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Military Spouses as Employees | Part 1

The following is the first in a two-part piece discussing the challenges and strengths of being, hiring and working with military spouses.

 

Military Spouses are among the most dedicated groups in our nation. It is not easy to understand or imagine their struggle as one half of a highly dedicated and honorable partnership.

I recently watched a show about a military attachment where there was local unrest about a war. A military spouse (mil spouse) stood up to the protestors outside of a prominent military base, and asked why they weren’t supporting their troops?
The leader of the protestors asked something to the effect of “how do we know that the troops even support fighting this war.” The mil spouse responded, “how do we know you have a sense of honor?”

In that one question, she hit a very pertinent nail on its head.
Why do mil spouses make great employees?  Honor.
They have it and that same honor is instilled throughout their families. Honor is the backbone to many of the desired features of a “model” employee. From there you can include the characteristics of someone who is reliable, trustworthy and has a good work ethic. These are highly marketable and employable qualities.

Here’s the challenge for mil spouses:

  • They move constantly
  • They are readily tasked with rearing their children alone as a result of the active duty service member’s obligations

Here is a solution:

This challenge is surmountable! Do they have skills they can do from anywhere? Simply because they have a license in one state does not mean they are doomed when the PCS (permanent change in station) orders arrive. Consulting is a viable career option that adds schedule flexibility.

 

BOOST provides back-office support services such as accounting, bookkeeping, contracts, and recruiting. While our niche is GovCon, it can be learned by the “right” type of employee. One that is willing to work for the knowledge. Based on the criterion we search for, a mil spouse could be a fantastic addition.

For spouses lacking skills in back-office services, there are a variety of programs to assist with career advancement. A specific program that teaches GovCon back office skills may not readily exist there may be an opportunity for a non-profit to boost mil spouse employment.

*For Example See MyCAA at military.com that describes tuition assistance for spouses of
E-1 to E-5, W-1 to W-2 and O-1 to O-2 members.

If you would like more information regarding the opportunities for mil spouses as employees for BOOST or some of our trusted partners, please connect with us on LinkedIn or email [email protected].

 

 

 

*From https://www.military.com/education/money-for-school/military-spouse-career-advancement-accounts-financial-aid.html

What is Strategic Pricing?

Over the past decade or so, we’ve all been whacked by this beast of a trend called “Low Price Technically Acceptable” (LPTA) evaluation criterion.  It’s where the government looks at one thing and one thing only. Namely, your price.  The lowest price to be clear.  As long as all of your other volumes meet the basic criteria to “pass” the gates, the evaluation comes down to who has the lowest price proposal.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are now talking about a government that has and is acquiring national security services/items by trying to shop at “Walmart” or “Amazon” (whichever is cheaper).  Let that sit for a minute.

It is unlikely that this trend is going to change quickly, in fact, it will probably be around for a few more years.  It’s smart to start bidding and optimizing your pricing strategy in a holistic way. The best approach isn’t to cut rates across the board), but also to understand what happens to your business and to the market when everyone finds themselves in the same boat.

Let’s dive in to the term “strategic”.  This means you need to approach each and every bid, whether it’s an LPTA or a best value or other type of evaluation, with a healthy amount of preparation.  You must review all of your contracts, your pipeline, your teammate rates, your teaming commitments, your HR policies, recruiting capabilities, and your mission and strategy in whole.  Is going after low price contracts going to keep you in line with your corporate strategy? Are you going after these bids to increase revenue so that you have a great top line figure, and perhaps aim for an acquisition? Are you bidding for past performance?  Depending on your intent to bid, you should shape your pricing approach accordingly.

Strategic pricing should be a very integrated and well thought out function of your organization that involves smart capture practices to smart financial planning.  Your pricing team should be a part of your bid/no bid decision phase, and they should also be advisors to your financial and executive teams to submit smart, effective, and winning proposals.

Various approaches to lower your rates can include:

  1. The Easy One: lower all of your rates, across the board. If you’re the incumbent, don’t bid your existing employee rates. Why? Because your competitors aren’t going to do that, they’re going to bid at or below market rates.
  2. The Difficult One: lower your indirect rates. This is a hard one to do quickly. How do you lower an existing General and Administrative (G&A) rate? It’s a part of your business costs, you can’t suddenly drop your G&A.  Or can you? Consider the impact of adding new revenue to your existing contracts, project out new budgets and forecasts and update your bid G&A rate.  Remember, this is just to bid. First you bid, then you win. Is your corporate G&A overloaded? Are there functions in your company, such as Accounting/HR/Recruiting that you can outsource and make your backbone leaner?
  3. The Good One: Overhead rates. For every new contract, create a new contract overhead rate.  Try to bid as many costs direct.  Keep the overhead rate to 4-6% of the total contract revenue.
  4. Escalation rates: research various sources, such as GSA rates, government data as Bureau of Labor Statistics. Don’t just bid your existing policy rates, or incumbent contract raises. That might not be a competitive approach anymore.

These are some quick and dirty ways to start sharpening your pencils for the next few bids.  As you build your strategic pricing capabilities for the long term, keep simple strategies in mind, but also know that it takes a while to actually become a smart bidder.  It’s not just about the mechanics of preparing a cost volume, but a multitude of factors. Your pipeline strategy, new cost centers, perhaps new divisions, new targets for M&A activity, new bids that might diversify your portfolio, all of these impact the growth of your business.  If you bid with the right intent, your strategy should follow as such.

If you’re questioning your current strategic pricing strategies, connect with those in the know. BOOST LLC has experts to assist you in managing this part of your proposal routine. Connect today at [email protected]

 

Orange

With apologies to the Crossfit disciples, I’ve been seeing orange lately.

As anyone who enters their 40’s discovers, the body ain’t what it used to be!  You suddenly give a lot more thought to whether your core is strong enough. Such is life.  This past August, I decided to get off my ass and start doing something (versus the three years before where I said I was going to).  Enter Orange Theory Fitness (OTF).  I’ve spent countless hours on the treadmill listening to coaches encourage me to power walk/jog/run through their stages. It occurred to me that the stages very much align with business.

Base

Base in OTF is something that you can hold for 20 minutes without an issue.  Essentially, your heart rate is up, but it’s doable without a ton of effort.

In business, this aligns with steady state.  Let’s hope it is better than status quo, as you are constantly striving to improve.  Your team knows what they are doing and is rocking it out.  Ops is meeting the mission, BD is taking meetings, you are block and tackling and in general, everyone is in “just keep swimming” stage.  It’s comfortable and it is where you start to think you’ve got this whole business thing down pat.

Things to remember during this stage:

  • Too long here equals flatlined growth and decreasing margins
  • Customer relations can get stale with the same old thing
  • Employees can get bored
  • Great for a new team to get comfortable with their responsibilities and interactions
  • Watch your cash flow and your multiplier and make sure all are aligned

Too much time in this phase and nothing changes.  Not enough time and you’ve got burnt out people.

Enter…The Push.

Push

Push is something at a pace that makes you uncomfortable.  Your heart rate is elevated, you can only hold the push for 5 mins, maybe a bit more, but it will wear you out.  It takes most or all of your focus.

A few recompetes are coming up, you’ve got a staffing shortage and your competition just beat you for a new contract.  Perhaps the large integrators are sniffing around to buy the company, or they are pushing you on margins.  Maybe you have a couple of new start programs with important customers that must transition well, and the incumbent isn’t making it easy.

Things to remember during this stage:

  • The team is up for the challenge, but they need to know when it ends.
  • Effective communication is critical. You will waste time in endless meetings or have a duplication of efforts without strong communication. Let your entire company know if folks are taxed.
  • Most of these issues are something you could have predicted. Plan ahead for how you are going to handle them.

Everyone is working hard with long hours and a surplus of meetings, but they see the reward for their efforts.

That is, unless you find yourself in an All-Out after your push.

All Out

All outs push you physically and mentally.  You are at your fastest and you leave nothing in the tank.  You will need to pull from within to get through it.  Most of the challenge is mental.  You can keep this going for only 1-3 minutes.

In business, that may look like: entering a contract win that doubles the company or losing a contract for half your company. It could be  two or three must win proposals hitting at the same time or several key personnel leaving at the same time.  It might entail a complete pivot in offerings or a cash flow shortage.  Speaking realistically, it could be a government shutdown. Are you sweating yet?

Things to remember during this stage:

  • Your leadership team had better be the A team. If you’ve been letting anyone slide during the other phases, now is when you (and the rest of the team) will regret it.  Think about this while you’re in the Base or Push phases.
  • Keep your line of communication open with your customer, your banker and your lawyer. They can help ease the transition burden, fight where you need to legally and most importantly, supply the cash for the bumpy road.
  • Break tasks into small milestones. Focus the team on the next gate to get it done.  Don’t overwhelm everyone with the size of the task that is in front of you.  Have small rewards for these accomplishments – even if it’s just better takeout in the war room.
  • Be appreciative. Understand that this will make you and your team stronger on the other side.  Reflect on what the added benefit is to your company and team.

When you’ve made it through the All Out, your team doesn’t immediately need to go to base, but rather, a rest and recovery phase.

Rest and Recovery

Immediately follows an All Out and allows you to catch your breath and focus on calming your heart rate.  Some people need a lot of rest and recovery to bounce back.  Others need just a bit before they get back to base.  There is no one size fits all answer and your time in rest and recovery may vary depending on how you feel and how much effort you gave in your All Out.

Don’t jump back into base or assume that your team can go back to normal.  Give your team and company time to recover.

Things to remember during this stage:

  • Nothing feels better than a couple of days off without email and a bonus check for your efforts. Send your team away for a long weekend (away from each other!).
  • Let your cash flow recover – make no major investments or outlay of cash.
  • Don’t make any major changes. Just sit with the experience and reflect on lessons learned.  You can change things after the rest and recovery.

Regardless of what stage you are in, keep moving forward.  And keep that core strong!

In order to better prepare in the Base and Push phases, you’ll want to have a strong team at the ready. BOOST is connected to an array of great people and smart businesses that can help to get you where you need to be. Connect with us to help support your business by emailing [email protected].

 

5 Pricing Tips for the New Year

As we enter a new calendar year, we begin the madness of sharpening our budgets and pipelines.  Some of the focus ends up being on managing expenses and headcount, as it should, but often some quick and easy planning can help you to optimize your pricing strategy for the next year.

To get you started, here are five pricing tips for the new year:

  1. Contract Labor Bill Rate Review
    Have you had any staff turnover on your firm fixed price or time and materials contracts? If so, you may be able to capture some labor efficiencies by “greening” those positions and/or consolidating functions under higher bill rate positions. BONUS TIP: This is especially helpful if the contract is up for a re-competition and you’re the incumbent.
  2. Cost-Plus Contracts
    If your Cost-Plus contract is coming up for a re-compete, review all of the direct labor rates, and examine them against market rates (such as a survey or government rate data such as Bureau of Labor Statistics).  Bid market rates, NOT current employee rates.
  3. Subcontract Review
    Are there opportunities to bring in new subcontractors of the same quality/scope, but with better rates? This might be dependent on teaming agreements and workshare commitments. If the contract allows it, develop an active strategy around subcontractor selection and rates every year.
  4. Overhead & Infrastructure Review
    Facilities – this is a big one. Are there opportunities to renew different types of leases/facilities?  You may want to explore the trend of shared/co-working spaces. This solution can provide a lot of cost efficiencies if your contract/company policy allows it. Telecom expenses are also a major player. There are a multitude of new options that minimize the telecom costs for entire companies through third-party vendors and resellers, or cost sharing with other companies. Do your homework and save your company money in the long run.
  5. Beef Up Your Back Office Support
    Can you outsource major functions such as accounting, HR, recruiting, contracts? Believe it or not, this is becoming a good option for many mid-tier contractors. Use this opportunity to get lean without sacrificing quality and compliance standards.

The tips above are not a one-and-done type of deal. You should be reviewing internally each year as you plan operations and execution of contracts for the new year.  While much of this is common sense, seldom is it applied to affect pricing strategy/updates.  Use this information to bid sharper and smarter than your competitors and get the edge in pricing!

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).