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?