Reflections of a small IT contractor on the government shutdown of 2013 and 2014’s uncertainties

January 14, 2014 by

[Note: This article was written by Terry Verigan, vice president of CompuCure.] 

Hurricane Katrina nearly killed CompuCure. In the wake of the storm, just three of us remained by Oct. 1, 2005, and the weeks ahead promised to be grim for our New Orleans-based IT services firm — what was left of it anyway. But we weren’t going to let that damn storm chase us away from our city.

By September 2013, eight long years after Katrina wiped out so many lives and businesses, CompuCure had rebounded sufficiently to make Inc. Magazine’s list of the fastest growing businesses in America. With a talented staff of 30 delivering projects that had achieved national recognition for quality and value, it was tempting to think we’d made it to some sort of safe high ground, economically speaking. But by late September, our president and owner, Angelina Parker, faced another storm, this one political. The federal shutdown nearly took down the business again.

While we had become accustomed to the disruptions that stemmed from continuing resolutions — the stop-gap budgets lawmakers typically adopted while they continued to disagree over larger spending questions — those rarely impacted our work at federal sites. Employees would clock in while budgets were frozen and eventually CompuCure would be reimbursed. Our line of credit was more than sufficient to carry on. Interest charges eat away at profitability, but we could keep going, knowing that our people and their families felt secure. Our most valuable resources, our employees, would still be on the job.

But the shutdown was different. It meant lost revenue to CompuCure, not just a delay in getting invoices paid. Disturbing questions emerged, notably: How would we keep our talented employees from moving to other companies less dependent on federal contracts?

Keep reading this article at:

DoD acquisition heroes during Iraq, Afghanistan? Small biz, universities and DARPA

November 15, 2013 by

You didn’t hear much about them during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but DARPA, small businesses, and universities were the people who most impressed retired Gen. Hoss Cartwright when he was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he and the services scrambled to find weapons to give American troops a combat edge.

“DARPA was incredible to our ability to gain advantage. Small businesses and universities were hotbeds of innovation for us,”  Cartwright said during a panel at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on lessons learned from the last dozen years of war. He made no mention of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or BAE Systems — or any of the other large defense companies.

What made them special? “Their willingness to take risks… made a huge difference and saved countless lives on the battlefield,” Cartwright said. And he said that in Afghanistan and (previously) Iraq, “[the] battlefield is not driven by platforms” — tanks, ships, planes — which take so long to design, build, and deploy.

Another avenue of innovation at the Pentagon sprang from the acquisition processes of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which has the right to just buy things in small quantities if it really needs them.

Keep reading this article at:

Second round of solicitations added to simplified federal contracting site

September 16, 2013 by

A new crop of solicitations has been posted in the past few weeks to the government’s startup website for simplified government contracting RFP-EZ.

There were 15 solicitations on RFP-EZ Monday afternoon, including one for a new mobile application to help the U.S. Marine Corps communicate with marines and recruits and one for a new health promotion Web tool for the Health and Human Services Department.

That’s more than double the six solicitations posted to the site early this year in a first-round beta test.

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White House to expand small business access to federal innovation, grants

January 15, 2013 by

The Obama administration plans to help small businesses access new markets  quicker by giving them better access to technology developed in federal  laboratories, as well as by expanding grant programs.

As part of its recently updated small business cross agency priority framework, the administration says it wants agencies to take steps to streamline  the process for private-public research partnerships so that startups can access  research and development grants 50 percent faster.

Keep reading this article at: White House to expand small business access to federal innovation, grants – FierceGovernment


Small business/small contract webinar to be held Feb. 26th

December 3, 2012 by

On February 26, 2013, the National Academies’ Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR) will host a special webinar on RFP-EZ, a new online marketplace that streamlines the government contracting process, making it simpler for small businesses to find and bid on low-dollar contracts from federal agencies. The U.S. Small Business Administration, in conjunction with the White House’s Presidential Innovation Fellows, recently launched a “beta” (pilot) version of RFP-EZ. The new program allows the government to source low-cost, high-impact solutions from innovative tech companies. A limited number of low-dollar contracts through the RFP-EZ website. If successful, the pilot will be expanded to include more contracts for a more diverse group of innovative startups.
On this one-hour webinar, you will hear about how the streamlined process helps save significant amounts of time for all types of business, especially high-growth startups. RFP-EZ represents a unique opportunity for innovative startups to easily access the federal government marketplace and, in turn, help fuel job growth throughout the country. By simply creating a company profile on the beta site, each small business can search and bid for contracts relevant to its skill set. A small business can easily search for an opportunity, see a statement of work, and bid all within the RFP-EZ web interface.
To register for this free webinar, click on this URL:

Agencies told to assume the worst in budget requests

May 24, 2012 by

The Obama administration still holds out hope of avoiding the across-the-board budget cuts required under the 2011 Budget Control Act, but it is nonetheless instructing federal agencies to begin preparing their fiscal 2014 budget requests assuming a 5 percent cut in discretionary spending.

Acting Budget Director Jeffrey Zients in a memo to agency heads on Friday said the coming spending plan will build on the Budget Control Act and the fiscal 2013 document’s framework, and hence “must continue to cut lower-priority spending in order to create room for the most effective investments in areas critical to economic growth and job creation, including education, innovation, infrastructure, and research and development.”

Keep reading this article at

From transit hubs to combat zones: Serving the government customer with lightweight materials

May 22, 2012 by

The Georgia Institute of Technology is presenting a one-day workshop on the development of a sustainable domestic industrial base for lightweight, energy-efficient systems. The workshop will bring together acquisition leaders from the U.S. Government, academia, and industry that have common interests in supply chain analysis and advancing the availability of domestic sources for lightweight material solutions for Government systems.

Senior leadership and staff representing the interagency Defense Production Act Committee (DPAC) have been invited to participate. The DPAC is a Congressionally-established body comprised of 17 Department and Agency heads who advise the President on ensuring the U.S. industrial base can meet essential government needs. Proceedings of the workshop will help advance the analysis of a new DPAC effort dedicated to lightweight materials.

The availability of advanced lightweight materials is a cross-cutting requirement that is crucial to improving the performance of many systems in areas such as energy-efficiency and performance. This technology has applications to current systems, such as automotive and aircraft light-weighting, while also acting as an enabler for innovative platforms, such as alternative energy sources. However, some of the resources for stronger, lighter, and more energy efficient materials, originate outside of the U.S. The long-term robustness of those resources currently produced in the U.S. have not been systematically examined across the entire spectrum of the Federal programs. Should any of these suppliers fail to deliver key goods, the U.S. becomes strategically vulnerable.

The workshop’s primary goal is to ensure closer alignment and coordination among all stakeholders – Federal agencies, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s), suppliers, trade associations, technical societies, and academia – to achieve a robust industrial base for lightweight, energy-efficient materials. The following topics will be discussed:

1. The current limitations of conventional materials and the need for
lightweight systems;
2. Define the supply chain requirements for meeting lightweight,
high-performance, energy-efficient targets within Federal programs;
3. Identify underdeveloped industrial bases and examine why these
gaps/deficiencies exist; and
4. Advise DPAC on a way forward for the development of domestic

The conference will commence with keynote and guest speakers, followed by a panel comprised of representatives from academia, Government, and industry who will discuss the need for domestic sources of lightweight materials. Two breakout discussion sessions (in the morning and the afternoon) will occur:

Morning Sessions:
1.) Technology Development & Transition
2.) Workforce Development
3.) Supply Chain Vulnerabilities
4.) Policy Gaps

Afternoon Sessions:
1.) Composites
2.) Ceramics
3.) Metals
4.) Emerging Materials

The workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, June 5, from 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. in Georgia Tech’s Global Learning Center. A networking lunch will be served at 12:15 p.m. Poster sessions will also be held throughout the day.

Fees and Registration
Registration is $80.00 per person – Registration deadline: Thursday, May 31, 2012. The registration fee includes all workshop materials, conference presentations, refreshments, and the Luncheon on June 5. Workshop seating is limited to 125 participants, so please register early!

For more information and to register, please visit:

How to handle today’s austere times

April 6, 2012 by

Austerity is here, it’s real and it will be the rule of the road for several years. The president’s fiscal 2013 budget request for defense will likely be about $260 billion less, over the next five years, than the top line projections of just one year ago. The civilian agencies, many of which have been facing fiscal quagmires for several years as a result of a non-stop diet of continuing resolutions, also face real pressures today and further reductions for fiscal 2013, likely in the 3 percent to 5 percent range.

And if sequestration happens, the challenges will be that much more significant. What is not yet clear is what all of this means for both the effective functioning of government and, of course, for the industry that plays such a critical role in supporting it.

Recently, the Professional Services Council, along with the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Defense Industrial Association, submitted to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top DOD leaders a report on the anticipated impacts of the defense spending reductions. They included job losses, reductions in company-funded research and development, investments in people, and the potential loss of key suppliers.

In addition, it is clear that, dosuring the next few years, an already highly competitive market will become even more competitive. With fewer contract opportunities, the number and range of competitors vying for those opportunities will be even greater than they are today.

While the fiscal environment is an unavoidable reality, there are a number of actions companies can and should take to help ameliorate at least some of those impacts. Indeed, these strategies and actions were prominent in discussions with the secretary of defense, the deputy secretary, and the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, following submission of our industrial base impacts report. These strategies also have applicability across the government.

Key among them is an intensified focus on performance—at all levels. This includes not only programmatic performance, which should always be the principal objective, but also a renewed focus on the financial side, such as fostering a proactive dialogue to help customers identify areas for cost savings—even if those savings might impact company revenue—and tightening company overhead as much as reasonably possible.

At the same time, the government customer must also think and act differently. Despite the budget reductions, the government will nonetheless be spending a huge amount of money through contracts for goods and services. To ensure that those expenditures deliver optimal benefits in both the short and long runs, it is crucial that the government, as the DOD and Office of Management and Budget leaders have said, focus on value and other meaningful value discriminators in the acquisition process. Indeed, DOD leadership has said that given the times, they will be focusing more intently than ever on those discriminators.

Unfortunately, the No. 1 issue identified by our member companies in our report was the government’s growing propensity to do just the opposite, even when buying complex services, including those that generate the kinds of innovation that lead to performance improvements and sustainable efficiencies.

Likewise, government teams must be open to eliminating non-value or limited-value contractual burdens. And the government must get away from its habit of using margins—too often arbitrarily set at unreasonably low levels—as a key cost savings tool. Margins should be linked to the complexity and risk associated with the work being done. Here too, a disconnect between the leadership’s objectives and the field’s implementation is clear and must be addressed.

For every company in the federal market, this must be a time of internal and external reassessment. The same is true for our government colleagues. There are some things that are well beyond either’s control. The key is to focus on those things that we can control and to turn an era of challenge into an era of innovation and opportunity.

About the Author: Stan Soloway is president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council.  This article was published on Feb. 27, 2012 by Washington Technology at

Respect for People: Raising the value of your most important assets

March 22, 2012 by

Join Georgia Tech for the annual Lean Consortium event and learn about the evolution of lean from the factory floor to human development. This year’s seminar focuses on becoming more competitive by incorporating the Harada method into your organization through linking the development of people to your organization’s success.

Lean Consortium Event Details:

Respect for People
 Date: Thursday, May 10, 2012
 Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (registration begins at 9:00 a.m.)
 Location: Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway
 Price: $295*
 Keynote Speaker: Norman Bodek

*If you have 5 or more from the same company, the group rate is $240 per seat. Contact Tim Israel to secure multiple seats at this rate.

Seminar Topics:

 The Harada Method: strengthening leaders to inspire employees to develop success goals and work out the detail plans necessary for attaining them
 Understanding and Incorporating the human side of Lean
 Turning managers into active coaches to build a winning team

Benefits of Attending:

 Understand ways to grow employees to make your company more competitive
 Learn to empower and involve employees in the improvement process
 Discover ways to enhance communication throughout the organization


After 18 years working with Data Processing companies, Norman Bodek founded the publishing, consulting, and training firm PCS Press Inc., where he is working to broaden the implementation of lean from the production floor to the entire enterprise. He is an author of over 100 Japanese management books on tools for continuous improvement. Norman is an accomplished presenter, having led numerous seminars, conference sessions, and training events on many continuous improvement subjects. He is also co-founder of the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.

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.

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