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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Acquiring An Incumbent Work Force As An Element Of Winning A Government Contract


During the course of marketing to the federal government the small business will encounter opportunities involving potential for acquiring an incumbent work force as an element of winning a contract.  The acquisition of existing personnel already performing on a service contract is a way to exponentially grow a small enterprise. 

The purpose of this article is to discuss the acquisition of an incumbent work force and effectively managing the associated potential and challenges.


We have previously discussed planning and business systems for service contracting at the following postings:

The above articles discuss basic business organization and systems necessary to support the service contracting environment and bring an incumbent workforce into a company.


Your market research into future acquisitions in the service contracting industry to the federal government will lead you to existing work forces subject to assumption by a winning contractor.
Base operations contracts, long term service contracts of an IDIQ nature and similar programs have competitive phases or are re-designated for a small business prime contractor if the government deems a pool of qualified companies is available to compete. Researching potential programs of this nature and marketing them is discussed in the following article:

Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Contract

In some instances a larger contractor holding the existing work force is displaced from a program to meet agency statutory requirements for contracting to small business or because the existing contractor has grown to exceed the size standard for a small business on the program.  

Under these conditions a teaming arrangement may be possible with the departing contractor,resulting his assuming a lesser role in the effort (we suggest no more than 40%) as a subcontractor to you.  Do so only if the company is highly regarded by the customer from a past performance perspective and when you can negotiate an exclusive arrangement with him during the proposal phase of the program. Teaming arrangements are discussed at the following posting:

Small Business Teaming

If a teaming arrangement cannot be achieved with the existing incumbent you must gain access to the incumbent personnel salary history and benefits to effectively bid the program for the out years in response to a solicitation.  Speculating on what the personnel make or relying on the government or the incumbent to provide the data is risky. Although some solicitations will provide a government “Wage/Rate Determination”, that document is the minimum and seldom represents the actual salaries of the employees. The only other meaningful document commonly provided is a union bargaining agreement still in force. 

Some companies will publish a help wanted advertisement in the local paper and invite the incumbent personnel to attend an off site open house, asking for sign offs on contingent hire agreements for use in the proposal, together with resumes:

It is important to remember that although the RFP may go so far as to say incumbent personnel have first rights of refusal for future positions, you are not legally obligated to hire what you feel are poor performers. You will, however, have to specify your criteria for personnel selection in your proposal and, especially for personnel the government has listed as “Key” in the RFP, explain how you intend to utilize existing people or bring in new ones. 

The competitive environment on a given procurement will drive how much you disclose in the way of openness in terms of publicly announcing your intentions to bid and acquire the personnel data you need to do so effectively.  You must conduct effective research and propose a winning wage and fringe package that appeals, not only to the personnel you wish to retain, but also to your customer.
Do not count on gaining access to incumbents through the government or being able to go on government property to interview them.  In most instances you will not be allowed to do
so or it would compromise your proposal from a conflict of interest perspective if you did. 


A winning proposal will have solid plans for recruiting and retaining the existing work force, executing a transition plan and insuring that the government does not encounter an interruption in services.

 Carefully analyze the solicitation requirements for elements for which the government expects to see a response pertinent to incumbent personnel. Prepare a graphic schedule and specific set of activities to transition the incumbent personnel to your company after contract award. Make sure the activities are overlaid upon the technical and management schedules elsewhere in your proposal and supports them. 

Your transition plan topics should address administrative, human resources, training and similar factors to insure a seamless process.  


Acquiring an incumbent work force poses both opportunities and risks for a small enterprise.  Understanding the above factors and assessing your ability to manage the challenge will best prepare you for the decision whether or not to bid such a program. 

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