Yes, I realize that I am a week late with this article. I took some time off during the holidays and it has taken me a week to get back in the groove. My personal resolution for the New Year is to be more active on my blog and to build my business so I can take more vacations. As you can see, one of my main goals is to enjoy life more. So, in this light I would like to present my five recommended resolutions for federal contractors.
#1 – Get more involved earlier. I believe this is one of the most frequently identified issues I hear when I speak with federal contractors. It is interpreted differently by different contractors, but the gist is to get involved with a procurement action early in the cycle when you can learn more about what the customer is doing, position your solution more effectively, and get ahead of the curve. Those of you who know me understand that I am not a big believer in schmoozing with the client. When I say “get more involved earlier”, I want you to participate in sources sought, RFI’s, industry days, and useful discussions with the client. Do not pepper potential clients with tons of collateral material and lots of phone calls/e-mails/visits. Instead, focus your discussions on the presentation of your solutions on their specific problems and in a format that is easy for readers to understand.
#2 – Become part of the solution, not the problem. Yes, we all know the Federal Government is having an acquisition crisis. this is a result of outdated policies, lack of qualified personnel, and, to be honest with ourselves, lack of support from contractors. Last year I attended a number of workshops aimed at improving the acquisition process. These workshops were heavily attended by federal acquisition personnel, and several were led by OMB. With few exceptions, the contractors in attendance primarily aired their grievances. I do believe that the government understands the problem, but they really do not understand how to build a solution. Therefore, I think that we, the contractor community, owe it to ourselves and our country to work selflessly with the Federal Government to fix acquisition deficiencies by providing constructive suggestions on how acquisitions can be better managed with existing resources under existing rules.
#3 – Read documents first and stop asking stupid questions. I am tired sitting at industry days were stupid questions are asked by contractors, and even more outraged when contractors ask stupid questions once a document has been released. It makes us, as a community, look like we do not understand what is going on. I am asking that we all resolve to read documents published by the Federal Government BEFORE we ask questions. Then, when you do formulate a question, construct it using good English and keep it focused on a single request. Don’t ask questions that you know the Government cannot answer. In other words, let’s not waste our time and that of the contracting folks. We might be able to get acquisitions completed more quickly and be more cost-effective once this is accomplished.
#4 – Bid intelligently , not prolifically. I really don’t know how to put this any more plainly. Think about what you are bidding, how you are bidding, and how many bids you are preparing. If you follow the previous resolutions, you will have a better understanding of what the Government is seeking and you will be able determine whether it really aligns with your business objectives. Not only do you need to consider only whether the acquisition is technically compatible with what you do, but you also need to determine whether you have the resources to put together a proposal to state your case specifically. Keep the number of bids to a level that make sense for your organization. Probably the number one mistake I see companies make is that they feel they need to bid everything, and this causes them to lose everything.
#5 – Pace yourself and have more fun. I started FedBizCoach because work was getting in the way of my vacations. When I met my wife nearly 10 years ago, she showed me how I was spending too much time working (yes, I was a workaholic) and how to take downtime away from work. When I go on vacation, I detach myself from business. While I may take my cell phone and computer with me, I do not conduct any significant work. After working on an intensive proposal, I will take time for a mini vacation to allow me to recharge. I believe everyone should do this, and you should encourage your staff to take downtime to relieve the stress. You might be surprised at the rewards.
I do believe that we can all keep these five resolutions throughout the year. Further, I think this will enhance not only our quality of life, but will also result in more wins and better projects for companies. Feel free to post a comment and let me know what resolutions you made that might relate to federal contracting.