Posts

Staring “New-Normal” in the Face

Are we ready to start talking about “coming back?”  In our humble opinion, regardless of what any politician says, we are not “back” until we can get our kids out of our house (sanity now!), but that’s a whole other story!

Honestly, we’re not sure if its safe yet, or what “coming back” truly looks like, but we do know that there are a ton of things we should be preparing for in the meantime.

Here are a few to get us started.

Employees – First and Foremost.
If they have successfully done their jobs remotely for the past months, first ask if they must come back. Could their jobs be done remotely going forward?  Maybe they just need to come in for a few meetings on site with the customer or a few team meetings.  Assuming you’ve already made the investment in providing access (i.e. laptop, etc.), why not consider making their position remote?

Clients – Partners or Pain?
Your relationship with your government customer and/or your prime is vital to the new path forward.  How often are you communicating with them?  Are you all messaging the same information to the workforce?  Are your policies consistent in how you will handle social distancing on site, providing PPP, sick leave requests, etc.?  Consistent, direct messaging is always best, especially now when nerves are frayed, and rumors are rampant.

New Employees – Recruiting isn’t the same.
Now more than ever we are hiring people via Zoom calls.  Make sure that your recruiting process is standardized so that you aren’t discriminating against potential candidates.  Really work on the questions you will ask (there are a ton of resources currently available). This will help you get the best feel for the candidate and if they will be a good fit for your company.  Make sure your online presence is updated so they can get a feel for you as a business.  Consider extending the interview panel to not just leadership, but peers so the candidate can get a good feel for the organization.  Currently, candidates are reluctant to make a move – for them it’s about the devil you know versus the devil you don’t.  You need to be able to easily convey what your organization stands for and its culture, so candidates feel confident to make the jump.

Office Space – It’s a whole new world.
Depending on your landlord, consider renegotiating your lease.  Look in the contract for any modifications that you need to make to have a more “socially distant” office space.  Gone are the days of 2 or 3 people sharing a cube.  There will be a ton of advice coming out about this, start paying attention to best practices.  Please give up on the idea that everyone must be in the same place at the same time.  Even our intel folks are finding ways to spread out the work, spread out the timing.  This will be the new standard going forward.

There are a million landmines ahead, and we’re pretty sure the lawyers will end up making out as we traverse this new world. But our strongest bet is on common sense and doing what is right will hold up. If you need help navigating this world, give us a shout.

Puzzle Me This

As puzzles are back in vogue these days, I thought this might be of interest. Unfortunately, I’ve only had the opportunity to complete one over the past few weeks, but several themes rang true as I worked on it. Puzzling (is that what we call it?) makes you go through several stages, much like the business circle of life.

At first, puzzles are exciting. You find all the outside pieces, you put the four corners in a special place.

Startups are exciting!
You have a new mission, it’s constantly evolving, you get to make things up as you go along. The world of possibilities is endless.

You compile the outer ring and you start to feel like you can really do this.

You’ve got your first clients.
You are starting to hit your stride on marketing and hiring. You start to fill in some infrastructure. You hire your first BD person, your first C-Suite.

Then, the grind hits. You must keep at the puzzle. What seemed easy 100 pieces ago is suddenly very monotonous (for me, it’s always the sky portion!). The buzz wears off.

Months bleed into years.
Your offerings may change or expand, as does your client base. But the excitement starts to leave and the magnitude of what you want to accomplish and how hard you have to work hits you.

You find yourself trying the same pieces in the same spots, over and over. And they don’t fit. Yet you keep trying, expecting different answers. You find that you can’t see the forest for the trees (or the entire picture for the one area you are working on).

You lose focus on what’s important.
You can get caught up in the tactical, day to day without your eye on the exit plan. You may retain team members that you had from the beginning but no longer fit or they aren’t in the right positions. You know you have to pivot but you aren’t quite sure how. You feel like you are stuck in one place.

Through it all, you keep trudging along and the puzzle slowly comes together. Big chunks get done and you start to feel accomplished. You feel like you are working on the big picture and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You’ll get stuck a few times, but you know that you will make it through. Pieces that you didn’t think would fit actually do. All it took was a different perspective.

Did you read that? All it took was a different perspective.

Right team in the right places.
Corporate culture that aligns. Everyone is focused on the mission and works together.

Finally, you complete the puzzle. A sense of reward, a sense of accomplishment. In my case, I turn it over to someone else to put it away, not wanting to personally break up what I worked so hard on.

This is different for everyone.
It may be the big sale, it could be a purchase of another company, it could be an ESOP or Management Buy Out. You could decide to step down as the CEO and let someone else run it.

And then you consider your next puzzle.

Or your next opportunity.
Entrepreneurs at heart always have another company they’d like to start or will serve on boards or as advisors for those that want to start their own thing. We are a community that pays it forward.

What stage of the puzzle are you in with your current company? If you’re in the “grind” or “focus” section and you’re looking to get to the next phase we’re poised to help you prep. Change IS coming and preparing for it now is your best course of action. We have virtual support while you need it and on-the-ground professionals when the new-normal resumes. Contact us, and let’s discuss.

Post-COVID | What to Expect and the Future of Business

 

In this expert panel discussion recording, Stephanie Alexander is joined by:

Jim Campbell, President/CEO of AXIM Fringe Solutions Group,
Katie Bilek, SVP at Republic Capital Access and Co-Founder of govmates,
Leslie A. Stout-Tabackman, Attorney at Law, Jackson Lewis P.C., and
Lee Stokes, CEO/Founder of Compliance Services Agency

to discuss what you can expect for the post-COVID future of the GovCon industry.

Distributed Workforce – The Future Is Now

At BOOST we have a strong bench of really intelligent SMEs with knowledge that goes deep into their service areas. Below, you’ll find a note from one of BOOST’s SME CFOs about the future of work and the high-potential for a “new remote-work normal.”

Don writes:

While the COVID-19 pandemic effects are in our constant near-term thinking, one thing it has done is force many employers and customers to look hard at a remote workforce where it was not previously a consideration.  Continuing virus flare-ups until a vaccine is available in the next 12-18 months will cause sporadic work-at-home orders.  Your entire workforce could be whipsawed between the “new normal” and hunkering down at home for 2-4-week intervals over the next year or so.  It might also induce some of your more valuable staff members to choose to permanently work from home as their only option and either force that option on your management team or find another employer who will accept their demands.

This link from the National Bureau of Economic Research is an April 2020 white paper on the impact and possibilities of a remote workforce driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The report indicates that by the NBER’s criteria, approximately 34% of the total national workforce could work remotely.  Additionally, the Washington, DC metropolitan area is second only to Silicon Valley in the percentage of total workforce and the labor-dollar-weighted workforce that could work remotely at 46% and 61%, respectively.

In my opinion, this shock to the economy and workforce will require many to seriously reconsider the possibilities of a remote workforce for your staff and customers.  While your management team is working the near-term issues of solving staff assignments, product deliveries, customer expectations, profitability, and cash flow, it’s not too soon to begin planning out how your own leadership principles, company culture, and facilities can all be maximized to get ahead of the curve – which, I believe, is surely coming.  A series of questions like the following can help crystallize your team to focus on the mid to long-term issues:

• Which staff assignments truly “require” our company staff to be at a customer or company location over the long term?

• If our staff assignments are moved to a maximized remote workforce:

• Can our IT facilities and capabilities handle the workload, or do we need to expand capabilities?

• e.g. Cloud storage; Virtual meetings; Collaboration workspace; Standardized software tools; Network capacity; etc.

• Can our physical facilities:

• if leased, be reduced, or renegotiated to reduce fixed costs?

• if owned, be maximized for leasing or partitioning for the new reduced workforce?

• Can our organization react flexibly to new cost structures to increase competitiveness and improve profitability?

Most importantly, can our leadership principles and company culture:

• Be clearly and constantly communicated to our newly distributed workforce?

• Ensure that our customers receive (and perceive) excellence in work product, support and value delivery?

• Be effectively applied to ensure that our staff are continually maximizing efficiency, effectiveness, and individual and team motivation?

We’re keeping everyone in our collective thoughts – especially the heroic medical professionals and staff; first-responders; and all of the essential retail, logistics, and utilities workers.

Our BOOST SMEs are some of the smartest people we know. If you need a resource or an introduction, let us know. We’re all in this together. Share resources, stay connected (digitally of course), and treat your people well. They will remember well beyond this season of change and that is going to make all the difference.

SF1408, What is it? Why is it important for you?

Letters, numbers, acronyms, and more. It’s like a GovCon fairytale minus the lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my!
Today we’re discussing SF1408. What is it and why is it something you should be familiar with?

A 1408 assessment is the Pre-Award Accounting System Survey (SF1408).  The Accounting System Survey is sometimes referred to as a “pre-award audit” and it is necessary for the award of any Cost Type contract.

A few points to note:

This comes BEFORE contract award.
Imagine losing a bid because you didn’t have your act together in your financials!

• This is not an audit.
They (DCAA) focus on your accounting system’s ability to be compliant if you were to receive the award.    It is simply a review to determine if your system is set up and operating in accordance with the criteria on page 2 of Standard Form 1408.

This is where policies and procedures rule (Here’s a tip: an accounting system is not just the software being utilized).
DCAA is looking for you to document what your system does – think segregation of indirect vs. direct costs and unallowables (our favorite); how are costs captured and classified?; how and where do you charge your time?

If you plan on priming this year on a Cost Type contract or are awarded a cost type subcontract (looking at you DOD peeps!), make sure you are prepared with documented policies and a compliant accounting system.

Note that this is different than an Accounting System Audit!  An audit of your accounting system is much more in-depth and includes tests of internal controls (e.g., segregation of duties, etc.).  Know what you need when you read through the RFP.  If you have a question, ask the COR during the Q&A time – the difference between the two is huge!

Do you still have questions or want to discuss this as it pertains to your business specifically? Contact us here.

Leading Through Uncertainty

We know what you’re thinking. “Not another #COVID19 article.” Not to worry, we’re providing you some insight on how you can lead your team through the next few weeks (or months?).

Let us start off by saying “Who gives a s#*t?”  To put it bluntly, if this is the first time you are talking to your clients, you are screwed.  No one cares how you are handling it – they care about how they are handling it.  People are scared. This black swan event is one that no one prepared for. Right now we are all trying to figure out how to keep the doors open.

What can you do as a leader?

First, chill out.  Meditate, go for walks, stress bake, or figure out what your go-to is for reducing your stress. This will help you act insightfully and rationally, not out of fear. Get real clear real quick as your level head is needed now more than ever.

Second, take a step back. What is the short-term impact to your company?  What is the state of your cash flow situation?  How long can you keep running and at what pace? (I won’t go into how you should have already known this through good business acumen. We’ll save that for another day). Figure out the next week. Then the next pay cycle. Then the next month.  Day by day, week by week, piece by piece.

Third, look for areas to pivot quickly and where you can exploit opportunities. (By exploit we don’t mean nefariously, only above-board ideas please.) What can you leverage quickly to keep your business afloat?  Where can you pursue leads with limited effort to increase sales or revenue?  Where can you cut costs?

Costs are always the easiest – it’s finding new revenue sources that requires creativity, forward-thinking and leadership.  Before you start cutting everything, what can grow with minimal investment?

Finally, lead like your business depends on it.  Because it does.  Now is not a time to delegate to your surrogates.  Now is not a time to not answer hard questions.  Now is the time to show your business what you are made of.  Even if you’re closing your doors or laying people off, the way and manner that you choose to do it will be remembered.  If you are an entrepreneur at heart, you will take another shot at it in the future.

 

Who knows? You may even pivot to a new business model and revenue stream that only enhances your business AND keeps your employees employed. People will remember how you handled your business during these times. Don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do.

 

Stay sane.
Exploit opportunities.
Lead from the front.
Act with kindness and grace.

 

Netiquette

Now more than ever digital marketing is a peak requirement for visibility. While the world is hunkering down, business for many in the GovCon space continues. It’s time to get on the social train or get run over! Social Media isn’t just for “the kids” or the younger generation anymore. Businesses across industries are utilizing newer marketing techniques to stay connected and GovCon is no different. When viewing digital marking from a place of visibility, NOT being on social media could be harming your prospects before you have a chance to throw your hat in the ring.

For starters, let’s talk netiquette, or the etiquette you use when interacting online.

Be Human
You will NOT ruin your business’s brand simply by being on social media.
Our advice is to avoid the big three:

• Anything that you don’t want plastered on the side of a bus
• Anything you wouldn’t say on a stage in front of potential clients
• Anything that belongs on TMZ (you know, the gossip show.)

Instead, what you should do is to remember that you’re speaking to your audience on your profiles the same way you speak to someone in conversation. Humor is okay, conversation is okay (and encouraged), being a resource to your network is invaluable. **Side note here: Being human means speaking as you would when in a face-to-face conversation. You wouldn’t insert your business offerings to conversations randomly, so don’t link drop and run!

Be Active
Committing to a social presence means being active regularly. Long gaps between postings on your LinkedIn profile may be more detrimental than not having a social presence at all. When a potential client or customer searches your business online, and you know they will, they want to see that you take pride in what you do. Social media is the ultimate “we love our business’ pride machine. If you’re not willing to talk about it online, why would they?

Be Patient
As much as an audience of thousands or tens of thousands sounds nice in reality it is more of a vanity metric than a gauge of success. What matters more is the engagement (comments, shares, direct messages) that drives the success of a digital presence. If your posted content is driving new people to your website, that’s success. Even better, if your email or phone are becoming more active due to the content you’re sharing online, that’s Social media is no longer an “if you build it, they will come” type of endeavor. It takes strategy, execution, and patience to build a robust presence that turns connections into leads.

At BOOST we practice what we preach. While we understand that times are currently changing (and very likely unstable) we also know that business will continue! We believe in providing value through our blogs (like the one you’re reading), our free consultation (schedule one here), our free downloadable white papers, and more. We recommend that you take a look at your current social presence and identify which platforms and what kind of content could make a difference for your business. We can help with a high-level digital diagnostic to get you started.  Contact us! 

End of a Year, Start of a Decade*

We are looking dead straight into 2020, right around the corner.  How did that happen?  The expression “the days are long, but the years are short” rings particularly true to me this year.  As we close out the year and the decade, it’s a good time for reflection on where things stand as a business owner.  At the top of my list for this holiday season is to proactively take time to reflect on the state of the business and what the next year and next decade look like.

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Most importantly…Are you doing what you want to do?
    Do you love it (you don’t have to like it every day)?  You may have started your business and things may have grown significantly or gone in a different direction from your original intent.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a good time to take a hard look at what you are doing and ask if it’s what you want as the owner.  Is it time to retire?  Sell?  Buy another company?  Pivot into different offerings?  Different clients?  View the turning of the calendar as a new opportunity to reinvent your company or reinvigorate it.
  • Strategy.  Does it exist?
    Are you following it?  If not, why?  Do you have an exit plan?  What steps are you taking to meet your goals?  Now is the time to really think hard about if things are working, what could be tweaked, what you want to accomplish and how you’ll get there.  We all know that things change rapidly in business (hourly somedays!).  When was the last time you pulled your head out of the tactical and really spent some time on the long-term strategy?  Not a corporate off-site with a ton of PowerPoints….but time by yourself reflecting and thinking?  Pull your head out of the day-to-day.
  • Scale.  Are you scalable?
    If you meet your goals or make significant progress towards them, do you have the support to deliver?  What do you need to do that?  Scalability is critical to success should things start to pop quickly.
  • Partners. Do you know your own?
    We all need them. Do you have the right ones that can help you in the next phase of your company?  This isn’t just teaming partners (though we’ve got a platform for that), it’s the right advisors, right support and even the right mentors.
  • Well-being. How’s your health CEO?
    It’s an overused buzz word but damn if it doesn’t impact everything.  Are you burnt out mentally and physically?  Are you taking care of yourself?  A reminder that money is just an asset.  Your health cannot be bought.  Your overall well-being and wellness are what will allow you to enjoy the success you worked so hard for.  Figure out what works for you in terms of stress management and overall health.
  • Gratitude. Do you take time to appreciate your life and the people in it?
    No one got to the top alone, no one built a successful company alone.  Are you truly grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given?  Are you grateful for your life?

Taking time to truly appreciate what you have is important and contributes to your overall well-being.  Your well-being contributes to being a better partner to others.  Having partners to leverage allows you to scale faster and with better results.  Scalability leads to a strategy that will actually work.  Put this all together and, you’ll love what you do.  Be better in 2020.

*While “technically” we understand that a new decade begins 1/1/2021, we’re all about those round numbers. (Thanks, Frank!)

DCAA Compliance for Small Businesses

As a small govcon have you ever thought…do I really need to be DCAA compliant? What if I’m “just a subcontractor” or “too small that DCAA will never notice me”?
We hear the following from companies more often then they’d like to admit:

  • It’s so complicated to get DCAA compliant (insert the eye roll and swipe across the forehead)
  • It’s such as hassle, I’ll do it when we get bigger (the procrastinator)
  • I have both commercial and government business, so the govcon piece won’t get noticed (I’m awesome and therefore the rules don’t apply)
  • It’s too expensive (cheap catches up to you)
  • I only have FFP and T&M contracts, so I won’t get audited (wrong!)
  • If I fail an audit, I’ll get excused because I’m a small business (nope, the small business card doesn’t work with DCAA)

To these “excuses” our advice is…

Get DCAA compliant and now!

Here’s why:

• It’s not as complicated as what you think.
There four primary components to being DCAA compliant – chart of accounts, timekeeping, forward pricing and policies and procedures. No one accounting system is deemed DCAA compliant.  It’s all about how your system is configured and your policies and procedures. A professional firm who knows DCAA compliant accounting is necessary to get the work done right…the first time.

• Small = less $ to become compliant.
Design a system that scales with you and the savings will be impressive. Retrofitting a large existing system to be DCAA compliant is time consuming and expensive.  Don’t get lazy – get it done when you are small.

• It’s a Pass/Fail test.
The is no B or C grade. You either pass or you fail.  Failing costs money and more money than it takes to preemptively become DCAA compliant.

• Timekeeping is like eating healthy.
It’s all about behavior modification. It takes daily reminders to establish healthy eating habits and it is the same for timekeeping. Additionally, it’s the most critical component of the DCAA audit.  Establishing solid policies and procedures for timekeeping when you are small is the easiest way to establish behaviors and set the tone for the critical importance of timekeeping.  Get HR involved because timekeeping should be in your employee handbook.  Educate employees on why timekeeping is important.

• Improve your dating profile.
Teaming partners, especially large integrators, like to work with small businesses that are DCAA compliant. You might not have been audited yet, but you are prepared in case you do and that is half of the battle.

Bottom line – get DCAA compliant now!
BOOST can help and it’s one of our favorite accounting projects. Well, we have lots of favorites, but this one is rewarding and we actually like doing it!  So, now go get healthy, change your behavior, spend some money in order to save some money and prepare for the inevitable.

What is a CPSR and Why Should You Care?

We recently told you about the Contractor Purchasing System Review (CPSR) process, and today we will (attempt to) convince you to care about this mega-compliance hurdle. If you want to read more about a CPSR, check out our white paper here.

There appears to be a trend in government evaluations looking for CPSR compliant contractors. CPSR compliance was an extra 500 points for the recent OASIS bid.  Many of our competitors will happily sell you a CPSR package without blinking at the cost or whether you actually needed it.

Who needs CPSR?
First, the main factor we tell our clients is to assess how much subcontracting work they do.  If your business weighs heavily on issuing a myriad of subcontracts or large procurements in support of your prime contract awards, then you have checked the first box to “needing” a CPSR compliance plan.  The remaining boxes are comprehensive.

Second, if a majority of your work is with the DoD, you may want to consider checking out DFARS 252. 252.244-7001, the regulatory birth of what a CPSR compliant system looks like. Finally, if your contract says you have to be CPSR compliant – we hope you already have systems in place to pass an audit before signing the dotted line.

Finally, most organizations do not like or want a CPSR compliance plan because of the heavy administrative burden it places on corporate processes.  Think about the last time you waited for a large GovCon to issue you a subcontract that was allegedly “on fire.”  In most cases, the subcontractor is issued a letter subcontract or works at-risk with an authorization to proceed (also part of the CPSR compliant program) before the “real” subcontract is issued.  This is because nearly all GovCons with CPSR compliance programs have to take several steps to coordinate awarding a procurement.  These steps were put in place to comply with CPSR requirements.

If we have not talked you out of it and you are ready to start the box-checking, administrative hurdles of CPSR land, consider an organization like BOOST that will tailor a compliance plan to fit your organization. We will not open a canned manual and serve it to you on a platter. We exist to add value. We can provide a customized CPSR plan; if you need it.