At a recent occurrence of our Business Over Breakfast™ in McLean, VA, an interesting and thought-provoking discussion ensued following introductions. The basis of the conversation? Why do small government contractors (generally) play defense rather than offense?
True, there are some that stand out from the crowd and take more control of their destiny by playing on the opposing team's end of the field by running play's not in the "issued" playbooks. But on the whole, we tend to operate based on what we've been told about the other team's defense and go about calling plays from the same old playbook, often getting the same old results, or worse.
The perceived and actual dependence on government contracting small business assistance programs is one example.
Since my days as a contractor and including my years co-leading The American Small Business Coalition, if I had a half-penny for every small business I met who based their strategy on waiting for 8(a), SDB, SDVOSB and similar opportunities to be tossed over the fence by some GWAC program office or contracting officer, my nest egg would be a heck of a lot bigger.
But for quite a few, that's what government contracting is and it does not seem to be changing. Not noticeably anyway.
My coaches always told me to run downhill and be leaning into the wind instead of standing straight up or being back on my heels. That's the big difference between offense and defense in pretty much any contest.
The landscape for small government contractors continues to change pretty dramatically in literally every way. No matter if your business approach is going direct or as a sub, you've been taking it on the chin with budget cuts, primes taking more work in-house, policy changes, omnibus-style contracts, GAO rulings, and just the everyday environmental factors associated with being a government contractor.
This is not a pep talk about us versus them, because it really isn't about them. Besides, when you spend too much time worrying about "them" you end up not giving full attention to your plan. This is simply about being smarter, more aggressive, more methodical and more unified. It's also about learning to use the rule book to our advantage.
I've been saying for years how larger companies figured out the rules of engagement long ago. That is, how to kick the stuffing out of each other on the field one day, and cut sweet deals in the executive conference room the next day. That's one of the attributes small companies need to adopt, quickly.
Since it is football season, I'll say it this way. I want to see our team take the ball down the field and mount a number of successful scoring drives from inside the other team's red zone.Specifically, let's see more coalition-style efforts and I don't mean JV's.
Here's my last point. The general mentality of the small business community is based on creating entities that can compete as a small business, to go after small business opportunities. That's the equivalent of bringing spitballs to a gunfight.
I did say let's push the ball down the field, right?
So let's get creative and form a presence based on the assumption it will not be small business of any type and one that is established in such a way it cannot be picked apart like JV structures.
It's said we drive innovation for this Nation, let's innovate.