Search This Blog

Sunday, November 28, 2021

What Is A Small Business Federal Government Contractor?



INTRODUCTION

There is often confusion regarding the definition of the term, “Contractor” in government work. The term is used in a conflicting manner to describe companies, individuals and business relationships. It has different connotations within corporations as opposed to government agencies, and is often confused with terms like “Subcontractor”, “Supplier” or “Vendor”.

This article defines the term, “Contractor” and discusses the regulatory factors and practical considerations related to use of the term from a small business federal government contracting perspective. 

DEFINITIONS

 1. Contractor (As Used In Corporations)
The term “Contractor” in corporations often refers to an individual, performing work for a company while not on the payroll as an employee, having no taxes, benefits or deductions taken from their pay and not covered by any form of insurance. The company issues a purchase order to the individual at an hourly rate and submits a Form 1099 to the US government reporting what the contractor is paid for services. The contractor must self-insure during the contract period and pay taxes on the money earned at the end of the tax year.

The use of individuals as contractors in large government contracting corporations has been limited due to class action law suits brought by contracting individuals who maintained they were utilized as employees without the associated benefits. As a result, in many companies the existing contractor work force was either offered permanent positions or released. Since that time, the use of contractors by large government prime contractors has been principally in specialty roles.

Corporations may also utilize the term “Contractors” when referring to companies in the manner defined by Definition 2, below. It is common for large prime contractors to use the term to describe themselves, their competition or co-equal teaming partners in joint ventures. When this 2nd definition is used it refers to a company, duly registered with the state and the federal government.

2. Contractor (As Used In Government Agencies)
The term “Contractors” in government parlance refers to businesses, not individuals. To become a contractor to a government agency, you must therefore form your own business. Government agencies do not engage individual “Contractors” as defined in 1, above. If they want individuals to perform services they put them on the agency payroll. If they want to acquire specialized outside services they contract with companies. 

3. Subcontractor

A “Subcontractor" is a company that takes on a flow-down of liability from a prime contractor to complete a major portion of a large scale job for the prime contractor's customer. The subcontractor is obligated to the prime contractually in an identical fashion as the prime is obligated to the government agency. The prime contractor issues a subcontract with a statement of work and flow down terms and conditions from the prime contract to the subcontractor. In many instances the government requires review and approval of major subcontractor selections and holds the prime contractor accountable contractually at the prime contract level for the subcontractor(s) efforts.

4. Supplier (or Vendor)
The term, “Supplier” connotes basically commercial relationships with companies that supply off the shelf parts and materials or simple, generic services. The General Services Administration (GSA) and other federal agencies also use the term to describe companies in negotiating supply schedules or in buying items under the commercial sections in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), such as FAR Part 12. Supplier contracts generally emphasize, price, delivery and matters such as warranty and do not involve -complex terms and conditions or the flow down of liability from the ordering firm prime contract.

REGULATORY FACTORS

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clauses governing small business state that a company undertaking a small business set-aside prime contract must be capable of performing 51% of the work scope under the terms of that contract and may not subcontract (as in 3, above) any more than 49% of the effort. These FAR clauses do not limit 1099 contractors (as in 1, above).

Many small enterprises use independent contractors on call to fulfill the manpower requirements of their contracts and specify these personnel in their proposals as qualified individuals. When these clients grow in long term contracts they make such personnel permanent party if the contractors are willing. Often contingent hire agreements are used for that purpose while proposing major programs. You can download a generic agreement from the "References" Box Net cube in the right margin of this site.

Contractors (as in 1 above) may be used to the extent they are necessary to win, but bear in mind the government prefers to see permanent party, since that implies stability (the government is conditioned to the perception that individuals , as contractors come and go).

Small business should propose work scope under set aside programs in teaming agreements so that the prime (small business) is performing at least 60% of the effort with employees or contractors to avoid the appearance of a front by a larger company (even though the statutory requirement is 51%).


In many cases it is preferable for a start-up small business to become a subcontractor, rather than a prime, building past performance associated with government contracting and developing beneficial teaming relationships with experienced government contracting firms.

SUMMARY
It is possible for a small business to perform, in tandem, one or more of the "Contractor" roles discussed in this article. Sometimes multiple roles are established with the same corporation or agency. Please use the search box at this site to view articles for information related to this topic.

It is vital to understand the "Contractor" role definition for each contractual commitment to insure suitable risk analysis, a good past performance record, conflict of interest avoidance and a solid reputation in the industry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Multiple Front Marketing In Small Business Federal Government Contracting



INTRODUCTION:

Your enterprise must market on several targeted government contracting fronts to be successful. Simply registering as a federal government contractor or acquiring a small business set aside designation does not mean that contracting officers will find you or that larger corporations will seek you out as a teaming partner. A GSA schedule or a multi-year IDIQ umbrella contract, purchase agreement or similar vehicle may look promising, but they are really no more than hunting licenses. The game must still be bagged (targeted sales of specific products or service projects to customers).

The prudent small business will target agencies and teaming partners that best fit its products and services, positioning itself to acquire developing information on requirements and displaying capabilities by conveying early solutions to customer decision makers. This article will suggest techniques, approaches and tools to conduct a multi-front, targeted, requirements-driven, marketing campaign for small business federal government contracting.

SELECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS SET ASIDE DESIGNATIONS CAREFULLY

Your small business designation by North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) Codes should be thorough and as comprehensive as possible when you register at the "System for Award Management (SAM) web site. Make sure your registration has the maximum number of codes for which you qualify, since the whole federal procurement system rides on those codes. Insure the narrative description of your services is complete as well. Please see the following link for further information on registration:

Federal Government Contracting Registration

The sub-categories of small business set-aside certifications should be chosen carefully and based on your company ownership and specific market research into which categories the agency or prime contractor favors, what their small business contracting plan includes in the way of targets and what their track record has been in awarding contracts. Good information on awards can be gleaned from the federal web site on federal government spending at:

USA Spending

You can also check the SBA small business goaling report at:

SBA Goaling Reports


For further details on each of the 7 small business set aside designations please see the following link:

Small Business Set-aside Programs

TARGET REQUIREMENTS EARLY

Government agencies, like companies, have long range plans and budget cycles. Keep abreast with the latest developments in trade magazines and journals regarding government contracting trends within agencies to develop and market solutions for anticipated requirements.

Monitor agency web sites and forecasts. Be constantly aware of the annual federal budgeting cycle, its development progress in the executive branch and its approval status in Congress. Agencies push to commit excess funding late in the fiscal year and at the same time forecast their next year needs for submittal to higher authorities. In the 1 October to September 30 fiscal year cycle, July, August and September are prime marketing periods.

Watch FEDBIZOPPS for sources sought notifications, requests for industry comments on draft RFP's and similar early indications of programs taking shape which will later be advertised in full solicitation. Go after them early enough to market and get them set aside for your small business designation and influence the development of the project with constructive input creating a presence in the eyes of the customer and prospective teaming partners.

MAKE PRUDENT BID/NO BID DECISIONS

Develop a good fit in your bid/no bid decisions. The only thing worse than losing a contract bid is winning it and performing poorly, creating negative past performance notations on your record. Know what your company can do and cannot do. Acquire skilled personnel through contingent hire agreements or incumbent work forces as you grow and carefully choose what you bid. For information on bid/no bid decisions and proposal preparation please see the following link:

Government Contracting Bid/No Bid and Proposal Preparation

EXPLORE SERVICE CONTRACTING AND TEAMING

Other than FAR Part 12 Commercial Contracting for off-the-shelf items, entry into federal government contracting for small business usually occurs through service contracting direct to an agency or teaming as a subcontractor with another firm for a major program. Even for commercial products, particularly new ones on the market, the best way to introduce your solution to a customer is to become involved in a service contact supporting the client's operations.

With regard to larger government contracting corporations to whom you could subcontract, cover the waterfront. Find out what they are bidding and aggressively market a piece of the action as a small business. Find the locations for the largest government contractors nearest you and register at their supplier business sites. Everything they buy for their facilities, their personnel and their operations counts toward the small business goals required contractually of them by their enormous government contracts.

Research their web sites and locate their small business liaison officers. Make appointments and visit them. While visiting, seek the names and titles of managers internal to their companies who manage prime contracts involving expertise your business can supply. Go after those managers.
Form teaming agreements early with good industry partners and begin to develop a winning message to the customer while he is defining his program. The following article provides further details on teaming:

Teaming in Small Business Contracting

OBTAIN A GSA SCHEDULE

The below link is an article on how to apply for and utilize a GSA schedule:


Achieving and Utilizing A GSA Schedule

There are 3 major challenges to going through the GSA schedule application process:

1. Finding an open solicitation that fits your product line

2. Establishing a good working relationship with the GSA Contracting Officer on the schedule solicitation and getting his/her assistance in working the system expediently.

3. Presenting viable, auditable cost history on what you have previously sold your products for to pass the cost/pricing audit portion of the process.

Most companies continue to bid work to the government through FAR Part 12, Commercial Contracting procedures or other contract vehicles discussed this web site while their GSA schedule application is pending. Please examine this site for articles on teaming, marketing, IDIQ contracts, negotiations, subcontracting and many others.

Remember there are thousands of companies out there going through the system, so you will have to be patient. Very few applicants get through it in any less than 6 months. A GSA Schedule is a very valuable item to achieve, but it takes time to do so and there are other forms of government contracting you can use while your application is in process.

DEVELOP A DYNAMIC CAPABILITY STATEMENT

A capability statement (CAPE) is an absolute necessity. It contains the specific information a contracting officer needs to place an order. This information includes such items as your D&B Number, your government registration numbers, your North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes and the like. These items are selected or provided by you or determined by the system when you register your company for government contracting.

Your electronic capability statement (CAPE) for government contracts should be short and hard-hitting. It should be 1or 2 pages and should highlight the salient points of your products and offerings, your personnel and your qualifications. Please see the following link for an example of a capability statement:

Your Capability Statement

WRITE RESPONSIVE PROPOSALS

Writing a winning proposal is an art form. It takes practice and the more proposals you prepare and submit the more artful you will be. You will find yourself utilizing the same materials over again on successive proposals. Management approaches, personnel profiles, win strategies and other major components of a good submission will fill your library and extend your CAPE to specific solutions for specific customers.

The following link contains guidance on writing effective proposals:

Proposal Preparation

SUMMARY

Your reputation as a reputable performer in the small business federal government contracting community is important. Be selective and high performing. Agencies, past performance data bases and other companies will be observing you, recording your performance and passing the word along to others directly and indirectly.

Then insure your web site, your capability statement and your marketing plans are maintained current alive and dynamically reflective of your successes as you pursue new business and carefully develop your library of past performance records by project with accessible profiles to use in your government proposals.

Please see the following link on meeting the past performance requirements challenge in federal government contracting:

The Past Performance Challenge


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ken Portrait - Copy (2)

Small to Feds is maintained by Ken Larson a Veteran of 2 tours - US Army Vietnam.
As a Volunteer Counselor, he assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes.
Subsequent to his military service Ken spent over 30 years in federal government contract management and 10 years in small business consulting. He gets many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting or grow their commercial enterprise. This site is intended to assist in answering those questions and others small businesses have in developing and operating a successful firm.
Those wishing a free counseling session may contact Ken at: Micro Mentor Ken Larson

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Organization Conflict of Interest (OCI) In Small Business Federal Government Contracting

 
Image:" C2 essentials.com"


INTRODUCTION

While planning, marketing, teaming, proposing or performing under federal government programs (particularly service contracts) the small business will encounter the term, "Organizational Conflicts of Interest" or "OCI". The term has been established by the government as part of the process to control procurement integrity.

OCI clauses in solicitations and contracts require that companies certify their organizations and personnel do not have 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.

This site has discussed procurement integrity and the law at the following article:

Meeting OCI requirements involves strategic planning to avoid situations where your company, your management and/or your personnel are placed in potentially compromising positions while government contracting in your industry.

An apparent win can be delayed indefinitely by a competitor protest claiming OCI. Government actions after the fact if an OCI violation is uncovered will be annotated to a contractor's past performance history and in severe cases result in disbarment from government contracting.

This article will define Organizational Conflict of Interest (OCI),  discuss situations under which OCI issue are likely to occur and recommend strategic planning and processes to manage the requirement. 

DEFINITION

The term "organizational conflicts of interest" means that a relationship or situation exists whereby an offer or a contractor has past, present, or currently planned interests that either directly or indirectly (through a client, contractual, financial, organizational or other relationship) may relate to the work to be performed under the forthcoming contract and:

 (a) may diminish its capacity to give impartial, technically sound, objective performance

 (b) may result in it having an unfair competitive advantage.

It includes chief executives and directors, to the extent that they will or do become involved in the performance of the contract, and proposed consultants or subcontractors where they may be performing services similar to the services provided by the prime contractor. 

It does not include the normal flow of benefits from the performance of the contract.

EXAMPLES

1. Competing for a management/services contract that might require the contracting company to evaluate its own or its competitors’ products for use by the government

2.  Competing to supply products/services for which you have designed the specifications

3.  Access to other companies’ proprietary information that has not been authorized for use in landing/performing the contract

4.  Access to other companies’ proprietary information obtained by leveraging the contract in question, which might provide an unfair competitive advantage.


The below article in the Washington Post addresses an apparent blatant example of OCI:

OCI Case Sheds Needed Light On Government Contracting

TYPICAL OCI REPRESENTATION AND DISCLOSURE

Below are exampes of typical representation certifications and disclosure statements required by OCI regulations.   For a given procurement either the Representation or the Disclosure is submitted - not both:


OCI REPRESENTATION STATEMENT

I hereby certify (or as a representative of my organization, I hereby certify) that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, no facts exist relevant to any past, present or currently planned interest or activity (financial, contractual, personal, organizational or otherwise) which relate to the proposed work; and bear on whether I have (or the organization has) a possible conflict of interest with respect to (1) being able to render impartial, technically sound, and objective assistance or advice; or (2) being given an unfair**competitive advantage.

Signature: Date:

Name : Organization:

Title :


OCI DISCLOSURE STATEMENT


I hereby certify (or as a representative of my organization, I hereby certify) that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, all relevant facts--concerning past, present or currently planned interests or activities (financial, contractual, organizational or otherwise) which relate to the proposed work and bear on whether I have (or the organization has) a possible conflict of interest with respect to (1) being able to render impartial, technically sound, and objective assistance or advice, or (2) being given and unfair**competitive advantage--are fully disclosed on the attached page(s) and formatted to show:

o For ease of presentation, divide following data into four parts: Organizational,
contractual, financial, other;

o The company, agency, organization in which you have a past, present, or currently planned interest or activity (financial, contractual, organizational, or otherwise);
 
o A brief description of relationship;

o A period of relationship;

o The extent of relationship (e.g., value of financial interest of work; percent of total holdings, total work, etc.).


Signature:


 Date:


** An unfair competitive advantage does not include the normal flow of benefits from the performance of the contract. 

STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT FACTORS

When considering the implications of OCI, examine your strategic plan for the following factors:

1.   Examine your market niche and what aspects of it would be subject to OCI as a function of your company role in it or the roles of past and future  personnel and suppliers or prime contractors. 

2.   If you are considering becoming  a SETA contractor determine what portion of the market in your industry will be unavailable to you in that role.  Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contractors are civilian employees or government contractors who are contracted to assist the government (In some areas of DOD, the acronym SETA refers to "Systems Engineering and Technical Assessment" contractors; also refers to "Systems Engineering and Technical Analysis.")  SETA contractors provide analysis and engineering services in a consulting capacity, working closely with the government's own staff members. SETA contractors provide the flexibility and quick availability of expertise without the expense and commitment of sustaining a government staff long-term.

3.  Bear in mind that non-disclosure agreements and OCI requirements for major programs have long term implications and expiration dates. 

4.  Keep in mind that subcontractor and prime contractor relationships also bear on OCI.  Vet your prospective teaming companies and suppliers carefully with regard to the OCI impact they may have on ventures you undertake and flow the requirement down to them in the early stages of any teaming agreement with them. 

5.  Carefully consider the following guidance from FAR Part 9.505:

 
“Each individual contracting situation should be examined on the basis of its particular facts and the nature of the proposed contract. The exercise of common sense, good judgment, and sound discretion is required in both the decision on whether a significant potential conflict exists and, if it does, the development of an appropriate means for resolving it. The two underlying principles are—

 
(a) Preventing the existence of conflicting roles that might bias a contractor’s judgment; and

 
(b) Preventing unfair competitive advantage. In addition to the other situations described in this sub-part, an unfair competitive advantage exists where a contractor competing for award of any Federal contract possesses — Proprietary information that was obtained from a Government official without proper authorization; or  Source selection information (as defined in 2.101) that is relevant to the contract but is not available to all competitors, and such information as would assist that contractor in obtaining the contract.”

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

If a potential for a conflict of interest is real, it is best to make that fact a principal factor in your bid/no bid decision.

If you feel the risk could be mitigated and an effective OCI management plan could be submitted as part of your proposal to the government then carefully establish how such practical matters as firewalls, OCI certifications and clearances at the individual worker level will be handled.

Keep careful records of all written certifications and commitments in the form of NDA's, Teaming Agreements and OCI Certifications and Disclosures.  Review them on a regular basis for renewal, expiration and in connection with bid/no bid decisions.

Be open and honest in your presentation of the facts to the government.  Your past performance rating will take a major hit if OCI is uncovered after award and you have not made full and open disclosure previously.


NOTE:  Comments at this post have been maintained from previous discussions on this topic at "Small to feds" in the interest of demonstrating the often complex nature of the OCI process.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Practical Intellectual Property Management for Small Business Federal Government Contractors


INTRODUCTION

We have previously discussed Intellectual Property (IP) and Proprietary Data (PD) protection for small business:


The above posts discuss rights in technical data and software assertions, non-disclosure and teaming agreements as well as proprietary data protection involving the government and industry partners.

This article expands those discussions by offering practical operations guidelines involving IP protection for small business government contractors.

DEFINITIONS

The World Intellectual Property Organization defines IP as:

“….creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.

Industrial property, which includes inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and Copyright, which includes literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, and architectural designs.    Rights related to copyright include those of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and those of broadcasters in their radio and television programs.”


OWNERSHIP ENCOUNTERS AND CONTROLS

Bringing IP into existence requires that the tangible property as a result come under control.  For small business this is usually brought about by a series of encounters with IP.  They are discussed below in the relative order in which a small business encounters them.


Company Founding Personnel

A small business usually encounters IP and PD concerns when it is formed.  The operating agreement between the founders must address these matters from the perspective of who brings property to the venture and who owns it as well as the rights to the property developed thereafter. A typical operating agreement may be downloaded from the Box Net “References” cube in the right margin of this site.  Please examine it as a framework and add those elements that are unique to your enterprise.

Employees and Contractors

The next encounter usually entails employees or contractors who apply for work.  It is wise to inquire as a standard practice, and as part of an employment agreement or contract, whether or not an individual has signed a non-compete or proprietary data agreement with prior employers.  If they have, acquire a copy of the agreement and assess whether or not the employment of these personnel poses a risk of IP violations in terms of another company's property or their claim to ownership of what the candidate may develop on your behalf while in your employ. 

Make it clear in your agreements of hire and contracts that IP and PD that employees may participate in developing are the exclusive property of the company, that they will not own it and that they are expected to protect it, even when they leave your firm.

Industry Partners

Declare in your non-disclosure, teaming, and contract agreements the precise definition of the IP and PD ownership brought to the table and the exact share of ownership in subsequent development items.  Most firms use the efforts of their employees (labor records) as a basis to make these distinctions, but further specificity may be necessary on complex projects. 
 
Government Agencies and Prime Contractors

Ensure your policies and practices utilize assertions to document the ownership of IP and sound job cost accounting records for any IP developed at company expense, either in the past or during the course of a contract. The link below discusses the following major rights assertions in detail:

Unlimited Rights
Government Purpose Rights (GPR)
Limited Rights
Restricted Rights
Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Data Rights
Specifically Negotiated License Rights
Prior Government Rights
Commercial License Rights

CONCLUSION

Intellectual property and proprietary data protection should be tailored to your organization, its industry relationships, people and practices.  It must grow as the company grows, adapt to changing conditions and be ever-sensitive to risk.

The best intellectual property protections are well understood, practical, teaming relationships among partners, employees, industry and government.  All sides in such relationships lose if disclosure or violations occur. 

Establish sound operations practices and train to insure these practices meet the objectives discussed herein to protect your organization IP. 






Sunday, October 31, 2021

Techniques for Small Business Product/Services Development in Government Contracting

Image:  Small Business Elite 


INTRODUCTION

This article will suggest approaches in developing a product and/or a service to the point where it can be marketed in the small business federal government contracting venue. Individuals usually succeed at such an endeavor by forming a company, separating it from their personal assets and then developing the company and its product(s)/service(s); even if it is only a one-person operation at the start.


There are techniques for small business to gain government participation in growing an idea into a company. Small Business Innovative Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs in major federal agencies seek concepts that can be funded and developed into products the government needs. Here are some examples:

 DOD SBIR/STTR Small Business Portal

National Institute of Health SBIR/STTR


Service contracting is a form of gaining entrance into the market, creating opportunities for introducing products by selling skilled labor under a government agency service contract or prime contractor teaming arrangement.

A GSA schedule affords a platform for products and services but sales must have been achieved historically in the commercial or government markets before applying because GSA relies heavily the most recent 2-year pricing data in negotiating a schedule.


The government contracting product and services venue is competitive and requirements by federal agencies are often bundled into larger systems procurements. Therefore, it is necessary first to position a small enterprise and its product offerings before tapping the federal market for development support.


GENERAL OVERVIEW


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

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.


Financing is always a factor and can be achieved through loans or investors with a good business plan. The remainder of this article will address the basic elements of a framework within which to succeed with your product development for federal government contracting. 


BUSINESS STRUCTURE


For the majority of individuals who are starting single person or no more than 2 or 3 person operations, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) registered with the state and with the federal government is recommended.

It will separate personal assets from company assets and protect them. When product or services sales begin generating revenue an LLC has many tax advantages. It can be registered as Sub Chapter 'S' for tax purposes and revenue and the expenses can be passed through to personal tax returns, paying no taxes as a company. The double taxation issue prevalent with many of the other types of incorporation is avoided with a Sub chapter “S” LLC. An LLC assists in limits your personal liability for debt and court judgments that may not fall in your favor.


Representing the business as a company allows pursuing financing as an enterprise. You can think of a creative name for your LLC and you can complete the articles of incorporation necessary to bring your enterprise into existence. The term, "LLC" must conclude the name of your company if you decide to form such an organization.


Instructions for registering in your state and federally with the IRS are available at your state web site and at the IRS site. You will receive tax and employer identification numbers by registering your business.


PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY


Patents and copyrights for your idea may ultimately protect you to a degree but the government agencies granting them have no enforcement arm so you must discover a violation yourself, retain a lawyer, bring a court proceeding against a violator and then hope to recover your costs and a reasonable settlement if you win. 

 The U.S. Patent System

Therefore, most of my clients use non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) in dealing with other companies. Teaming is a practical fact of life in pursuing the larger federal government contracts.

You can download an NDA from the “References” Box Net Cube at the right margin of this site. Fill in the blanks as appropriate for a given exchange with outside individuals and companies. Before you meet to disclose details with a potential teaming company or investor, for instance, ask them to sign the document with you up front, put a serial number on it and reference the serial number and the agreement and date on any written materials you give to them.


After the meeting draft a short letter, documenting the minutes of the meeting, what was discussed and stating that the verbal disclosures and materials in the meeting are subject to the agreement and reference the agreement by number and date. Put an acknowledgment line on the letter and ask them to return a signed copy to you. This confirms their receipt of your proprietary information and their agreement to protect it in accordance with the NDA.

There are certain exceptions with regard to individuals or companies you may be dealing with on investing where you may not choose to use an NDA. Some Angel and Capital Investors are sensitive about being asked to sign them. You will have to trade their objections off against the value they represent to your company and conduct your risk analysis on a case-by-case basis.


For detail information asserting rights in technical data and software to government agencies and protecting intellectual property with other companies please see the following article:


Protecting Intellecutal Property 


BUSINESS PLANNING

Visit 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 your enterprise and assist you in determining and supporting the amount of funding you need. Such topics as marketing, advertising, competitor analysis and financing are covered there. You will find a presentation and examples that you can follow in improving your plan or in generating a plan if you do not have one. The link to the site is below:

Writing a Business Plan


Articles on strategic planning and developing your marketing plan are also at the “References” Box Net Cube at this site. They address evolving an operations vision for your enterprise showing its potential to present to a banker or to an investor.

Here is a site with free business plan samples:


Business Plan Samples 

It may assist you in visualizing your own business growth to look at an example of how someone else addressed a given topic. I have learned from having worked with many new business owners that it is best to have you examine the material and continue your plan, contacting me with issues and questions as they occur.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHILE PLANNING


 
Locate teaming companies to further the objective that they would market your product as part of their offerings with your company licensing and sharing in the proceeds.


A business plan and the guidance above for its generation is the road map for developing ideas, laying out how to expand the sales of your product and researching your market to do so. It will also assist in developing pricing to considering the direct costs of product development, service implementation and distribution as well as the indirect costs of the enterprise itself (operating expenses)must be considered and financed.


A negotiation position for a given product will be driven by certain strategic factors:


1. Does a developer or teaming partner have a strong but realistic incentive to actively make the product a part of the marketplace?

2. Does market research indicate the idea will have strong sales volume once it is developed and distributed?

3. How much will a prospective teaming partner or investor have to invest in the product to get it to market? Does the product require testing?


4. Which is the better deal? Is it better to receive a 7% royalty on $5,000 worth of sales or a 1% royalty on $500,000 of sales? Even though 1% does not sound too impressive, of course it’s the better choice in this example.


A negotiation position should be based on support for the argument that a concept will experience a certain level of sales and the royalty should be based on a % of estimated end user volume sales, discounted for the investment that the developer and distributor must make to get it to market.


The royalty should be outside of the distributor cost breakdown and the end user cost breakdown. It is simply a deductive factor the manufacturer will have to introduce into their profit equation after the costs have been tabulated. They should not view royalties as a cost factor; they should view them as a share of the profit on the total estimated sales.

Chances of succeeding with a negotiation with a developer and/or distributor are increased by showing an understanding the prospective market for the product and drawing some comparisons between the product and other similar successful products.


Naturally there will be some give and take with the other side about estimated costs to get the product to market. Be forthright in acknowledging their investment but also support a position with some research and comparative data on the product potential.


Lastly, settle on a % of the end user sales volume based on an estimate to which is agreed with the other party and insures that the purchase agreement for royalties entitles the agreed upon % on all future sales.


FINANCING


The SBA assists prospective business owners in completing sound business plans, which can then be presented to a banker in applying for financial assistance.

In the event that 2 banking institutions deny a loan application, a candidate can apply to the SBA for a loan guarantee that may assist in achieving a loan, since it would back up the application to a bank.


Loan officers are interested in a business plan to get a view of the business future and place a value on products and services based on the market, the competition, the sales projections, costs, expenses and profit expectations. The link to the SBA loan guarantee program is below:


SBA Loans and Grants



ANGEL AND CAPITAL INVESTORS

Angel and private investors have two prominent characteristics:

(A) They want a high return on investment (ROI)

(B) They typically want a great deal of control of the operation.

According to the Colorado Capital Alliance, surveys of angel investors show that:


1. Angels are seeking companies with high growth potential, proven management and sufficient information about the company, its management team, and its market to be able to assess a company's value.


2. On average, Angels expect 10 to 15 percent above of the S&P 500 return on equity.


3. Typically, Angels invest in companies seeking between $50,000 and $1,000,000.


4. Angels generally prefer to finance manufacturing or product-oriented ventures, especially in the high-tech fields.


5. On average, Angels are 47 years old, have a postgraduate degree, and management experience in an entrepreneurial venture.

An angel investor may ask for at least ten to twenty times return in just five years. For many angel investors, it’s not just about the money; they want to actively participate in developing your business. They want to act as a mentor and sometimes even to take an active role in managing the company. This often translates into the angel investor having a seat on the company Board of Directors.


Angels are also highly interested in an exit strategy from for a full return on their investment in your business. The closest thing to it is an astute business plan that calls out the specifics of potential ROI, based on sound planning and analysis and addresses the following as possible exit strategies. Remember, investors are very aware that an exit strategy cannot be guaranteed. But they can be offered more than the wishful thinking that an IPO will occur in three years.


It is always good to have a lawyer involved in complex documents or in the development of documents. This will further protect a concept. A lawyer does not necessarily have to be present during the exchanges with prospective companies, but a lawyer review and comment on documents before they are signed.

SUMMARY


This article has conveyed preliminary steps for the small business in product development for the federal marketplace.

It should be noted that much of the process discussed in this article is the same for the commercial product development and a certain amount of commercial success is usually achieved before selling products in the government contracting venue. The exception to that rule is in highly technical product pursuits where the government is funding advanced development.


To consider non-profit grants and direct government contract funding potential please see the following article:


Grants Vs, Direct Government Contracts


Once a company is formed, a product platform established and a position to market a useful product to the federal government is achieved, please see the following articles at this site in developing a marketing plan


Registering Your Business For Government Grants and Contracts


Multiple Front Marketing

Should You Consider Small Business Government Contracting?

Small Business Teaming

With careful structuring, planning and marketing, a product or a service with potential can find its place in federal government contracting.