Posts

Hiring Green Graduates

May is a time of year where we shed off the drab winter blues and look forward to the warmth of springtime.  May is also a time for college graduation and students hoping to start a career in their primary field of study.  It is estimated by The National Center for Education Statistics that roughly 2.8 million students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2019.  For employers this is an untapped market of bright, new talent; however, most of these individuals will not have enough on-the-job experience to qualify for jobs in their field of study. That begs the question, how do you as a small business, tap into this talent pool knowing that these graduates may not have internships or relevant job experience?

Here are a few tips to navigate the waters of the Green Graduate:

  • Create an internship or externship program.
    Provide opportunities where students and graduates can obtain on-the-job (OJT) training in their degree program. By creating these types of programs, individuals can get their foot in the door and showcase their talent, while you have the opportunity to evaluate the individual on their merits. When setting up an internship or externship, be sure that it is legally compliant with Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines.
  • Determine if certain job requirements can be reduced or if coursework and projects can be considered as experience.
    Some job postings are identified as entry-level positions only to require that the individual must have some experience.  Try to be loose in what you identify as years of experience. In some cases, especially in the IT arena, there are bright and rising stars in the field who have completed numerous courses and projects that could potentially be counted towards meeting the experience requirement.
  • Be thorough in your interviewing.
    Successfully interviewing candidates is the key to any good hiring practice. Be especially thorough with green graduates, as  you are taking a chance with someone who might not have enough experience or track record in doing the job.  Get to know the candidate and learn what their career ambitions might be, as well as their overall maturity level.  By gauging their ambition and maturity level, you’ll be able to assess if the candidate is ready to make the jump from college grad to being part of the professional workforce.
  • Once hired, provide training.
    Regardless of where you are in your career, it is necessary to consistently attend training and development programs simply because technology or best practices are changing at a rapid pace. This is especially important for the green graduate. Providing OJT will allow the employee to acclimate to the industry and provide opportunities to network with other professionals. Additionally, OJT will also help you as an employer, guide the green graduate to success in a demanding career.

BOOST knows GovCon HR and recruiting and how to incorporate new graduates into your staff We function as a boutique recruiting firm, with customized, targeted recruiting efforts for your billable positions, C-suite or corporate positions. We also help companies build a culture where employees want to work. If you need HR or recruiting guidance email [email protected]

Meet Avantika!

BOOST LLC is thrilled to announce that the team is growing.
Please give a warm welcome to Avantika Singh!
She will be supporting BOOST’s clients with her specialties in government cost/price volume expertise, strategic pricing expertise, price to win,  financial model development, financial analysis, federal contracting, metrics/measurement reviews, forecasting and more.

We took some time to get Avantika’s thoughts on the following:

Three pieces of advice for growing govcons: 

  • Always be ambitious
  • Business is meant to be grown
  • Don’t get comfortable in your own zone

What/Where is the best resource for growing your network? 

The best resource for growing the network for me has been word of mouth referrals as a consultant.  When you do good work, people trust you and recommend you, so person to person or business to business referrals have been my biggest resource.

What is your “hot take” for finding success in your industry? 

It is important to make mistakes. You don’t learn if you keep winning. Yes, it’s obviously great to win, but making mistakes and losing on a few bids gives you the best experience for long-term success.

What is the most surprising experience you’ve had working in the govcon community? 

What surprised me in this industry when I first started was how close-knit and small it really is, despite having large behemoth companies and small mom and pop shops. It seems like the same usual suspects intersect at various points, and it’s a very good community overall.  Reputation actually matters, don’t burn bridges, and collaboration is the way to go…even with competitors.

Seven Tips for Navigating 4Q18

As we start into the last government fiscal quarter, it is feast or famine time. Some have hit the beaches, getting some much-needed R&R and family time. Some are heads-down in proposal mode, worried about when the next one will hit. Others are in purgatory, the stretch between proposal submission and proposal award, with their fingers crossed thinking about the to-do list should they win.

All in all, summer is notoriously a time for going all out or taking off in the federal space. The battle rhythm is hard to hit. Here are some key points to consider, if only for your sanity.

  • Proposal Hell – make sure you’ve locked in the proposals you plan on bidding this summer. If it isn’t in your pipeline and you haven’t been tracking it, you aren’t ready to prime.  Don’t burn out your team on a bluebird, low probability win. You’re going to need them for your must wins.
  • Proposal Heaven – It’s late in the game, but make sure your templates are up to date and ready to bang out. Opposite of above, be ready to turn a bluebird subcontracting proposal over quickly. If you are doing less of the heavy lift, take more risk and bid more. This is where your templates can greatly reduce effort and your team can respond with agility. Besides, some percentage of revenue is much better than no revenue. Expand your book of business without needing to prime everything.
  • Pricing – As you close June’s books, have your folks review with leadership actual vs. planned for the first half of the year. Is your multiplier running as you expected? Does your pricing strategy for the summer need to be adjusted? Do it now before you turn in those bids. What is the impact for your proposal? Where can you tighten up? Impact on Operations (particularly CPFF work)?
  • Recruiting – It’s a tight market and it’s hard to compete for key folks. Be aware of summer schedules and be flexible as an employer. If they can’t interview in the next two weeks, it’s not necessarily because they aren’t interested. Adjust your expectations for days to hire.
  • Leadership and Recruiting – It’s a great time to schedule those pipeline candidates for coffee where you can. They want to interact with leadership, not the recruiter. Take the time to touch base so when the contract award hits, you can move quickly.
  • Mental Health – This is important for everyone. Take the vacation, take the time off. Get off your phone and dear god, stop driving your team endlessly. If leadership can’t take a vacation and check out for a bit, what have you done wrong in your business? Delegate, empower and document. This goes for CEOs to administrative staff. Absolutely no one is irreplaceable. Create an environment where taking time off is actually a good thing, not something that is frowned upon.
  • Be Efficient (a tip from Courtney Fairchild of Global Services) There will be a great deal of opportunities arriving at the end of the fiscal year buying season, but working smart will save you valuable time and energy. Looking ahead at forecasts; touching base with current government clients; having up-to-date GSA schedules with all the services and products you offer, and being mindful of micro-purchase thresholds can provide meaningful wins and cash flow.

 

Before you disconnect for a bit- get everything in order to jump back in well-rested and energized. If you find you’re a little light on recruiting or pricing preparation, let BOOST know. We’re happy to jump in and have a conversation with you to see where you can tighten up and delegate when possible. Email[email protected] and let’s talk.

Why Pricing?

BOOST is excited to announce the launch of our new strategic pricing initiative, designed to support your proposal pricing needs and provide Price to Win strategy that incorporates all back office functions. We want you to win work, grow and succeed. Strategic pricing can get you there. 

Pricing impacts absolutely everything in an organization. If you haven’t been thinking about it strategically, or have just relied on your accounting shop to pull together a spreadsheet, you are going about it all wrong.

Here’s what I mean:

Capture –

  • How much does this customer have in the budget?
  • What did the incumbent bid?
  • Is it worth it to pursue this strategy?
  • Is this a profit play or increase past performance, new client, new offerings?
  • Impact to teaming decisions and teammates?
  • Did you know that Capture “owns” pricing? They’re ultimately responsible for the bid price.

Proposal Team –

  • What key personnel do we bid?
  • What type of labor mix will show the customer that we can deliver?
  • What price will come in competitively?
  • How do we price our solution?
  • How will our competitors bid?
  • How will we ghost weaknesses?
  • How can the pricing volume help win themes?
  • Other volumes impacted by price, such as SB volume, Contracts volume?

Recruiting –

  • Who are the key personnel and how can I ensure exclusivity (if possible)?
  • What is the geographic location, skill set and salary rates we need to start pipelining beforehand and hire in execution?
  • Greening plan? Innovative hiring solutions for continuity of ops over the contract years?
  • What flexibility do we have on credentials?
  • What type of benefits can we offer to supplement for lower base salaries?

HR –

  • What training do we need to offer to current staff?
  • Who can move from existing work to new work, allowing for career path?
  • How do we manage the workforce needs of the new team?
  • If changing badges, how do we ensure they understand our culture, benefits, etc.?
  • What is the cultural impact to the organization?

Operations 

  • How soon can we transition fully and hire?
  • Will we be stuck managing a team of unhappy badge changers?
  • What is the impact to the other projects if we trade players?
  • How can we keep the customer happy with a new team?
  • How can we hire the talent we need at the salaries we bid?
  • How do we overcome a small (or non-existent) annual increase and keep the team motivated?
  • How will the contract type affect performance metrics? Should we account for risk in the bid?

Finance –

  • What is the cost to hire, how quickly will we hire and what are the cash flow requirements?
  • What will be the impact to margins?
  • How do we deliver for maximum profits?

Leadership 

  • What does the win do for us in the marketplace?
  • Can we deliver operationally and do so profitably?
  • What is the impact to our culture that we need to recognize?

Shareholders –

  • What does this do to the company’s overall position within the industry/market?
  • What is the financial impact?

Absolutely everyone in an organization is impacted (directly or indirectly) by the pricing strategy that you employ on the bid. It goes without saying that to start, you’ve got to win. But the need to win MUST be tempered with the above impacts. Winning a poorly priced bid for headaches in execution is NOT worth it. Do not fall into the trap of “must win at any cost” mentality. It can wreck culture, margins and reputation.

For all the above reasons, we are extremely excited to announce our strategic pricing shop. We’ve got 10+ senior pricers that cover practically every agency, who have won billions. As we push towards fiscal year end, utilize professionals who can help you think through all of the above and win.

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.

Lucky or Good?

As we head into the second half of the government fiscal year, do you find yourself looking at contractors who are on a winning streak and asking, “why do they keep winning?”  What is the secret sauce?  They don’t (at least from an outsider’s perspective) seem to be doing anything differently.  Their service offerings aren’t different than others.  They are winning with new clients, so it can’t be incumbent insider intel.  They aren’t the cheapest on the block, so they aren’t low-balling their bids to buy their way in.  Are they just lucky?  Or is it well deserved?

For those of us who work in GovCon all day, every day, we start to pick up on who will be successful and who will die on the vine.  Those that are winning have some of the following qualities:

  • Some differentiator in their service offering.  It doesn’t matter how loosely held that differentiator is.  I can go on for hours about lack of differentiation within GovCon and how “your people are the best athletes on the field” is NOT a differentiator. Those that win have glommed onto something they can promote as different.
  • Proposal machines.  These folks know the extra work required for going after some of these bids.  They successfully shift or delegate their work to others to allow them to ramp up on proposal work.  This is not necessarily the same as having a proposal shop.  It just means they know how to prioritize and delegate and have put in the mechanisms to do so.
  • Competitive rates.  Not necessarily low-ball rates, but something that is in line with their customers budgets, their main competition and the infrastructure that allows them to profit.  If you are winning often, you do NOT have to “buy your way in” on a new customer.
  • Recruiting machines.  They’ve got great candidates that they can flip to employees quickly.  Their resumes sing.  They have been working these candidates since they first smelled the pre-solicitation.
  • Competitive Intel.  Someone there has been working the opportunity and the customer for months, if not years.  From the outside, this win may look like a total bluebird, but someone has been working it hard, quietly.

With a few wins, the leadership strives for more, recruiters have an easier sell to candidates, employee referrals go up, teaming partners start to line up.  There is something about being a winner in this town that makes folks want to work for or with the company.
Throw in a little luck and timing, and that’s how you get the GovCon Swagger.  At least until the re-compete.

While you may need to define some of these pieces for yourself, BOOST can assist with the prioritization and delegation of your most important tasks. We specialize in accounting, contracts, HR and/or recruiting. Pick one, two or a combination of all four to free up your work time to become a proposal machine. Send an email to [email protected] and let’s discuss how you can get started.

Data Bullying

In the past month, we’ve seen no less than three clients who are actively being bullied by their own staff or their consultants.  What do I mean by bullying?  Being at the hands of someone who holds information as their weapon of choice.  People who deliberately make their jobs as vague as possible to hide their inefficiencies or inadequacies.  They do most of their work off the books or systems that their company utilizes.  This means spreadsheets that can only be filled by them, pipeline reports that have no context, CRM tools not updated, candidates whose resumes are not in their ATS or even access to company data not provided.

I’ve talked to CEOs who are the mercy of their bookkeepers who somehow mysteriously run payroll, invoicing and financials as if no one else can possibly figure it out.  CEOs who aren’t provided financial reports in a timely fashion to make important decisions about their companies.  I’ve talked to those who have outsourced their accounting functionality, only to find that they don’t actually own their own company data.  They’ve signed contracts with ridiculous clauses requiring payment for getting out early, while their data is either held hostage or not returned at all.

I’ve seen business development people run an entirely different CRM tool that they can take with them should they leave a company.  They use excuses such as the “data entry is tedious,” or that “the company CRM tool is too hard to use.”  They leave proposals on their laptops and forget to check entire documents back into the company’s repository.

I’ve seen recruiters who are “too busy” to upload resumes into the ATS or who correspond apart from their company email.  Or worse, they recruit for several different companies at the same time for the same candidates and positions, and play companies off each other (without their knowledge) in an effort to drive up their commission or fees.

Finally, there are PMs or Ops people who hold their relationship with the client hostage.  They are the only ones who can communicate directly.  They keep their deliverables on their laptops, they won’t allow their contracts shop, or even their management to speak with the program office.  They keep their relationship deliberately convoluted, yet report all greens on their PMR charts.

To this, let me be clear in my message – NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE is indispensable.  CEOs commonly think that they can’t live without a certain person.  They whisper that they will lose their re-compete or that they won’t have payroll processed or that their BD person will change companies, or they will lose financing with their banks. While there is no argument that losing this person will hurt in the short term, having this type of hostage situation resolved will absolutely provide peace of mind to your organization in the long term.  Not being beholden to someone for their data (which, is YOUR data) is freeing.  Coming to the realization that no one is indispensable is freeing.

Take back your company, CEO…. it’s your risk, your reputation and your livelihood.  Own it.

Do you feel you’re in danger of or in the midst of an information-held-hostage situation? Let’s have a conversation and see what’s really going on, [email protected]

Forced Promotion

Did you fall into management? Were you rewarded for your technical skills with the extra bonus of now having direct reports? This cycle happens time and time again where folks excel at their trade. Generally, very few people are asked if they want the additional responsibility of a leadership role or guiding a team. Even fewer are given any training on how to be a good manager. Instead, they are given timesheet approval responsibilities, a list of when performance reviews are due and told to make the team work. There’s no Cliff Notes or Management 101 class for how it’s done and most learn via on-the-job experience. A trial by fire, if you will.

As small organizations grow, the scenario above becomes more normal than unique. This is dangerous for several reasons. First and foremost, it takes a brilliant, high-achiever away from the thing they do best and forces them to spend time on tasks they may not enjoy. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t always the case. There are some people that want the additional management responsibilities and enjoy managing a team. If that’s the case, good grief, encourage it! Yet in many cases, it’s a technical engineer or high-tech professional who enjoys their trade and wants to spend more time doing it, not less.

This is also a dangerous move as these types of managers may not have the instincts to follow employment laws, cultivate a team or build morale. Those traits can be gained through experience, but only if the participant wants to. Many times, the management piece filed under “other duties as assigned” and those who are not prone to leadership are less likely to spend time improving their skills in this area. This leads to issues within the team and potentially putting the company in legal risk (unintentionally). Thus creating more problems where a simple conversation, gauging the interest of your team and gleaning appropriate leaders from the ranks may have avoided many issues.

If you are a technical company, I recommend you seek out those who are keen to manage and have the skills or drive to learn. Encourage this and build from there. For those who don’t, allow them to continue to climb in their careers, but do so with the top cover support from managers who understand their talents. Micro-managing a highly technical person is a recipe for disaster. Instead, hire leaders who respect and understand the technical expertise. In return, they will win the respect of the techies.

Happy Techies, Happy Leaders, Happy Company… for the most part.

When it comes time for you to seek new leadership for your teams- invest in reviewing skill sets, employee goals and find the best fit on paper and in person for the needs of your company. Want to learn more? I’d be happy to throw some pointers your way! [email protected]

Gut

“Have faith in your intuition and listen to your gut feeling.” Ann Cotton

Ask any CEO, and 90%+ will tell you that their biggest hurdle is people. Hiring the right team, making sure they play well together in the sandbox, work together to meet the mission, and generally push the company forward. The dynamics of a strong, diverse team are invaluable in the progression of your company. So how do you hire the right person? Do you rely on proven experience, or do you go with your gut?

There is plenty of written work around the topic of hiring. Some companies have it down to a science (think alphabet or apple). Most small businesses are lucky to have a standard process, much less something that is consistent and does a good job of screening candidates. Many folks at this stage “go with your gut” and hire specifically based on personality and how the candidate did in the interview.

How effective is this and how detrimental can it be to your company should your gut be off? Depending on your policies, you may be required to excessively retrain, mentor and closely monitor a subpar new hire. The damage to your established team could be expensive regarding time, mindset and resources.

For me, some of my best hires have been based on a combination of experience and/or the right personality traits. The right balance between the two is paramount. For example, is your accounting candidate detailed oriented? Do they have typos on their resume? If so, not a good indicator. I’ve hired folks without any specific industry experience, but they had the right personality and were willing to learn. Personality is just as important as any experience, especially when joining a small team. How well candidates can play with others is one of the key factors, and in my opinion, should be weighed more heavily than experience.

With that said, another key factor when considering a new hire is diversity, specifically, diversity of thought and opinion. If you surround yourself with folks who have the exact same background and exact same experience as you, you’ll wind up with total agreement, and stagnation. Total agreement doesn’t challenge you as a CEO, nor does it advance your company.  You need people on your team who will appropriately question your path, question the standard and most importantly, take issue with the soul-wrenching, “but we’ve always done it this way.” Hire folks that push you to be a stronger business leader, and your company will be much improved as a result.

Your gut is an important part of your hiring process as we often notice red flags subconsciously. Yet it behooves us to remember to include careful consideration of experience, personality, and diversity. While you’re refining your hiring process, you may want to consider a hiring audition to uncover some candidate characteristics often unseen in an interview. If you’re interested in revamping your policy on hiring, seek out the advice experts in your field as what may work for Apple may not work for you.

For expertise in GovCon regarding hiring, recruiting and human resources, contact BOOST LLC. www.BOOSTLLC.net