The Gift of Expertise

Ever feel like you have no clue how to solve a problem or that there has to be an answer out there, you just don’t know it?  Do you google randomly trying to figure it out, only to not be satisfied with the results?  Or (if you are like me), do you just want someone to freaking deal with it and tell you what to do in this circumstance?  Do you feel like you know it’s important, but there are a ton of things that you’d rather be doing or should focus on?

As you plan for 2019, be thinking about what expertise you need in the new year.  What will help move your business forward and, more importantly, grow your profit?  What is worthy of your time and what isn’t?  When do you play it safe with an outside opinion?  (answer:  Anything with a ton of money on the line or employee issues – call the expert!).

Here’s a short list of items that folks waste time on by doing it themselves instead of calling an expert to save a ton of time and in the right circumstances, a ton of money:

  • Affirmative Action Plans
  • Taxes
  • GSA Schedules
  • Employee handbooks
  • Policies and Procedures (to start)
  • CMMI/ISO certification
  • Office Space/Office Moves
  • FAR Compliance
  • Proposal Price/Cost Volume development and Analysis
  • Indirect Rates development and Analysis
  • Strategic Pricing/Price to Win Analysis
  • M&A (when you don’t have a shop of your own)
  • Website development
  • Complex IT Challenges
  • Bookkeeping
  • Graphic Design
  • Payroll

This holiday season, give yourself the gift of getting crap off your plate.  Budget for using an expert in one or more of these areas next year.  Reclaim your time!

If you need a referral or recommendation to anyone providing these services, just give us a shout.

Budget: Preparing for FY19

As GovCons grind through the rest of the year, it is hard to think about 2019.  We’re a little worn out from proposal season and if you are lucky, new contract awards.  We’ve been recruiting hard in a difficult market, transitioning from incumbents, and getting new starts off the ground.  Depending on which agency you work with, you’ve had an upswing in work or you’ve spent most of the year trying to help your clients scrape together budget and “do more with less.” (Is anyone else sick of hearing this?!)  Some may be putting the finishing touches on their OASIS bid or hunting a few of the large elephants out there (JEDI subs, CMS PEO, etc.). Not sure about you, but we’re ready to start the holiday party networking scene and drink and eat away our cares.

While that may be tempting, now is the time to plan for FY19.  Corporate budgeting season should be well underway.  What are your goals for next year and what are your priorities?  What can you divert investment to and what do you hold off on?  We all have our wish lists of things we’d spend money on, but what has the best ROI for your company?  In our capitalist hearts, money drives all things…which is why the budget is so important.

If you have the attitude that the budget is just an exercise for accounting folks or it is just a spreadsheet drill, you are missing the point and the opportunity to align your company under a set of consistent goals.

Best practice has budgeting from both top-down and bottom-up approaches.  CEOs – what are your goals for next year?  Some folks think too small, while others pull a random number out of their ass and demand that BD/Capture/Ops get them there.  Some take a % increase off of the current year.  There is nothing worse than sitting in budget meeting after budget meeting listening to what the “stretch” goals should be.  Unrealistic and completely unattainable goals will demotivate a sales team faster than anything.  That being said, a goal shouldn’t be easy street either.  Take a cold hard look at your pipeline report.  Look at your customer’s budget. Do the environmental scan.  Don’t make up a number in a bubble.

From a bottom-up approach, take a good look at actual run rates, utilizations, and project budgets.  Review indirect costs for efficiencies.  What did you waste money on this year?  What led to no ROI?  Now’s the time to cut it or reevaluate for next year.  Ripe off the Band-Aid and make tough decisions.

Finally, tie the budget directly to your corporate goals.  Tie performance evaluations to goals and budget.  Then effectively communicate the goals and any changes to everyone so there is an understanding of where the company is going, company priorities and how each individual can contribute to those goals.

Or, if you would rather stick your head in the sand, a la the ostrich, there are always holiday parties to attend. Let us know how that works out.

 

BOOST can show you how to go back to the basics – pay your people and get paid. From there we can set up a monthly financial review meeting to analyze all financial aspects of your business. BOOST reviews your system with stakeholders and documents operational procedures. We help provide a structure and organize effective accounting systems that scale with your growing business. Let’s get you on the right path for FY19, today! [email protected]

Lowering Your Wrap Rate

Did you make it into your desired beach bod state this summer?  Or was time for the gym illusive?  Did you cut back on the dessert or did you enjoy a ton of gelato?

Much like dieting and maintaining good health, government contractors must maintain a “sexy” multiplier/wrap rate.  Even if you are in a less competitive field or have a unique offering for a customer with a ton of funding (if you are, good on you), you must still monitor and maintain your wrap rate.

Companies can sometimes view this exercise as an annual corporate budget, where you occasionally look at how you are doing and often look back and ponder “what were we thinking?”  This is not enough by a long shot.  Best practice is to review your financials each month and include analysis on how you are performing on your wrap rate.  Review monthly, adjust quarterly, consider a complete overhaul semi-annually.

Most companies find that they need to tighten the belt a smidge, especially as we push into the fourth quarter.  For some, it may be too late to rein it in this year, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start pushing for the 2019 indirect diet.  For others, it may be a great time to lose a few pounds before the year-end festivities.  Here are some suggestions for both year-end and next year:

  • Space – do you really use it; do you need it and what is your company culture? Larger System Integrators are shedding their bloated infrastructure.  Don’t build one unless you’ve got 5-year POP’s with all contractor site rates.  And even then, keep it lean.
  • Wellness – When was the last time you competitively shopped your benefits? Or even your broker?  Don’t get tied up in the same old “we only have a 2-5% increase, so that’s great” mentality.  Depending upon your size, self-funding in some capacity may be of interest.  Does anyone actually use the vision policy?  What about dental?  Have you considered reducing your contribution?  Not always popular but it may lead to new work.
  • Training – with all of the online options these days, does your team really need individualized training or would an online package work? You could offer this benefit to more employees at a lower overall cost.
  • Education – consider reducing the tuition reimbursement if very few people are using it. It’s nice to tout to potential new hires, but in reality, it’s not a deal-breaker.  If it is, bonus the employee out to cover the costs.
  • Business Development – is the team on track to meet their goals this year or has performance been underwhelming? It is time to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t and shed a quarter’s worth of labor costs for non-performers.  Let them go now while the job market is still firing up.  Layoffs or terminations after Veterans Day essentially mean no job until after New Year’s.  Make the hard call now.

Keep working at the wrap rate and make sure it’s as lean as you can survive on.  Not bloated, but not extra thin either – you need a little wiggle room to ensure a healthy company.

Seven Tips for Navigating 4Q18

As we start into the last government fiscal quarter, it is feast or famine time. Some have hit the beaches, getting some much-needed R&R and family time. Some are heads-down in proposal mode, worried about when the next one will hit. Others are in purgatory, the stretch between proposal submission and proposal award, with their fingers crossed thinking about the to-do list should they win.

All in all, summer is notoriously a time for going all out or taking off in the federal space. The battle rhythm is hard to hit. Here are some key points to consider, if only for your sanity.

  • Proposal Hell – make sure you’ve locked in the proposals you plan on bidding this summer. If it isn’t in your pipeline and you haven’t been tracking it, you aren’t ready to prime.  Don’t burn out your team on a bluebird, low probability win. You’re going to need them for your must wins.
  • Proposal Heaven – It’s late in the game, but make sure your templates are up to date and ready to bang out. Opposite of above, be ready to turn a bluebird subcontracting proposal over quickly. If you are doing less of the heavy lift, take more risk and bid more. This is where your templates can greatly reduce effort and your team can respond with agility. Besides, some percentage of revenue is much better than no revenue. Expand your book of business without needing to prime everything.
  • Pricing – As you close June’s books, have your folks review with leadership actual vs. planned for the first half of the year. Is your multiplier running as you expected? Does your pricing strategy for the summer need to be adjusted? Do it now before you turn in those bids. What is the impact for your proposal? Where can you tighten up? Impact on Operations (particularly CPFF work)?
  • Recruiting – It’s a tight market and it’s hard to compete for key folks. Be aware of summer schedules and be flexible as an employer. If they can’t interview in the next two weeks, it’s not necessarily because they aren’t interested. Adjust your expectations for days to hire.
  • Leadership and Recruiting – It’s a great time to schedule those pipeline candidates for coffee where you can. They want to interact with leadership, not the recruiter. Take the time to touch base so when the contract award hits, you can move quickly.
  • Mental Health – This is important for everyone. Take the vacation, take the time off. Get off your phone and dear god, stop driving your team endlessly. If leadership can’t take a vacation and check out for a bit, what have you done wrong in your business? Delegate, empower and document. This goes for CEOs to administrative staff. Absolutely no one is irreplaceable. Create an environment where taking time off is actually a good thing, not something that is frowned upon.
  • Be Efficient (a tip from Courtney Fairchild of Global Services) There will be a great deal of opportunities arriving at the end of the fiscal year buying season, but working smart will save you valuable time and energy. Looking ahead at forecasts; touching base with current government clients; having up-to-date GSA schedules with all the services and products you offer, and being mindful of micro-purchase thresholds can provide meaningful wins and cash flow.

 

Before you disconnect for a bit- get everything in order to jump back in well-rested and energized. If you find you’re a little light on recruiting or pricing preparation, let BOOST know. We’re happy to jump in and have a conversation with you to see where you can tighten up and delegate when possible. Email[email protected] and let’s talk.

Accountability

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” -Stephen Covey

Recently we were rear-ended by a hit and run driver on the DC beltway.  Thankfully, we weren’t hurt and no one else was involved.  Yet I am really ticked that I now have $500 worth of damage on my new(ish) car that I must pay to repair.  I was flabbergasted that this person would literally hit us and continue along their way…with absolutely no consequences or accountability. Doesn’t anyone have a conscience anymore?

Unfortunately, this experience had me thinking about the bigger picture. This lack of accountability seems to be more prevalent than one would like to think within the federal contracting community, particularly within small businesses.
Some examples in GovCon include:

  • Daily, accurate timekeeping (yes, we know it’s a drag, but “you gotta do it!”)
  • Payments to subcontractors (paid when paid, net 5…means exactly that – not when you have the cash)
  • Honoring workshare agreements, not stealing every position that becomes available
  • Paying out commission and bonuses as you promised, when you promised
  • Delivering when you say you will, from the mundane (status reports) to the latest software release

The basics ring true – CEOs are responsible for their team’s actions.  People make mistakes.  Things fall through the cracks.  Ultimately, how you handle these mishaps is on the team, the leadership and the CEO.  Do you admit you are wrong?  Do you take steps to fix the problem and resolve it for the future?  Are you known as being accountable in front of clients and industry partners?  Actions speak so much more than words these days.  We’re all filled with hype and talk about the latest management trends (who has servant leadership on their LinkedIn profiles these days?), but do you live by your mantras?  Do you stand by your word? Build a sense of responsibility and accountability into your company culture from the top down to ensure that your company doesn’t fall victim to these mistakes.

In the meantime, if anyone knows an inexpensive body shop in the DC area that does good work, please let me know!

Work…Life?

As we grow our companies, we often forget the value of having downtime or activities other than business. As we see each other at networking events, a common conversation is comprised of how busy we are. But does busy equal profitable? Does busy equal productive? Why do we all want to be busy? The concept of ‘unplugging’ isn’t foreign in theory but in practice, it seems almost impossible. Will setting quiet hours for ourselves really be a detriment to our business or is the lack of time away causing more harm than good?

I find that business owners spend most of their time working on (or in) their companies, focused on growth and scalability. They then spend the rest of their time with family and friends, usually to make up for being absent due to work. In that equation, how much time do they have for themselves? Ask yourself – how much time do you spend on nonwork/non-obligation activities?  Do you have a hobby that is yours and yours alone? Do you pursue education or opportunities for growth outside your current set of skills? Do you goof off? Most importantly, do you have fun?

I’ve often said, if you aren’t having fun, then, why do it? While not every day is a picnic if you have taken on the role of CEO/Leader/Owner and you find yourself hating it, ask yourself why. What aspects of leadership are causing you anxiety? Is there something you can do outside of work to combat the stress? If you’re finding excess pressure at work it is necessary to find a healthy outlet to help you remain focused and productive.

We all know that putting your eggs in one basket only leads to disaster. So why would you take that approach with the way you structure your work and life? If you need to, set aside time in your schedule for hobbies or activities that are completely unrelated to work. If you’re finding it hard to set aside that time, even for 30 minutes, take a look at your task load and decide if your mental health and happiness are worth a little delegating.

If you’d like to discuss some ideas or back-office delegation tactics email me at [email protected] and let’s have a conversation.

Gut

“Have faith in your intuition and listen to your gut feeling.” Ann Cotton

Ask any CEO, and 90%+ will tell you that their biggest hurdle is people. Hiring the right team, making sure they play well together in the sandbox, work together to meet the mission, and generally push the company forward. The dynamics of a strong, diverse team are invaluable in the progression of your company. So how do you hire the right person? Do you rely on proven experience, or do you go with your gut?

There is plenty of written work around the topic of hiring. Some companies have it down to a science (think alphabet or apple). Most small businesses are lucky to have a standard process, much less something that is consistent and does a good job of screening candidates. Many folks at this stage “go with your gut” and hire specifically based on personality and how the candidate did in the interview.

How effective is this and how detrimental can it be to your company should your gut be off? Depending on your policies, you may be required to excessively retrain, mentor and closely monitor a subpar new hire. The damage to your established team could be expensive regarding time, mindset and resources.

For me, some of my best hires have been based on a combination of experience and/or the right personality traits. The right balance between the two is paramount. For example, is your accounting candidate detailed oriented? Do they have typos on their resume? If so, not a good indicator. I’ve hired folks without any specific industry experience, but they had the right personality and were willing to learn. Personality is just as important as any experience, especially when joining a small team. How well candidates can play with others is one of the key factors, and in my opinion, should be weighed more heavily than experience.

With that said, another key factor when considering a new hire is diversity, specifically, diversity of thought and opinion. If you surround yourself with folks who have the exact same background and exact same experience as you, you’ll wind up with total agreement, and stagnation. Total agreement doesn’t challenge you as a CEO, nor does it advance your company.  You need people on your team who will appropriately question your path, question the standard and most importantly, take issue with the soul-wrenching, “but we’ve always done it this way.” Hire folks that push you to be a stronger business leader, and your company will be much improved as a result.

Your gut is an important part of your hiring process as we often notice red flags subconsciously. Yet it behooves us to remember to include careful consideration of experience, personality, and diversity. While you’re refining your hiring process, you may want to consider a hiring audition to uncover some candidate characteristics often unseen in an interview. If you’re interested in revamping your policy on hiring, seek out the advice experts in your field as what may work for Apple may not work for you.

For expertise in GovCon regarding hiring, recruiting and human resources, contact BOOST LLC. www.BOOSTLLC.net

No

“When you say yes to something you don’t want to do, here is the result: you hate what you are doing, you resent the person who asked you, and you hurt yourself.”
– James Altucher, The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness

There’s a lot of power behind the word no.
There is a stigma associated with it as well.

In the startup phase, most entrepreneurs/small business owners don’t say no. They take on work that may be outside their wheelhouse or outside their core area of expertise. They take on clients with whom they do not fit. Or work that they won’t make any profit on (all in the name of past performance). They fear being ‘too exclusive’ that they stretch themselves too thin, trading one extreme for another.

Instead of referring the work to another resource, entrepreneurs/small business owners will rationalize taking it on. Let’s face it, we all need to earn a living. Especially when you first start off bootstrapping the organization. But it’s the rationalization and the taking of work outside of your core area that will potentially tank you financially, tap your energy and more importantly tarnish your reputation. Reputation is important no matter what stage you are in, but it can be the difference between the hockey curve growth and the shuttering of the doors during the first few years.

Every business owner has their own horror story of the project or client with whom they just couldn’t win. Something they spent all their time on, with little (or no) success. It’s natural. But those that have too many of these stories are doomed.

At some point (the earlier, the better), it is necessary to get to the point where you can say no. You can identify opportunities that just aren’t for you. That your company is not a fit. There is power in saying no. It means that you value your time, your reputation and your colleagues. Saying no doesn’t mean that you won’t take risks. It means that you are thoughtful in those risks that you do take on.

Be known for the work you win, not the opportunities you might have missed.

Frenemies

In this world, we all need close friends. Our tribe, our peeps (as I affectionately call them). People you know you can count on to help support your growth. This includes your teammates. As a small business in government contracting, you cannot feasibly do everything. Your list of core capabilities should not be 2 pages single spaced. Heck, it shouldn’t even be 1!

This is why you need a frenemy (or several!) in every set-aside category. Another company with similar and complementary caps with which you can team. Someone whom you trust to go after new work and who understands the value of being a teaming partner.  Someone that you can call when the RFP you’ve been tracking comes out as another set-aside or includes some random factor you don’t have (i.e. TS-SCI facility, offices within 10 mins of the customer, DCAA audited purchasing system or CMMI/ISO certification).

These relationships aren’t cultivated when the RFP drops. They take time to build trust, just like any relationship. Will they actually deliver on the proposal? Will their rates roll up under ours? Will they put their key folks on the reviews, not just dump it on the admin proposal coordinator? Can you count on their past performance? In short, can they deliver along the same values as you would? Spending time on these relationships now can save you during crunch time. Who hasn’t worked on 2-4 proposals (and more!) at one time? With trust comes efficiency, which can make or break you and your team during the proposal season.

Further, trust and frenemy relationships extend into contract delivery. There are several factors that can affect your alliance including aggressive workshare, respecting the role of the Prime and future teaming opportunities.

Frenemies make the case that 1 plus 1 can equal more than 2. Of course, you will run into each other as competitors occasionally, as that’s the nature of this industry. But losing to a teammate who knows you and is more likely to turn to you should they have growth is much better than losing to a stranger. I’ve seen companies contribute to each other’s growth significantly. It does happen, and it does work. And let’s face it, it’s hard enough in this industry. You need your frenemies. Keep your friends close and your frenemies closer.

Speaking of teaming partners, there’s a service to help you find the right match for your business. When searching for teaming partners with specific capabilities or set-aside statues, visit govmates.com – a free tool for small business teaming partners. Shoot me an email at [email protected] if you have a specific need.

Peeps

​“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations.”
– Charles Kettering

Who do you consider your tribe, or what I affectionately call, your peeps?
With whom do you surround yourself, work, do business, and get advice?
Who is your inner circle and what is the value of the relationship?

Personally, I’ve come to a place in my career where I need to work with folks that I respect.  I don’t have to be best friends with all of our clients, but I need to respect what they are doing.  I want to feel invested in their growth.  Additionally, I want them to feel invested in us. No business owner has time or money to waste, including myself.  Expending energy on relationships without a foundation of trust or respect is exactly that.  Second guessing or questioning motives expends mental energy that frankly, I don’t have to spare.  Easy to state yet sometimes hard to follow.  From experience, I’ve found that going with the gut works very well here.  Naturally, you have to build trust, whether that be from a short engagement up front or vouched for by trusted folks within the industry.  Ultimately, it is up to both sides to maintain that trust.

This trust carries over to our partners in the industry.  I spend a lot of time building relationships so that my tribe is not only strong, but helps BOOST us forward (sorry, can’t help myself!).  The more time I spend with high energy, intelligent, go-getters that appreciate and value relationships and client delivery, the better.  I want to surround myself and refer to folks who have my clients best interest in mind, instead of simply turning over a quick buck.  People who believe that not every email or introduction is a transaction, and not all yield monetary rewards.  Instead, folks that will take the call to assist and find the right solution.

As BOOST continues to grow, I find I also need colleagues that I value and trust.  As we move together on this crazy journey, the transactional becomes less important and the relationship becomes critical.  I want to be motivated to watch them transform as leaders and gain experience.  I seek to learn from them.  I continue to want to be surrounded by people smarter than myself as well as to be that type of leader for others.

As you strive to push and grow your business, you need your tribe of supporters with whom you can grow.  Like-minded, high energy, similarly valued peeps.  I endeavor to cultivate different skills sets, especially from those opinionated folks who are smarter and faster than I am.  This keeps me on my toes and helps push me to grow with intention.

Who are your peeps and what are their expectations for you?