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The Proliferation of Misinformed Federal Contractors

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Sunday, April 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The legwork required to effectively and efficiently find and win federal contracts is not the easiest set of tasks to accomplish, but it is achievable. I see it done everyday by companies of every size, skill set and experience level.
While there are those who blame the government for making it difficult for Industry stakeholders of all types and sizes to get access to information related to upcoming business opportunities, the truth is, in my humble opinion, blame should be shared equally by Government and Industry.
For example, the following two phrases represent what many (most) folks do not hear from agency representatives and so-called "professionals" when they first decide to pursue federal contracts.
"Here is why the GSA Schedule is not a good fit for you
based on your offering, agency alignment and more."
"Becoming an 8(a) is not the key to opening the
flood gates of business opportunity for your company."
Over the years I've talked to hundreds of companies new to federal contracting where most confirm they have been led down the path to believing the GSA Schedule and 8(a) Program were absolute deal-breakers. They are essentially told if they don't have either or both, there is no point to even getting started. Granted my polling methods are pragmatic versus scientific, the responses I continue to receive point to components of government agencies, government-funded activities and a large number of consultants espouse the belief it will "rain down business opportunities" when the 8(a) designation is received or a Federal Supply Schedule is awarded. Don't get me wrong, there are benefits associated with these programs, for some companies based on a number of variables.
The irony is these same Government and Industry organizations contributing to companies being misguided also foster the negative opinions of these companies. For instance, we very often hear small companies being encouraged to believe socioeconomic designations are the ultimate selection criteria for making a team or being awarded a contract, but when these small businesses approach some of the same organizations that led them to that belief, they are then told "lead with your qualifications" and "you're putting too much emphasis on an attribute that doesn't indicate your capabilities."
No wonder folks are confused.
The impact is felt throughout the industry and often presents itself as frustration voiced by those in both Government and Industry related to the "unrealistic expectations" these companies have.
Unfortunately, new companies are drinking this "Kool-Aid" because it's being served up by resources that should be reliable.
Just recently I heard part of a panel discussion at a local conference that was to cover resources and tactics small business new to contracting should use to garner success. The panel consisted of two Small Business Liaisons from well-known prime contractors, and the director of small business for a federal agency. Outside of the fact the information delivered did not have much (if anything) to do with the title/description of the session, quite a bit of the information offered up was either wrong or severely outdated (five years or more), and is the same presentation they have delivered for the last five years (or more).
My advice? Like a good reporter trying to confirm information passed to them for a possible breaking story, verify with more than one source and qualify the reliability of those sources.


The Chief Visionary

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

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