, who is a specialist in proposal writing and consulting. The below is an extract from Deborah's Web site.

If you are preparing a FAR Part 12 Commercial Proposal, certain elements of this material may not apply, but you are encouraged to utilize the information and the checklist to insure you have covered all the bases.

"THE RFP

Read it once, then read it again. And again. Experienced bidders know that several readings of an RFP are necessary for a complete understanding of what is required.
Learn what the lettered sections of an RFP are (e.g., Section B refers to your pricing, Section C is the scope-of-work, Section K contains Representations and Certifications, Section L provides instructions to the bidders, Section M specifies the bid evaluation criteria, etc.). The titles of the lettered sections are generally the same in every RFP.
Be aware that information critical to your bid may be scattered among many different sections of an RFP.
Put the RFP in a 3-ring binder for easy use as a reference document. You might also want to insert dividers in front of each important section for quick reference.
Use small "Post-It"™ notes at the edge of a page to mark important pages or paragraphs. That way, you can find them quickly.

If you don't understand some of the information in the RFP, you can submit written questions to the Contracting Officer.
Some RFPs specify a date by which questions are due. Make sure you send in your questions before the due date or they may not be considered.
Be aware that the Government's response to all submitted questions are distributed to all bidders, usually through a written amendment to the RFP. Although you and your firm will not be identified as the "asker" of specific questions, the way in which you word your questions could provide important information to your competitors. Word your questions carefully to ensure that you don't give away information on your strategy or pricing.
If you call the Contracting Officer to obtain or clarify information in an RFP, be aware that verbal information given to you by the Government is not binding.

THE PROPOSAL OUTLINE

If you have downloaded an RFP from the Internet, you can use that file to begin constructing your proposal outline.
If you do not have the RFP on disk, use a scanner to scan in important sections for use in preparing your outline.
Some people prepare an annotated outline as well as a basic outline. An annotated outline can contain important points from the RFP, as well as your own information on what you are planning to say in each section.
If you prepare an annotated outline, copy your file, save it under a different name, and delete the annotations. The result will be a basic outline which you can use for easier viewing and tracking of proposal sections and subsections.
For each section and/or subsection of your outline, indicate the estimated number of pages that will be written, the person responsible for doing the writing, and the evaluation points.
Put important instructions on the first page or at the top of your outline, so you don't have to rummage through the RFP to find them. These instructions might include: proposal due date and time, number of copies, page limits, font size, page margins, packaging and delivery instructions.

THE PROPOSAL SCHEDULE

Make one and stick to it!
Work backwards from the proposal due date.
You might want to make a separate schedule for preparation of the cost/business proposal.
Make sure you leave plenty of time for copying, binding, and delivering the proposal. Remember, the copier knows that an important document is being copied, so it will break, jam or smudge. Have a back-up plan that includes having extra paper and toner on hand and sending the proposal out to be copied.
Distribute the schedule to all members of your proposal team.

PROPOSAL PREPARATION

Make sure you are familiar with the instructions in Section L of the RFP.
Study the proposal evaluation criteria and the points allocated to each section/subsection of the technical proposal, as well as the points that are allocated to cost. This information will tell you what to emphasize and where to put your efforts with regard to proposal preparation.
Hold an intial and regular follow-up meetings with your proposal team to discuss strategies, progress and problems.
To the extent possible, your Technical Approach and strategy should provide answers to the following questions: who, what, when, where, how, and why.
Depending upon the instructions in the RFP, your Management Section might contain a discussion on how you will manage the overall project, a discussion on how you will manage and oversee the work of your staff and subcontractors (if any), an organization chart of the project, and position descriptions of project staff.
In your Personnel Section, you may be required to include narrative information on the experience and skills of the staff members you are proposing for the project and/or their resumes.
In your Related Experience or Capabilities Section, you may need to demonstrate that you have performed similar or related work for this or other clients.
Your proposal may have other sections such as an Executive Summary, a discussion of your Understanding of the Problem, Appendices, or other required information as specified in the RFP.

Don't assume that the Government knows your organization's capabilities, staff or the projects you have carried out. The Government is supposed to evaluate only the specific information contained in your proposal. That means it must be written down in accordance with RFP instructions.
Use tables, charts and graphics to summarize information ("a picture says a thousand words") or to break up your narrative.
Check the entire proposal for the following: technical consistency; spelling; page numbering; section/subsection numbering or letting; consistency of appearance of headings, subheadings, font types and font sizes.
Make sure you have filled in and signed all the forms in the RFP that you must return with your bid.
Before and after copying your technical and cost proposals, check to see that each copy contains all pages and that they are in the proper order.

COSTING

You have a technical strategy -- you should also have a costing strategy!
Don't wait until the last minute to begin gathering cost information that you will need to prepare your cost estimate.
Be aware of and understand the type of contract you are bidding: fixed-fee, cost-plus, cost-reimbursement, time and materials, etc. This will likely affect the way you price your proposal.
Prepare a spreadsheet template or checklist of items to include in your cost estimate.
Make sure your cost estimate is consistent with what you are proposing to do or provide.
You may need to develop some specific assumptions for pricing purposes. If appropriate, you can include these assumptions in your cost/business proposal on a separate page or as footnotes to your estimate. In any event, always document your assumptions so that you can refer to them later and make changes if needed.
Check and re-check your numbers and formulas. Review the hard copy of your estimate to help in spotting errors.
Make sure that your cost estimate can be easily read. Don't use a font that is too small.
IF YOU WIN
Celebrate!
Uh oh -- you now have to actually manage and implement your project.

IF YOU LOSE

You can call the Contracting Officer to arrange an in-person or telephone debriefing to find out the reasons for your loss.
Try not to get too discouraged -- no one can win all the time.
Learn from your experience and apply that learning to your next bid.

PROPOSAL PITFALLS - Don't Let These Happen to You!

Failure to follow the RFP instructions regarding organization of the proposal, inclusion of required information, page limits, volumes, etc.
Failure to take evaluation criteria and allocated points into consideration when preparing your response.
Failure to understand and to demonstrate an understanding of the problem (i.e., the reason why the agency is issuing the RFP).
Failure to submit your proposal on the required date and time.
Failure to include all of the information requested by the Agency.
Failure to tailor your response to the specific RFP.
Costs/Prices are unreasonable (too high or too low) or incomplete.
Costs/prices do not provide any detail or breakdown information (if required) for line and sub-line items.
Failure to include specifics of your proposed approach to the project.
Proposal is unprofessional in appearance (e.g., typos, blank pages, unnumbered pages, smudges, no whitespace, sloppy-looking, etc.). This reflects poorly upon your company.
Proposal is poorly written (e.g., information is not presented/organized in a logical manner, proposal is difficult to follow, poor grammar, etc.).
Proposal merely repeats or paraphrases the RFP.
Proposal does not explain how or by whom the project will be managed.
Proposal does not contain RELEVANT information about your firm, its capabilities, and/or its management and staff.
Proposal does not demonstrate that your firm/organization and personnel have the experience and capability to carry out the project.

PROPOSAL CHECKLIST:

1. RFP/DOCUMENTS

Obtain complete copy of RFP
Distribute RFP to appropriate staff.
Review RFP for missing pages/sections.
Prepare questions for submission to Contracting Officer.
Receive and review responses to questions.
Collect, distribute and review pertinent background documents.

2. PARTNERS

Identify partners to participate in bid.
Determine type of partnership arrangement.
Prepare teaming or other type of appropriate agreements.
Receive signed agreements from partners.
Determine each partner's level of effort for project.
Number and type of long-term staff.
Number and type of consultants.

3. TECHNICAL STRATEGY

Hold strategy meetings.
Identify the partnership's strengths and weaknesses.
Identify competition and their strengths and weakness.
Identify ways to differentiate partnership from competition.
Develop strategic themes.
Develop strategy for each component and overall.

4. TECHNICAL PROPOSAL

Prepare draft outline/revise as needed.
Identify & select writers for each section.
Determine page numbers for each section.
Determine document format (font, major/minor headings, etc.).
Provide writers with written formatting guidelines/instructions.
Prepare/distribute list of nomenclature, abbreviations, acronyms.
Identify and provide writers with relevant sections from past proposals.
Prepare schedule/identify due dates for draft sections.
Determine review, feedback and editing process for written sections.
Ensure compatibility of software packages and versions.
Ensure compatibility of document transmission via e-mail.
Ensure sufficient quantities of appendix materials are available.

5. PERSONNEL

Prepare packet of materials for long-term candidates.
Prepare personnel checklists/tracking list for candidate documents.
Prepare commitment letter(s) for signature by candidates.
Recruit long-term staff and consultants.
Collect Resumes
Sort Resumes by category/areas of expertise.
Review Resumes
Identify best candidates and alternates.
Confirm candidates' interest/availability.
Obtain additional info from candidates for Resumes, if necessary.
Obtain signed letters of commitment from candidates.
Review personnel checklists for missing items.
Determine format for re-written Resumes.
Re-write Resumes.
Prepare skills matrices.

6. PAST PERFORMANCE REFERENCES

Use RFP format if required.
Update and/or prepare past performance information as needed.
Review for accuracy and completeness.

7. PACKAGING

Select cover design (map, picture, graphic, etc.).
Identify info for cover (RFP #, date, submitted to/by, etc.).
Prepare cover.
Determine how proposal will be packaged.
Purchase binder rings and covers, if needed.
Purchase notebooks if needed.
Purchase dividers/tabs if needed.
Ensure sufficient quantities of all packaging items are available.

8. FINISHING TOUCHES

Spell check all sections.
Gather appendix materials.
Prepare Table of Contents.
Prepare Transmittal Letter.
Prepare Inside Cover Sheet for Technical Proposal.
Prepare Section Tabs/Dividers for Technical Proposal.

9. PRODUCTION

Determine where and by whom proposal will be reproduced.
Insert special pages, charts, etc., if required .
Insert appendix materials.
Check pages in each copy for legibility.
Check each copy to ensure no pages are missing.

10. PROPOSAL DELIVERY/LOGISTICS
Preparations for Delivery
Obtain packaging materials (boxes, wrapping paper, tape).
Purchase box handle (if needed for hand carrying).
Prepare label for technical proposal.
Prepare outside address label.
Mark "original" on 1 copy of proposal.
Prepare receipt (for hand carrying).
Mailing
Check courier service schedules (# days required for delivery).
Wrap technical proposal and affix proposal label.
Affix outside address label.
Hand Carrying
Identify person to carry proposal.
Make airline and hotel reservations.
Wrap technical proposal and affix "technical proposal" label.
Affix outside address label.
Affix handle, if required.
Provide receipt to person who will hand-carry proposal. "

SUMMARY:

This article has offered guidance as a template to apply to your 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 you prepare, the more you learn and the more can borrow from past practice for the next one.
As a final note please read the following carefully. Your proposal data may contain rate information, proprietary data or strategic technical solutions which you would not want to fall into the hands of a competitor. The government does not sign Proprietary Data Agreements (PDA's). The government's obligation to protect your information is covered in the following FAR clause and requires protective markings by you on the title page of your proposal and on each subsequent page.

FAR 15.509 Limited use of data.

(a) A proposal may include data that the offeror does not want disclosed for any purpose other than evaluation. If the offeror wishes to restrict the proposal, the title page must be marked with the following legend:

"The data in this proposal shall not be disclosed outside the Government and shall not be duplicated, used, or disclosed in whole or in part for any purpose other than to evaluate the proposal; provided, that if a contract is awarded to this offeror as a result of or in connection with the submission of these data, the Government shall have the right to duplicate, use, or disclose the data to the extent provided in the contract. This restriction does not limit the Government's right to use information contained in the data if it is obtainable from another source without restriction."

(b) The offeror shall also mark each restricted sheet with the following legend: "Use or disclosure of proposal data is subject to the restriction on the title page of this Proposal."

(c) The coordinating office shall return to the offeror any unsolicited proposal marked with a legend different from that provided in 15.509(a). The return letter will state that the proposal cannot be considered because it is impracticable for the Government to comply with the legend and that the agency will consider the proposal if it is resubmitted with the proper legend.