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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]

Frenemies

In this world, we all need close friends. Our tribe, our peeps (as I affectionately call them). People you know you can count on to help support your growth. This includes your teammates. As a small business in government contracting, you cannot feasibly do everything. Your list of core capabilities should not be 2 pages single spaced. Heck, it shouldn’t even be 1!

This is why you need a frenemy (or several!) in every set-aside category. Another company with similar and complementary caps with which you can team. Someone whom you trust to go after new work and who understands the value of being a teaming partner.  Someone that you can call when the RFP you’ve been tracking comes out as another set-aside or includes some random factor you don’t have (i.e. TS-SCI facility, offices within 10 mins of the customer, DCAA audited purchasing system or CMMI/ISO certification).

These relationships aren’t cultivated when the RFP drops. They take time to build trust, just like any relationship. Will they actually deliver on the proposal? Will their rates roll up under ours? Will they put their key folks on the reviews, not just dump it on the admin proposal coordinator? Can you count on their past performance? In short, can they deliver along the same values as you would? Spending time on these relationships now can save you during crunch time. Who hasn’t worked on 2-4 proposals (and more!) at one time? With trust comes efficiency, which can make or break you and your team during the proposal season.

Further, trust and frenemy relationships extend into contract delivery. There are several factors that can affect your alliance including aggressive workshare, respecting the role of the Prime and future teaming opportunities.

Frenemies make the case that 1 plus 1 can equal more than 2. Of course, you will run into each other as competitors occasionally, as that’s the nature of this industry. But losing to a teammate who knows you and is more likely to turn to you should they have growth is much better than losing to a stranger. I’ve seen companies contribute to each other’s growth significantly. It does happen, and it does work. And let’s face it, it’s hard enough in this industry. You need your frenemies. Keep your friends close and your frenemies closer.

Speaking of teaming partners, there’s a service to help you find the right match for your business. When searching for teaming partners with specific capabilities or set-aside statues, visit govmates.com – a free tool for small business teaming partners. Shoot me an email at [email protected] if you have a specific need.