Thursday, October 29, 2009

FAR Part 5: It's *Not* All On FedBizOpps

Clues To Opportunities You May Be Missing

The FARS say all opportunities worth more than $25,000 have to be published in FedBizOpps, right?

  • Nope!  Clue words include "urgent", 8(a), "perishable", "national security",  "commercial items" and "under Simplified Acquisition Threshold"... but don't guess! Learn about them all in FAR 5.202

  • Looking for a small job to launch your track record? Here's how buyers publicize opportunities worth more than $10,000 but less than $25,000 (FAR Part 5.101)

  • FAR 5.4 says government can also use other methods do publicize opportunities, including traditional advertising. That could be an opportunity for marketing communication firms to offer services to procurement shops, if there is an extraordinary requirement that the buyers expect will be hard to meet.

  • FAR 5.404 encourages Federal agencies to publish procurement forecast information. Find those forecasts online 24/7 at Acquisition Central.

  • Looking for Stimulus-funded work? FAR Part 5.7 says how those have to be publicized -- both pre- and post-award.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

FAR Part 4: Alchemy -- How To Turn Paper Into Gold

Didn't File Your Paperwork? You Lose.

As I write this, Hallowee'n is upon us...and who among government contractors dares to say that magic is dead? Anyone who wins has mastered the fine art of turning paperwork into gold.

Not sure how that happens? Learn FAR Part 4, Administrative Matters, and you don't need a magic wand. Seriously, you've got to complete certain applications and registrations in order be eligible for a government contract. These don't guarantee you'll win anything...but you can't win without them. Roz, here (or YOUR friendly neighborhood contracting officer) wants your paperwork -- like:

Roz has to do HER share, too. This part of the FARS includes government's obligations to:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

FAR Part 3: Ethics & The No Free Lunch Rule

Avoid Toxic Coffee Syndrome

Part 3  of the FARS is about procurement integrity. Its full name is Improper Business Practices And Personal Conflicts Of Interest.

Here are three reasons why you care, and where it says so:

1.   How not to lose your contract
In general, government officials can't seek or receive coffee, lunch, gifts or entertainment from a contractor. (FAR Part 3.101-2) So don't offer. Individual agencies are allowed to have their own rules about this, so if you're uncertain, look up their rules online and/or ask the contracting officer to confirm your understanding.

Pay Attention: if you do so with intent to get favorable treatment on a contract worth more than $100,000, your contract can be cancelled (FAR Part 52.203-3).

2.  How to protect your business secrets
Find out how to mark your documents to prevent the government giving competitors sensitive business information from your proposal (FAR 3.104.4). This really can happen if you don't watch out.

3. How to avoid shady practices
Whether you're a prime or a subcontractor, ethics rules apply to you. Those rules prohibit things like kickbacks, contingent fees, and under-bidding today in order to raise prices after award. If you're even remotely concerned about whether a business practice is legitimate and permitted, run, do not walk, to FAR Part 3. It's not long, but it's very clear.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Balancing Women's Natural Advantages

Creativity, But Not At The Expense of The Rules

Barbara Annis of Barbara Annis & Associates is dedicated to bringing the latest research and thinking on Gender Diversity and Inclusiveness into the workplace. As a recognized leader in Inclusive Leadership, her firm helps organizations achieve a true competitive advantage with their most valuable asset, their people.

She and I recently got to talking about gender differences in how men and women do business, and she told this story:

“Two or three years ago, I competed recently for a $50 million government project for 'inclusive leadership'. My competitors answered every question, and no more. I went more in the relationship way. I thought, 'They’re defining their requirement wrong, because I’ve been delivering inclusive leadership for years! You need diversity but you also need culture intelligence and gender intelligence.' So I added to it, with the best of intentions.

“We lost. In the debriefing, the contracting officers went through our offer line by line and said, ‘That didn’t fit the RFP, this didn’t fit the RFP. We got as far as page 12 of your 200-page proposal, and abandoned it.’ We didn’t answer the specific questions or use their words.”

“The ones who won the contract and went off on a big party trip to celebrate their win lost it three months later because they couldn’t deliver. The government agency is now asking us how they could get the service they need. 2 to 3 years later, we have even better tools and are very much involved in shaping a statement of work that we think is realistic and will achieve their goals.”

Is strong focus on creativity in pursuit of business an inherent female trait? That trait can be a strength for women as well as men in government contracting, but not at the expense of playing the game by the rules.

What would be the warning signs that you need a better balance between creativity and other elements of marketing effort?

I'll be talking about these and tactics to make the most of other gender differences to women Presidents, Owners and Chief Executives of the American Small Business Coalition on Thursday October 8th.