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I would like to congratulate American Express for hosting a wonderful government contracting seminar in Miami, FL this past Thursday (June 16th, 2011). From the speakers representing various federal agencies and departments, to the co-sponsors from SCORE, to the various representatives from local government municipalities and the Miami Chamber of Commerce, the wealth of knowledge and insight was truly impressive and I'm sure invaluable for the majority of the attendees.
While there was a significant amount of information covered, throughout the day I heard a few key points that really caught my attention. Find below the statements that caught my attention, who said them, and why I feel they are important discussion points:
I think it's very important for small business owners that are just getting started in pursuing government contracts to really focus on this principal. It's very easy to get caught up in the massive numbers that the world of government contracting produces - over $500 Billion annually in federal contracts alone, $100 Billion awarded last year to small businesses, etc. etc. These figures likely have one of two impacts on your psyche - they either intimidate you or motivate you (and possibly both at the same time).
The reality is, when that spending model is dissected and broken down, the numbers become very manageable and reasonable. Within those billions of dollars, there are contracts for hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. They can be very small in scope, and are therefore much more manageable and quantifiable. This is where a small business that is new to federal contracting should cut its teeth - start small, learn the ropes, gain confidence, and then go after the big fish.
Of everything we heard throughout the day from the various speakers, this statement really resounded with me the most. Mr. Sturdivant's message was clear from the outset - if you're not willing to work (and work hard) at preparing yourself for success, your chances of being successful are non-existent. It's about preparation, planning, and persistence.
When you are looking at the world of government contracting, it can look exactly like that - a world of options, choices, opportunities, information... it can be daunting. Mr. Sturdivant breaks it down in the most practical, sensible way I've heard - determine first what you are not only good at, but what makes you unique and desirable in comparison to your competition (niche), then determine who specifically buys or acquires the products or services your company sells (need). This a great starting point to figure out where your company fits into the world of government contracting.
You've probably noticed by now, I really liked and appreciated what Mr. Sturdivant had to say. Of all the speakers at the conference (at least a dozen or so), I felt he provided the most practical insight for small business owners trying to figure this government contracting "thing" out.
The point Mr. Sturdivant drove home with this statement is simple, yet powerful. What makes your business attractive as a potential partner or subcontractor is first and foremost what you bring to the table in terms of ability. Certifications and set asides are valuable, and partially influence a contract holder's decision making process - but the most important variable is your company's ability to do the job. Another way to say that is this: a competent company without set-asides may get the job anyway, an incompetent company with all the certifications and set asides available never will.
I felt this was a very important (and often overlooked) point regarding strategic teaming for government contract work. Typically, companies that forming teaming alliances do so to give the team the requisite skills, experience, and set-asides necessary to compete on a particular job.
However, as Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez pointed out, changes to government procurement policies and strategies can severely impact a company's ability to participate in future opportunities if they don't implement this type of teaming strategy.
For example, Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez referenced the increased focus from agencies seeking sources for construction projects on the "design-build" model. In layman's terms, "design-build" is a Project Delivery System used in the construction industry. It consists of a procedure to deliver a project where, in contrast to "design-bid-build" (or "design-tender"), the design and construction aspects are contracted by a single entity known as the design-builder or design-build contractor. This system is used to minimize the project risks for the employer and to reduce the delivery schedule by overlapping the design phase and construction phase of a project.
The obvious implication of this shift in the procurement model is that it renders obsolete any company interested in fulfilling only the "design" or "build" components of a project. Therefore, those types of companies that aware of this shift in procurement strategy use teaming as a way to maintain their relevance during the acquisition phase by teaming with companies that fulfill the other piece of the "design-build" strategy.
This real world example shows how companies can use teaming as a way to remain agile and relevant, even if their business model doesn't satisfy all the requirements of the changing procurement landscape.
I have put together a few more posts about the conference that I will be posting over the next couple of days. Our site design team is currently in the process of putting together our blogging system. We are vey excited about both the ability to keep our members informed about what we are doing as well as helpful tips and industry news.-ZL