October 25, 2011 by cs
Are you a woman business owner seeking federal contracts?
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s October web chat will focus on the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) federal contract program aimed at bringing more WOSBs into the federal contracting arena. Federal contracts can provide women entrepreneurs with the oxygen they need to take their businesses to the next level. Celebrate Women’s Small Business Month, and visit http://go.usa.gov/4BV to get updated information about the women’s contract program.
Meanwhile, Michele Chang, senior advisor in the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development at the SBA, will host the October web chat on “SBA’s Federal Contract Program for Women – Part 2.”
This event will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011.
SBA’s web chat series provides small business owners with an opportunity to discuss relevant business issues online with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs. Chat participants have direct, real-time access to the web chats via questions they submit online in advance, and during the live session. Participants will gain valuable information on how to participate in the program to gain increased access to government contracting opportunities.
Participants can join the live web chat, and also post questions before the October 27th chat, by going online to www.sba.gov, and clicking on the web chat event under What’s New.
To review archives of past web chats, visit online at http://www.sba.gov/content/monthly-web-chat.
October 24, 2011 by cs
GSA is hosting a live webinar to provide new small businesses insider tips on successful government contracting.
The webisnar is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, from 1:00 to 2:00 pm EST.
The webinar is entitled ”Six Easy Steps for Marketing Your Business to the Federal Government.” The training is designed based on feedback from seasoned contractors who have provided insight to their success.
Space is limited. Reserve your space now by going to https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/392544194. If you are denied participation in this webinar, the participant capacity has been reached.
October 20, 2011 by cs
I received a call from a mid-sized “large” business that had submitted a proposal for IT services and had just learned their proposal did not make competitive range. They were irate and wanted to protest, alleging that the government had not fairly evaluated their proposal.
They had hired a proposal consultant, spent lots of money developing their proposal, and were assured their proposal was professionally done. Before filing the protest, the company asked me to review their proposal. Here’s what I found when I did the review and what I told them.
Professionally developed proposals always have the same characteristics — they are compliant, responsive, compelling and customer focused. They present a solution that is easy to evaluate and score well — and they are aesthetically attractive. I used each of these criteria while reviewing this company’s submission.
The proposal’s structure is expected to follow the request for proposal’s instructions (section L of this RFP) and also track with the evaluation criteria (section M).
Initially, this proposal followed section L, but then it departed and added sections not called for in sections L or M. It then skipped required section L topics. Finally, some evaluation criteria were never addressed in the proposal. The easiest way to lose points during an evaluation is to not follow the instructions or not address the evaluation criteria. Simply put, this proposal was non-compliant.
The content of each proposal section must respond precisely to each topic prescribed in the RFP. The section headings should track to the RFP instructions, and the associated discussions should be consistent with the section headings. When proposal text fails to address the sections heading, the sections are non sequitur, e.g., an applicable response does not follow a particular section title.
The proposal seemed to have section text that was lifted from other proposals and pasted into this proposal. The responses were close, but not close enough. To the non-practitioner, much proposal text sounds alike. After all, if the RFP asks for a QA Plan and we give them a Configuration Management Plan, who would know the difference? This proposal team did just that. I scored some of the sections a zero because they failed the responsiveness test.
This is a proposal term that describes how convincing or persuasive the proposal is. In government procurements, we expect the proposal to meet the solicitation requirements fully and exceed those requirements, where practical, in a way that is beneficial to the customer. There should be many features in the proposal that demonstrate a high likelihood of contract success or that exceed solicitation requirements. Assertions about company performance and claims about solution features should be substantiated by real evidence, not boastful rhetoric. Features with relevant and substantiated benefits, presented persuasively, provide the basis for selecting one bidder’s proposal over another.
In this proposal, as I read through 200 pages of hum drum technical prose, I found features were few and benefits were even fewer. There was no basis for differentiation and no compelling basis for selection. This was not the way to write a proposal.
Proposals are customer focused, and marketing brochures are company focused. A customer-focused proposal discusses how your company proposes to do the work and the benefits the customer will receive from your performance. If the proposal just brags about how good the company is and how outstanding its processes are, then the proposal is company-focused at best. Company-focused proposals cause evaluators to lose interest, whereas customer-focused proposals hold evaluators’ interest and score higher.
Slogging through 200 pages about how good this company is does not substitute for a cogent explanation of what the company planned to do and how it was going do it. If I had read one more time that their processes were “best of breed” or “world class,” I think I would have just closed the book and quit reading.
Easy to evaluate
Evaluators generally start their review with the proposal evaluation criteria in section M of the RFP. They build an evaluation checklist, and then go looking through the proposal to find information that addresses the topics in the evaluation checklist. They search for only what they need to find to evaluate the proposal and write up their evaluation results. Call-out boxes, pull quotes, feature/benefit tables, sections headings and other techniques help draw the evaluator’s attention to the appropriate information. Every evaluator will tell you that if they can’t find it, they can’t score it. Professional proposals are structured so the key evaluation points are extremely easy to find and evaluate.
As you might expect, in this proposal, key evaluations points were missing or not readily found.
Proposals should be attractive and easy to read. They should have a consistent document style, appropriate color pallet, paragraph labeling and numbering scheme traceable to the RFP, and an appropriate mix of text and supporting graphics. Single-column text is fine with half-page or quarter-page-size graphics positioned consistently on the page. Graphics should convey the intended message with the appropriate level of detail.
The proposal was attractive, and if you didn’t read the content, it looked like it would score pretty well. I gave them high marks for attractiveness and accolades to the desktop publishing team.
At the end of my review, I told the company executives to save their protest money. In this case, the government did them a favor by eliminating their proposal from the competitive range. This proposal was not professionally done, even though they thought it was, and it had no chance of winning. After the review, they agreed not to protest and resolved to do better next time.
About the Author: Bob Lohfeld is the chief executive officer of the Lohfeld Consulting Group. His e-mail is email@example.com. This article was published Oct. 7, 2011 by Washington Technology at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/10/03/insights-lohfeld.aspx?s=wtdaily_181011.
October 18, 2011 by cs
The Small Business Administration is considering changes to its rules that would allow an agency spending its money through a task or delivery order to chalk up the awards to its own subcontracting plans, according to a Oct. 5 Federal Register notice.
Agencies could start to get credit toward their annual small-business subcontracting goals for their orders placed against multiple-agency contracts, a perk for agencies as procurement policy officials push strategic sourcing.
Each agency has to set its own annual goal to make sure that various types of small businesses have an opportunity to participate in its contracts.
Currently though, when purchases come through an inter-agency contract, the agency that holds the contract gets the credit. That applies to the General Services Administration Schedules contracts too.
For example, consider an agency that places an order against a governmentwide acquisition contract. Say a large company gets the award and subcontracts some of the work to a small business subcontractor. The agency that hosts the GWAC gets the credit for hiring a small business, not the agency placing the order.
Prime contracts work differently. If an agency awards an order placed on a GWAC directly to a small business, the purchasing agency gets the points.
Agency officials have told SBA they would like to get the small-business subcontracting credit when they’re spending the money. SBA is also considering giving discretion to the contracting officer from the agency that’s placing the order to establish the subcontracting goals related to the individual orders.
Officials also want real-time insight into subcontracting on interagency contracts. Contractor may have to report their subcontracts with small businesses to the host agency’s contracting officer for each order.
Currently, contractors are reporting to the agency twice a year at the most.
“Reporting on an order-by-order basis will allow the funding agency to receive credit towards its small-business subcontracting goals,” SBA writes in its proposal.
SBA is taking input on the proposal through Dec. 5.
In light of SBA’s changes, Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, has pushed agencies to think beyond their own purchasing and, instead, buy with the government in mind.
Strategic sourcing gives the government leverage over the contractor in setting prices. A greater quantity of potential orders encourages contractors to lower prices.
Office of Management and Budget officials believe agencies want to use more interagency contracts in order to squeeze the most out of their funds and lessen their employees’ workload.
“Particularly in this tight budgetary environment, agencies have told us they are eager for tools that can help them stretch a dollar further and do more with less,” an OMB spokeswoman said Oct. 5.
SBA’s proposed change may make subcontracting goals slightly easier to meet, especially if agencies are turning more toward the interagency contracts, said Ken Dodds, senior attorney at SBA.
He said agencies would find it more difficult to meet subcontracting goals if they didn’t credit.
About the Author: Matthew Weigelt is a senior writer covering acquisition and procurement for Washington Technology. This article appeared Oct. 12, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/10/12/sba-subcontracting-credit-multiple-agency-contracts.aspx?s=wtdaily_141011.
September 26, 2011 by cs
The four largest banks in the U.S. are among 13 financial institutions that have committed to increase their lending by $20 billion to small businesses over the next three years, reports the Washington Business Journal.
The banks are: Wells Fargo, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co., KeyBank, Regions Bank, Huntington Bank, M&T Bank, Citizens Financial Group, TD Bank, US Bank, PNC Bank, and SunTrust Bank, the article said.
Karen Mills, who heads the Small Business Administration, made the announcement while touring the Ohio-based Wrap-Tite packaging supply company that was recently given a $1.5 million SBA loan.
According to the Associated Press, the loan enabled the company to purchase a production facility five times larger than its old locations and expand its number of employees.
On Sept. 20, Vice President Joe Biden also visited the plant to underscore the significance of the 13 bank commitment. The move will buoy small business lending that dwindled from $700 billion in 2008 before the recession to $600 billion, Biden told the AP.
– by Washington Technology staff – Sept. 21, 2011 – http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/09/21/agg-13-banks-to-increase-small-business-lending.aspx?s=wtdaily_220911
September 23, 2011 by cs
The House Small Business Committee has launched “Small Biz Open Mic” as a forum for small business owner to speak directly to Congress about government policies affecting them.
Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves describes the site as a:
“… new media forum that encourages blog-type comments and testimonials from small business owners across America regarding government policies, and allows participants to comment on Committee news, legislation, hearings, and news stories that relate to small business growth and development. Comments from participants about legislation and policies that impact small businesses will be used to help the Committee conduct its official business.”
Small business owners can upload videos and leave comments at http://smallbusiness.house.gov/OpenMic/SubmitFeedback.aspx
You might want to consider saying something about the value that you receive from the services of a procurement technical assistance center (PTAC) like the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center!
Check it out the full site at http://smallbusiness.house.gov/OpenMic/
September 22, 2011 by cs
Federal agencies must accelerate their payments to small business contractors, according to an Office of Management and Budget memorandum released Wednesday.
The new guideline cuts the recommended payment time in half. Previously, under the 1982 Prompt Payment Act, agencies had to make payments within 30 days from when an invoice was received. Now, agencies should make payments within 15 days, or as soon as practicable.
With the government spending nearly $100 billion a year in small business contracts, OMB predicts this will boost cash-flow for small businesses and help create economic growth.
“This will benefit tens of thousands of small businesses by getting money into their hands faster,” Jeff Zients, deputy director for management and chief performance officer, said in a blog post for OMB. The late payment interest penalty will not change, however. A provision in the Prompt Payment Act, the penalty is triggered when an agency does not pay within the 30-day mark.
Initial reaction from the National Small Business Association is positive.
“We’re supportive of it conceptually. Expediting the payment time is a good thing,” said Molly Brogan, vice president of public affairs for the group.
Agencies are expected to notify OMB by Nov. 1 when they can begin making accelerated payments.
– by Caitlin Fairchild - Government Executive – September 15, 2011 at http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=48808&dcn=e_tma.
September 15, 2011 by cs
Just a few weeks remain in the most turbulent federal fourth quarter in memory. On Oct. 1, a new fiscal year will launch without a budget of its own. In the meantime, you’ve still got fiscal 2011 to close out.
At this point, your sales group must swerve into expediting mode in order to close as much business as possible in the remaining month until the end of the fiscal year.
While marketing and business development really can’t do much for the current fiscal year, you still have time to close sales.
Here’s how: Concentrate your expediting activities on making sure contracting officers receive complete, signable packages they’ll be willing to move on. Keep in mind, they are in a mode of only signing and moving packages entailing the least friction for them.
To ensure closure, make sure you can affirm the following statements.
1. My customer has completed its market survey.
Program people — those with the mission and budget — must identify best value options for the contracting officer, so your proposals must explain your value, and not just your technical chops.
2. My customer is solid on its requirements and has justified use of my product by name.
Government buyers are taught to state requirements without naming a brand. To make sure your brand gets procured, it must uniquely fill a requirement. That information must make its way into the requirements document that accompanies the purchase request.
3. The money is there.
Agency comptrollers decide whether or not expenditures map to the congressional intent for the money about to be spent. But the documentation must be transmitted to the contracting officer.
4. The contracting officer has identified a preferred vehicle against which to execute the purchase.
That’s the fastest way for a contracting officer to obligate funds, placing an order against an existing vehicle. Make sure the contracting officer has everything needed to comply with ordering procedures of that particular vehicle. Keep in mind, managers of the big government-wide acquisition contracts are themselves doing what they can to help ordering contracting officers to max out year-end sales, but they can’t cut corners.
5. I’m tuned into fair-notice/fair-opportunity notices for my contract vehicles.
Each vehicle has its own process. The closer you get to Sept. 30, your sales team must be ready to respond as cycle times compress.
Remember, a sale in the federal market isn’t a sale until a contracting officer signs an order or awards a contract. That makes federal sales different from commercial sales, where you can pretty much count on an order once it’s in the purchasing department. Federal contracting officers don’t report to program managers who manage the money, write the requirements and send purchase requests to the contracting officers.
Yet, even now, hundreds of millions of dollars remain uncommitted. Contracting officers don’t want to be deliberately obstructionist. But like the program and technology managers they serve (and you are selling to), they are looking at future uncertainty, the current time crunch and more oversight. Sellers who can help federal customers tie orders to authorized requirements and smooth the last-minute speed bumps will be able to maximize their fiscal 2011 revenue.
And here’s a bonus: By expediting last minute sales in this way, you’ll be able to deliver more accurate sales forecasts to headquarters. That’ll help maintain their faith in the federal market even as they look at the national headlines.
– by Steve Charles in Washington Technology. Published Sept. 14, 2011 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2011/09/14/end-fiscal-year-sales-tips.aspx?s=wtdaily_150911
September 1, 2011 by cs
The portion of sales going to small businesses in NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) IV reached 42 percent last year, an increase of 7 percent from the previous year, according to SEWP IV officials. SEWP is a governmentwide acquisition contract (GWAC), providing advanced information technology products and related services at fixed prices.
August 15, 2011 by cs
The State of Georgia’s Department of Administrative Services (DOAS) recently updated its purchasing policies and procedures. If you’re a vendor interested in pursuing work with a state agency, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the new manual.
The latest revised Georgia Procurement Manual (GPM-V2-July2011) can now be found online at http://pur.doas.ga.gov/gpm/MyWebHelp/GPM_Main_File.htm. The new version has all the policy changes described in the recent Official Announcement SPD #01-12, dated July 18, 2011.
This new GPM version does not have the policy changes that will take effect on September 1, 2011. The text of the upcoming September policy change can be
found in the SPD #01-12 Official Announcement Supplement located at http://doas.ga.gov/StateLocal/SPD/Policies/Pages/Home.aspx. For further details, review Official Announcement #02-12.