Acquisition officials are speeding up the acquisition process, issuing necessary requests for proposals to companies and executing contract awards quicker. Marketing must be focused and fine-tuned.
The sooner the government can receive the feedback from the draft RFP, the more likely it is that the service acquisition teams can adapt the programs to industry and economic realities.
This article will address strategic planning tips for the small enterprise in planning for the future, given the above realities.
1. Operation and Maintenance (O&M) Funds Are a Solid Bet for Service Contractors
Operation and Maintenance (O&M) appropriations are used to finance expenses not related to military personnel or Research, Development Test and Engineering (RDT&E). Types of expenses funded by O&M appropriations include: DoD civilian salaries, supplies and materials, maintenance of equipment, certain equipment items, real property maintenance, rental of equipment and facilities, food, clothing, and fuel.
O&M funds are more easily justified in appropriations for "Keeping the Lights On" functions and often do not expire at the end of the government fiscal year. If you are a service contractor target programs with (O&M) funding. Look for service contracts being considered as set asides for small business on an O&M basis, sharpen your pencil and your best value marketing approach and chase them as a prime contractor or with a highly competitive industry team that needs your contribution to succeed.
2. Sharpen your Marketing Activities in Targeted Agencies and with Industry Teams to Get In Early on Agency Requirements.
Pre-solicitations are alerts to industry, attempts to gauge industry interest or a way of "Kicking the Can Down the Road" until funding becomes available. These notices are an indirect way of saying, "Come Visit Me and tell me about your company", or “Send Me your capabilities statement (CAPE)”. The full formal notification will come out at a time to be determined by when the agency gets the funding and how much interest there is in the contractor community. A schedule for when the formal bid notice will occur is rarely posted.
Please read the following article carefully for further guidance:
3. If Your Firm has Small Business Designations, Focus Agency Personnel on Making Their Programs Set asides for Your Designation (Small, Veteran-Owned, Woman-Owned, Minority Owned, Etc.)
Pay particular attention to System for Award Management (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 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.
4. Fine Tune Your Marketing Sensitivities to WHAT Agencies are Buying and HOW they are Buying Supplies and Services
You must determine what those needs are through market research, trade magazines, research on what they are buying on SAM 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.
5. Teaming Is Critical in a Shrinking Base of Government Programs
Federal agencies will continue their natural penchant to bundle requirements to get the most out of their management dollar. However, the bundles will become fewer and more competitive. Position your company with the best possible industry partners in view of the changing budget scene.
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 you and any company with whom you are considering teaming. Your prospective team member ideally will not be a direct competitor; rather a business in a related field with whom you share a mutual need for each other's contributions in pursuing large-scale projects.
Relationships must be developed with primes and other small businesses that can help you, team with you and keep you in mind as they search for success. That takes time, patience and open-minded, out of the box thinking. It also takes more than a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), a teaming agreement (TA) and a proposal to succeed. It takes dynamic marketing and communication with strong partners and hard, innovative work. Nice buzz words you say - but it is the truth and you have to find what that truth means to you.
Success in the current small business government contracting environment will come through careful market research, focus on funding types that are sustainable appropriations, zeroing in on decision makers early with set-aside marketing techniques and teaming with strong industry partners.