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Leading Your Troops

Editor’s Note: This Article Has Been Updated November 9, 2022

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.

GovCon Management vs. GovCon 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.

Communication in GovCon Leadership

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.

Read more about communication and internal controls in your GovCon.

Authenticity in GovCon Leadership

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 spent 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.

Let us help you recruit strong leadership for your GovCon with our GovCon recruiting services.

Proposal Hell

Editor’s Note: This Article Has Been Updated November 9, 2022

Government Contract Proposal Season

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?

Government Contract Proposal Strategies

As government contracting organizations mature, their proposal strategy evolves.  Let’s face it, in the beginning, a GovCon is 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.

Let us handle your contract proposals 

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.

Government contracting 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 GovCon proposal assistance or back-office support visit BOOST LLC or send an email to Stephanie Alexander at [email protected]

Build Loyalty Within Your Company

Cultivating a sense of loyalty amongst your employees is one of the most important things to be doing right now. We say right now because there’s a global talent shortage that’s hitting companies everywhere, GovCons not excluded. So retaining your people is more of a priority than ever.

But there are other reasons you want the loyalty of your employees.  People who are emotionally invested in their work tend to do it better. They also go above and beyond when the company needs them to.

Essentially, you want your people to want to come to work each day, or as close as you can get to that.

Below, we’re going to talk about some ways that your government contracting company can work to build loyalty within your organization.

Your Company Culture Is the Foundation of Loyalty

The first step to building loyalty is ensuring that your company culture is one that people want to be a part of.

Your company culture should reflect the values that you hold as an organization. It should also be a place where people feel like they can be themselves, and where they feel supported by their colleagues.

If your company culture is strong, your employees will be more likely to feel a sense of loyalty to the organization.

Make sure that you’re regularly communicating your company’s values to your employees, and that you’re living those values in the way that you operate.

And it’s true that there’s a stigma about government contractors not having much of a culture. Of course we know that’s not the truth of things, but there’s no denying that the perception is there. Be the GovCon to change that perception. Keep things interesting, and keep your people invested.

Give Your People What They Want

True, you might be investing a lot into your employees, but are you really giving them what they want?

Your employees want to be challenged at work, and they want their accomplishments to be acknowledged by their bosses and their peers. They want to feel like they’re learning and growing in their roles. They also want to have a good work/life balance and feel like their job is flexible enough to accommodate the rest of their life.

You’d be surprised how many government contractor companies are throwing benefits and perks at their employees without accomplishing those things. Could be that your company is doing just that and you don’t even know it. For example, maybe you’re buying lunch for everybody twice a month from Joe’s Big Beef Shack while being totally unaware of the fact that a third of your employees are vegetarian.

So the question now is how do you go about finding out what your employees really want? It’s actually very easy. You ask them. Or, more specifically, you work with your HR department to find a way to ask them.

Once you know what it is that your employees really want, you can start working on providing it to them.

Foster Pride in Your Mission

When it comes down to it, government contractors are working for the people of the United States.  That’s a pretty big deal, and it should be something that your employees are proud of.

Make sure that you’re constantly communicating the mission of the company to your employees, and make sure that they understand how their work contributes to that mission.

You can do this by sharing stories about how your company has helped achieve success on a project, or by sharing articles or blog posts about the work that you’re doing.

When your employees feel proud of their work, they’ll be more likely to feel loyalty to the company.

We Can Help You With Recruiting and Retention

At BOOST, we help government contractors by providing an array of back-office services. Whether your company is looking to recruit the best candidates, or you need to keep the people you have, we’re the right team for the job. Contact Us today, and let’s talk about how we can assist.

Building Business Opportunities in the GovCon Arena

In this digital event Robin Desmore Scott, BOOST’s Director of Contracts is joined by Dwight Gibbs and Scott Keough of Contraqer Corp to discuss Building Business Opportunities in the GovCon Arena with Award and Opportunity Search.

Our presenters discuss:

• Business & Opportunity Practices
• Where to Find the Necessary Data
• Process Tips
• Best Practices for Opportunity and Historical Award Searches
• & More

 

The biggest question from our audience centered on the best places to find reliable information on award searches, announcements, and contract details.
The recommended websites from our panelists are:

Federal Procurement Data System: https://www.fpds.gov/
Contract Data Reports from https://beta.sam.gov/
FedBid: http://www.fedbid.com/ or https://www.unisonglobal.com/
USA Spending: https://www.usaspending.gov/

Our next digital event in this series is slated for Tuesday, February 23rd and we encourage you to keep an eye on your email for more details to come.

Please direct any questions to BOOST or Contraqer for discussion or clarification!

Branding for Your Business 

📣 Attention all businesses with a website (you should have one), this message is for you. 📣 

Branding is more than a set of colors and a logo. Today, branding refers to how your business stands and speaks when you are not personally doing the talking. It refers to your content, your audience, the platforms you choose to be active on, and how often you interact with your digital community.  

We’re going to take a direct approach and provide you with an actionable checklist of items to update, create, or utilize as you configure your business’ brand going forward. 
Take a moment to answer the following questions.  

Branding:  

 Do you have a cohesive brand voice?
 Does your voice online resonate with your leadership and employees?
 Do you know your ideal audience/avatar?
 Do you know how your audience wants to receive information?
 Are you incorporating your company culture into your brand’s voice? 

Website:  

 Is it updated to 2020?
 Does it have your correct phone number?
 Is there an active “contact us” page?
 Do you have a page for news/blogs?
 Does it showcase your leadership?
 Are your capabilities clearly conveyed?
 Is it easy to navigate? 
 Does it load quickly?
– Do the links work? (Yes, ALL of the links.)
– Are your social profiles linked? 

Social Platforms: 

 Do they link back to your website? (Activate Your Buttons.)
 Are you speaking actively to your community?
 Is your contact information visible?
 Is your leadership following the pages?
 Are you updating them consistently (see our blog on consistent content here) 

 

In the world of marketing, statistics say that new clients and customers will take time to visit your website, social profiles, and more before reaching out to talk to you. Put your best digital foot forward before getting on the phone or connecting through an email. If you answered no, or have several question marks next to the items above we recommend seeking a branding update, stat. The experts at BOOST are able to provide you with a digital diagnostic to identify areas of strength and recommendations for improvementWe know these tasks have been on your to-do list for a while now, let’s dust them off and get them taken care of before the start of the new federal fiscal year.  

Creating Value in Growing Government Contractors

Every business owner dreams of building a Company so that they may reap the rewards sometime in the future.  However for many entrepreneurs, these dreams never materialize, falling short of building value within their organization,  Do you understand the true value drivers that make a difference in creating value inside of your business?  How does one create value that is sustainable and where do most companies fall short?

Join our panelists as they explore:

  • What are the value drivers in the current market conditions;
  • Why having the end goal in mind and planning are crucial for managing your business decisions;
  • What are the common pitfalls that can catch a business owner by surprise that can prevent value creation;
  • What are the most fundamental focuses for a business owner as they grow their business to create value.

Protest Basics: Pre-Award, Post-Award & Case Examples

Join BOOST’s Director of Contracts, Robin Desmore and Maria Panichelli of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP for the first of a two-part virtual series on the Protest Basics: Pre-Award, Post-Award, and the Process.

Our presenters will discuss:

• The Bid Protest Process
• The Types of Protests
• What Issues ARE Protestable
• Protest Scenarios
• and the Answers to Audience Questions

 

Protest Basics for GovCons: Pre-Award, Post-Award, and the Process

Recently BOOST’s Director of Contracts Robin Desmore and Maria Panichelli, Partner and the Chair of the Government Contracting department at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP discussed the first of a two-part virtual series on the Protest Basics: Pre-Award, Post-Award, and the Process.

You can view the replay of the event here.

Here are some of the notable pieces from the discussion:

What are the Different Types of Protests: 

• Solicitation

• Contractors Submit Responses to Solicitation

• Evaluation of Contractors/Source Selection

• Awardees Chosen

What are the Common Protest Deadlines: 

• Pre-award Protests Based on Errors in the Solicitation need to be submitted before the response deadline.

• General (GAO) Rule: 10 days after the basis of the protest is known (or should have been known)

What are Some Protestable Issues: 

• Pre-award protests based on errors in the Solicitation:
• Ambiguous or contradictory terms
• Inclusion of prohibited terms/exclusion of required terms
• Unduly or overly restrictive terms or specifications
• Improper use of LPTA
• OCI Issues
• Set-aside/“rule of two”/Kingdomware issues
• De Facto responsibility determination
• Pre-Award Competitive Range/Post-Award Protests:

• Common Non-Price Evaluation Factor Issues

• Unstated evaluation criteria or subfactor, etc.
• Error in applying evaluation criteria/assigning ratings
• Unequal or disparate treatment of offerors
• Meaningful/misleading/uneven discussions
• OCI Issues

• Common Price Evaluation Issues

• Price Reasonableness
• Price Realism
• Escalation, Adjustment
• Balanced Pricing
• HUBZone Preference

UPDATE: On November 17th, 2020 BOOST Hosted Part 2 of this series: Where OCIs Meet Protests.
Our presenters discussed:
• Award Protests
• OCI Considerations
• Protest Scenarios
• and the Answers to Your Questions

Please visit this link to gain access to the replay.

GovCon Leadership Issues – Whack a Mole Leadership

Perhaps it’s the chaos of 2022 or maybe we all are trying to multi-task more than ever, but I’ve seen an uptick in what I would describe as “whack-a-mole” leadership.  You know, where one week there is a push to go in one direction.  The next week, that initiative changes or falls off the radar, and we focus on another thing.  The “Squirrel!” type of attention span that your dog has.  Or your 5-year-old.

By constantly shifting focus and redirecting the team, you see the following:

  • Lack of buy-in – if it’s changing next week, just hunker down, agree and ride it out until people stop asking about it
  • Worse…buy-in – Only to find that it’s not really a thing and then expectations and hopes are dashed. This can lead your team to NOT buy-in on something really good the next time. Don’t be the boss who cries wolf too many times.
  • Burn out – If you keep moving the ball, people get exhausted trying to get to the goal.  Let’s face it, we’re all exhausted this year anyway. This isn’t to say that if you meet your previously set goals that you shouldn’t keep moving. Just don’t pick up the finish line before the team has a chance to get there.
  • Lack of results – Everything is half done/half-implemented/half thought through.  Nothing is completed and nothing is moving, which means no one is making money.
  • Higher multiplier – Generally, this means lots of time on Overhead or G&A, driving your wrap rate up while not getting the results or efficiencies that you were probably striving for.

2020 continues to be a hell of a year.  It does require changing quickly, figuring out what works, and dumping what doesn’t efficiently.  That doesn’t mean that you can reverse course on absolutely everything. Foundations need to remain intact and stronger than ever. It’s hard to see what the next month brings, much less next year.  But while you do have to stay agile, you also need to be thinking longer term as we start edging closer to 2023 and budgeting/goal setting for next year. If you’re looking for a push in the right direction, connect with Stephanie, and let’s see where you can shift focus toward a more efficient direction.

 

The word of the quarter is: FOCUS!

No Meeting Wednesday

We recently implemented “No Meeting Wednesday” here at BOOST after piloting the program with our leadership.  First note: we HIGHLY recommend it.

Here are some thoughts/considerations on the experience.

What was the Driving Force?

I don’t know about you, but we are spending ENDLESS hours on Zoom or Teams going from meeting to meeting to meeting, call to call.  Now that we are all WFH, we are quick to get on calls.  Our schedules are no longer booked weeks in advance.  Every Monday, I personally start the week thinking its going to be a light week meeting wise.  Then by Tuesday midday, the entire week was booked.  This left no time to actually DO any work.  Or Think.  Or shake off our strategic plan for the year (uh, 2020…planning is now month to month).  I felt like all we did was spend time on meetings and that nothing felt like it was getting accomplished.  Our directors felt the same way.  2020 has turned into endless day after day of the same thing.

Our Pilot Program

After reading about No Meeting Wednesday being successful in a few large companies, I asked our Directors to try it for about 5-6 weeks.  Immediate feedback ranged from “Heck Ya, this is what I need” to “Well, what about X meeting or Y meeting and my schedule is already booked on Wednesdays”.  The skeptics took a few weeks to get on board, but by the end of our pilot, we all had done a decent job of blocking our calendars for Wednesdays.  We had 100% agreement that it worked and was something we wanted to implement throughout the entire business.

Implementation

While it’s still new to the entire organization (we just started in earnest this July), so far the feedback has been positive.  We try to post a reminder each Wed morning on our Teams page just to reinforce the message.  We have also blocked our schedules on our Outlook/Shared calendars.

Our New Reality

We still have calls on Wednesdays.  We still have meetings.  But they are meetings and calls that we individually choose to have on Wednesday.  Internally, we know that it better be important if you are going to interrupt our flow.  I personally go heads down on projects such as the corporate budget, the marketing plan, planning sessions, and even brainstorming sessions.   It has become the most valued day of the week as we can each focus on what we think our highest priorities are.  I’ve pushed myself to not just work on tactical stuff (that can wait for another day) but really focus on the thinking.  To have a higher-level perspective.  To see the forest for the trees.

While this is still very much a new thing for us, I think our company will see major benefits in many areas – productivity, creativity and FOCUS.  If only for one day a week.

Our challenge to you is as follows:

  • Choose one day per week (the SAME day each week) over the next 6-8 weeks that you consider business-sacred and demo it with your core group.
  • Set Clear Expectations in advance. No full group meetings, no non-essential client calls.
    • Reevaluate which meetings could, really, be emails and which ones need to be taken virtual face-to-virtual face.
  • Set a productivity goal to measure success.
  • Direct your leadership (and yourself) to go all-in on the experiment

 

One step further is that we want to hear from you regarding your thoughts at the end of the quarter. What worked for you? What did you change? How did it change your business? But remember, don’t call us about it on a Wednesday.