Wednesday, December 23, 2009
SAVE THE DATE!
Greetings WMADO Firms,
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, February 18, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) will be hosting an event for small business owners at the new Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) on doing business with the AOC and the CVC. The AOC is responsible for the maintenance, operation, development, and preservation of 16.5 million square feet of buildings and more than 450 acres of land throughout the U.S. Capitol complex in Washington, DC. Opened on December 2, 2008, the CVC is the largest expansion to the Capitol, and it is the new visitor entrance to the Capitol -- its facilities include a 16,500 Exhibition Hall, a 530-seat Restaurant, two Gift Shops, and two orientation theaters where visitors watch a 13-minute welcome film before touring the U.S. Capitol.
The Small Business Industry Day sponsored by the Architect of the Capitol at the U.S. Capitol is free and open to any small business owner; however, advance reservation is required and attendance will be limited to 400. Details on how to register and specific products and services sought will be forthcoming in early January. Generally, the CVC is looking for products to be sold in its two Gift Shops that are made in the U.S. A. and manufactured with U.S.-made materials such as educational toys, jewelry, and souvenir apparel whose product themes are focused on the Capitol. The AOC is looking for goods and services required to maintain its buildings such as elevators, escalators, air handling units and electrical systems as well as products and services needed to maintain the landscaping around the Capitol complex and conserve and repair historical objects and artwork.
The CVC Gift Shops would be interested in small businesses that provide goods in the following NAICS codes (not a complete list):
* 322233 Stationery, Tablet, and Related Product Manufacturing 500
* 327112 Vitreous China, Fine Earthenware and Other Pottery Product Manufacturing
* 339914 Costume Jewelry and Novelty Manufacturing 500
* 339931 Doll and Stuffed Toy Manufacturing 500
* 339941 Pen and Mechanical Pencil Manufacturing 500
* 423920 Toy and Hobby Goods and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers
* 424320 Men’s and Boys’ Clothing and Furnishings Merchant Wholesalers
* 424330 Women’s, Children’s, and Infants’ Clothing and Accessories Merchant Wholesalers
* 424450 Confectionery Merchant Wholesalers 100
* 424920 Book, Periodical, and Newspaper Merchant Wholesalers
The AOC is actively searching for small businesses that provide goods and services in the following NAICS subsectors:
* 238, Specialty Trade Contractors
* 315, Apparel Manufacturing
* 321, Wood Product Manufacturing
* 325, Chemical Manufacturing
* 326, Plastics and Rubber Products Manufacturing
* 327, Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing
* 331, Primary Metal Manufacturing
* 332, Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing
* 333, Machinery Manufacturing
* 334, Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing
* 335, Electrical Equipment, Appliance, and Component Manufacturing
* 423, Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods
* 443, Electronics and Appliance Stores
* 444, Building Material and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Types of Marketing Communications
Communications materials are intended to promote your company. This means the materials should inform potential clients about your company's primary core capabilities, remind existing clients about what you can do for them, and persuade both potential and existing clients to do business with you.
Marketing communications materials include your stationary, business cards, electronic and print presentations, brochures, newsletters, press releases, and Web site. Marketing communications also encompasses the capabilities/qualifications statements and proposals your company submits. Your company's image and message should be consistently presented on each of these materials. Electronic and print presentations should have the same look and feel (i.e., colors, typefaces, layout, and writing style) to make it clear the materials are coming from the same company.
Concept and Design
The first step in concepting and designing your marketing communications materials is to identify the target audience. Who in the Government has a requirement for your product or service? Are you reaching out to the federal, state, or local government? The materials you create to target these agencies will be different from the materials you use to target commercial or non-profit clients. The materials you use to target a federal agency may need to be tailored if you're going to present them to a state or local agency. The materials you use to target a civilian federal agency may differ from the materials you use to reach out to a defense agency.
When identifying the target audience, also consider if the people you are targeting are the decision-makers, senior managers, contracting officials, or end-users. Are they technical or non-technical? The content and tone for a brochure targeting decision-makers will be different from the content and tone of a brochure targeting an information technology project manager.
Once you've determined your target audience, identify their hot buttons. The best way to reach them is through clearly demonstrating your understanding of their needs and desired outcomes. Research the agencies you want to target, getting information on budget, organization, mission, and goals. A successful government contractor is perceived as a partner and subject matter expect who understands the agency's needs and knows what the government really wants.
The next step is to identify the purpose, i.e., goals and objectives. What does the audience need to get from your materials? Are you taking these materials to an initial or a follow-up meeting? Are you presenting these materials in person, or sending them by e-mail?
Once you have identified your target audience and purpose, it's time to create copy. This means writing the text, identifying and acquiring images, and creating graphics that best illustrate the purpose and outcome you developed during concepting. Organize your information as you begin creating copy. Depending on the information you need to include, you may be able to re-work existing copy or you may need to start from scratch and create new copy.
Keep your marketing materials straightforward and simple. This means avoid jargon and terminology that not everyone will recognize. Use active voice and back up claims like "world-class" and "award-winning" with facts. Provide examples of customers your organization has assisted in the past and the corresponding results. Remember to edit your copy before declaring it final.
Once you have finalized your marketing communications materials, develop a library of files to organize your brochures, presentations, cut sheets, contract descriptions, and proposals. Have materials available in hard copy as well as electronic for use over e-mail, on CD, and online.
Don't forget to periodically update your materials. Were you awarded a new GSA contract? Did you add several new agencies as clients in the past few months. Your marketing materials should reflect major accomplishments and make doing business with you as easy as possible. This also means maximizing your Web presence by listing your GSA contract information on your site.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Sign up at http://visitor.constantcontact.com/manage/optin/ea?v=001jYqn93s1IRBCl9-5ZnE0-Q%3D%3D.
Also, send us your input for future articles so we know what you're interested in learning about. Email Melissa Vivari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Government agencies love to issue RFPs in December so the proposals are waiting when they get back after the holidays in January. Map out your staff's holiday vacation schedule now so if an RFP (or two!) hits, you'll have people available to work on the proposal.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Some industry days follow a lecture format with agency officials providing information on how to do business with them, while others will have a more conversational style where contractors can talk with potential customers. The "style" or format of a given industry day will ultimately set the tone for the event, and can impact the openness of attendees towards networking. However, being prepared will help you get the most out of these events. Here are some tips to guide you in preparing for your next industry day:
Target the Right Agencies. The agency's OSDBU office can help you identify which industry days specifically target small business. Visit the agency's web site for additional information. Industry days are also often published on FedBizOpps.gov and on industry/association sites.
Review the Agenda. If an agenda is available, review it in advance. If the agenda has multiple sessions with at least an hour between sessions, then you should be prepared to use this time to network. An agenda with a limited number of sessions and/or time between sessions is likely to be more informational in nature. Use your time to talk to the agency's representatives. Get business cards of potential teaming partners and follow-up at a later time.
Do Your Homework.Understanding the agency will provide you with the necessary foundation to 1) understand the environment where you want to do work; 2) allow you to effectively discuss relevant topics and participate at the event; and 3) allow you to create a game plan to follow up on the information provided. Remember, industry days provide you with an opportunity to speak directly with agency representatives. You should be prepared to hold a productive conversation with them. This means having an understanding of their environment and upcoming opportunities; and knowing how your products/services are relevant to their needs.
Prepare to Network. Situate yourself so you are in an area with plenty of people around you so you can introduce yourself. Be prepared to discuss the agency with others and to talk about your company and its products/services. Unless it's an absolute emergency, leave the outside business for later. It is impossible to network when you are on the phone discussing other business. Be sure to bring plenty of current business cards and brochures!
Keep these tips in mind the next time you sign-up for an industry day. It's a great way to start building new relationships and reinforce existing ones.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
This document provides good information about how to write a plan, tips for businesses to create a healthy work environment, tips for individuals to stay healthy, and H1N1 FAQs. It also refers the reader to http://www.flu.gov for more information.
You can also use this planning to ensure that you have contingencies to ensure your government contracts stay fully staffed. We encourage you to include your plan in your program management processes and procedures.
Businesses should take a holistic approach to their disaster recovery plans and make sure they are comprehensive enough to ensure the company continues operating, regardless of the situation. A solid plan to address a potential H1N1 outbreak and mitigate its impact on your business is a good idea.
Friday, September 18, 2009
For more information visit: http://www.executiveleadershipseries.com/lectureworkshopseries.html.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
The requirement to use E-Verify is not limited to prime contractors; subcontractors will also be required to use it. It may also be required for companies awarded contracts using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or Stimulus funds.
We enrolled in the E-Verify system almost a year ago. We find it easy to use and have made it part of our new hire administrative processes.
For more information on the E-Verify program:
- Visit the USCIS website:http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=109cc691d0673210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD
- Visit the E-Verify site: www.dhs.gov/e-verify
- Or call E-Verify Customer Support at (888) 464-4218.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Give your staff a break. While it may seem like a good idea to go after as many contracts as possible, in reality there is only so much a human being can accomplish in one day. Ensure your staff is taking time for meal breaks and mental breaks. The constant onslaught of proposal preparation is exhausting and this can lead to errors or oversights. Fresh minds often find mistakes that were previously missed.
Make sure your customers aren't suffering. Pay attention to the level of your customer service. If the same people supporting customers are writing proposals, then quality may be negatively impacted--customer quality, proposal quality, or both. It is important that you keep your customers happy. They may be the same people you're using as references. It's not a good idea to fall down on the job when you need their positive recommendations.
If either of these two situations apply to your company, then assign additional people or hire outside resources to help you get back on track.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
If you're interested in getting into government contracting, Diana is available to answer questions about the information in the article. She can be reached at (301) 657-4440.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
First thing is to get a handle on people’s vacations schedules – not only your employees, but your teaming partners’ staff and anyone else who will work on the proposal. At your kick-off meeting make sure to ask specifics about who will be out; what timeframes they will be gone; what, if any, availability they have; and who is covering for them in their absence. Include this information on your master proposal schedule so you’ll have it at a glance. Remember, there are a fixed number of hours in a day and a fixed number of days to prepare your response. People can only provide so much support, especially if they’re working on client projects. The last thing you want to happen is for quality to suffer and have unhappy clients, particularly if you need them as references. If you don’t have adequate support and you definitely have a shot at winning the contract, then consider engaging outside resources to fill the gaps. But remember, consultants are not magicians; we need the same 30 days to pull together an outstanding response just like you. It’s unrealistic to expect that someone who is unfamiliar with your organization to come in with less than two weeks until submission and get a top notch proposal done. It may be good; it may be compliant; but it may not be as good as it could have been. And be prepared – it’s more expensive for a rush job than for one that starts when the solicitation is released. If you want to be in the best position to respond and win, then start working on the proposal BEFORE the RFP comes out. That way you’ll have more done in case you have to respond to multiple RFPs or hire outside resources.
The other things you should consider are: 1) is it a recomplete of a contract on which you’re the incumbent; 2) have you pre-marketed; 3) do you have the teaming partners you need; and 4) can you win? We’ve talked about this all year long, but it’s especially important this time of year.
- A recompete of one of your own contracts is almost a definite bid, unless you can’t bid for whatever reason. If you do bid, then make sure that you’re working as diligently as the competitor company who wants your contract. Don’t slack off just because you’re the incumbent and “the client loves you.” You still have to win, just like everyone else.
- Even if you’ve marketed the opportunity, be sure to read the solicitation carefully to ensure nothing changed in the requirements. One item that trips up companies is the solicitation type, i.e., it’s a SDVOSB set-aside and you’re not one, or six past projects are required by the prime and you only have three. Don’t waste your time by going after something that you don’t qualify for.
- Be proactive and get your subcontractors on-board before the RFP is released. If you need to augment your team, then fine, but don’t use two weeks out of your four available trying to assemble a team instead of writing your proposal.
- Can you win? This one is tough for some companies. It’s hard to be objective, but really look at the evaluation criteria, the instructions, your workload, the amount of time until the submission date and ask yourself – with everything else we have going on, can we really put together a solid, winning proposal? It’s better to pass than to submit something that doesn’t truly reflect your company and its capabilities. A bad proposal is not what you want your company remembered for, right?
Have a successful busy season. Remember quality is what wins contacts, not quantity. So choose what you pursue wisely.
Friday, July 31, 2009
This is both important and time critical. Please take a minute today to go to the Power IT Down Day Web site and sign up today!
Power IT Down Day is the grassroots effort of a few companies and thousands of people like you and me who are dedicated to making a difference through one simple action -- turning off our computers and printers at the end of the work day on Thursday, August 27.
It's so easy to help. All we are asking is that you commit to saving energy on Thursday, August 27 by shutting down your computer and printer at the end of the work day. That's it!
To demonstrate the cost-savings of the effort, Citrix, HP, Microsoft and Intel will donate a minimum of $20,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that helps seriously wounded soldiers returning from war and their families. It's an amazing charity, and they really need our help.
After you sign up this weekend, I am asking you to also send this to 10 people you know and ask them to sign up next week! Please engage all your networks!
Every person makes a difference.
Thank you for your help!
Power IT Down Day -- please pass it on!
Friday, July 10, 2009
The article titled "Methods to the madness - The business of finding funding for projects, and the strategies for winning them" offers good insight to those trying to secure traditional and alternative methods of funding. It also talks about building partnerships and maintaining relationships. Diana offers information on government contracting -- everything from responding to solicitations to getting paid. This information is particularly helpful for firms looking to enter the government arena to take advantage of Stimulus funds.
The article is available on the RAI website: http://www.rebuildingamericasinfrastructure.com/magazine-article-rai-july-2009-methods_to_the_madness-3429.html.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Think of past performance as a way to write your company's resume for the government. When writing a resume, you want the information you provide to be, above all else, recent and relevant to the opportunity and solicitation requirements.
Before putting together past performance, it is helpful to make a past performance Excel spreadsheet. In each column, write a task outlined in the RFP's SOW. Make extra columns to list other factors such as whether or not the contract was with the same agency that issued the RFP and whether or not you received any awards or recognition.
Then make a row for each of your previous contracts. Check off the boxes that correspond to columns showing tasks that are the same as, or comparable to, ones performed under the contract in that row. This exercise will help you visualize which past performances best fit the work required by the RFP.
In order to choose which references to cite, identify which past performance references from your Excel spreadsheet best represent the following ranking of the most important aspects of past performance:
- Your company has experience performing all or most of the tasks cited in the Statement of Work
- Your previous contracts were performed in a size and revenue scope similar to that outlined in the RFP
- If possible, you have had previous contracts with that agency or another agency of similar mission and size
Last but not least, once you have selected your past performance references, call the points of contact to make sure the telephone number, e-mail address, and fax number you have for them is correct. Give these previous clients a heads up that you've listed them as references and provide them with a short synopsis of the contract you're bidding on. You want them to be able to speak as intelligently about you as possible.
Remember: writing past performance is like writing a resume for the government-you always want to put your best foot forward.
Friday, June 5, 2009
The article is available online at http://content.yudu.com/A17o3o/TBM-MAY-09/resources/26.htm.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Check out our article "Preparing for the Government Fiscal Year 4th Quarter Spending" in the June issue of Think Business Magazine. We talk about the need to plan for growth BEFORE a contract is awarded.
It's available online at http://content.yudu.com/A18b0y/TBM-JUN-09/resources/26.htm.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Molly Gimmel and Diana Dibble Kurcfeld are speaking on a variety of topics that will help your company. We hope that you’ll be able to attend one or all of the events.
GSA Schedules - May 12, 2009
Molly is speaking on GSA Schedules at the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) GovCon Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting on Tuesday May 12th. She will be speaking about getting a GSA Schedule - what you need to know before and while you submit, and administering the contracts after award. For more information, go to: www.nawbodc.org and click events.
Diana is speaking on Strategic Alliances and how they can make your company more marketable and save money. This Women Presidents’ Organization (www.womenpresidentsorg.com) event is hosted by Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker. Ira Hoffman, Of Counsel at Shulman Rogers, will be speaking about avoiding legal pitfalls of strategic alliances. The event will be help on Thursday May 14th from 8:30 to 11:00 am at Shulman Rogers office (11921 Rockville Pike, 4th Floor, Rockville, Maryland 20852). To register for this event, please email email@example.com with your name, company name, email address, and date of the event. If you have questions, please contact Liza Avruch at DCadmin@womenpresidentsorg.com or 202-626-8773.
Infrastructure - May 19, 2009
Diana is teaming up with Rose Financial Services to talk about infrastructure. The seminar is called Accounting Infrastructure for Government Contractors – What You Need to Know Before You Win the Contract. Rose Financial Services will be speaking on the financial topics. Diana will be speaking on how to translate this infrastructure into the company’s marketing and proposal efforts. The event is Tuesday May 19th from 8 am to 9:30 am at Rose Financial Services office: 2 Research Pl Suite 300, Rockville, MD 20850. For more information and to register for the event, contact Lauri Rodich at (301) 527-1130 ext 203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Respond to Lauri by COB on 5/15/09. This is a free event.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The sales staff is responsible for chasing down and then vetting potential opportunities. Once a viable opportunity is identified by the sales/marketing person, the company should name an individual to function as the capture manager. Depending on how the company is organized, they may or may not be the same person. We recommend it be someone other than sales staff. Sales personnel need to be feeding the pipeline, not working on proposal-related activities.
The capture manager works in conjunction with the sales staff, although it is the capture manager’s responsibility to ensure that the opportunity is won. The capture manager uses the information gathered during the sales process to create a bid strategy, develop win themes and discriminators, identify potential teaming partners, address potential weaknesses, and ensure the proposal is compliant and submitted on time. Many times, the proposal manager also functions as the capture manager and works with the sales staff to stay up-to-date what is going on in the industry and at the agency.
The capture management activities are especially important when the company is the incumbent on a recompete. The capture manager, along with the sales staff, can uncover useful information to be included or addressed in their proposal. For instance, if you’re an incumbent, you sometimes have a better chance of losing the recompete than winning it? Why? Because you failed to realize that incumbent contracts have to also be included in your sales process. Incumbents often fail to treat existing customers the same way they woo potential customers. This is a never-ending process. Also, incumbents often minimize contract issues that are important to the customer. If you are effectively managing a contract, nothing will come as an unexpected surprise during the proposal process. However, companies often find out during the debrief after a loss that the customer was unhappy with their performance. Meeting with and calling project references should be a standard capture management process. If you have problems, then get them fixed prior to the proposal submission. The same process is used to uncover a company’s weaknesses when their contract is being recompeted.
The proposal may be viewed as the last stage of the sales process, but it really isn’t. It is a continuation of the sales process for the current opportunity and also the precursor to the beginning of the sales process for the new contract once it is awarded. In truth, the sales process never stops. Company are selling to secure new contracts and incumbent contractors are selling to their existing customers so competitors don’t have an advantage during the recompete.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Capturing Government Business
Winning Contracts & Navigating Stimulus Dollars
During this down economy, the government is a steady source of new business opportunities. But how do you get your piece of the stimulus pie? Whether you are diversifying your commercial business or you want to increase your current federal business, come hear from the federal government and successful contractors on what it takes to get your share. Discuss proven business development strategies over breakfast.
For more information and to register visit www.govcontractingevents.com.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Our accountant, Glen Todd of Glen Todd & Company PC, sent me a very interesting email. He forwarded what he considered a really good synopsis by McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP of a very serious provision of the Stimulus Act. On February 18, 2009, McKenna Long sent out a Corporate Advisory entitled “Employers Required to Front COBRA Costs Beginning March 1, 2009.” According to the information they provided, there is a section in the Stimulus Act that relates to the COBRA subsidy. The Act changes the COBRA requirements for businesses. Previously, only companies with 20 or more employees were required to provide COBRA to eligible terminated employees. Now, each state will dictate the company size where COBRA requirements kick in – in Maryland, where we're headquartered, it is 2 employees.
The other big issue with the change is that the Act requires the employers to pay 65% of the premiums for the COBRA-covered employees for up to nine months, where previously the employee paid 100%. The employer will be reimbursed by the government later in the form of tax credits, or a direct reimbursement if the company’s tax liability doesn’t cover the premium cost. This could cause huge problems to small businesses who can’t afford to pay the 65% premium for employees who are no longer working for them.
In a nutshell, the McKenna Long newsletter says “If you sponsor a group health plan, you must act quickly to implement the new requirements by March 1, 2009 (or earlier where coverage terminates before the end of the month, e.g., on date of termination of employment).” Note: McKenna Long’s newsletter states that their information is “only a summary of portions of the Stimulus Act.” They recommend contacting them or your own attorney for more information about the subsidized premiums for continuation coverage and assistance in revising your forms.” For more information on McKenna Long, visit http://www.mckennalong.com.
I read the information and my blood ran cold. The implications and impact on small businesses probably will be extreme. With the cost of health insurance already being high, am I being expected to front the 65% of the monthly continuation costs for an employee that no longer works for me? Imagine laying off employees because you can't pay them and then having to pay their COBRA coverage. It doesn't make sense. I thought the Stimulus Act was supposed to help small businesses. The financial impact will affect how and if companies offer health plans to their employees and may result in companies cancelling the plans they already offer.
The newsletter continues saying “the company must subsidize both the cost of COBRA continuation coverage and state-mandated health continuation coverage (collectively referred to in this alert as “COBRA”) elected by the Eligible Individual. McKenna Long indicated the definition of eligible individual as “any employee who is involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 (employees terminated for gross misconduct or voluntarily terminating are not eligible); and the employee’s spouse and dependents.”
To help determine if a company is subject to State mandates, McKenna Long provided this link to COBRA Continuation Coverage for Small Firm Employees (http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemapdetail.jsp?ind=357&cat=7&sub=88&yr=18&typ=5&cha=586).
Their newsletter has a list of 12 bullets with action items and 4 key dates beginning on March 1 and ending on April 30, 2009. This is not a lot of time to review the provision, make decisions and implement a plan to address the new requirements.
Since this is an overview, there is probably information that the McKenna Long newsletter does not address. To make good decisions, I need to find out how this will specifically impact my business. My first calls on Monday morning were to our insurance broker, accountant and attorney so I understand the financial, legal and paperwork implications of this provision. My recommendation to other small business is do the same.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
We often use the analogy of dating in context of government contracting. Dating is social activity performed with the aim of assessing another's suitability for a relationship. Successful businesses cultivate long-term, mutually beneficial relationships - ergo, they date their clients and customers. They put their best foot forward and present their benefits as a long term partner. Before entering into or expanding a relationship with the government, management should determine if they are ready to "date the government."
Steering a company into a new market always requires careful consideration and the government sector is no different. Companies who want to enter into government contracting or ways to expand current business lines should examine the qualities they bring to the table. Think of your clients and services in four quadrants:
Quadrant 1: providing current products/services to existing clients/customers
Quadrant 2: providing current products/services to new clients/customers -- a good way to expand your client base.
Quadrant 3: providing new products/services to existing clients/customers -- a good way to expand your business lines.
Quadrant 4: providing new products/services to new clients/customers -- high risk because you have an unproven product/serice that you are marketing to potential clients you have never worked with. You do not want to be in the fourth quadrant.
Next ask yourself "do the qualities I have (e.g., your products and/or services) interest my prospective date (e.g., the government)?" Here are a few basic items to consider when considering whether to date the government:
- Strategic Planning-You want to date someone with whom you have something in common and you won't know that unless you have done your homework. Knowing your partner in advance improves your ability to create and sustain a successful relationship. Developing a well-researched strategic plan for entering the government space serves the same purpose. Strategic planning provides the information necessary to identify the right agencies for a company to pursue and to implement focused business development and marketing efforts.
- Accessibility & Visibility-Being visible and accessible is a must in any relationship. Cultivating a relationship with the government is difficult if you can't be found and/or don't have the proper contracting vehicles in place. Being on the right contracting vehicles allows government customers to find you and provides access to your goods and/or services.
- Contract Administration-Every successful relationship has ground rules that each party must understand and agree to follow. Government contractors must understand the policies and regulations governing the government contracting arena, as spelled out in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and agency supplements. A company's ability or inability to adhere to these rules can dictate if it can operate in the government arena and which government opportunities it can pursue.
- Personnel-Relationships are all about finding the right match. Government contracts often require contractors to provide specific personnel for a given contract. If your company does not have the personnel required by the government for the goods and/or services it provides, you may not be the right match. Or you may need to develop a plan for hiring the right personnel for each contract awarded.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
A Mentor-Protégé relationship can be mutually beneficial to large and small businesses because it expands the resources and opportunities available to small businesses and provides a unique tutoring experience to large companies and establishes a reliable relationship with the small business. A Mentor-Protégé relationship can help improve the performance of small businesses on contracts and subcontracts with government agencies.
Mentor-protégé agreements can be mutually beneficial as long as both parties are clear on the objectives of the relationship. Each agency has its own Mentor-Protégé program with its own requirements, but generally the mentor company must hold a prime contract with that agency in order to participate in the program. Agencies require the execution of a formal agreement between the parties that spell out the expectations for and benefits to each party. These could include teaming and subcontracting opportunities, training, assistance in raising capital, program management, process development, ownership resulting from the relationship, and others as agreed upon by the parties. Some agencies allow a mentor to have more than one protégé, but most do not allow the protégé to have more than one mentor; although companies may have different mentors through different Agency programs.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) manages a unique Mentor-Protégé program that is designed to allow companies to serve as a mentor to 8(a)-certified small business protégés. In order to enter into a SBA-approved Mentor-Protégé agreement, the mentor and protégé must have a written agreement and also meet certain requirements in order for SBA to accept them into the Mentor-Protégé program. Mentors have their own requirements, but to qualify, the protégé must be:
- a) in the developmental stage of the 8(a) Business Development program OR b) never have received an 8(a) contract OR c) must be less than half the size of a small business, as defined by the SBA, based on its primary Standard Industrial Classification code
- In good standing in the 8(a) Business Development program
- Current with all 8(a) reporting requirements
8(a) firms should contact their Business Opportunity Specialist to determine if their company and a prospective counterpart qualify for the SBA Mentor-Protégé program. Additional information is also available on SBA's website (www.sba.gov).
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
So as I mentioned in my tweet on 2/3/09, I went to a really great event called "Succeeding as a Government Contractor in a Challenging Economy" hosted by Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker, PA. The presenters included Ira Hoffman and Jacob Ginsberg (both attorneys with the firm), Brad Wood (Sr. VP of Commercial Banking for The Columbia Bank), and James Scott, Jr. (a Principal with accounting firm Penan & Scott, PC). Usually I go to these events and have to "gently" correct the speakers because they misrepresent something about federal government contracting. But I have to tell you, I was impressed with the speakers and their presentations.
Ira presented first and covered information pertaining to the Stimulus Package. He gave examples of where the money was going and what areas contractors should consider targeting. He also discussed other topics relating to set-aside designations and the GAO ruling on the "rule of two." One interesting thing he pointed out you should note is per a GAO ruling, HUBZones get preferential treatment to SDVOs (if you don't know what these are then you probably aren't one). There is such a push for SDVOSBs that people forget this is the case. There were SDVOs in the room so I’m sure this caught their attention.
Brad spoke next and provided good insight to the participants on the banking relationship and its nuances. I think most companies discount the importance of a well established banking relationship. They know they need a good one, but don’t know how to develop it. Or in most cases, they only contact the bank when they need something (like a loan) instead of cultivating a partnership than grows more solid over time. I can speak to the benefits of this because we have a great relationship with our bank. Anyway, we all know that we should choose a bank that offers us the services we need.
What Brad emphasized was the need to find a bank that is suited to our business. For instance, the business owner should ask the bank what level of expertise is in the bank and what they understand about your particular industry. For instance, my commercial business is very cyclical and we had to teach our banker about our business and the industry so he could discuss specifics when he presented our loan package. You should ask who you will be working with on a daily basis and very important – ask about the bank’s processes for reviewing loans. Brad also stressed the importance of documentation and your financials. You need to make sure everything is kept up-to-date and is readily available to the bank upon request. As an aside, my personal suggestion is to scan documents such as your corporate documents (Articles of Incorporation, By-laws, etc); your company taxes and owner’s personal taxes for at least the previous three years; government certifications; annual reports (P&L and balance sheet); and any other relevant papers so you can email them over quickly. Bottom line is you have to show that you are a good credit risk and the bank should give you the resources you need to grow.
Jim’s presentation tied in nicely to Brad’s since both firms deal with the financial side of companies. Jim was on point when he said that cash flow and profitability are key, and they are. He talked how the company needs to understand the numbers, particularly since there is legal language in loan documents that pertain to the company’s financials. He also stressed the need for the company to implement a good accounting system that can support government contracts, and institute good internal controls (thank you Jim – we say this to people all the time!). He also stressed that companies need to make sure they are working with a qualified accountant and not Uncle Joe who thinks he can be the company accountant since took math in high school back in 1939 (OK I embellished what he said, but you get the point). Anyway, I’m sure there were people in attendance related previously on a subconscious level, but left with a different appreciation of the situation and its importance. I would not be surprised if several accountants got calls yesterday afternoon.
Jacob spoke last. His job is related to the loans the bank makes. He provided a checklist to participants so we could see what documents are needed related to the loan package. He suggested that companies get a legal review of all loan documents. I would bet you that there were companies in there who have gotten loans without counsel reviewing the specifics, but it makes sense that they would just sign the papers. Why? Because most companies believe they will pay the loan on-time and none of the provisions would be invoked. Well this ties in with Jim’s points. The loan documents contain provisions that relate to the companies ratios (debt to equity, etc.). If you don’t know the benchmarks and aren’t staying up-to-date on your financials you could get the loan called in even if you’re paying on time. Not a good situation.
Like I said, this was a great event that provided helpful information to a pack room of attendees. I’m looking forward to the next event they host!
Friday, January 30, 2009
The stimulus package talks about helping small business, but doesn't contain any numbers or goals. Small business esneed to be proactive to ensure that there are measurable goals included in the language. Small businesses should contact the Senate Small Business Committee and ask them to adopt the government-wide goals that currently exist and include the language in the stimulus package. The Senate Small Business Committee Chair is Senator Mary Landrieu. The Committee phone number is (202) 224-5175.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
It's a well rounded article and I particularly like the attention Mr. Weigelt paid to the woman-owned business contracting program. We've been hearing for years about how this program is supposed to go into effect. We'll see if the Mr. Obama and his SBA Administrator nominee, Karen Mills, will be able to implement a program that makes sense and doesn't lock out the majority of woman-owned businesses.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
1. An ongoing business ethics awareness and compliance program
2. An internal control system
3. Mandatory disclosure of violations
Ongoing Business Ethics Awareness and Compliance Program
All businesses must develop a written code of ethics and conduct, and distribute a copy of that code to all employees involved in the company’s government contracts. In addition, the contractor must conduct training so that all employees, subcontractors, and other relevant parties are educated on the company’s ethics awareness and compliance program.
Internal Control System
Businesses must develop an internal control system to establish procedures to “facilitate timely discovery of improper conduct in connection with government contracts; and ensure corrective measures are promptly instituted and carried out.” This means that companies must document:
- who is responsible for oversight of the corporate ethics awareness and compliance program;
- what resources are assigned to that person to ensure that the program is effective;
- the company’s procedures for detecting criminal conduct;
- establishment of an internal reporting mechanism, such as a hotline, for employees to report suspected violations; and,
- disciplinary actions to be taken against violators.
Companies must disclose, in writing, to the agency Office of the Inspector General (OIG), with a copy to the Contracting Officer, whenever it has credible evidence that a principal, employee, agent, or subcontractor has committed a violation of Federal criminal law or the False Claims Act in connection with the award, performance, or closeout of the contract or any associated subcontract. Examples of violations that must be disclosed could involve fraud, conflict of interest, bribery, or gratuity regulations.
We’ve already seen a few RFPs that specifically ask if the bidder has an ethics program and conducts ethics training, and we expect this to be included in most services RFPs going forward. If you need help developing a program that complies with these new requirements, contact Molly Gimmel at (301) 657-4440.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
One thing President-elect Obama has promised is change. But what does that mean? Does this mean less government spending? That is yet to be seen. In the interim, we're still operating off of President Bush's last budget, however the Obama team has already sent in advance people to meet with agency personnel. Will opportunities in the hopper be canceled? We won't know until the new administration is in place. What it does mean is companies have to ramp up their marketing efforts and get in front of opportunities BEFORE they hit the streets.
D2DInc works with companies to help them win and management government contracts. We see a direct correlation between a company's ability to win a contract and the amount of advance work they do. The time to get started on a proposal is before the opportunity is in the procurement phase. This is easier said than done. Companies must retrain themselves on how and which government procurements they pursue.
We recommend the following activities.
* Look at your products and services and make sure that what you sell is in line with what the government purchases.
* Review and update your marketing plans quarterly.
* Identify your potential customers, opportunities, competition and teaming partners. Budgets change -- do you know where the money is?
* Attend agency industry days and conferences. Knowledge is powerful, but relationships are essential. People buy from companies that know and trust. A proposal submission isn't the time to introduce yourself to your potential customer.
* Provide training to the personnel who will be working on proposals -- before the RFP is released. This way they know what to expect, how to do it and how to juggle supporting their customer with meeting proposal deadlines.
* Update your proposal library on a regular basis. Save time and make sure your past performance citations and employee resumes are up-to-date on an on-going basis.
* Do a financial review and make sure your direct and indirect cost rates are in line with industry accepted numbers.
We are procurement process experts and help companies successfully navigate government procurement. Our advice to contractors is to make evaluating your contracting practices and direction of your marketing efforts standard company policy.
Here's to a successful 2009!