“That’s the New Paradigm of the Government Market”
by Earl S. Holland
I recently attended a small business Match Making event sponsored by the Government Technology Services Coalition for small business and prime contractors to meet, greet and exchange information on each other in hopes of identifying potential government contracting opportunities to pursue. This event showcased a three person panel of small business program office directors from the Small Disadvantage Business Offices of three different agencies.
I have attended many of these match-making sessions and recently asked the question in one of my Linkedin discussion groups: is attending these events valuable time well spent or a waste of time? I received various comments both positive and negative. However, I must say that this particular event was one of the best that I have attended and my reason is based on the content that the government panelist shared with the small businesses.
There is no question about the changing state of the government contracting market. There is definitely a new paradigm. The landscape has and is continuing to change significantly.
What does this mean for small business? Well, it means that they are being presented with opportunities greater than they have ever been presented with in the history of small business contracting in the federal market. Larger consolidated and/or bundled opportunities are becoming the norm and not the exception for the small business community.
With the implementation of the President’s Job Act coupled with Category Management and other new legislation and regulation that are supposed to be favoring increasing small business participation for contracts and providing better oversight on Prime/sub-contracting relationships, larger and longer multiple year contracts are being offered to small businesses.
To support these initiatives Agencies are increasing their market research activity by sending out more RFI’s and Sources Sought announcements with the intent of identifying more small business to contract with. However from the perspective of small business view point it is not exactly accomplishing these objectives.
Agency collaboration initiatives designed to create a more efficient, streamlined government by reducing redundancy and supporting the budget cuts are responsible for this new trend. With that said, the small business community has to change its thinking and their desire to go it alone when pursuing contracts.
The main theme presented by the government panelist was the lack of preparation by the small business community in pursuing contract opportunities. Some specifics were;
- Presenting too many capabilities “jack of all trade” scenarios
- Limited knowledge of agency mission
- Inability to clearly present their core skills and solutions relevant to the agency mission
- Not responding or poorly
- responding to RFI’s and Sources Sought announcements
- Failure to present their value proposition as it relates to the agency request for support
Considering these things, the take away from this event boils down to the following:
Plan by performing an internal assessment of your company, who are you, what business are you really in, what are you best qualified to do – not what you want to do. Do your market research to establish where your skills and solutions best fit the agency problems you have targeted and refine your pitch based on your research and knowledge of the agency’s mission.
Prepare by creating a compelling story of who you are and why your company is best suited to solve the agency problems based on your research and understanding of the agency mission. Responses to the RFI’s and Sources Sought should be focused on how your skills or solutions support the agency mission. Follow the congressional legislative and regulatory initiatives, and agency news. This information will provide you with great insight into the agency mission and the problems they are encountering in carrying out their mission
Use your research to position your company. The more information you know about the legislative, regulatory initiatives and agency news, the easier it will be for you to communicate with agency program managers and department heads. The more knowledge you can share with them will provide them with a level of comfort that you have a understanding of their issues. This will be the basis of establishing a rapport which will lead to trust.
Performing a formal assessment on potential partners you have identified to team with is essential. The dynamics of the market demand that you spend ample time to do this. There are more contract opportunities that are multiple 8-10 year contracts and this requires thorough knowledge of who you will be spending that time with.
Compatibility, integrity, culture, vision, goals and trust will be the key factors for you to assess and consider in your selection. These criteria should be used regardless of whether or are
considering a Prime or subcontractor relationship. Casual teaming is not the best way to go in the new market.
Once you have outlined your plan that includes your short and long term objectives, strategic and tactical strategies completed your research.
About the Author
Earl S. Holland III is the President and CEO, Growth Strategy Consultants, Strategic Advisor with the Government Technology Services Coalition and former Vice President of the Washington Chapter of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals.