Even though small businesses enjoy set aside opportunities in government competition, the majority of set-aside procurement bids are populated with several competitors.
Early market research, industry teaming and customer relations are necessary on the road to a set-aside win. Marketing to Achieve a Set aside Government Contract
Once a bid target is selected, competitive analysis is vital. This is particularly true in service contracting. As the small enterprise moves on into the full and open market, it is even more vital to know who else is bidding and their relative strengths and weaknesses.
Make a bid/no bid decision. Making an Astute Bid/No Bid Decision
If you decide to bid, develop a model of your competition as a validating tool for your proposal approach. Develop a profile of your competitor’s likely technical solution, past performance, personnel qualifications and cost buildup.
WHO IS THE COMPETITION?
If the government is offering a bidder’s conference, go to the meeting and attend any tours offered. Then obtain the list of attendees from the solicitation contracting officer.
Examine the contract award history on the agency web site and award notices under the “Agency Listing” at SAM. Determine who has been awarded previous contracts by the agency and who the present incumbent may be for your bid if the requirement is not a new one and is presently being performed by another company.
Make inquiries regarding the competitor through industry partners and prime contractors with whom you are associated and with whom you hold Non-Disclosure Agreements. Question them regarding the pending procurement who they believe are the bidding companies.
PROFILE YOUR COMPETITOR
Check the Competitor’s General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule. Most government contractors who have been in business long enough to qualify for a significant procurement also establish a GSA Schedule. Virtually all of them post that schedule at their web site. For products it will contain the prices through profit for items the company wishes to sell off the schedule to the government. For services the schedule usually contains fully loaded labor rates through overhead, G&A and profit. Examine the schedule and note the prices, comparing them to your cost build ups. GSA schedules are usually projected for a 5 year period. Achieving and Utilizing a GSA Schedule
Consider A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request. Note from company web sites, FEDBIZOPPS award announcements, press releases and other public data the contract numbers your competitor has been awarded by the agency to whom you are bidding. Consider similar program history in other agencies if the present bid has no recent competitor history. Then submit a FOIA request to the agency FOIA Point of Contact listed at the government web site, identifying the document or documents you are requesting specifically by name and identifying number (s). When requesting contracts, RFP’s, change orders and similar data, always include the contract number and be specific with regard to references to all changes. If proposals are requested include a specific request for management, technical and cost volumes. The more detail you provide the more likely the response will supply what you wish to have. Utilizing the Freedom of Information Act
Obtain Competitor Dunn and Bradstreet (D&B) and Better Business Bureau (BBB) Reports. You have a D&B Number. So do your competitors. Use your registration at the Dunn and Bradstreet web site to order a D&B report on your competition. It will provide detailed history of the company, its ownership, the length it has been in existence, its credit and payment history, as well as other useful information. D&B charges a fee for the reports, but you can order them as needed and pay by the report. Dunn and Bradstreet A BBB report is free and may provide insights into complaints, problem resolutions and related matters from the buying public.Better Business Bureau
Review the “Project on Government Oversight” (POGO) Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD). This data base has surprising detail on many government contractors who have undergone federal legal actions such as defective pricing and other violations of the FAR, yet remain in business having paid fines or financed continuing litigation. The site is free POGO Contractor Misconduct Data Base
Make a Physical Visit. Visit your competitor’s location, particularly if it is local. Make sure you are viewing the cost center out of which the job will be bid. Many businesses have multiple cost centers at multiple locations to maximize competitive factors on government contracts. Cost Center Strategic Planning Without entering the facility, assess the size of the operation, the traffic entering and leaving and relative indirect cost factors that can be generally observed, such as square footage, headcount of employees, the size and content of the parking lot and related matters.
Post Generic Help Wanted Ads at Your Web Site and Elsewhere on the Web. Without revealing the specific contract or program (unless you believe it will benefit you) publish job descriptions and openings for the skill sets necessary to perform the work required by the new program, even if you already have the personnel on board. Look for interviewees who have worked for, or are presently on, the competitor’s payroll and invite them for a visit at a neutral location. Some companies even announce a job fair for the program. Talent is fluid today. It is also being re-defined. Thus, what used to be considered a “Pool” (either captive or available) is now a technologically-equipped, high speed resource of communicators with motivated skill sets seeking opportunity. Economic hardship has also put a hard, cynical edge on many. Selling must occur both ways (employer and employee). To an extraordinary degree the age in which we live is requiring us to redefine trust and the degree to which communication and expectation contribute to it. Loyalty has taken a back seat to the above. Recruiters, companies and entrepreneurs must recognize these hard facts of life. Is the term, "Talent Pool" Obsolete?
Develop A Cost Model of Your Competition. Make a copy of your cost model spreadsheet for the job and modify it to look like your competitor. To see examples, check the models labeled “Attachments A and B” in XLS spread sheets within the “Books by Ken” BOX in the right margin of this site. Plug your direct costs for labor, material, ODC (travel and the like) into the competitor model, then using information developed above, evolve estimated indirect cost factors for Overhead, G&A and Profit/ Assume that all competitors will have to pay the same relative wage scale as you have determined by salary survey to attract or retain talent and a fringe benefits package to meet government requirements for vacation, sick leave, holidays, taxes and similar expenses. Then focus on the overhead and G&A as key factors in winning the pricing criteria for the job, comparing your bid to the competitor cost model. Pricing Small Business Federal Government Contracts
An effective competitor profile contains performance, historical, demographic, statistical, physical operations, human resource and cost information that is trending in nature and provides insights and comparative balance to a challenging bid. It is a key tool in performing risk analysis and making related trade off judgments in the final submission of your bid or proposal.