Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More Busy Season Proposal Tips

With the end of the government fiscal year looming, the contracting pace has picked up even more than in the previous few weeks. Many people/companies are working on multiple proposals, and in doing so are burning the midnight oil pretty much every night. Here are two more proposal tips to consider.

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

WSJ Article "Small Businesses Chase Big Stimulus Money"

Diana Dibble Kurcfeld was recently interviewed by Victoria Knight for her August 10, 2009 Wall Street Journal article "Small Businesses Chase Big Stimulus Money". In this article Ms. Knight provides insights for small businesses interested in doing business with the government such as homework, paperwork, legwork, building relationships, and subcontracting. She also provides a dose of reality for businesses wanted to take advantage of Stimulus spending. The article is available online on the Wall Street Journal's website.

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

Surviving the End-of-Fiscal Year Spending Crunch

The end of the federal government’s fiscal year is upon us. A lot of the solicitations that our clients have been waiting to be released are finally starting to come out – all at the same time. You may be in the same situation. Here are some suggestions to help you manage multiple proposals at this frenetic time of the year.

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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
If your company frequently pursues multiple efforts and is always scrambling for resources, then think about designating a gatekeeper to track all of the opportunities currently being pursued. This person can alert management to potential resource allocation shortfalls. Review your proposal library materials and boilerplate. Make sure it is detailed, up-to-date, and the files are clearly marked (keywords also help). Don’t create content specific to one proposal, which means it may not be able to be tailored for the current one you’re working on OR you can’t find it because files are housed on various PCs and laptops. This is a huge time drain. Items such as your corporate experience, management approach, and resumes can be created in standard formats that are usable in multiple proposals. Standardize your employees’ resumes and include ALL of their work history, employment information, education and training, certifications, and anything else relevant to your industry. Don’t wait until the last minute, especially during the summer when hunting down people to update their resumes can be a nightmare.

Have a successful busy season. Remember quality is what wins contacts, not quantity. So choose what you pursue wisely.