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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Flexible Pandemic Planning for Small Business Government Contracting



The COVID 19 battle will continue as a local issue.  It is at the local level in which federal funding programs are enacted, grown and made part of the culture. 

There will be dramatic roles for small business, not just in medically related fields but also in logistics to geospatial technology fields and others. 


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 “Box” in the top right margin of this site.

Seizing the Moment






Friday, April 9, 2021

Earned Value Management Systems


Image:  NASA 



Recently a question regarding project management  prompted me to recommend a simple application of an Earned Value Management System (EVMS) to deal with a project management problem.

The question and my answer are as follows:

Question:

How do you keep yourself on task and on budget during a start up?

What are some techniques that you use to keep you (and your team?) on task, and on budget, during a business start up?

Answer:

Plan to measure your "Bang for the Buck". Establish tangible tasks in the form of a plan. Set milestones for them in time at a budget value for each milestone tied out to the total budget. The milestones should be things you can look at and say, "That's done".

Status your plan regularly. When milestones are completed, credit the budget value as earned. Tasks may cost more than their budgets to complete. That is cost variance for completed tasks.

If milestones are not completed by their scheduled date do not credit their budget value as earned. Behind schedule tasks are thus contributing to a cumulative budgeted schedule variance in time.

If you are running an unfavorable schedule variance for incomplete tasks and an unfavorable cost variance for completed tasks you are in trouble.

Corrective action, additional resources or a work around plan will be necessary to recover from negative variances. You will investigate the tasks behind schedule and over cost to determine the problem, the cause, the resolution, the corrective action and the likelihood of overrunning your total budget or being late due to events at time now. You will have time to do something about it.

The above technique can be used for starting a company or running a project. This technique is commonly referred to as Earned Value Management. It should not be driven to a level of detail that is unmanageable.

Prudently used this approach gives insight into the dynamics of physical accomplishment driving project status as opposed to plan versus actual cost tracking which tells you only that you are spending money.

Several approaches were recommended in response to the question for keeping a new start-up company on track with regard to staying within budget and time constraints. EVMS is the most effective project management technique to achieve that sort of objective.

Please visit the below Wikipedia article from which the graphic leading this post was downloaded for an excellent explanation of EVMS and its application on projects:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earned_value_management

In short, the technique:

1. Ties budget to schedule

2. Establishes measurable means to track project status

3. Accounts not only for the money being spent but also for what is being accomplished with the expenditure.

4. Allows in-process cost and schedule corrective action in time to favorably influence the project outcome.

I have utilized the EVMS technique from the smallest of projects to large-scale systems programs. It is well worth learning and practicing. If you become involved in large enough government projects EVMS will be required under your contract by government and prime contractor customers.

Many companies recognize the benefits of EVMS project management and apply it without being required to do so by contract. It produces excellent results.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

10 Golden Rules For Small Business Success



1. Do not promise what you cannot deliver

2. Do not overextend your resources and get a reputation for poor performance.

3. Do not tell the customer what he or she wants to hear. Tell them what they need to know. They will respect you for it.

4. Network constantly on professional sites such as Linked InQuora, Alignable and others.  Use Groups and Q&A 
features to accumulate an "Expert" rating from  peers in your field. 

5. Blog like there is no tomorrow. A blog is quite different than a web site. Provide good, solid information free of charge and use blog searches for synergistic businesses to team with. Teaming is an absolute necessity these days.

6. Be prepared to provide information, samples and valuable service gratis as a marketing tool. Introduce yourself and then immediately engage the client with your presentation tools available to bring your expertise to whatever topic they are interested in. Let them take you where they want to go with their concerns and their needs. Apply your presentation tools and expertise dynamically on the fly in a sincere manner to those concerns and needs and you will be in demand for follow up business.

7. Quote and bill what the client can afford and grow with them (in content and resources).

8. Be dedicated to working yourself out of a job with a specific customer and having your client take over by training. They will remember you and recommend you to 10 others.

9. Remember growth is a function of persistence and foresight. Know where your market is headed and get their first - then write and speak about your success indirectly by helping others. Demonstrate humility and a satisfaction in helping others succeed. They will find ways to give you credit. There are ways of tooting your horn without making peoples' lights go out.

10. Word of mouth advertising from pleased clients is a sure ticket to success.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Federal Government Contracting Customer Relations

 

Image:  wipfli.com

For government contracting success, it  is vital to understand the roles, responsibilities and authorities for the principal personnel with whom the contractor must do business.  

PROCUREMENT CONTRACTING OFFICER

During a federal government contract proposal you will come to know the Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO) assigned to the solicitation that runs the source selection process. 

Prime contractors have equivalent individuals, usually called, “Subcontract Administrators" or "Subcontract Managers". 

Behind the PCO is the agency source selection board made up of the end user and other experts in the government agency. In prime contractor organizations these individuals are usually knows as "Program Managers". 

It is not uncommon for a different PCO to be assigned to the contract once it is awarded. The government seems to evolve specialists in the ranks of procurement officials; some specialize in solicitations and source selections while others tend to be in charge of negotiating and running contracts once the winner is determined. 

PCO’s also have staff assistants, cost analysts and procurement specialists who support them. These personnel may interface with you on fact finding, quality and technical matters. 

Procurement Contracting Officers (PCO's) hold warrants to represent the federal government. PCO's must have internal approval of a contract within their respective agencies before they can sign it on behalf of the agency. 

Only a PCO is authorized to officially commit the government. Only a subcontract administrator or manager is authorized to commit a prime contractor.

DEFENSE CONTRACT MANAGEMENT AREA OFFICE (DCMAO) AND ADMINISTRATIVE CONTRACTING OFFICER (ACO)

As you begin government contracting you may encounter a DCMAO site survey team interested in establishing the physical presence of a new supplier, the technical capability and the human resources to perform the prospective work and the quality of the environment in which the effort will be performed. A "Pre-award Survey of Prospective Contractor" Form is completed and becomes part of the contract file. This will hold true as well if you are a subcontractor to a prime. 

Select the person who will meet with the government survey team. This person should be empowered to speak for the company and should be completely familiar with details of the solicitation and of your company's offer. If relevant, make available one or more technicians to answer questions. 

Identify any disparities that may exist between the solicitation and your company's offer that should be resolved during the initial meeting with the survey team. Think about how you can demonstrate actual technical capability or the development of technical capability on the proposed contract. Make sure your plant facilities and equipment are available and operable. If they are not, be prepared to demonstrate that they can be developed or acquired in time to meet proposed contract requirements. 

Make sure that your labor resources have the proper skills or that personnel with the needed skills can be hired expeditiously. Gather and make available to the survey team documentation, such as previous government contracts or subcontracts or commercial orders, to demonstrate a past satisfactory performance record with regard to delivery, quality and finances. Gather financial documentation for the team financial analyst, including the company's current profit and loss summary, balance sheet, cash flow chart and other pertinent financial information. Make sure the plans are in place for vendor supplies and materials or subcontracts to assure that the final delivery schedule can be met. 

Make sure that these plans are verifiable. Review any technical data and publications that may be required under the proposed contract and make sure you understand them. If the contract is a type other than a firm-fixed price or if you have requested progress payments, prepare adequate accounting documentation for review. Review your quality control program and make sure that it is workable and consistent with the quality requirements stated in the contract.

For smaller contracts a PCO may delegate his authority to an Administrative Contracting Officer (ACO). This often occurs in larger industrial plants where the ACO is resident in the facility or in remote locations where the ACO is a member of the Defense Contract Management Area Office (DCMAO) in the city where the contract is being performed. ACO's run coordinative functions in geographically dispersed offices representing the government and coordinating inspection and acceptance functions, site surveys and related matters on behalf of the PCO. 

As you grow into the government contracting business you will find yourself interfacing more frequently with the DCMAO ACO nearest your location on functions various PCO's delegate or request be performed supporting contracts their agencies hold with your company. With appropriate delegation of authority from the PCO, an ACO can sign contracts and contact amendments on behalf of the government.

CONTRACTING OFFICER'S TECHNICAL REPRESENTATIVE (COTR)

The PCO typically has an end user for the product or service who will become the Contracting Officer's Technical Representative (COTR) when the contract is awarded. As discussed above, the prime contractor equivalent position is a Program Manager. 

The COTR has a strong influence on negotiations and contract performance as well as payment approval. Your COTR is the real internal customer at the agency. He has fiscal, technical and schedule responsibilities to his management for the program you are servicing. However, he cannot sign for the government. The PCO has the agency warrant for that function and knows the most about public law and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) as it is applied to contracts the agency undertakes.

 It is the COTR who is likely feeding the PCO requests for fact-finding data during a proposal and it is the COTR with whom you will interface the most in terms of product acceptance or performance of services. Keep in mind that the COTR and the PCO will approve your deliveries, along with quality assurance inspectors for the government. 

A satisfied PCO and COTR mean expeditious billing approval and payment by the government. It can be generally stated that if the COTR is unhappy with contract technical performance the PCO will be unhappy as well. They are co-equals organizationally within an agency. A COTR has program executive management authority regarding decision making options. A PCO is a staff role with signature authority to promulgate decisions, once they have passed inter-agency legal and management reviews.

There are two important aspects of dealing with a COTR:

He or she is your most important government customer technically.

He or she does not have the authority to commit the government on contract changes in work scope, schedule, pricing or terms and conditions. Taking contract direction from a COTR and performing outside the scope of an existing contract without official sign-off on a contract amendment by a PCO is very high risk.

PURCHASING AGENTS

For micro-purchases  you may find yourself dealing with government personnel who are granted purchasing authority without being designated a PCO or an ACO. In most cases these officials are COTR's and are seeking to utilize a government- wide purchasing credit card. If any doubt exists about their authority to commit the government on a transaction, it is always a good idea to ask for their PCO or ACO contact information for verification of the transaction.


DEFENSE CONTRACT AUDIT AGENCY (DCAA)

The Request for Proposal (RFP) to which you responded may have ordered a copy of your proposal be submitted to the Defense Contract Audit Agency DCAA Office nearest your location. If you are a new supplier to the government, DCAA may ask for a copy of your long-range plan containing your direct and indirect rate structure. They will verify the rates utilized in your proposal against your LRP, evaluate escalation factors utilized for long term projects and check the math. 

The auditor will ask for copies of major material and travel quotations and insure that government per diem rates are utilized for lodging and meals in the cost proposal. DCAA may also visit your facility and complete a "Pre-award Survey of Prospective Contractor Accounting System" form. 

The survey checks compliance with Cost Accounting Standards 401 and 402 to insure that the company sets up each new government contract on job cost accounting in the identical manner in which it was proposed; in effect identifying direct labor, direct material and other direct costs to each contract monthly and allocating overhead and G and A utilizing the same numerator and denominator relationships upon which the contract was originally estimated.

DCAA is paid by PCO’s to perform audits. The audit does not extend to negotiations and at the audit conclusion the auditor files a report with the PCO. The report will contain information on any errors uncovered and findings on the adequacy of the accounting and long range planning systems. 
regarding prices for prospective supplies and services. If the auditor does not offer an exit interview, ask for one. 

Better yet, ask for a copy of the audit report to the PCO. Many DCAA offices will provide a copy to audited contractors. DCAA does not have the authority to direct a proposal revision based on audit findings. An astute contractor will immediately correct any errors found by the auditor in the 
DCAA will not express an opinion on the cost content of the proposal in terms of a value judgment proposal and examine other audit findings in preparation for negotiations.

DCAA is also involved in rate approvals on an ongoing basis. When you elect to change your forward pricing rates DCAA will perform and audit of the reasons for the changes and inform the PCO and ACO of the results. DCAA also gets involved in auditing progress billings and incurred cost submissions in support of contract closeout documentation. GSA officials involve DCAA in auditing schedule application proposals and associated escalation factors for multiple year awards.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Unallowable Costs Under Federal Government Contracts



I. INTRODUCTION:

Over the years the federal government has determined that certain costs cannot be allowed in prices, cost reimbursements or settlements under contracts with the US Government. The government is unwilling to pay for these costs as direct charges to federal government contracts or through indirect expense pools applied to federal government contracts. A company is not prohibited from incurring unallowable costs, but they cannot be recovered either directly or indirectly under federal government contracts. To manage unallowable costs, separate accounts must be established for these type expenses and they must not be priced directly into federal governement contracts during the proposal process. Such costs cannot be made a part of the expense pools which are applied to federal government contracts through an overhead, material handling or G&A cost allocation at accounting period close or during forward pricing rate planning.

II. UNALLOWABLE COST CATEGORIES:

The following cost categories are generally unallowable under federal government contracts:

A. Advertising Costs are allowable only if they are necessary to meet the requirements of the contract peformance.

B. Public Relations Costs are unallowable except for (1) costs specifically required by government contracts, (2) cost of communicating with the public and press pertaining to specific accomplishments which result from government contracts or (3) costs of conducting communication and liaison necessary to keep the public informed on matters of public concern such as notices of awards, financial matters, etc.

C. Alcoholic Beverage Costs are unallowable.

D. Bad Debt Costs are unallowable.

E. Automobile Costs for Personal Use are unallowable.

F. Defense and Prosecution of Criminal and Civil Proceedings, Claims Appeals and Patent Infringement are generally unallowable.

G. Donations and Contributions are unallowable.

H. Entertainment Costs are unallowable.

I. Executive Lobbying Costs Incured in Attempting to Impropertly Influence either Directly or Indirectly an Employee or Officer of the Federal Government Regarding a Contract are unallowable.

J. Fines and Penalties resulting from failure of the company to comply with federal, state, local or foreign laws and regulations are unallowable.

K. Goods and Services Cost for Personal Use are unallowable.

L. Personal Housing and Living Expenses are unallowable. (Not to be confused with direct travel costs which are allowable)

M. Insurance Costs to Protect Against Defects in Materials or Workmanship are unallowable.

N. Interest and Investment Management Costs are unallowable except for cost related to the physical custody and control of monies and securites and for interest cost paid to external parties for asests (buildings and equipment) used to support government contracts.

O. Losses on Government or Other Contracts are unallowable.

P. Membership Costs in Civic, Community Organizations, Country Clubs or Social or Dining Clubs are unallowable.

Q. Pre-Contract Costs, unless approved by the Contracting Agency are unallowable.

R. Airfare Travel Costs in Excess of the Lowest Available Commercial Discount or Standard Coach Airfare are unallowable.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Government Contract

Image "Sabre88"



INTRODUCTION

Marketing is one of the greatest challenges for the small business federal government contractor. We have previously discussed the federal government marketing process at the following articles:

Insights to Succeed




This posting will address sculpting a government contracting business opportunity to the point where it becomes a sole source or small business group-designated set aside procurement.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Small business group-designated procurement is far more frequent than sole source contract awards.  Agencies must prepare special justifications for sole sourcing and those most frequently approved are for Hub Zone and Small, Disadvantaged [8(a)] firms (see table below).
Small business group designations are beneficial to firms who hold them by enhancing the probability of an award through agency restrictions on prime contractor bidding to only those who hold the group designation. Others may bid as subcontractors to the prime but the prime small business contractor must be capable of performing at least 51% of the total effort in terms of work scope, hours and dollars.  
 
In either sole source or group-designated marketing, an agency making the buy must be convinced that sufficient capability exists in a single company or in the small business designated group community to set a contract aside. The agency must be convinced early – before a formal procurement announcement is published on SAM Contract Opportunities  

Marketing to achieve a limited competition under a small business group designation or eliminate competition under a sole source contract assumes the marketing enterprise has one or more of the following federal government set-aside designations:

DESIGNATION                                                         TARGET
Small Business                                           (Group Set Aside Potential)
Small Woman-Owned Business                 (Group Set Aside Potential)
Small Veteran-Owned Business                 (Group Set Aside Potential)
Small Disabled Veteran-Owned Business  (Group Designation Set Aside Potential)
Small Hub Zone Business                          (Sole Source and Group Set Aside Potential)
Small Disadvantaged Business 8(a)          (Sole Source and Group Set Aside Potential)

Federal government procurement is further classified under the SBA Small Business Size Standards in terms of North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) Code, number of personnel and/or annual sales. To determine whether a firm qualifies for a given bid, note the NAICS for a given solicitation and download the SBA Small Business Size Standards the Box Net “References” Cube in the right margin of this site.

Part of the sole source or designated group set aside marketing task is to suggest to the agency the NAICS Code (hence the size standard) for a prospective procurement.
Registering to bid government contacts and establish sole source and group designations may be achieved using guidance in the below articles:
Hub Zone and Small Disadvantaged Business 8(a) designations are lengthy certification processes. The remaining designations in the above table are self-certifying at the above government contract registration web site, and are verified by site surveys and bid vetting for each solicitation prior to contract award. 


EARLY REQUIREMENT TARGETING IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN SET ASIDE MARKETING

Effective set aside marketing reaches the agency decision makers with technical, budget and schedule authority before a synopsis of the requirement is posted on SAM Contract Oportunities
The objective of this form of targeted marketing is to get concurrence from the government to set the program aside sole source if the company has an 8(a), or Hub Zone Certification or reserve it by one of the above group designation classes to eliminate the prospect of full and open competition involving large business.

  • Become known to targeted agency personnel by visiting their program offices and meeting the decision makers.  Bring a capability statement:
  • Present your qualifications openly, objectively and specific to their needs.  You must determine what those needs are through market research, trade magazines, research on what they are buying on SAM Contract Opportunities, as well as postings on their web site that are future-program oriented.

  • Subscribe to periodicals like "Washington Technology" and other trade magazines.  Observe agency trends and analysis that impact your market segment.  There have been set aside programs marketed by small companies through acquainting agency management and technical personnel with capabilities they were not aware existed in the small business community or fulfillment of needs they in fact did not know they had.

  • Pay particular attention to SAM Contract Opportunities "Sources Sought" or “Requests for draft RFP Comment”  on programs that have yet to be formally solicited. Obtain an appointment to present your capabilities to the decision makers (not the gate keepers).  Be courteous to contracting officers but understand they are not the individuals who make source selections. Understand that once the requirement is formally published on SAM Contract Opportunities the gate closes on informal visits to the customer and the competition begins in the form of proposals by competitors.  It is too late at that point to set the program aside for a sole source or a small business designation if it has not occurred by the publication stage.

  • Cultivate teaming relationships with other firms in your industry and look for early opportunities in agencies, not only to prime a program but to bring a team of qualified contractors in lesser roles to fulfill them with you or join a team being led by a more experienced firm:
  • Understand the small business start up past performance challenge and work to meet it:
  • Attend small business outreach events by agencies and prime contractors.  Stay attuned to who is attending and research their needs and requirements.

  • Make a point to be present at bidders' conferences for existing solicitations that you may not choose to bid but which may lend insight into the agency needs and prime contractor relationships in the future.      
SUMMARY

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 any of the designations discussed in this article, make small business set asides or sole source procurement a key element in your marketing plan. 







Tuesday, March 2, 2021

10 Misconceptions About Small Business Federal Government Contracting





Image:  "Smalltofeds"
Image:  "Dreamstime.com"


























1. It is easy to become established in the federal marketplace by founding a start up in small business contracting to the federal government

Very few do so. The principle reason for this is lack of past performance records either commercially or as a registered government contractor.  Past performance is a major factor in awarding government contracts:

The Small Business Federal Government Contracting Past Performance Challenge

Small enterprises who succeed in federal government contracting usually have a sustaining commercial business as ongoing support while they learn federal contracting bid, proposal, and pricing, industry teaming and marketing techniques.

Your Entry Points Into Small Business Federal Government Contracting

2. Federal government contracting is just like local and state contracting

It is not.  Every local and state government agency has their own set of rules and contracting techniques.  Although states must meet federal law with regard to interstate trade, EEO and similar matters, they are given wide latitude by the federal government. Most state and local or municipal agencies are very dissimilar in the specifics of how they conduct procurements and are strongly influenced by community ordinances and state law. 

Federal government contracting has its own set of specific rules (The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and  Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) which cross all agencies.  Small business must understand how these rules affect their doing business at the federal level.

What Small Business Should Know About FAR and CAS

3. Business can be conducted at the federal level without significant process changes from commercial practices

To succeed in federal contracting the small enterprise must implement processes such as GSA pricing, job cost accounting, forward pricing rates and related matters that are not common in the commercial venue. This takes research, time and process/business systems implementation that many firms overlook until they realize, through hard experience, that they must develop them on the fly to succeed.  Federal government contracting is not rocket science but it is different than commercial contracting.
A Framework For Federal Government Service Contracting Small Business Systems

4. Federal government contracting can begin immediately after registration

This is a hypothetical possibility but not realistic.  Registration simply self-certifies a small business to compete, establishes a Registration Number and a Federal CAGE Code for the firm.  Agencies do not go looking for registered firms to do business with them.  A niche must be located by the prospective contractor in the form of an agency requirement that fits the company. Or the company must locate industry team member (s) that can use capabilities available from the newcomer.  Very small enterprises achieve these objectives to a large scale degree within their first year of pursuing contracts with the federal government.

Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Government Contract

5.  All federal government contracting agencies are the same

Not so. Department of Defense (DOD)  contracting, for instance is very different than contracting with  civil agencies like the FAA.  The technical requirements, environment and security factors vary dramatically even though they use the same contracting rule book. The seller must market to the agency that has the greatest need for the product or service offered and team with industry partners who can enhance the potential of the small business in collaborative efforts. 

6. Small Business set aside designations will yield immediate business

Self-certifying as a minority-owned,  woman-owned, veteran-owned or disabled, veteran- owned business allows a firm to compete with other companies who have the same designation. At times this involves substantial competition.   Achieving a government certification as a small-disadvantaged 8(a) or HUB Zone enterprise may allow set-aside contracts without competition, but such awards are becoming rare, harder to justify by the government and are monitored closely for competitive possibility by oversight functionaries.

Federal Government Contracting Small Business Set-aside Designations 

7. Federal government contracting can be undertaken by a company on a stand-alone basis

This is only true for companies with very unique, off the shelf products involving small buys.  Even then, knowledge of the industry and networking with other firms dramatically increases the possibility of expanding sales.  Relationships must be developed with primes and other small businesses that can help the small firm, team with with it and keep it in mind as they search for success. That takes time, patience and open-minded, out of the box thinking.

Synergism is paramount in teaming with any size company, whether in a lead or subcontracting role. There should be technical, management and market segment similarities between the small business and any company with whom it  is considering teaming. A prospective team member ideally will not be a direct competitor; rather a business in a related field with whom the small enterprise shares a mutual need for each others contributions in pursuing large-scale projects.

Small Business Teaming in Government Contracting

8. Small Businesses receiving set aside contract awards from the federal government can subcontract all the work to other, larger and established enterprises

Companies obtaining small business set aside awards must be capable under the law of performing a minimum of 51% of the required effort internal to their organization.The quantitative measurements the government uses to gauge this rule are the work scope, hours and dollars content of the prospective contract.

9. Obtaining a GSA schedule guarantees new business

A GSA schedule permits a quick ordering process for  federal and state clients. In dealings with prime contractors to which the small firm aspires to subcontract a GSA schedule is valid pricing which can be readily included in proposals to government agencies. A GSA schedule facilitates teaming with other synergistic small companies in proposing large scale efforts.

However, a GSA schedule does not guarantee new business will come. Very few companies await government agencies to find them by searching the GSA data base. To succeed, small businesses must actively market their schedule to targeted agencies as an expedient way to contract with them or as a qualification criterion for new business awards.

Achieving and Utilizing a GSA Schedle

10.  FEDBIZOPPS (Now SAM Opportunities)  is the best way to identify, bid and obtain federal government business 

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

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

What Small Business Should Know About FEDBIZOPPS (Now SAM Opportunies)

SUMMARY:

Federal government contracting is not a quick process; but for many it can provide a steady cash flow and potential growth.  

To succeed, a carefully constructed, relationship-driven, marketing and business operations program must be developed, tailored to the federal environment. The program must include adequate research and preparation with respect to bid decisions, teaming, proposal preparation pricing and business system requirements. 

Multiple Front Marketing In Small Business Federal Government Contracting