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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 is on a Wednesday.

 

Government 4th Quarter… Who the Heck Knows?

‘Tis the quarter of last-minute proposals, mad scrambles for key personnel, task order bidding, and trying to keep everything straight between whose team you are on and for what.  Add that to trying to manage multiple folks on vacation and everyone suffering from a bit of summer head (i.e. we’d rather be at the beach mentality).  Oh, and COVID… can’t forget work-from-home-forever, COVID.

It’s a time when some folks lose all strategic perspective and go whole-hog into the throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what hits strategy.  What is the difference between 5 proposals or 6 they think?

But….2020.  Need we say more?  Our response to practically everything these days is…2020.
Keeping all of that in mind, what does this government 4th quarter actually look like?

We’re hearing mixed results.  Some folks seem to be business as usual (which means crazy).  Our pricers are busy as are the proposal peeps.  There are a significant number of folks going after 8a STARS right now too.  But some folks are reporting that things seem quiet….eerily quiet.

For those on the quiet side, the question becomes, is there a true lack of opportunities?
Potentially, and here’s why:

  • Everyone is still focused on COVID related acquisitions
  • Money was spent on other priorities (IT infrastructure and/or pandemic related)
  • Acquisition process is slower these days due to remote work
  • Less intel opportunities since everyone is running at 50%
  • Less opportunities that are not on the large GWACs/IDIQ vehicles
  • Category management has effectively become the have and have nots, squeezing small business
  • Lack of access to government officials – everyone’s home, wandering around for snacks, not wandering the halls for business

Whatever the case may be, what’s important is that business owners and business development folks keep on top of the rumors, what they are seeing in their business and talk to their frenemies about their experiences.  Don’t be complacent that what you are seeing or experiencing is the same everywhere in GovCon.  Don’t fall into the trap or get lulled into a significant pause on your growth strategy or BD goals.

Not only do we spout great advice, we take it too. In our conversations with partners and frenemies, we’re continuously gathering new data on trends and gut feelings. Luckily for you, we don’t keep it all under wraps. BOOST is sponsoring the upcoming govmates Institute with Wolf Den & Associates titled, Virtual First: Business Development in a Post-COVID World. This event is free to govmates members. Check out the institute page and apply for a seat at the virtual institute ASAP.

What are you seeing in your line? Head over to our LinkedIn Page and join the conversation about current industry trends and where businesses are going from here.

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!)

Is Running a VAR Keeping You Up at Night?

Two parts of running a successful business in GovCon are knowledge and compliance. You need to know your requirements and how to follow those directives. Add to that the complexities of running a VAR/reseller and we’d bet that there are several things keeping you up at night – in addition to booking sales that is.

Below are some important compliance items that you should keep in mind.  Maybe they will even help you sleep better at night (probably not, but we’re trying!).

  1. Service Contract Act complianceThis is especially important for those offering ancillary services in support of the products (think maintenance, warranty or help desk). Many of the VAR/reseller-type services are potentially covered by a Wage Determination.  Most VARs do not provide the services themselves, but rather, the OEM.  Add this to the fact that most services are buried in the product line item, it can be challenging to determine whether or not the SCA even applies to your PO. As such, a certain level of “due diligence” needs to be conducted to ensure compliance. The last thing anyone wants is the DOL knocking on your door with an audit request.
  2. NMRThe infamous Non-Manufacturer Rule (NMR) is a thorn in any VAR’s side when it comes to GovCon and IT. The NMR is an exception to the SBA performance requirements and limitations on subcontracting (LOS), which provide that on a supply contract, a firm must perform at least 50% of the cost of manufacturing the supplies. FAR 52.219-14.  There are some large vehicles, such as the NASA SEWP, that contain the LOS. Practice tip – if you are selling big IT equipment, ask your CO to remove the clause from the solicitation.
  3. Efficient “vendor” managementAlongside the heavy traffic of deals streaming in and out of a VAR, it’s hard to imagine tracking, managing, inspecting, and reporting all of your vendors. Compliance requirements for counterfeit parts, data breach safeguarding, and flow downs seem like an impossible mountain to summit. Let us shine a light in the darkness here for you: BOOST can provide a framework and strategy to best manage these pieces while saving you sanity and time.

Even if you’re sleeping at night like a bear in winter, these can still cause quite the headache.  Our mission at BOOST is to alleviate your headaches by helping you with the stuff you don’t have the time, the interest, or the man-or-woman-power to handle.  Focusing only on GovCon, allows BOOST to make your life easier and more efficient.  Let us help you cross another task off your list, email [email protected] and let’s discuss the possibilities.

The FAR is Not Far Away for Small Businesses

We get it. You are a small shop, and the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) is just another acronym in this hectic GovCon space. You are busy drumming up business, and who has time to think about FAR compliance? You might think the FAR is far, far away from you since you are a small business. Wrong! The applicability of the FAR to you as a government contractor (or subcontractor supporting a government contract) is not based on your business size.

Why?  Well, it all comes down to public policy.

In a recent case, the 9th Circuit summarized:

that the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provisions “while undoubtedly extensive, permit the government to maintain fairly uniform contracting standards in the many contracts it enters into with parties located in the United States and around the world…To allow contractors and subcontractors, foreign or domestic, to evade the FAR provisions because a subcontractor was too unsophisticated or inexperienced to fully understand them would potentially cripple the government’s ability to contract with private entities and would violate controlling federal law.” Aspic Engineering and Construction Company v. ECC Centcom Constructors LLC; ECC International LLC, No. 17-16510, D.C. No. 4:17-cv-00224-YGR, 13 (9th Cir. Jan. 28, 2019) (“Aspic”).

In short, public policy wins.

The government needs to be able to buy with a level of risk mitigation in place. Do you want your tax dollars going to a deal that turns bad because the guys building the new facility failed to follow their FAR flow downs? Not really.

Yes, it is challenging to compete in the GovCon space, but there is a sense of serving the public that makes the challenge worth it. However, that means you have to play by Uncle Sam’s rules. Even the one-man-bands building souped-up servers with robots attached to them in their garages have flow downs to contend with if they are going to sell to the federal government under traditional acquisition mechanisms.*

In the name of public policy, even if certain FAR clauses are not “flowed” into your contract, a judge will find them applicable to your contract “by operation of law.” G.L. Christian & Assoc. v. United States, 160 Cl. Ct. 1 (Cl. Ct. 1965). The famous Christian Doctrine was applied to Federal subcontractors in UPMC Braddock et al., v. Harris, No. 1:09-cv-01210 (D.D.C. Mar. 30, 2013) (“UPMC”).

One of the traditional avenues for small businesses to gain a foothold in the GovCon space is through subcontracting, often thinking it is easier because they do not have to follow all the same rules as their prime contractor counterparts. However, based on UPMC, following the FAR, is required no matter what. There is no free pass for small businesses.

Even though we just threw a whole lot of legal ease at you, we don’t want you to be stressed about FAR compliance. If you need a plan to get your act in gear, BOOST LLC has experience setting small businesses up for success in the lean-and-mean style.

*There are Other Transactions Authorities that exist purposely to allow the federal government to pursue non-standard government contractors without the application of the FAR. There is good news! We know a great OTA Consortium Management group.

 

 

Post-Proposal | After Action Review

Does your company know what happened?

The proposal was finally submitted, the team has finally gotten a night’s rest, (some having nightmares of missed compliance items and some cherishing the eventual win party)!  Either way, a lot of mental focus is disbanded after a successful proposal submission.  One of the things that many companies benefit from, but fail to do often, is an After Action Review or Lessons Learned review.  We recommend doing this often, and quickly, after the proposal is submitted.  It doesn’t have to be conducted in a formal manner, with meetings or papers.  It can be a simple non-formal format such as a survey or questionnaire to the key players of the proposal.  It should involve your proposal manager, your key subcontractors, any consultants you may have had, and most importantly your pricing lead.  Most companies forget to include lessons learned from a pricing/cost volume preparation perspective.  There are many lessons to be learned on this front, here are some basic questions to get you started:

1. Were you able to coordinate and manage your subcontractor pricing and its impacts to your proposal in a timely fashion? 

2. Was your C-level team allowed to make last-minute changes (hint: Gold team is NOT meant for changing levers such as fee/teaming ratios/labor rates) that absolutely caused a ripple effect and chaos across multiple volumes?

3. Was there enough emphasis on compliance in the Cost volume?

4. Was there enough time built in for cause and effect from pricing to other volumes?

5. Did you prepare with enough data/intelligence when it comes to deciding on wrap rates/labor rates?

 

Once the proposal is submitted it’s too late to make changes (unless errors are identified that you must inform the government about, but that’s a topic for another day).  What this does is get your proposal team ready to bid smartly and accurately for the next ones.  Making the same mistakes is a fool’s errand in this business, it’s costly and redundant.  Don’t be that team! BOOST can help you to conduct After Action Reviews or even better, get your pricing on the right track the first time. Let’s talk: [email protected]

Bidding SCA Contracts – Is It Worth It?

As we ebb and flow through the proposal season, there are numerous types of RFPs that will drop which you might consider bidding on.  Some might even have the Service Contract Act (SCA) clause 52.222-41 buried in the document.  If you decide an RFP with the SCA clause is worth the bid, there are some things to take into consideration throughout the process.  Here are a few items to consider:

• SCA clause is in the RFP, but not the Wage Determination (WD).
It is always a good idea to ask during the Q&A process if SCA does apply.  If it does, then the government should provide the WDs.  If the government does not, it is up to you to find the applicable WD on the Department of Labor (DOL) website.  This is especially important when developing pricing as you will want to be sure that you have the most up to date data in order to develop your fringe pools and understand the hourly pay rates.

• The prior contract should have had the SCA clause incorporated into the contract.
If it has become apparent that the SCA provision did apply to the prior contract, the DOL may require retroactive application of the SCA. If you are the incumbent, you must make the employees as whole as possible when complying with the SCA.
You will need to ensure that the employees were:

• afforded the correct Health & Welfare (H&W) dollars,
• mapped to the appropriate labor category,
• considered with employee seniority on the contract when afforded vacation benefits, and,
• if the sick leave Executive Order is applicable, the employees will need to have sick time calculated based on hours worked.

If you are not the incumbent, you will still want to consider all of these options to develop your rates as they will be applicable going forward on the new contract.

•Benefits must comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In the past, organizations have attempted to reduce their pricing by trying to gut the benefits offered.  Benefits must still comply with ACA’s minimum essential coverage and cost requirements.  Just because the H&W is employer money to be used to purchase insurance on behalf of the employee, it still must meet the maximum cost threshold set by the government each year.  Generally, benefit costs to the employee should not be more than approximately 9.5% of the lowest waged household income.  Unfortunately, employers are not privy to an employee’s household income so it is a recommended best practice to take the lowest wage earner in the company and determine the maximum amount the medical benefit should cost that employee when determining cost allocations.

• SCA applies to all non-exempt employees on the contract.
Do not overlook part-time employees.  Part-time employees are entitled to all SCA benefits, with the exception of health insurance benefits.  You will want to be sure to incorporate costs for vacation and sick leave in your rates.

• Subcontractors’ compliance is a common issue/pitfall.
A good practice tip is to draft a form that calls out the requirements of the SCA with emphasis on its exemptions and provide this to your subcontractors.  Train your contracts shop to send out the form to each subcontractor supporting a prime contract that contains the SCA clause in the prime contract. It is best to have documentation that shows your subcontractors’ assertion that it is exempt. And yes, the FAR clause does flow down to your subcontractors, they need to be aware and compliant, the Prime is on the hook for subcontractor compliance with the prime contract requirements.

• When bidding on IDIQs, make sure to check the master IDIQ contract vehicle.
It is common that the SCA clause is at the master IDIQ level but may not be incorporated into the task order.  It is up to you, the contractor, to be sure that the SCA clause is adhered to even if it is not included in the task order.

• There is a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in place.
Just because there is a CBA in place, does not mean that the SCA provision does not apply. Yes, the CBA takes precedence over the SCA as it pertains to wages, H&W rates, and benefits; however, as an employer, you would still be required to adhere to the provisions of the SCA.  When bidding, ask for a copy of the CBA so that your rates incorporate their requirements for wages, H&W, and benefits.  Too often, employers will bid without understanding the CBA and find that they will need to adjust pay and benefits. Despite this required adjustment, the employer may not be able to go back to the government and request an equitable adjustment on your rates. You may have leverage in renegotiating the CBA if the SCA offers conflicting guidance.  Always work with your legal team to ensure all the risks on both items.

• If you do not comply with SCA, the repercussions are harsh.
It is imperative that you know what you are getting yourself into when bidding and working on an SCA contract.  The government will not accept that you did not know.  It is up to you to make sure that you comply.  If it is found that you did not comply, the government sanctions and fines can be harsh, and you could open yourself up for a DOL Wage & Hour audit.  Government sanctions and an audit could include fines, penalties, back pay, punitive damages paid to the government and to the affected employee, debarment, and contract termination.  It is in your best interest to be sure to comply with all applicable FAR clauses under the SCA.

Luckily for BOOST clients, we have the knowledge required to help keep you compliant. If you’re wondering if a bid is worth the SCA headache, let’s talk and set some strategic pricing plans in motion. Email [email protected] to learn more.

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