3 tips to maximize past performance

February 16, 2012 by

Almost every proposal you write has a requirement for information on past performance. The government uses this information to evaluate how well your company has performed on similar programs and expects your past performance to be a predictor of how well you will perform on the program you’re currently bidding.

Because past performance can be an important discriminator in the evaluation and selection process, there are some things you should know about how to write your past performance response.

Past performance versus past experience

Past performance comprises a set of specific contracts that you select to demonstrate how well your company, or your team, has performed on contracts that are similar in size, scope, and complexity to your current bid.

Past experience, which is sometimes confused with past performance, is about the broader issue of what experience and expertise the bidding organization has gained from all of its contract work and the work of its teammates.

Select contracts to demonstrate past performance

Past performance is all about relevancy and how well you performed the work you’re referencing. The government will consider these two factors together when developing your past-performance score — and both are important. However, performance is more important than relevancy. It is better to showcase your best-performing contracts and argue that they are relevant than to select contracts that are highly relevant and had poor performance.

Expect the government evaluator to ask your customers how well you did performing each contract. Typically, this happens via a formal past-performance questionnaire submission process and/or direct communication from the government evaluators to your customers. The government keeps two databases—the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) and Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS)—to determine how well your company performs its contracts.

Government access is restricted to those individuals who are working on source selections, to include contractor responsibility determinations.

With the CPARS, companies can regularly review their own ratings for each evaluated contract, but cannot check ratings for other companies. In order to access PPIRS information, a contractor must be registered in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) system and must have created a Marketing Partner Identification Number (MPIN) in the CCR profile. Because past-performance ratings are such an important factor in proposal evaluations, every company should regularly review its CPARS ratings and challenge any evaluations they consider unfair.

Write your past performance summary

Each RFP will be very prescriptive about the information you need to provide when you describe each past-performance contract. While it may seem obvious, you really do need to provide all the requested information in order to submit a “compliant” proposal (see my Washington Technology article, “6 reasons your proposals fail,” October 2011).

You’ll be asked to provide information to show contract relevance, so keep this in mind when you write your response. Measures of relevance include contract size, scope and complexity, as well as the technical scope of work performed.

The description of the work is where you can stand out. Write your response to not only show that you performed relevant work — which every bidder does — but that you also had specific accomplishments that were meaningful to the government. Don’t just parrot back the statement of work from the contract you are citing. Focus on accomplishments because it’s these achievements that can make your contract past performance stand out from the crowd.

Most importantly, make sure you have outstanding past performance on the contracts you present. Confirm this information with your customers and with your teammates’ customers before you submit your proposal.

The government will read what you write, and they will validate the content. A good writer can present your past performance in a credible, compelling way, but if the underlying performance is less than desirable, it’s hard to overcome the truth.

About the Author: Bob Lohfeld is the chief executive officer of the Lohfeld Consulting Group. This article was published by Washington Technology on Feb. 10, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/01/30/insights-lohfeld.aspx?s=wtdaily_130212.

Check your HUBZone eligibility status!

February 9, 2012 by

As a result of the October 1, 2011, release of 2010 Census data regarding income levels and unemployment rates, the nonmetropolitan counties and census tracts that had been ‘redesignated’ in the program are no longer qualified as HUBZones.  Small businesses with principle offices in expired areas can no longer maintain their HUBZone certifications and have been excluded from the program by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Additionally, all remaining HUBZone firms should check their status to determine whether they still meet the 35% employee residency requirement to remain in the program.  Companies that no longer meet this (and/or any requirement for remaining HUBZone-certified) are being encouraged by the SBA to voluntarily decertify themselves from the program.

Decertified companies that can requalify for the HUBZone Program must wait a minimum of 90 days from the dates of their decertifications to apply for
recertification.

Legislation that would extend eligibility of areas that are no longer qualified for the HUBZone Program remains dormant in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Click on the links below for more information:

If you are a business located in Georgia and have questions about the SBA’s HUBZone Program, feel free to contact the GTPAC Procurement Counselor nearest you for assistance.  All contact information may be found at: http://gtpac.org/team-directory.

Think your contract win means guaranteed income? Not so fast!

February 6, 2012 by

To say the government’s money is tight is to understate the obvious.

What’s also obvious is that if programs get no funding, then the money intended for contracts supporting those programs will dry up too.

That’s likely to happen to more contracts in 2012, Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners, wrote Jan. 30 in his “The Week Ahead” newsletter. Winning a contract and assuming officials have funding approved for it doesn’t work anymore.

“Tougher decisions have to be made on what ‘approved’ projects actually reach the level of ‘funded,’” he wrote.

In these trying days, contractors need to ask agency officials several questions early on in the procurement process, including:

  1. Will this project be funded?
  2. Will it be funded in an amount close to the estimate the acquisition office gave in its proposal?

Allen said agency officials may not have the answers right away, but it’s to your company’s advantage to ask.

Without knowing, you could be wasting time — time is usually money — on a project that isn’t going to generate the real green paper. That means you may have lost out twice on one bid.

Allen’s lesson is clear:  “Make sure you know that the project you’re spending time on is something the government will spend money on.”

– posted by Matthew Weigelt, Washington Technology, Jan. 30, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/blogs/acquisitive-mind/2012/01/program-funding-contract-money.aspx?s=wtdaily_310112.

Here’s how to raise your win rate by 20 percent

January 11, 2012 by

All executives want to increase their win rate. If you could raise your company’s overall win rate by 20 percent, the payoff in additional revenue, earnings and shareholder value could be huge. Company revenues would increase, earnings would increase by the marginal profit rate on the new revenue, and shareholder value would increase proportionally to your increase in earnings.
But knowing which investments to make and predicting the payoff is the challenge. Here’s how to choose your investments and predict the resulting increase in win rates.
First, let me make sure everyone understands that we are talking about the investment you make to improve your company’s overall win rate. This is the average win rate on all proposals your company submits, not your win rate on a specific proposal. (We use a different model to predict the outcome for individual bids.)
7-Factor Model
To predict increases in overall company win rates, we use a 7-Factor model. Since we are not aware of any other models that do this, we’ve called it the Lohfeld 7-Factor Company Win Rate Model.
While the model predicts overall company win rates, more importantly, it also predicts how a company’s win rate is affected by changing investments in these 7 factors—and that’s what we’re after. If we can predict how the win rate is affected by changes in the 7-Factor score, then we can make investments with confidence, knowing that we can predict the resulting win-rate increase.
The 7-Factor score is based on:
  • People: The skills and experience of the people involved in creating proposals.
  • Business acquisition process: Business acquisition maturity covering the five stages of business acquisition lifecycle.
  • Tools: Proposal infrastructure and personal and productivity tools.
  • Management decision-making: Qualification and bid decisions.
  • Solution competitiveness: Competitive solution with good features and customer benefits.
  • Proposal quality: Quality proposals that are always compliant, responsive and compelling.
  • Winning culture: Winning culture with good work/life balance.
We assess each of the seven factors using four yes/no questions. Each yes answer contributes one point to a company’s overall score. A perfect assessment scores 28 points and, by the way, we have never seen a company earn all 28 points. Each question takes 15 seconds to read and answer. With seven factors and 28 questions, it takes seven minutes to complete the assessment to see how your company rates in each factor.
Here’s an example of how the assessment works. The first assessment factor is People. Skilled people write better proposals than those who are not so good at it. To assess the skill and experience of the people working capture and proposals, we ask four questions. The answers are based on the skill and experience of your internal staff as well as consultants you use.

RELATED MATERIAL
To take the full questionaire and receive a presentation that explains the 7-Factor Model, click here.


The first question is, “Does your capture and proposal core team include your best and brightest professionals, and do they know how to create winning proposals?” You get one point if your answer is yes and zero points if the answer is no. You get a second point if you answer yes to the question, “Are your Proposal Managers always well matched to their assignments and do they always have the right leadership qualities and experience level for the assignment,” (or if you don’t have the right person available from your in-house team, you go outside your company for proposal management support). You get a third point if you have a career development plan for your proposal professionals, which includes professional development and skills training. You get a fourth point if you can readily add additional proposal resources to augment your team to accommodate fluctuating workloads.

Answer each of these questions with a yes or no. Each yes gets one point, and each no gets zero points. If your answer is somewhere between yes and no, give yourself a half point. Once you complete your 7-Factor Assessment score, you’re ready to begin looking at investments.
Selecting investments to raise your win rates
Your strategy is to make company investments that will raise your 7-Factor Assessment score. The higher your assessment score, the higher your overall win rate will be.
To see which factors to improve, plot your scores on our Lohfeld 7-Axis Diagram. The Lohfeld 7-Axis Diagram provides a graphical representation of your assessment scores and shows at a glance those factors that need to be increased via investments. Invest in factors with the lowest scores first since generally they have a greater variety of investments that will raise your score. Make the least costly investments first with the objective of investing the least amount of money to get the highest increase in scores.
Let’s assume that a company wants to make investments to raise the People factor. If the scorers went back to their assessment scores, they might find that one of the contributing factors to the low score was that they didn’t have a professional development training program for their capture and proposal staff.
Since the company can implement such a program inexpensively, this should be their first planned investment. Similarly, they would use their assessment scores in the Process and Tools factors to guide them in selecting appropriate investments to raise their scores for these factors.
Using this approach, the company would build a plan of investments to raise its 7-Factor scores systematically and thereby raise its win rates.
Calibrating the model
To measure how much a company’s win rate increases with increases in 7-Factor scores, we worked with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) and had 45 proposal managers assess their companies and correlate their assessment scores with win rates. We did this exercise at the APMP Nor’easters Chapter Fall Symposium 2011 and the APMP Southern Proposal Accents Conference. Our survey results solidly confirm that companies with higher 7-Factor Assessment scores had higher win rates.
From the APMP data, we found that government contractors with a 20 percent increase in their 7-Factor Assessment score on average yielded a 20 percent increase in their win rate. Clearly, government contactors should strive to increase their 7-Factor scores since the modest investment can produce large payoffs in new business revenue.
We also found that on average companies in the government market had 17 percent higher 7-Factor scores and 28 percent higher win rates than companies in the commercial space.
Perhaps government-market win rates track more closely to the quality of capture and proposal work, whereas commercial proposals are more broadly influenced by brand marketing.
Predicting Your Return on Investment
As a general rule, your win rate percentage will increase point for point with the increase in your 7-Factor score. This rule applies to companies that develop enough proposals each year that they have a good proposal team, some established processes and are doing reasonably well winning their share of bids.
Your company needs to have enough proposal volume to produce an economic payoff for making the investments. Your company also needs to have a reasonable win rate established as a starting point.
If you have a very low win rate, there may be other serious problems that need to be fixed before you fine tune your business-acquisition efforts.
Here’s what a typical company might expect. (Stick with me because there is some math here, but I promise nothing more complicated than multiplication and division.)
A typical government contractor graduating from the small business program might have $40 million a year in revenue, a 30 percent win rate, and a 16 for its 7-Factor score.
Let’s assume the company must generate $20 million in replacement revenue just to stay even and wants to grow revenue by 20 percent ($8 million) next year. To do this, the company must have $28 million in new revenue next year.
If awarded contracts have a nominal 5-year period of performance, then the company has to win $140 million in new business. If its win rate is 30 percent and the win rate doesn’t drop after graduation, then the company has to bid $466 million to produce $28 million in new revenue next year.
Now assume that the company selects investments that will raise its 7-Factor score by 20 percent with the expectation that this will result in a 20 percent increase in its win rate. Increasing the win rate by 20 percent means the win rate will go from 30 percent to 36 percent. This will produce additional revenue equal to 6 percent of all bids the company makes.
In this example, 6 percent of $466 million is an additional $30 million in revenue. If the marginal profit rate is 5 percent, the investments would drop $1.5 million to the company’s bottom line.
From a shareholder perspective, the additional $30 million in new business spread across a 5-year period of performance would bump up revenue by $6 million next year and could increase shareholder value by the same amount, assuming shares are valued at 1 times revenue.
Now compute the ROI. Assuming our example company needs to make $200,000 in investments to raise the 7-Factor score by 20 percent, and the revenue increase produced an additional $1.5 million to the bottom line, then the ROI ratio would be 7.5 to 1. I believe this is called a no brainer.
Make the investments and move on to enjoy your new-found prosperity.
About the Author: Bob Lohfeld is the chief executive officer of the Lohfeld Consulting Group. E-mail is moc.gnitlusnocdlefholnull@dlefhol.trebor. Published Jan. 5, 2012 by Washington Technology at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/01/04/increasing-your-win-rate.aspx?s=wtdaily_060112.

Subcontracting could be your starting point into the government market

January 9, 2012 by

When considering how to enter the government marketplace, most business people first think about doing business directly with federal, state or local government agencies.

Contracting directly with a government entity involves many steps, and likely involves the requirement that you have years of established experience.  In fact, there are many major considerations for doing government business as a prime contractor, including:

  • Thorough knowledge of all applicable procurement regulations and laws.
  • Registration in numerous vendor databases and keeping them up-to-date.
  • Comprehensive market research to identify upcoming work.
  • Skills necessary to analyze government solicitations, and then prepare detailed and responsive offers.
  • Ability to secure bid, performance and payment bonds, if required.
  • Ability to finance what may be a multi-million dollar job for at least 60-90 days until the first payment arrives.
  • Established relationships with agency, including buyers and end-users.
  • Track record of relevant experience.

If your business lacks the wherewithal to support all this, you may want to consider an alternative.

The Alternative to Doing Business Directly with the Government

For less experienced and smaller businesses, there may be a simpler, faster, and less burdensome way to break into the government market — subcontracting.  The subcontracting route allows a company to do business with the government indirectly — through a prime contractor — on smaller pieces of work and involving fewer requirements.  A subcontractor is answerable to a prime contractor, not the government, and the prime contractor is held responsible by the government for overall work performance.

Prime contractors are responsible for meeting all government contracting requirements.  Primes must be able to finance the job, bond the job, and complete the job on schedule.

Primes also are held accountable for meeting any socio-economic small business goals associated with the contract.  Because of this requirement, prime contractors working on government contracts are always looking for talented small businesses to meet their needs.  For federal contracting, this involves small businesses that are owned and controlled by women, minorities and other disadvantaged groups, and veterans, including service disabled veterans.  Small businesses located in historically underutilized business zones (HUBZones) also are preferred by prime contractors.  Individual state and local governments also may have preference programs involving particular small business categories.

Relationships always matter, and relationships with prime contractors are no exception.  Small firms seeking to do business with a large prime must develop a strategy to introduce themselves and inspire the large firm to award them a small job in order to establish a reputation.  Most small firms who have satisfactorily performed work for a government prime contractor report that they have received repeat business.

Preparing To Be a Subcontractor

So, what are the starting points for pursuing the subcontracting path?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Gain at least a general knowledge of the government marketplace.
  2. Identify any areas of the government market where you have particular insights.
  3. Look for work areas where you may fulfill a specialty requirement or a niche.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the government’s various small business preference programs and how you can qualify.
  5. Create and polish a presentation about your firm’s capabilities and strengths.
  6. Pitch your credentials to prime contractors.

The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) can help you with most of these steps.  By attending GTPAC classes regularly, you’ll learn lots of details about the government market, how it works, and who the players are.  We can identify all the small business preference programs and how you might qualify.  GTPAC also can provide you with templates for presenting your experience and expertise.  We also can identify successful government prime contractors and trade shows where you can meet them.

Help That’s Available

If subcontracting is the route for you, and you want to receive GTPAC’s assistance, we suggest you take the following steps:

  1. Attend our “Introduction to Government Contracting” class or our “Fundamentals to Working with the Government” briefing. By attending either one, you’ll learn the essentials of the government marketplace.  Sign up for these at http://gtpac.ecenterdirect.com/Conferences.action.
  2. Sign-up and become a GTPAC client. You’ll learn how to do this by attending either of the seminars listed in step #1.
  3. Attend our class entitled “Subcontracting with Large Prime Contractors.” You’ll gain insights into the various types of partnering arrangements possible in government contracting and how to best position yourself.
  4. Make a commitment to continuous learning. Even subcontracting requires keeping yourself up-to-date with developments in the government marketplace.  Attend GTPAC classes regularly, and consider professional education such as the courses available through The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech.
  5. Request a template from a GTPAC Counselor for putting together a “capabilities statement” on your company. Use this as a way for putting together an impressive presentation of your credentials.  While you’re at it, ask for an “elevator speech” template so you can practice how to make an impressive introductory statement about yourself.
  6. Learn about small business preferences that may apply to you, by either attending periodic briefings GTPAC puts on about this subject or by attending instructional workshops conducted by the Small Business Administration and by state and local governments.  Once you identify your potential qualifications, apply for appropriate certifications.  GTPAC will not prepare certification applications, but our Counselors will be glad to offer you advice and counsel along the way.
  7. Stay alert to upcoming government-sponsored expos, trade shows, and other forums where you can meet and impress prime contractors. An ideal way to learn about such events is by regularly visiting the GTPAC website; our home page lists many upcoming government vendor events.
  8. Familiarize yourself with government small business specialists. These officials are housed inside each federal agency’s major offices, and there are many small business advocates with state and local government units, too.  If a small business specialist is impressed with your capabilities, chances are they can arrange for a presentation of your credentials to prime contractors.  You can learn more about small business specialists, their role, and how to identify them by clicking here.
  9. Research who’s winning government contracts. You can find tips for doing this at: http://gtpac.org/2010/06/three-tips-for-researching-contract-awardees-and-probable-bidders.  Also, you’ll want to obtain lists of government prime contractors to contact.  Each month, GTPAC compiles a list of all Georgia businesses that have been awarded federal contracts, and we publish various other government contract lists on our web site.  (For example, details on the largest 2011 federal awardees appears here.) These are the the businesses you want to target for subcontracting possibilities.

GTPAC can help you become a successful government subcontractor.  You may find that subcontracting is just the spot you want in the overall government marketplace.  Or, you may find that subcontracting represents the “foot in the door” to moving on to prime contracting with the government.

© 2012, Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center, All Rights Reserved.

2012 may be the year of the government audit

January 2, 2012 by

Government contractors beware: 2012 may be the year of the government audit.

Financial scrutiny of contractors is expected to rise as the government expands its auditing workforce and the contracting pie shrinks. Agencies are
coming under greater congressional scrutiny, and public pressure is mounting to ensure the taxpayer is getting the best deal.

One indicator came in a Nov.15 directive from Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob J. Lew, who ordered federal agencies to put more resources and emphasis into their suspension and disbarment programs.

Lew referenced a recent Government Accountability Office study which, he said, found that “more than half of the 10 agencies it [GAO] reviewed lacked the characteristics common among active and effective suspension and debarment programs: dedicated staff resources, well-developed internal guidance and processes for referring cases to officials for action.”

Government contractors have always faced an abundance of potential audits. The Defense Contract Audit Agency alone conducts several dozen
different types of audits, including: pre-award reviews; incurred cost examinations; purchasing system reviews; billing system reviews; disclosure statement reviews; and provisional rate reviews.

Moreover, the number of rules and procedures to follow is mind-numbing. The Federal Acquisition Regulation, which is comprised of more than 1,700 pages of rules and regulations, is just one set of federal regulations pertaining to government contracts.

While no two audits are the same, government auditors are likely to place a greater emphasis on internal controls during 2012.

They will review your stated policies and procedures to determine the strength of your control environment, then typically make a random selection of
transactions (for example, vendor invoices, employee time cards, travel vouchers) and scrutinize supporting documentation.

The auditors are looking to determine if the contractor’s policies and procedures were followed, approvals documented and internal controls enforced.

In addition, there are now many prospective government contracts that will be awarded only after rigorous assessments of the adequacy of the contractor’s
business systems and internal controls. Contractors now will simply pass or fail, rather than possibly passing with certain deficiencies. All deficiencies must be addressed successfully before the contractor’s system is deemed adequate, and the contract awarded.

Many companies now are being proactive, seeking a third party to make an initial assessment as to whether their systems can meet Defense Contract Audit
Agency requirements before being notified of a pending agency review. Such a review prior to bidding on a contract can provide the confidence to bid for all
types of government contracts without business system constraints.

By implementing corrective measures that might be identified during the review, contractors can improve overall operations while staying ahead of the
competition and helping ensure they will not be behind the DCAA eight ball.

Having the black mark of a failed government audit is a difficult position from which to recover, and amounts to a “scarlet A” in the world of government
contracting. But the moniker can be avoided with prudent planning and taking proactive measures to shore up your systems in advance.

As we go into 2012 and face whatever budgetary cuts the government may implement, positioning your company to take advantage of every opportunity is
more important than ever.

– Commentary by Michael Tinsley, founder and chief executive of NeoSystems, for The Washington Post – Dec. 25, 2011 at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/a-new-year-of-heightened-scrutiny-for-government-contractors/2011/12/14/gIQAq7IUHP_story.html

Surviving and thriving as a small government contractor

December 27, 2011 by

During a recent Fairfax County (Virginia) Chamber of Commerce event small, woman-owned and veteran-owned businesses converged to learn about the federal government contracting outlook for 2012 and hear from those who have been in small business shoes.

Freedom Bank’s Vice President and Relationship Manager of Government Contracting Lending, Michael Marsden, led a panel discussion that included an analyst from Bloomberg Government; Phil Panzarella, the president and CEO of CPS Professionals Services, a veteran-owned contractor; and Dawn Halfaker, the CEO of Halfaker & Associates, a woman-owned, 8a, service-disabled veteran-owned contractor.

The panelists’ companies represent a wide array of socioeconomic statuses that act as differentiators and could allow them to fulfill the specific teaming needs of other contactors. However, both Panzarella and Halfaker stated that leading with socioeconomic statuses is not a key to surviving or thriving as a government contractor.

So if your company’s unique qualities won’t make you stand out, what is the best way to get started and win your first government contract?

Relationships and Networking

Data from Paul Murphy, Bloomberg Government Senior Data Analyst, and advice from Panzarella and Halfaker had a common theme: would-be
contractors should network and create valuable relationships.

Murphy’s data showed that while some socioeconomic goals have not been met by certain agencies, they have been increasing. By focusing on the agencies that are striving to meet their small business contract goals and creating relationships with contacts within them, a company will be making a better investment of its time than trying to focus on every agency at once.

The Departments of Veteran Affairs, Homeland Security, Energy and General Services Administration are among the agencies increasing their spending with small businesses. However, not all agencies are making these increases. The Small Business Administration is one such agency: Murphy stated that the SBA will be making cuts, which means less monitoring and enforcement of rules.

Furthermore, heavy cuts will affect the SBA business development centers. This will affect relationships in a couple of ways: Small businesses will have to rely more on each other, and valuable relationships may be better invested in other potential teaming and subcontracting partners.

“We had a lot of success partnering with other large companies. It is easier to connect with their points of contacts compared to agency contacts. Leverage
those relationships. You need to focus on agencies, but limit it,” said Halfaker.

She went on to say that at times, it can be difficult to identify the right point of contact in both agencies and large companies. Relationships with existing connections can help point you in the right direction.

When it comes to partnering and opening a line of communication to other contractors, there must be a give/take relationship, and you must work at it.  Unless you continue to communicate with agencies and partners, your relationship could become strained. “Out of sight, and out of mind,” said Panzarella.

Panzarella also stated that prior to building a partnership, CPS Professionals Services requires that small businesses already have a scope and plan in place.

Planning and Preparing for Growth

Though Halfaker & Associates and CPS Professionals Services may have started in the proverbial basement and were initially funded by equity loans, they knew that as they began to win more contracts, growth and complications would be inevitable. Contractors must plan not only how to grow by adding new
employees and infrastructure, but what to do in case of delays in federal payments. Panzarella and Halfaker suggested that spending time wisely (not wasting it on events that won’t result in new connections or beneficial information) and creating a focused plan led to their companies’ growth.

“Hard work. We put in a lot of hours because I believe in where we are going as an organization. We don’t have to go in and win multi-million-dollar awards, we can take the million-dollar contracts,” said Panzarella. His company remained very focused on what it wanted, picked a few agencies, and pursued them.

Tips from Dawn Halfaker

  • Know what drives revenue – Focus on the events that will provided the best return.
  • Leverage social media – Appear as big as you can. Brand yourself internally and externally more effectively.
  • Know your next hire – Make sure you can afford and pay for the new employee.

Related Link

Five Keys to Small Business Government Contracting in 2012


About the Author: Elliot Volkman holds a Masters in digital communications and is the Community Manager of GovWin from Deltek.  Published Dec. 19, 2011 at http://govwin.com/elliotsv_blog/surviving-and-thriving-as-small/340486.

How one small business chipped away at the market and captured a $75M opportunity

December 22, 2011 by

Contrary to its name, marketing and communications company LeapFrog Solutions didn’t immediately leap into the government market.

That happened in 2002, when Lisa Martin’s company won three small consulting contracts from the Federal Railroad Administration, Voice of America and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Others modest government awards followed from the Secret Service, National Credit Union Administration and Office of the Currency.

Martin said she quickly realized that, like commercial entities, many federal agencies had websites that were not in sync with their mission statements. Also, activities such as direct mail, trade show appearances and ad campaigns also were disjointed because each operation was the responsibility of a different domain.

So for the government market, she said, “Our very ambitious goal was ‘make the message matter.’ Whether it was online, offline, we wanted to make the message consistent.”

LeapFrog’s big leap into the government arena began in 2008, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency set aside its marketing and communications contracting as a small-business award.

Following Hurricane Katrina and other ensuing natural disasters, FEMA managers in 2010 decided they needed a public campaign to publicize how citizens could protect their homes and possessions from flood damage through government-sponsored insurance.

FEMA then created the National Flood Insurance Program Integrated Marketing and Advertising and Public Services contract.

About 30 small businesses answered FEMA’s request for proposals, which included managing the agency website, its publications, direct mail, conference appearances and advertising.

“We’d been watching for [the RFP] for a while,” said Mark Nelson, LeapFrog’s business development and communications manager, who joined the company in 2010.

“Our challenge was putting together a strong proposal in response to the RFP and corralling all the [partner] elements,” he said. “For example, we don’t do large-scale media buying so that’s why we enlisted Spurrier Media Group out of Richmond.”

And although LeapFrog does some web design, it doesn’t do the more complex back-end coding that is required, so it brought in Blue Water Media as a partner.

This past March the LeapFrog-led team won the five-year, $75 million FEMA contract to publicize and market government-sponsored flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program.

The LeapFrog team of Blue Water Media and Spurrier Media Group also includes Bender Consulting Services Inc. and former incumbents ad agency JWT, once known as the J. Walter Thompson agency, and Ogilvy Public Relations.

Among other tasks, LeapFrog manages the FEMA website FloodSmart.gov and collates the data from the agency’s call center queries.

“If you go to FloodSmart.gov, you can type in your address it will show you what your [flood] risk level risk is and give you a ballpark figure of what a policy would cost,” Nelson explained.

“FEMA actually has done a really good job,” he said. “They’re in the process of redoing a lot of the flood maps around the country using more digital and interactive tools.” Martin’s team also is tasked with spreading the word about FEMA’s flood insurance assistance through trade shows and by disseminating information to local officials, insurance companies, contractors and others.

LeapFrog Solutions is leveraging its work with FEMA at other government assistance agencies including the Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and Interior departments as well as the Office of Personnel Management.

“We’re also working at VA because of all the health care initiatives; also the military heath care system under DOD,” Martin said.

As a result of the FEMA award and its other government and commercial contracts, LeapFrog Solutions has grown to about 25 employees and the company, which began in Martin’s basement in 1996, will be moving into new, larger offices within the next few months.

“We’ve probably doubled [the staff] within the past two years,” she said. “As we’re growing, one of the things that we’re finding is that communications really need to be more and more refined.”

She said the advent of new social media and the growth of a tech-savvy government work force require companies like LeapFrog to be up on the latest technologies and be able to communicate their benefits. That includes keeping abreast of what the young generation of government workers wants and needs, she added.

At the same time, Martin sees health care initiatives becoming a big part of LeapFrog’s future.

“There’s a huge opportunity there,” she said, citing new opportunities at VA, HHS and NIH, where LeapFrog has secured a blanket purchase agreement.

But “it’s not enough just to be able to build and maintain a website. If you have a solution, you really have to show results,” she said. “When we go into an agency, we’re looking at what we can measure. What gets measured gets results.”

About the Author: David Hubler is senior editor of Washington Technology. This article was published Dec. 19, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/Articles/2011/12/19/LeapFrog-FEMA-contract.aspx?s=wtdaily_201211&p=1.

SBIR solicitations open until Jan. 11

December 20, 2011 by

The Department of Defense’s 2012 SBIR solicitation is now open and accepting proposals until January 11, 2012..

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is a government program, coordinated by the Small Business Administration, in which 2.5 percent of the total extramural research budgets of all federal agencies with extramural research budgets in excess of $100 million are reserved for contracts or grants to small businesses. Annually, the SBIR budget represents more than $1 billion in research funds. Over half the awards are to firms with fewer than 25 people and a third to firms of fewer than 10. A fifth are minority or women-owned businesses. Historically, a quarter of the companies are first-time winners.

In addition, Congress established the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program in 1992. It is similar in structure to SBIR and funds cooperative research and development projects with small businesses in partnership with not-for profit research institutions (such as universities) to move research to the marketplace.

The SBIR/STTR Programs are structured in three phases. Phase I (project feasibility) determines the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of the ideas submitted. Phase II (project development to prototype) is the major research and development effort, funding the prototyping and demonstration of the most promising Phase I projects. Phase III (commercialization) is the ultimate goal of each SBIR/STTR effort and statute requires that Phase III work be funded by sources outside the SBIR/STTR Program.

During the solicitation period, communication between small businesses and topic authors is highly encouraged. For reasons of competitive fairness, direct communication between proposers and topic authors is not allowed during the Open period when DoD is accepting proposals for each solicitation.  However, proposers may still submit written questions about solicitation topics through the SBIR/STTR Interactive Topic Information System (SITIS). In SITIS the questioner and respondent are anonymous and all questions and answers are posted electronically for general viewing until the solicitation closes. All proposers are advised to monitor SITIS during the Open solicitation period for questions and answers and other significant information relevant to their SBIR/STTR topics of interest.

Topics Search Engine: Visit the DoD Topic Search Tool to quickly and easily find topics by keyword across all DoD components participating in this solicitation.

IMPORTANT DATES:

  • December 12, 2011 – Solicitation opens and DoD begins accepting proposals
  • January 4, 2012 – SITIS closes to new questions
  • January 11, 2012 – Solicitation closes to receipt of proposals at 6:00 AM EST

Complete details on DoD’s 2012 SBIR solicitation may be found at: http://www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/solicitations/sbir20121/index.shtml.

To be added to the DoD SBIR List serv: ten.ribsdod.vrestsilnull@tsilribs.

Who won the biggest single award of 2011?

December 20, 2011 by

In response to reader requests to count down the top 10 single federal contract awards, we bring you the biggest contracts of fiscal 2011 that were won by just one company.

In the countdown, we have one joint venture and one company that won three of the top 10 contracts.

There also are five contracts worth over $1 billion each. It’s hard to have a bad year if you capture one of those all to yourself.

Washington Technology created the countdown based on research provided by Deltek.

So starting with No. 10, the 2011 countdown begins….

10. Boeing Co.
Army Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System
AKA: EMARSS
Value: $323 million
Purpose: The Army is using the contract to develop a government-owned, contractor-operated manned aerial reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition system that will be deployed worldwide.

9. Noblis Inc.
FAA Enterprise Communications Support Services Full and Open
AKA: ECSS
Value: $350.2 million
Purpose: Noblis is providing support services to the FAA’s Air Traffic Control Communications Services Directorate. Tasks involve systems engineering, acquisition and program management support, operations management and support, business and financial management, information systems development and support, and studies, analysis and evaluations.

8. Lockheed Martin Corp.
Navy Joint Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare Technologies
AKA: JCREW 3.3
Value: $455 million
Purpose: Lockheed Martin is supporting the development and demonstration of technologies to improve work on improvised explosive devices. Services include antennas, receivers and transmitters, signal generation, communications equipment, scalable open architectures, and other technical services.

7. Science Applications International Corp.
Defense Logistics Agency Tire Successor Initiative
AKA: TSI
Value: $725.5 million
Purpose: SAIC manages the supply chain and materiel support for the government’s aircraft and ground tires. The company will be involved in demand planning and forecasting, order processing and fulfillment, purchasing, inventory management and other services.

6. Lockheed Martin Corp.
Navy Technology Insertion Hardware
AKA: TI Hardware
Value: $758.2 million
Purpose: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors is providing program management, engineering, design, development, logistics and other support for the Team Submarine Common Production Hardware project. The project involves the continuous evolution of display, processor and network systems associated with Navy combat control, sonar and imaging systems.

5. Orbital Sciences Corp.

Missile Defense Agency Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Target Class
AKA: IRBM
Value: $1.1 billion
Purpose: Orbital is providing logistics support to the Missile Defense Agency including inventory storage and maintenance management, pre- and post mission analysis, launch preparation and execution and engineering services.

4. Forfeiture Support

Associates LLC
Drug Enforcement Administration Asset Forfeiture Program Administrative Support Services
Value: $1.7 billion
Purpose: FSA, a joint venture of L-3 and Aecom Government Services, provides administrative support for the government asset forfeiture program. Services include personnel management and supervision, recruitment and retention, training, data analysis, legal process support analysis, and other services.

3. QinetiQ Group
NASA Kennedy Space Center Engineering Services Contract
AKA: KSC
Value: $2 billion
Purpose: QinetiQ provides a variety of services such as development of ground support systems, processing launch vehicles and payloads, flight systems sustaining engineering, ground systems engineering and other technical services.

2. Lockheed Martin Corp.
Navy Acoustic Rapid Commercial Off the Shelf Insertion
AKA: A-RCI
Value: $2.1 billion
Purpose: Lockheed is supporting the Naval Sea Systems Command integrate a sonar system that integrates and improves towed array, hull array, sphere array, and other ship sensor processing. The work includes the rapid insertion of COTS based hardware and software.

And the largest contract of fiscal 2011 went to….

1. Hewlett-Packard Co.
NASA Agency Consolidated End User Services
AKA: I3P ACES
Value: $2.5 billion
Purpose: NASA has hired HP to consolidate management of end-user services, devices and products. Services include a customer contract center, email, calendaring, systems administration, and integrated hardware and software maintenance.

About the Author: Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Published Dec. 14, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/Articles/2011/12/14/top-single-award-contracts-2011.aspx?s=wtdaily_151211&Page=4.