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The Gift of Expertise

Ever feel like you have no clue how to solve a problem or that there has to be an answer out there, you just don’t know it?  Do you google randomly trying to figure it out, only to not be satisfied with the results?  Or (if you are like me), do you just want someone to freaking deal with it and tell you what to do in this circumstance?  Do you feel like you know it’s important, but there are a ton of things that you’d rather be doing or should focus on?

As you plan for 2019, be thinking about what expertise you need in the new year.  What will help move your business forward and, more importantly, grow your profit?  What is worthy of your time and what isn’t?  When do you play it safe with an outside opinion?  (answer:  Anything with a ton of money on the line or employee issues – call the expert!).

Here’s a short list of items that folks waste time on by doing it themselves instead of calling an expert to save a ton of time and in the right circumstances, a ton of money:

  • Affirmative Action Plans
  • Taxes
  • GSA Schedules
  • Employee handbooks
  • Policies and Procedures (to start)
  • CMMI/ISO certification
  • Office Space/Office Moves
  • FAR Compliance
  • Proposal Price/Cost Volume development and Analysis
  • Indirect Rates development and Analysis
  • Strategic Pricing/Price to Win Analysis
  • M&A (when you don’t have a shop of your own)
  • Website development
  • Complex IT Challenges
  • Bookkeeping
  • Graphic Design
  • Payroll

This holiday season, give yourself the gift of getting crap off your plate.  Budget for using an expert in one or more of these areas next year.  Reclaim your time!

If you need a referral or recommendation to anyone providing these services, just give us a shout.

Lowering Your Wrap Rate

Did you make it into your desired beach bod state this summer?  Or was time for the gym illusive?  Did you cut back on the dessert or did you enjoy a ton of gelato?

Much like dieting and maintaining good health, government contractors must maintain a “sexy” multiplier/wrap rate.  Even if you are in a less competitive field or have a unique offering for a customer with a ton of funding (if you are, good on you), you must still monitor and maintain your wrap rate.

Companies can sometimes view this exercise as an annual corporate budget, where you occasionally look at how you are doing and often look back and ponder “what were we thinking?”  This is not enough by a long shot.  Best practice is to review your financials each month and include analysis on how you are performing on your wrap rate.  Review monthly, adjust quarterly, consider a complete overhaul semi-annually.

Most companies find that they need to tighten the belt a smidge, especially as we push into the fourth quarter.  For some, it may be too late to rein it in this year, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start pushing for the 2019 indirect diet.  For others, it may be a great time to lose a few pounds before the year-end festivities.  Here are some suggestions for both year-end and next year:

  • Space – do you really use it; do you need it and what is your company culture? Larger System Integrators are shedding their bloated infrastructure.  Don’t build one unless you’ve got 5-year POP’s with all contractor site rates.  And even then, keep it lean.
  • Wellness – When was the last time you competitively shopped your benefits? Or even your broker?  Don’t get tied up in the same old “we only have a 2-5% increase, so that’s great” mentality.  Depending upon your size, self-funding in some capacity may be of interest.  Does anyone actually use the vision policy?  What about dental?  Have you considered reducing your contribution?  Not always popular but it may lead to new work.
  • Training – with all of the online options these days, does your team really need individualized training or would an online package work? You could offer this benefit to more employees at a lower overall cost.
  • Education – consider reducing the tuition reimbursement if very few people are using it. It’s nice to tout to potential new hires, but in reality, it’s not a deal-breaker.  If it is, bonus the employee out to cover the costs.
  • Business Development – is the team on track to meet their goals this year or has performance been underwhelming? It is time to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t and shed a quarter’s worth of labor costs for non-performers.  Let them go now while the job market is still firing up.  Layoffs or terminations after Veterans Day essentially mean no job until after New Year’s.  Make the hard call now.

Keep working at the wrap rate and make sure it’s as lean as you can survive on.  Not bloated, but not extra thin either – you need a little wiggle room to ensure a healthy company.

Recruiting During Proposal Season

Soon proposal season will be upon us…along with writer’s block, visions of past performances dancing in your head, cost volumes, long nights and lots of coffee. But, the most enjoyable of all is resumes, sourcing, contingent offer letters and recruiting.

Government contracting recruiting is not like commercial recruiting.  The talent pool is small, the salaries are low, the lists of qualifications are long and the skill sets are specific. Proposal recruiting is its own version of fun with key personnel, vague requirements and candidates who get cranky when they hear you are recruiting for a proposal.

Whether recruiting for a proposal or a funded job req, the usual question is whether you recruit with in-house recruiters or if you utilize an outsourced recruiting firm (or individual recruiting consultant). There are several pros/cons to consider when outsourcing:

Pros of Outsourced Recruiting

  • You can use recruiting support only when needed, which can keep costs down
  • Recruiting firms offer the benefit of an expanded network
  • The resources of a qualified recruiter result in finding candidates faster, also important in proposal recruiting
  • Recruiting firms can keep the client confidential in postings, which is especially beneficial in the intelligence community or when recruiting for proposals

Cons of Outsourced Recruiting

  • For proposal recruiting, you are expending costs that you may not recover
  • You still need to add the cost into the indirect rates
  • Outsourcing can add additional time to the process (i.e., bringing a recruiter up to speed, learning your culture, etc.)
  • Better upsell of your company when you directly deliver the message

There is no right/wrong answer when it comes to determining how you will conduct your recruiting.  Both insourced and outsourced offer benefits and advantages.  Outsourcing costs more, but allows you to focus more efforts on different areas (proposal writing, business development, etc.).  If you have the staff available, insourcing can save costs and give you more control over the recruiting process.

BOOST and Apertus Partners are conducting a workshop through the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce GovCon Initiative on May 31st at 8:30 on Recruiting in the Intelligence Community.  Come join the discussion on recruiting challenges, case studies of successful internal recruiting from a local GovCon, the price of recruiting and recruiting diverse candidates in the Intel space. Ross O’Rourke from IC-1 Solutions will present on his company’s experience with internal recruiting in the intelligence community and Dat Nguyen, a BOOST recruiter, will speak on his experience with diversity recruiting in the intel space.

Register here.

Island Life

The ubiquitous aspiration of many a small government contractor is the $100MN revenue mark followed by the sale of their business (no doubt at a lofty multiple) coupled with the purchase of a private tropical island complete with oceanside beverage service.  Much like an old wives’ tale, the reality in such assumptions is lacking but always makes for good fodder at a Tyson’s Corner M&A networking event.

But as you grow your government contracting business, being an island unto your own is exactly the opposite of what your strategy should be. We all covet the position of being the Prime Contractor; subcontractors are always at a disadvantage when it comes to workshare, profitability and customer relationships. However, isn’t having a piece of something better than always going it alone, with zero to show for it?

The government contracting industry is awash with stories of mistreatment by partners, workshare-greedy primes and small businesses who think they simply can do it all.  Most have been subjected to an unfortunate teaming experience that has negatively influenced their thinking, or have bought into the idea that their company is the federal contracting equivalent of Superman and can do anything. Let me be the first to tell you, it’s not. It’s hard to do everything in GovCon, even more so as a small business. Teaming with others will allow you to CREDIBLY expand your capabilities, utilize other’s strengths and provide a more robust solution to the government.

How you choose to find and vet a partner is critical. Are you relying on your business development lead’s Rolodex (and why do we still say Rolodex)? Going to the same group of folks for the same boilerplate response is not innovative, nor compelling. Try relying upon a formulaic and methodical approach for teaming by expanding beyond your network to find other likeminded companies with the past performance or capabilities that you need for a winning bid. govmates, an online teaming platform for growing GovCons, can help with this. Once a potential teammate is identified, really vet the company.  Having a similar bidding style, rate structure and overall corporate culture is critical and will help in execution.

No one likes to go it alone.  There is safety (and revenue) in numbers, especially in the small business federal contracting community.

Need help finding a teammate?  Send me a note at [email protected]

Leading Your Troops

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.

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.

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.

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 spend 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.