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How to Impress Prime Contractors and a Government Agency (or Not)!

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Saturday, September 17, 2011
As if there were not enough organic and man-made obstacles for small businesses getting access to government contracting opportunities, here is another that just adds to the stack.

This time, we did it to ourselves.

Not a day passes when I don't hear for myself, through a friend or associate, about how difficult it is to cultivate viable business and get face-time with government agencies and prime contractors. On those occasions you do get a call-back or are able to confirm a meeting, you find out you were directed to someone who is not "program-related" or otherwise a gatekeeper.

What about those times when a legitimate and qualified opportunity is presented, and folks from the small business community don't take it seriously? That's what happened just the other day during a one-time only matchmaking event for vetted small business concerns to meet with the prime contractors of an awarded $3B agency-wide contract for IT services.

Here's the skinny.

Last September, SSA awarded an IDIQ contract to Accenture, CSC, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman based on nine technical areas. SSA and those four primes got together and decided to host a matchmaking event with the intent of expanding the base of small businesses participating as subcontractors. The catch? Only companies demonstrating qual's and experience (commercial or government as a direct contractor or sub) relevant to the contract, and who were eligible under one of seven socioeconomic categories, would have an opportunity to participate. Seems fair.

As you can imagine, when the call went out for companies interested in this opportunity, we found plenty, both eager and relevant. This is where the problems begin.

While understanding "things happen" within and beyond our control, sending a cancellation after normal business hours the day before the event or simply "blowing off" the event is irresponsible and disrespectful to the agency, the primes and to the organizer of the event. For those vetted and confirmed companies that decided to no-show that morning (whatever the reason), you didn't do yourself any favors.

Why you ask?

Simple. Your name was on a list. Not just an attendee list, but a list of scheduled meetings the primes were prepared to accommodate. They had the names of the representatives, your descriptive information and a brief summary of your qual's related to the technical areas to be discussed. Had you notified us the day before the event, we would have changed those appointment sheets and your name/information would not have been on that list.

Why does this matter?

The primes were indicating on their copies of the meeting schedules, which companies were "no-shows." Additionally, the agency requested a copy of the registration check-in sheet. My issue is those meeting opportunities were essentially lost. Other small businesses also with the right stuff could have filled those spots had we been given even a day to make changes. Instead, meetings with prime contractor small business and program representatives for a multi-year $3B contract, went up in smoke.

Don't know if you have seen this before, but several agencies are tracking attendance at government-hosted industry days, pre-bid meetings and vendor outreach sessions. The word I get from a few is they want to know which companies are deciding their time is better spent doing something other than an activity to which they committed, and not respecting the effort that went into planning and facilitating these activities, required or not.

If you were confirmed to participate in last Friday's event and notified us twenty-four hours or more prior to the event, you are good to go.

For the rest of you, what an impression.


The Chief Visionary

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."

Tags:  lost opportunity  no-show  planning  play hard or go home 

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Comments on this post...

Prime Contractor says...
Posted Monday, September 19, 2011

This is an ongoing problem. I can overlook the no shows but when I bring a technical person, it is never ignored. For those of us that really try t...o move the dial, this is very discouraging, especially when you have a very focused effort, as opposed to the cattle call approach.

I participate in many matchmakers throughout the year in an effort to better represent our enterprise. My sector is very focused in two/three areas so it is important that I participate in these events to identify new sources. Blowing off these opportunities is short sighted and poses the question to our prime contractors of why allocate resources to these events. The time and money required of prime contractors to participate in these events is considerable.

I hosted an internal event in earlier this year focused on a particular customer, etc. We had several no shows. I was not impressed.

- Prime Contractor
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