8(a)s and the Clock

There are many programs geared towards helping small businesses participate in the federal contracting industry.  The 8(a) program is designed for socio-economically disadvantaged folks to get their foot in the door. There are rules that are well covered by the SBA, but a key component is the non-negotaitable 9-year clock on the certification, regardless of how well you’ve done.

Many business owners in their 7th, 8th or even 9th year, don’t have a plan for getting beyond their 8(a) status.  Even though it is easy to get busy and wrapped up in 8(a) benefits, there is an expiration date…it is given to the business when they are certified.  Those who really understand its value can maximize their revenue stream and profit while utilizing it to compete in a full and open environment.  There is an art and a science to this maximization.

The Science:

Here’s the trick – Don’t apply for 8(a) certification the minute you are eligible.  This sounds counter-intuitive since the program is designed for helping those grow their companies.  But slug it out a few years without the certification and get some great subcontracting performance under the belt before applying for the certification.  Build relationships with great Primes and more importantly, the customers.  Only then should one apply the “special sauce” that comes with dangling the idea of a sole source to their customer.  Propose meeting subcontracting goals to a large prime with whom you’ve already worked.  By this point, you are a known player and less of a risk, with a check in the box for their contracting goals.

The Art:

  • Stop hiring friends and family.
  • Stop playing only the 8(a) card.
  • Don’t be cheap on internal resources.
  • Go after full and open opportunities as early as possible.
  • Spend profits on hiring a strong BD and proposal shop.
  • Invest in building beyond the status.
  • Have a differentiator beyond a status.
  • Delivery quality work.

As time ticks down, with a strong Capture and BD team, a business can start maximizing their status to rack and stack revenue wins. This will help to carry them over the inevitable waterfall of dropping revenue when they lose their eligibility to bid.  For Pete’s sake, get another 8(a) to set up contracts with reciprocal work share.  Do not wait until the 8th year (or the eleventh hour) to come up with a successor.  That relationship is vital to hanging on to billets in the out years.  Leverage it to gain workshare on the non-8(a) work that a business can deliver on.

While it does feel like every year in GovCon seems like seven years, the clock for 8(a)’s winds down FAST.  Don’t waste the opportunity.

CMS-PEO Pricing Synopsis

Pricing Alert – The massive HHS/CMS PEO RFP is out!
Are you prepared to tackle the complex pricing requirements?  It might seem straight forward at first glance, but read our detailed Pricing Synopsis to look out for some challenges and pitfalls to avoid.

Abstract:  This 10 year $2B IDIQ contract has two task orders along with the IDIQ awards. However, bidders beware. Despite the use of fixed price task orders, there’s still a large amount of pricing detail and documentation required. Teams with large number of subcontractors will need dedicated management and support to ensure submission of accurate proposals.

Contract Overview

The Provider Enrollment and Oversight (PEO) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract will provide contractor support to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to detect, prevent, and proactively deter fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

CMS anticipates multiple awards with a combined ceiling of $2B over the life of the contract. The ceiling may be increased at the CMS’s discretion. A minimum of 4 awards will be reserved for small businesses (under NAICS code 541990 and a size standard of $15M). The RFP (75FCMC18R0014) is silent on the number of potential awards to other than small businesses. The maximum ordering period is five years plus (1) additional five-year option period for a total ordering period of ten years. Neither the RFP or the IDIQ Ordering Guide clarify whether the task order period of performance can extend beyond the IDIQ ordering periods.

In addition to the IDIQ contract awards, CMS will also award two Firm Fixed-Price Task Orders on an unrestricted (full and open) basis for Site Verification Services – Eastern Region and Western Region. The RFP notes that one Offeror cannot be awarded both Site Verification Services’ task orders.

IDIQ Pricing Requirements

The proposal is organized into six volumes. Volumes I through IV pertain to the IDIQ proposal. Volumes V and VI are reserved for offerors bidding on the two awardable task orders which we discuss separately. The IDIQ pricing information content is divided between Volume I – Contract Documentation and Volume III Business Proposal.

All offerors must submit basic pricing information which includes typical IDIQ level pricing requirements including accounting systems information, indirect rate information, and the submission of a sample task order pricing. The IDIQ award will be based on this information.

Adequate Accounting System

The RFP contemplates a predominant mixture of Cost Reimbursement (CR) and Firm-Fixed Price (FFP) form of task orders awarded. Offerors must have an accounting system that is deemed acceptable or adequate for determining costs Subcontractors who are anticipated to have CR contracting arrangements, including non-commercial Time and Materials type contracts, must also have an acceptable or adequate accounting system.

Rate Information

Offerors must submit indirect rate information in Volume I including both approved provisional indirect rates and any forward rate price agreements. Offerors that have no prior history of approved indirect rates must submit support documentation for the prior 3 years consisting of their current year operating budget and a forecast covering the anticipated period of performance and associated documentation on that supports the proposed rates. The RFP does not request offerors to propose any IDIQ ceiling rates for either direct labor, indirect or fixed fee rate. However, the RFP contains a clause which gives CMS the option to establish ceiling indirect rates. We think clause this has implications for pricing the sample task order discussed below.

Sample Task Order Pricing Requirements

The sample task order pricing is straightforward. Exhibit E.8 “QASP Sample Task Order Business Proposal Template” is to be priced for base and one option period. Labor is priced as fully burdened (inclusive of fee). The labor rates are then linked to a labor rate buildup backup detail for each task order period. Offerors must show the full detail of their proposed labor rate (including the erroneously termed ‘Fixed Fee’).

Curiously, the pricing template requests offerors to map proposed travel and ODCs by SOW section. However, similar mapping information for labor costs is not required. Travel cost detail must be provided for the Kick-off meeting. However, for remaining travel, CMS requests offerors to use a plug unit cost of $2,000 per trip per person. For indirect rates, the instructions specifically state to cross-reference Volume I for indirect rate basis information. Finally, a compensation plan must accompany the sample task order pricing. CMS provided a streamlined template in Exhibit E.8 reflecting the minimum information necessary to comply with FAR 52.222-46. We recommend offerors take the hint and provide just the bare minimums necessary for compliance and nothing more.

While the Exhibit E.8 is in itself not very complex, importantly, Offerors are required to provide additional, lower level, labor-hour detail under Technical Factor 3 – Key Personnel and Staffing Plan within the Technical Volume. The task order RFP requests full-time equivalent (FTE) and labor detail by CLIN, labor category, prime/subcontractor. The staffing summary must provide both full-time equivalents and labor hours. While the instructions do not request a lower level labor breakdown by individual subcontractor, subcontractors are required to provide this FTE and labor hour detail by CLIN (and 2nd tier subcontracts) in their Exhibit E.3 Subcontractor Proposal Information Checklist. Therefore, it will be important for primes to ensure their subcontractor labor data ties in three different proposal documents, Volume III Exhibit E.8 QASP Sample Task Order Business Proposal Template, Volume II – Technical Volume staffing summary, and Volume I – Exhibit E.3 Subcontractor Proposal Information Checklist. (Unfortunately, we revisit this theme of cross-volume data checking under the two larger (and real) task orders below.)

We’re not fans of RFPs that require pricing sample task orders that are not awarded. We believe they invite aggressive and potential unrealistic and irrational pricing. However, as mentioned above, there’s one RFP clause that could give bidders some pause from overly aggressive pricing of the sample task order, at least for indirect rates. Section E of Volume I instructions state, “In accordance with FAR 42.707, entitled ‘Cost Sharing Rates and Limitations on Indirect Cost Rates,’ CMS may establish indirect cost ceilings in the contract. If established, reimbursement will be limited to the negotiated indirect cost ceilings established in the contract…” We wonder what would happen if a bidder proposed aggressively low indirect rates for the sample task order (below their current approved provisional rates) and were awarded an IDIQ contract. Could CMS accept these low sample task order indirect rates and subsequently cap those rates for the life of the IDIQ? (Don’t say it can’t happen just because CMS did not make good on the threat on other contracts. I recall an Army recompete where, based on the prior contract, bidders priced the IDIQ using T&M rates with the understanding the Army would ultimately request task order pricing using those T&M rates, but issue task orders on a fixed price basis. Many bidders proposed low labor rates, assuming they could subsequently manage the labor hours on a fixed price task order to ensure adequate profit. The Army subsequently issued T&M type task orders, not fixed price, and the contract holders were stuck pricing and executing their task orders using the artificially low IDIQ T&M rates. The moral of the story: Anything is possible. Don’t assume past agency behavior is an assured prediction of future behavior).

Task Orders 1 and 2 Pricing Requirements

The IDIQ award will be based on the sample task order. CMS included two additional Firm Fixed Price (FFP) Task Order RFPs that will be awarded:  Eastern Region Site Verification Services and Western Region Site Verification services. Both are full and open competitions. Offerors are permitted to bid on either one or both. However, CMS will not award both task orders to the same offeror. The cost proposals are contained within Volume VI (VI-A Eastern region, VI-B Western Region).

Pricing for both task orders are organized similarly in Attachment J.5.C (Eastern Region) and Attachment J.6.C (Western Region). Each pricing template contains five CLINs representing separate 12-month periods of performance. Each CLIN contains an “AA” sub-CLIN for ‘Site Visits’ (sites not associated with an Independent Diagnostic Test Facility (IDTF)) and sub-CLIN“AB” for IDTF Site Visits. Each subCLIN is further divided into 4 visit types (48 hrs., 7 days, 15 days, or 30 days). While the pricing attachments appear to denote these site visits in terms of visit length, we note that each SOW denotes the 4 visit types in terms of response time. So, a “30-day site visit” as labeled in the pricing attachment appears to really mean perform the site visit within 30 days’ notice according the SOW. A 48-hour site visit would mean perform the visit within 48-hour notice. This is an important distinction and we recommend offerors confirm that the SOW’s definition of site visits types is the correct definition.

Unit Pricing Requirements

Offerors must propose unit prices per visit type with associated breakdowns of fully burdened labor, travel. ODCs, and subcontract costs. The pricing templates are designed to apply the same proposed CLIN/Site-visit type unit price to both the minimum order guarantee quantities and to the (larger) estimated quantities. Therefore, the template produces two total prices:  A ‘minimum quantity’ price and a total price based on ‘Estimated Quantity’.

Detailed Labor Tracking

As discussed under the sample task order, similar cross-volume labor detail is required for each of the awardable task orders. Similarly, it will be important for primes to ensure their subcontractor labor data ties in three different task order proposal documents, Attachment 5 (or 6) pricing template, Volume V – Technical Volume staffing summary, and Volume VI – Exhibit E.3 Subcontractor Proposal Information Checklist. Finally, we also note, the task order instructions are silent on whether the staffing summary must be built to the minimum order quantities, estimated quantities or both. CMS should clarify

Burdensome Basis of Estimates

In addition to providing the Excel pricing attachments, offerors must provide a Business Proposal Narrative. The narrative must include among other things, a Basis of Estimate. The BOEs must, “describe the BOE used to establish those estimates as fair and reasonable. This includes providing all assumptions used to establish proposed prices and any and all empirical data which can provide further support to the proposed prices as fair and reasonable. The Government needs to understand how you determined the prices per element and how that correlates with the technical approach”. We’re surprised this level of detailed documentation is needed given the work scope is somewhat standardized and offerors are proposing fixed prices. We wonder why CMS wouldn’t rely on direct comparison of offeror prices to establish price reasonableness. Regrettably, this represents a lost opportunity to streamline the time and effort required for both the bidders and for CMS.

The BOE instructions request further details for each cost element. Offerors must provide the labor category(s) that make up the “Labor” price per site visit and include information on proposed escalation of each price element as well as the level of ‘productive labor’ in 1 full time equivalent (FTE).

Similar types of information are requested to explain travel and ODC costs. For subcontractor costs, the RFP does not explicitly request similar pricing details as the prime, except it specifically states primes must include a subcontract “Certificate of Current Cost or Pricing Data; as appropriate”. Until the Contracting Officer determines adequate competition does not exist, we do not believe there’s any reason for subcontractors to submit certified cost and pricing data.

SOW Disconnect?

While each SOW (Eastern and Western) identifies the states and territories covered, each SOW also contains an extra provision to optionally expand the geographical scope of services required. SOW 3.3, paragraph 2 states, “The Contractor shall have the ability to conduct nationwide site verification services at locations in all 50 States and 6 Territories, if required by CMS and with a minimum 30-day notification. (emphasis added). We would think the ‘East Region’ contractor might object to CMS and giving ‘East Region’ work to their counterpart ‘West Region’ contractor and vice versa.

Other Pricing Quirks

SOW 3.5, paragraph 2 states, “If there are multiple providers at the same location, the Contractor shall provide one record for each provider with the appropriate provider ID and provider name attached to each record”. However, pricing is based on ‘site visits’ and appear to be location based. In this instance, multiple providers at one location appears to represent (1) site visit. We think offerors should seek clarification.

Conclusion

We’re surprised at the level of cost and pricing data and associated documentation requested for the first two task orders, even though there’s adequate price competition and fixed pricing for presumably standardized services. Bidders with a large team of subcontractors should carefully manage the proposal to ensure the labor data correctly ties out among multiple proposal documents. We also think offerors (especially small businesses) should exercise care when pricing the sample task order to ensure they don’t unintentionally sign up for low indirect rates that they may not be able to adequately accommodate during the IDIQ contract.

If you’re looking to BOOST your proposal give us a call or send us an email, [email protected] We’re able to provide pricing synopses on a variety of RFP opportunities to help you avoid pitfalls and tackle requirements the right way. 

Prepared by BOOST LLC/Michael Gallo

Opportunity identified by The Pulse of GovCon

BOOST Featured Guest | SC&H Group

At BOOST LLC we are lucky to rub elbows with some pretty smart people and businesses. So much so, that we’re going to share them with you! Periodically we’ll feature a govcon guest/business alongside their thoughts and hot-takes relevant to their industry.

FEATURED GUEST:  Pete Ragone, SC&H Group

What is your best advice to solve the biggest problem in your industry?

Businesses aren’t just looking for a “one trick,” partner anymore. They are looking for a firm with dynamic capabilities that can evolve and serve them as their needs change. Additionally, technology continues to break down walls within organizations therefore the scope of where our expertise is needed has changed. As a result, we continue to develop offerings that address the most pressing needs of our clients. This evolution solidifies the need to hire, train and retain employees with diverse backgrounds and expertise to be able to provide our clients with the expert advice they require to succeed.

What has been the weirdest experience you’ve had working within the government contracting community?

The weirdest experience I had relates to an M&A deal I was brought in to potentially perform due diligence on behalf of the buyer. I was contacted by the buyer that they were trying to close on the deal within five days. I let the buyer know that typical due diligence requires at least 30-60 days of lead time depending on the size and scope of the seller’s business, however, I did agree to at least look at whatever internal documents were available from the seller in the data room. After reviewing the limited number of documents provided in the data room, I recommended that the buyer delay closing on the deal at least another 30 days to allow our firm to perform adequate due diligence services as there were some very large red flags that gave me great concern. Sadly, the buyer ignored my advice and closed on the deal within the five-day period. That buyer is now in the process of determining whether to declare bankruptcy less than a year after making the acquisition. In this extremely active M&A market for the government contracting industry,  I cannot stress enough to companies that are looking to acquire or sell a business to please do adequate due diligence to mitigate risk and avoid similar outcomes.

What is your “hot take” on a current industry’s trending topic?

One current industry trending topic in the government contracting industry is the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA’s or OT arrangements) as a mechanism for the federal government to bypass typical onerous procurement rules. OT arrangements are legally binding instruments typically used to engage companies, as well as academia, for a broad range of research, development, and prototyping activities. These OT arrangements are not bound by the normal federal laws and regulations that apply to government procurement contracts (e.g. FAR/DFARS). Recently I have attended many government contracting industry conferences and seminars espousing the benefits of OT arrangements to help government contractors grow their business. However, recently the GAO has begun to investigate the use of OT arrangements for production type contracts, which is not the original intent of the legislation. Accordingly, I recommend business owners seeking to win new business via OT arrangements ensure they seek expert advice from a government contracting attorney with experience and expertise in OTs.

Where do you see yourself/your company in 5 years?

SC&H Group will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of businesses all the while keeping a pulse on the best strategies to deploy for our clients across industries. Our growth will run parallel to ensuring our employees continue to have educational development opportunities, including insights into how innovation will play a significant role in shaping our services and our clients’ strategic plans. Additionally we will continue to be a thought leader and valued resource to business owners and executives in the government contracting industry to help them succeed in their goals to grow a profitable business, organically and/or through acquisitions, through sound business and tax advice as well as provide expert advice to owners looking for potential exit strategies (e.g. sell to PE/strategic buyer, ESOP transaction, or management-buyout).

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.

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?

Shutdown Screws Small GovCons

I normally never write about politics, recognizing that half of my network leans one way, while the other half leans the other.  I tend to live by the “no politics or religion” in public domain, school of thought.  But this latest shutdown has me completely livid over its stupidity and its potential impact on the small GovCon world.

While government employees will enjoy a day or two at home and will eventually receive their backpay for doing absolutely nothing (to be fair, through no fault of their own), small govt contractors will not fare as well.  Those deemed non-essential will generally be forced to use their PTO to stay at home while the work piles up.  Given the last-minute call, few companies have their act together enough to deliver all day training sessions for their employees today to use their overhead dollars wisely.  Outside of PTO, it’s leave without pay (LWOP) as generally, we can’t put your expense on overhead, driving our multiplier up and our competitiveness down.

While a day or two (which hopefully all this is) won’t kill any company, the more it lingers, and the more uncertainty, the less willing smaller companies will invest, hire employees or make decisions.  The indecision of the government funding grinds most smaller companies to a halt.  Small business does not have the cash reserves that the billion-dollar club has.  They are subjected to pay-when-paid terms as subs, and there’s no one in the government paying contractors, so cash dries up.  Back in 2013, the impact of 16 days of shutdown wiped out net income for the year.  If you were living month to month on 4% profits, just one pay period worth of not billing was devastating.

Enter January, when PTO balances are reset, and lower due to the holidays.  Credit card bills from the holidays are due this month.  New hires have just started with the new year with zero PTO built up.

The talking heads blame each other and throw out the military and payment but to be honest, they will be fine.  They will receive their paychecks.  As will the hundreds of thousands of government officials who stayed home today.  They will come back to more backlog (thank you for all the hiring freezes).  RFP releases, contract awards, and payments will all be postponed, directly impacting contractors.

Large GovCons will weather the storm, utilizing their cash reserves, blaming the shutdown for poor earnings reports and postponed contract execution.
Small GovCon, you will be screwed should this last any length of time.

And don’t even get me started on passing another CR.

Leading Your Troops

Much has been written about management versus leadership.  There are many overly shared images about what characteristic leaders have versus those who are considered ‘just’ being a boss. Many books have been written on the subject yet we still find an abundance of poor leadership.

But what does it mean to be a leader in the GovCon world?

How can you lead a team of folks who mainly work on the government site and tend to identify with their customers (i.e. going native)?
How do you lead when your re-compete is up and you’ve got to reduce your team’s salaried personnel by 25% to win?
How do you enforce the rules and compliance in an overly regulated industry that doesn’t always make sense?
How do you continue to motivate and push your staff when you are beholden to 2% cost of living raises and a focus on keeping the multiplier down?

As you can already tell, there are a variety of situations that compound the already overwhelmed concept of leadership in GovCon. I believe there are many theories out there, but two common themes that have resonated with me are communication and authenticity.  At the heart of practically every conflict or issue in this world is communication.  If you cannot effectively communicate as a leader, even with the best intentions, you will fail.

What is effective communication?  Saying what you mean, leaving nothing for wild interpretation and being authentic in your message.  Hollow sentiments or glossing over issues will only come back to bite you.  Having hard conversations is never easy, but it’s part of the job.  If you must cut salaries to be competitive on a bid, say it.  Say it clearly and unequivocally.  Provide your rationale and allow for feedback, but make it clear that you are responsible for this decision. Take ownership and allow those looking to move on, an opportunity to volunteer if possible. Communication is vital but so is being authentic.

What is authenticity? Providing and promoting an image that is sincere and true to your character as a leader or a company.  Employees, stakeholders, partners and clients can all spot a fake.  You can fake it for a bit, but eventually your true colors come out and the damage will be near-impossible to correct.  Instead of hiding your personality, embrace your strengths, and be yourself. The effort that it takes to hide or cover your personality can be better spend on leadership decisions and building a reputation on trust and authority. It is much easier to act on the truth than it is to remember and perform on a fallacy.

Regardless of your journey to leadership once you find yourself in a position of authority focus on solid communication and reputation based authenticity. Most companies that find themselves consistently winning awards and crushing the re-compete are those that excel in communication and authenticity. To effectively lead your troops into the GovCon space you must be clear and focused, always.

Back At It

With another swampy DC summer under our belts, we start to move into fall, which is generally a pretty busy time for federal contractors. As we squeeze out the last two weeks before Labor Day, a few things to keep in mind.

  • Proposal Season is Complete – are you ready to execute?

Most of the end of year proposals have been submitted, and September becomes award season. Have you looked over the key staff you proposed and reached out for their availability? Are you pipelining candidates to ensure you can transition and staff up quickly? Have you started looking at project plans?

  • Senior Leadership Alignment –

Summer (despite proposal hell) is usually filled with vacation times, short weeks, and lots of in and out of the office. Does your senior leadership team need to reconnect?  Do you need to review your progress on CY17 goals and what needs to be done to meet them in the next 4 months? CY18 budgeting and planning will be here before you know it. Don’t miss the opportunity to finish this year strong.

  • Process and Procedures –

When used effectively, having standardized processes for every day can help streamline your organization, maintain higher quality and most importantly, make you efficient. When the process is too cumbersome and too overbearing, it’s either ignored or used as an excuse. Eliminate the crap you don’t use, highlight and tailor what you do use.

  • Mentality 

Small businesses and GovCon in particular is a grind. There is FAR regulation, in-sourcing, LPTA, proposals that never get awarded, protests, agencies that can’t figure out what they want, and funding issues. It is pretty easy to question your sanity in this world. To that end, make sure you have rested, recharged, spent time with friends and family and generally just realigned your head toward growth.

If you need help with any of the above, reach out! BOOST is happy to assist with a streamlined approach as well as providing you the extra brain-space to tackle your next big project! Simply email me [email protected], and we’ll get the conversation started.

Proposal Hell

As we wind down the major proposal season in GovCon, it is time to take a step back and reflect on our current process.  Did it work?  Do you feel like it was as well executed as it should be?  Did you have a plan for what you bid on and did it align with your strategy for your company?  Did you go after ‘just anything or everything’ to see what stuck on the wall?

As organizations mature, their proposal strategy evolves.  Let’s face it, in the beginning, we’re just happy to be invited to the dance, even as a sub.  So, we’ll bid on blue birds; we’ll stretch our rates, our margins, our past performance and occasionally our credibility.  How many go/no-go meetings have you been in where the phase “loss-leader” or just enough for “past performance” are mentioned?  The theory being that you’ll grow the business organically, you’ll have a leg up on the competition for any additional scope/work, you’ll have a past performance that you can cite in other bids and the idea that it adds to the direct labor base.

Too many times, this “win” becomes the anchor of the organization.  All of management’s time is spent on the contract, which turns into a dog that no one wants to work.  No raises are accounted for, the indirect rates won’t allow any extra costs, recruiting and retention become a nightmare.  Generally, it takes just one of these contracts to learn the hard lesson on being strategic in what you pursue.

Organizations eventually evolve into work that fits more in their niche.  The struggle then is that they become very comfortable with their current clients and niche.  Then more questions arise. Do you continue to push your organization to go after new clients and additional skill sets?  Do you suffer from incumbent-itis?  How do you motivate your team to approach the re-compete with the same vigor as new work, when quite frankly, all we want to do is dust off the old bid and update it?

In summary, everyone is essentially in proposal hell, no matter where you are in the lifecycle.  The important piece is realizing it, addressing the issues and turning them into an advantage over your competition.  What can you do to be better or to be heard in a crowded field?

If you’re seeking proposal assistance or back-office support visit BOOST LLC or send an email to Stephanie Alexander at [email protected]

Tech Savvy

As busy professionals, we are constantly looking to squeeze a few extra minutes out of the day, increase our productivity, and just generally get more done. Time is our most valuable resource and no matter how wealthy you are; you can’t create or buy more of it.

Yet we are not without options. What you can do is use tools that streamline and ease the mundane. Consistency is the organized person’s friend. The more you can do to lessen the amount of time spent on the routine tasking, the more time you can spend on the strategic. This is nothing new, there are hundreds of books written on the subject and organizational experts who can help you (I’ve got a great organizer if you need one!). But what’s surprising is how often this advice isn’t heeded. When we step into a company, there is a hodgepodge of processes (or lack of processes) that are taking place. We know what is supposed to occur but more often than not the buck is passed down the line and eventually falls through the cracks. When companies employ appropriate tools to support common tasks they can move more quickly to meeting their goals.

Owners have to embrace technology and all it has to offer to optimize efficiency. Utilize the options available. There’s no excuse for using paper timesheets if you have more than 5 people. You need to have a document repository for your contracts, proposals and accounting files. Figure out what works for your company – DropboxSharePointGoogle Docs, etc. Invest in using a CRM tool from the beginning and there’s a lot less excel spreadsheet tracking (and finger pointing on updates). Understand the importance of moving to an online accounting system that will grow and scale with your organization. There are many inexpensive or even (mostly) free options that will allow you to save time and energy, allowing you to focus on what’s important – Growth.

As a CEO who does a lot more at stoplights while traveling between meetings than she’d like to admit, having the right technology at your hand is vital. If you aren’t out there as CEO growing your company, your growth will be stunted. Utilizing technology for consistency and efficiency will help you meet your goals. Just remember to balance. You own the technology, it doesn’t own you.

If you’d like to discuss further any of the tools that help to save the BOOST team precious time, let us know! www.BOOSTLLC.net.