Lucky or Good?

As we head into the second half of the government fiscal year, do you find yourself looking at contractors who are on a winning streak and asking, “why do they keep winning?”  What is the secret sauce?  They don’t (at least from an outsider’s perspective) seem to be doing anything differently.  Their service offerings aren’t different than others.  They are winning with new clients, so it can’t be incumbent insider intel.  They aren’t the cheapest on the block, so they aren’t low-balling their bids to buy their way in.  Are they just lucky?  Or is it well deserved?

For those of us who work in GovCon all day, every day, we start to pick up on who will be successful and who will die on the vine.  Those that are winning have some of the following qualities:

  • Some differentiator in their service offering.  It doesn’t matter how loosely held that differentiator is.  I can go on for hours about lack of differentiation within GovCon and how “your people are the best athletes on the field” is NOT a differentiator. Those that win have glommed onto something they can promote as different.
  • Proposal machines.  These folks know the extra work required for going after some of these bids.  They successfully shift or delegate their work to others to allow them to ramp up on proposal work.  This is not necessarily the same as having a proposal shop.  It just means they know how to prioritize and delegate and have put in the mechanisms to do so.
  • Competitive rates.  Not necessarily low-ball rates, but something that is in line with their customers budgets, their main competition and the infrastructure that allows them to profit.  If you are winning often, you do NOT have to “buy your way in” on a new customer.
  • Recruiting machines.  They’ve got great candidates that they can flip to employees quickly.  Their resumes sing.  They have been working these candidates since they first smelled the pre-solicitation.
  • Competitive Intel.  Someone there has been working the opportunity and the customer for months, if not years.  From the outside, this win may look like a total bluebird, but someone has been working it hard, quietly.

With a few wins, the leadership strives for more, recruiters have an easier sell to candidates, employee referrals go up, teaming partners start to line up.  There is something about being a winner in this town that makes folks want to work for or with the company.
Throw in a little luck and timing, and that’s how you get the GovCon Swagger.  At least until the re-compete.

While you may need to define some of these pieces for yourself, BOOST can assist with the prioritization and delegation of your most important tasks. We specialize in accounting, contracts, HR and/or recruiting. Pick one, two or a combination of all four to free up your work time to become a proposal machine. Send an email to [email protected] and let’s discuss how you can get started.

Who Do We Love?

As we wind down February, we wanted to take a quick moment to show some love to a few folks in the GovCon industry. We think these resources are valuable for growing GovCons.  If you think we might be forgetting anyone go ahead and share the love!

  • The Pulse – this is a must-read for anyone in business development in GovCon. Their latest edition covers over 114 Opportunities. They have a compiled list of industry days, outreach events and things you need to know about. Their snarky is our brand of snarky and we love them for it. Better yet, it’s Free. Seriously. Join their distro list here.
  • PTACs – If you are just starting off in the industry, our best advice is to not waste time or money on service providers but use your local PTAC and SBA office. They can help you register on SAMS, work on your first capabilities statement, provide insights on getting your business off the ground. Many of their classes are taught by experts and are low-cost. We particularly heart Anna Urman at the Virginia PTAP. Anna knows her stuff and practically everyone in the industry.
  • Insight from the Experts – The GovCon industry has many, many events and it’s sometimes hard to wade through them. We find that when industry guru Kevin Plexico speaks, we listen. His data is always on point, his research is sound and is a great wide view of the federal landscape. We also love Bloomberg events. They bring in speakers with a wide variety of expertise and experience. Most of the events are free and great for sniffing out trends.
  • myFedBeacon – It’s all the power of FBO in your pocket. This app allows you to stay on track of your opportunities, your competitors and your frenemies. We love the approach of “spend 10 mins a day to keep the stale pipeline away.”
  • NVSBC Washington Chapter (National Veteran Small Business Coalition) – If you are an SDVOSB or looking to team with one, you have got to come to the best networking event around with the NVSBC. The boot camps are informative; the networking is real and the view is amazing.
  • govmates – Yes, we’re biased, but you would be too! govmates is a free online teaming platform (think match.com for GovCon). Small contractors enter in their profile (should take less than 10 mins). Large contractors or those priming and looking for teammates ask us for specific criteria and we prepare a report with those that match. We email introductions and then it’s up to you! govmates has also launched its new conference offering for matchmaking. Know of any organization that wants to take its matchmaking offering to a new level? Email us to help!
    Now you know who we love! So, who do YOU love?

March MADNESS in GovCon

As we work on our brackets here at BOOST (okay, Lisa is working on her bracket…she’s already dominated in fantasy football), I’m compelled to write on a few bouts of madness that we’ve observed this year.

  • Chasing Phantom Work – If we got paid for every time someone approached us with “my prime will give us workshare if we just find the right candidate,” we’d have cashed out years ago. Folks, the whole “best athlete on the field” thing on an IDIQ vehicle does NOT pay your bills. It’s a way to increase revenue for the prime while filling impossible slots that their recruiting shop has chewed through over the past four months. If you have an elusive TS/SCI with Poly doing cool stuff – demand more workshare or try to funnel it to you as a Prime. Don’t chase workshare that doesn’t exist.
  • Using your friends and family network – While everyone relies on their network when they first start, if you are still using your unqualified nephew to run your contracts, accounting or BD shops after your first couple million in revenue…STOP. Move the family relations back to Sunday dinners and focus on your business. You need to up your game and utilize folks who can help you grow.
  • Doing it all yourself – If you are a CEO who still is handling all your back-office, and business development, writing proposals, are direct billed and are over a million in revenue, you are doing it wrong. It’s time to stop relying on your billable margins and build a company that grows. Outsource the back-office and focus on business development, proposals, client management and building relationships. CEOs close. Period. Spend your time on growing your company, growing your relationships and your team. Give up a little in margins now so that you can enjoy the growth sooner.
  • Desk-slave – If you spend most of your time hiding behind your laptop, crossing emails off your to-do list, you are a manager, not a CEO. If you, as CEO, don’t get out from behind your laptop and engage with your clients, your employees, your business partners and your providers, you will be forgotten. Partners want to team with folks who know Intel. Clients want to know that you are engaged. Employees want to see you occasionally. Quit hiding and thinking that your business will grow. Get out there and HUSTLE. Attend events. Stay on top of the industry. Know your competitive landscape and who is winning and losing.

I know, all harsh truths are easier to say than to do. But you are in control of your growth. Merely being an observer gets you nowhere. Own your success.

As you take a hard look at these truths and discover where you can improve, let BOOST LLC help to support you in those efforts. At BOOST we specialize in providing the right people to support your back office so you can do what needs doing on the front lines. As the only Back-Office Support company with a direct link to the area’s leading matchmaking company we can not only support your Human Resources, Contracts, Recruiting and Accounting efforts but your matchmaking dreams as well. For more information or to simply see what we’re about visit www.BOOSTLLC.netor email Stephanie Alexander at [email protected]

March Madness in Federal Government

So much for our brackets (okay, Va Tech was a long shot, but what the heck UVA?), we’re extending our musings on a few bouts of madness that we’ve observed this year within the government.

  • Budget – Everything about it is broken. Everything. The Continuing Resolutions. The riders for pet projects. The need to “use or lose” all the funding. The complete lack of accountability for your actions. I must believe that most agencies would agree. Yet, where is the call for actual, real reform? We beat our chests every time we get close to a government shutdown, but otherwise, there is no discussion on making real changes to the process. Industry can provide suggestions, but this is fundamentally government responsibility impacting all Americans. Fix this aspect of government and there is a waterfall impact that positively impacts the economy. Come up with a better budgeting process.
  • RFPs – While absolutely no one enjoys writing an RFP, nor responding to one, having a clearly articulated RFP with transparency regarding your agency’s needs is critical. With clarity, the industry can provide their best solution at their best price in response. Imagine the source selection team reading qualified, thoughtful solutions. The government wins. Spend time pre-RFP to talk to the industry and tailor your RFP to meet your needs. It’s not illegal…it’s encouraged!
  • Same Old Contractors, Same Old Solutions – I completely understand that we all have our favorites, but ask yourself, has your favorite really helped your agency move the ball or are they just checking time? Instead of going to your old standby or short list, how about giving a new player a chance? How often have you sole-sourced something as a check in the box without really looking to see if there are other players in the industry who can meet the need? Have you looked beyond the three same contractors who respond to your RFP? Outreach is not hard and it serves the agency to have fresh blood in the mix. Expand your network and reach.
  • Responsibility. We get that as for-profit contractors, we are often viewed as beltway bandits. In reality, many are small businesses trying to make a difference. Holding up contract mods with funding or approving invoices in the billing system has a direct impact on our business. What seems like a mundane task is one of the most important for a small GovCons. We operate on thin margins and don’t have the cash to float months of payroll. Process the paperwork in a timely fashion.
    As a government official, you have a lot of responsibility – not only to your agency but to the taxpayer. Taking the above into consideration benefits all of us in the ecosystem.

They say madness gets worse before it gets better, but how much worse are we willing to stomach? If each of us does our part to make the RFP process, solution options and budget shortfalls our responsibility, maybe, just maybe there will be a slice of pie for all of us! We all have our own bouts of madness and we’ve been happy to shine a light on ours. Where do you find madness in GovCon and more importantly, what do you propose we do to find a solution?

April Showers

We find ourselves suddenly in April and the beginning of 2Q18.  How did that happen?  We’ve closed the books on 1Q18 and have 3 more quarters to meet our goals.  How did you do?  Are you prepared for ramping up?  Here’s a checklist to get you thinking:

  • Proposal season – it’s almost here.   Is your team ready to tackle a few monsters?  Have you lined up teaming partners?  Have you started storyboarding your technical solution?  Now’s the time to start locking resources, teammates and solutions down. Don’t forget to include recruiting for potential slots as well to get ahead!

 

  • Pipeline Report – How real is the pipeline report?  Have you started glossing over “must wins” on a spreadsheet in your efforts to make the meeting go faster?  Who has dug into the opportunities and have you set them up to be successful wins?  Trust but verify CEOs… BD and Capture folks are inclined to load a spreadsheet with people they spoke with before, but that’s not an opportunity.  Be very clear on what makes it to the list and why it’s there.

 

  • Revenue – What did you have as a 1Q18 win that slid?  Are you going to be able to recover that revenue in 2Q-4Q?  Time to review the revenue assumptions for the year and figure out where you can make it up while there is still time.

 

  • Cash – by now, you should have recovered from your December cash spend/holding back bills and should have paid off any LOC used to make it through January’s payroll.  Are you in a good position?

 

  • Multiplier and profit – are you going to make money this year?  How many “must wins” are in your indirect rate budget that you are using for bidding?  Ensure that you are turning a profit and not undercutting your rates unnecessarily.

 

  • Hiring Talent – when was the last time you checked in on your potential hires?  You know, the folks that you’d love to work with but can’t hire until the contract hits or cash flow frees up.  A quick coffee to touch base can keep their interest.

 

  • Infrastructure – A little spring cleaning is always a good thing.  How’s the team running?  Do they need more resources or can you get away with less?  Have you documented everything your folks do, should they win the lottery and leave?  No one is indispensable… make sure you’ve covered how your organization runs.

The above should serve as a quick checklist of things to follow up on and analyze.  If you don’t know the answers to the above, you should take steps to find out…now.  There is time to not only recover but gain this year if you have your act together.

Did you know? BOOST does strategic planning to help with all of the above! You could benefit from the variety of resources we have in our BOOST backpack including the area’s top matchmaking resource, govmates.  Send an email to [email protected] and let’s set you on the right path for the rest of 2018.