Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Joy Of Lex: FARS Part 2

When Lexicon Means Profit

Why would FARS Part 2 be interesting? It's about the language, or lexicon, of contracting and its definitions. 
Because the Joy of "Lex" can be tangible. "Oh, Yawn," you say.  Not so fast. What if tiny little FARS Part 2 were a key to profit and competitive advantage? Read on.

In government contracting, everyday words and phrases have very specific meanings. How is a "commercial item" different from a "commercially available off-the-shelf item"? What does "cost or pricing data" include? Is your product or service "environmentally preferable"?

You want to know the answers for two reasons.

First: Competitive Advantage. Understand and comply with the terms and ensure your proposal qualifies for every advantages.

Three examples:

  • if the solicitation says that environmentally preferable products shall receive preference in evaluation, you want to be sure your products qualify, find out how that sets you apart from your competition, and, if so, be sure your proposal shows how you qualify. 
  • If the solicitation says that only environmentally preferable products shall be purchased, you want to be sure to include information about how your products meet that definition, so you don't get disqualified on a technicality. 
  • Armed with Good Lex, you can also point out competitors who aren't compliant -- and disqualify them from a competition. 
Second: Compliance with Incorporated Terms
The standard contract includes definitions simply by referring to FAR Part 2. That's called "incorporation by reference." Government contracts incorporate hundreds of provisions by reference. In other words, the government buyer expects you to know what all these terms mean when you sign that contract, even though the contract doesn't spell them all out. And if you don't know what they mean, the FAR reference points you to where you can look it up.

Neeld Wilson, President of GEAR Engineering, found himself scrambling on his first federal contract proposal to remove an underground storage tank. He was looking for the statement of work in order to cost the job, because that information seemed to be missing from the Request for Proposal. 

His proposal consultant showed him the small clause that referred to published project standards that his proposal needed to meet. 

If his proposal hadn't complied with those standards, his offer would have been rejected. Instead, he went on to win a project worth several hundred thousand dollars.

The Joy Of Good Lex: Helps You Win.

Got a story about a definition that made a difference for you? Email me, or leave a comment!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FARS Part 1...Just What You Need To Know!

Rules of the Road

In writing my book, "Seven Steps to Success in Government Contracting," I knew I had to cover acquisition regulations. How could I make it something you'd want to read?

Today I planned to launch my "FAR - a - Week" blog series -- working through the Federal Acquisition Regulations.  Life got in the way...but brought the perfect lesson to start me off!

I was delayed by what I thought would be a routine annual vehicle inspection. An hour later, I found out that it's gonna cost me $2600 in mandatory repairs -- including replacing the pump that feeds the power steering -- just to keep my beloved six-year-old Mini Cooper on the road.

What's this got to to with the FARS? 

Easy: If I want to drive, my vehicle's gotta meet the rules of the road. When you get on the acquisition superhighway of selling to the federal government, you agree to comply with those rules.

Even if it costs us. So, let's know before we go.

Federal Acquisition Regulations Part 1: The  Opening Act
Explains the purpose of the federal procurement rules, how they are managed and by whom, and who has authority to bind the government to a contract. (You really care about that last part, because you need to know whether or not the person you're talking to has the authority to buy from you.)


  • 1.102: The acquisition regulations are intended to achieve: 
    • on-time delivery 
    • of products or services that give best value to the government customer 
    • while maintaining the public’s trust 
    • and fulfilling public policy objectives
  • 1.601 Agency heads delegate contracting authority to Contracting Officers.
  • 1.602-1: Contracting officers have authority to enter into, administer, or terminate contracts and make related determinations and findings, including ensuring that all 2requirements of law, executive orders, regulations, procedures, clearances and approvals have been met.

Monday, September 21, 2009

GSA's Inside Scoop on New Mentor-Protege Program!

Did you know? In GSA's Mentor-Protege Program:

  • Companies of any size, small or large may be mentors
  • Mentors may hold ANY GSA contract -- not just a GSA Schedule Contract
  • Mentors may hold SINGLE award contracts, not just multiple award contracts.
  • GSA's Small Business Utilization Office is glad to meet with you
  • For more, Web: http://gsa.gov/sbu and follow twitter.com/GSAOSBU

Thanks to A/Associate Administrator Mary Parks, Director of the Small Business Utilization Office for her interview on this with me, recorded September 18th with me for YOU to hear, at

With pressure from the Obama Administration to improve federal awards to small business, and recession putting the pressure on small companies, this program comes at a very good time.

Now, let's see SBA and Commerce promote it during their outreach, too!

Will YOU pursue a mentor on this program? Become a Protege? Why or why not?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Attracting Your GSA Mentor

What's In It For Them? And You? 

1.  Learn about the program.
If GSA offers a briefing on its Mentor-Protege program, attend. Otherwise, read all you can. If your prospective mentor is new to Mentor-Protege (because this is new for GSA), you may need to be able to explain how it works, and provide links.
2.   Think about what you can offer your mentor.
These programs take time -- theirs and yours -- for application as well as participation. What's in it for them?
- More margin on sales subcontract to you?
- Access to a new client base?
- Opportunity for an equity position in your company?
- Something else?
3.   Decide what you want from your mentor. Need ideas? The 2007 GAO report said:
  • 87 percent of responding protégés said their mentors helped their business development and corporate infrastructure. 
  • 84 percent credited mentors with "enhanced their engineering or technical expertise"; a
  • 25% said their participation helped them meet ISO quality Standardization, CMMI, or other certifications. 
4.   Prepare To Meet
Update your Capability Statement and list your objectives before you approach your prospective mentors! Remember, a good initial point of contact is the person listed on their GSA Schedule online. Pay attention to your gut. Are you comfortable with what you're hearing and who you're meeting?

Got your mentors narrowed down? Link to the application here and find out more.

Top Vehicles for YOUR GSA Mentor-Protege

GSA Runs 6 of Buyers' Top 10 Contract Faves
If technology is your business, and you're thinking of GSA's Mentor-Protege program, prime contractors of any size participating in any of GSA's programs could be a mentor. 
Look beyond the schedules program! There are more choices than you might have thought. Nick Wakeman of Federal Computer Week told us the results of a 100,000 readers surveyed about the federal IT contracts they planned to use:

1. GSA SmartBuy, with 34 percent saying they plan to use it.
2. GSA Schedule 70 – 31 percent
3. GSA 8(a) STARS – 16 percent
4. Army ITES-2S — 15 percent
5. GSA Networx – 13 percent
6. DISA I-Assure – 13 percent
7. DOD Enterprise Software Initiatives – 13 percent
8. GSA Alliant Small Business – 12 percent
9. GSA Millenia/Millenia Lite/Alliant – 12 percent
10. Army ADMC-2 – 12 percent

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So You Want A GSA Schedule Mentor?

Tips For Prospective Proteges On The Hunt
  1. Get the latest update from GSA's Office of Small Business Utilization about the program.

  2. Learn more about GSA's programs, including the Schedule Contract, that best fits the kind of business you want to win more of.

  3. Then check out GSAAdvantage to see who is offering goods or services that complement yours. Make a list of those companies. The point of contact listed is a good starting point if you want to get in touch.

  4. Next, see how much business they've won recently,
    through Schedule Sales Query, and on other contracts, via Federal Procurement Data System.
  5. Narrow the list by geography if you want to work with someone located near you.
Now, what would YOU do next?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why Mentor-Protege, GSA?

Simply: A Good Idea That Delivers.

The Department of Defense pioneered Mentor-Protege in 1991. In the report commissioned by Congress in 2007, the Government Accountability Office found that participant benefits among those they surveyed included:
  • 48 protégés collectively attributed 95 new contracts and about $131 million in increased revenue to their participation in the program. 
  • 63 % percent reported an increase in employees. 
But there's no magic -- you get out of it what you put into it. 
GAO also reported that "Despite the overall value protégés attributed to the program, about one-quarter reported that the program had no impact on gaining new contracts or increasing revenue."

What could GSA's program achieve for you? Well, what do you want to get out of it

Julie, and Julia...and Judy: The FAR-A-Week Blog Series

52 Parts. 52 Weeks. Starts Monday September 21st!
Remember I said I found the movie "Julie and Julia" inspiring? I was wondering what I could do that my community would find appealing and would really cook...
And I was kinda mired in writing Part Three of my book, Seven Steps to Success in Government Contracts, always wondering, "What does someone REALLY need to know about procurement rules?"
Sure, the perfect answer is "everything," but what would a real-world approach be? I decide to find out, and share that with you one week at a time.
SIGN UP NOW for RSS feed, and get the whole series, starting next week!

Monday, September 14, 2009

GSA Launches Mentor-Protege Program

September 14th, 2009 Is Opening Day

All part of the White House push for more contract awards to small business...now there's another way for big companies to help the smaller ones.

Mentor-Protege programs that began with DoD and have spread to other agencies have driven growth for many small firms through the technical assistance, subcontracting, and even equity positions extended by Mentors to Proteges.

How will GSA's program work? See Federal Register notice, Aug 14th, 2009.

How about in plain language? GSA said to check this link.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Lesson From Julia

Blogging Like Nobody's Watching

Procurement this, procurement that... I went out to see the movie Julie and Julia tonight, and I was inspired on a couple of levels.

First, that Julie started out doing a project just because...and people started to care about it along the way, whether she knew that or not. For her, it was about the journey, and putting it out there.

And for Julia, bringing "Mastering The Art Of French Cooking" was such a very long journey, fired by the passion of knowing that what she had to share with the world was worth it, that someone would care.

I really do write this blog for two reasons:
  • so that if you really CAN win a government contracts, you get things that help you succeed...
  • and if it's really not a great idea, you can figure that out before somebody skims thousands of dollars off you for courses and services and proposals that burn your cash and line their pockets.
And I have a book coming -- Seven Steps To Success In Government Contracts. Maybe, like Julia's book, the title will change. And, like Julia's, it's not gonna be the only contracting cookbook out there. But if you ARE hungry for government contracts, it's going to take you through the recipe, one step at a time.

Stick with me, folks. And sign up for the RSS feed if you want the updates as the writing comes along.

(Okay, and Stanley Tucci is SOOO cute as Paul Child.)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Trap 3: The Shotgun Tactics

The Danger: Wasted Scarce Resources.
See the classic shotgun pattern? Lots of effort, not much reaching your target. Sure, FedBizOpps (www.fbo.gov) is the place where the federal government must publish opportunities and includes links to stimulus opportunities. But if you pump out proposals to every Request for Proposal you find, most of your effort is off target.
Improve Your Win Rate.
FACT: The win begins long before RFP's are published. When you want to win government contracts, research and focus tightly to win. Otherwise, I guarantee you'll go broke trying.
The Fix: Focus.
Did you know? Public money drives much more public information -- on federal departments' budgets, contract spending forecasts and contract awards. Savvy companies pinpoint well-funded buyers, scope out competition and partners, refine their focus, and pick out and position themselves to win opportunities a long time before formal competition begins.
Where to start:
Free web sites offer extraordinary amounts of federal contract market intelligence -- but can take time to hit the bull's eye. Look into www.usaspending.org, www.ccr.gov, www.gsaadvantage.gov, https://fpds.gov, and www.ssq.gsa.gov. Good if you're testing the waters and not ready for a big investment yet, or prefer to spend time rather than money.
Jump Start: Get a free instant webinar in how to use all these -- at www.summitinsight.com/video.asp.
Now tell your friends.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Trap 2: The Shoestring Budget

Danger: No Traction.

If your business is struggling, pursuit of government contracts can hurt more than it helps. You can expect to spend serious money -- and easily a couple of years of effort -- to find a return on what you'll invest to develop opportunities and prepare proposals. And when you DO win, guess when you get paid? After you do the work. Winners budget to stay in business long enough not only to win, but also to perform.

Your current line of credit is
often not enough to finance pursuit of several major opportunities, and win a couple, AND stay alive until after you get your first payment. Even healthy companies that are blessed with a line of credit today are shocked to find that their bankers do not simply extend that line and its terms, even to finance a signed government contract. Margins are usually not huge in government contracting. Asset-based financing is your cheapest money. While I see offerings every week for alternative financing (aka "last-minute money"), it's always more expensive, and will evaporate your profits in a hurry.

The Fix? Get Some Financing.
Have you hugged your banker lately? I'm really not joking. If you've decided to pursue government contracts, and revised your marketing budgets to support that pursuit, review your access to working capital and financing. Then visit your banker to let her know your plans -- not least because you want to check your assumptions about financing options and how your bank can support you.