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I'll Take What's Behind Curtain Number Two Monty!

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I'll Take What's Behind Curtain Number Two Monty!

I'm not ashamed to admit years ago I was sucked into the world of television game shows back when it was classic television. It was fun to watch Monty Hall, Bob Barker (when he still had dark hair) and all of the others who added to the drama and suspense of making the guess closest to the value of the prize pack (without going over) or picking the right curtain or door to get the exotic vacation, a new car and more!

In government contracting, small businesses make similar choices every single day. There may not be the funny costumes (most of the time) you see on the game shows, but some of them still do silly things to make it to the next round, just like on those shows. Many small businesses even participate in picking the curtain that may contain an amazing prize, or maybe just a pack of breath mints. In more than a few cases they do this without ever knowing what they missed.

What I'm referring to is the strategy of pursuing small business set-asides. I'm not talking about companies pursuing these as a component of their overall strategy, but those companies who do it because they see it as the proverbial 'easy button' and those who honestly don't know there are other opportunities to pursue. No kidding. Here's
my point, each year, agencies make efforts to meet their goals for setting aside and awarding work to small business concerns. Please note I view these as individually unique target. Set-asides which I'll refer to as 'Curtain Number One' and awards to small business concerns regardless of and including set-asides, which I'll call 'Curtain Number Two.'

From 1988 until launching The American Small Business Coalition with my wife ten years ago, I worked for small federal contractors almost exclusively. I can attest small business set-asides were not a focus for me, or for most of the companies I worked for. I did spend time with a couple of the beltway bandits who saw these as 'easy money,' but for the most part, my former employers wanted business and could care less if we were going up against other small companies or the likes of the former EDS. To that end, how agencies were making awards tended to substantiate this approach. For example, looking at agency obligations from FY2010 through FY2013 and comparing Curtain Number One (set-aside obligations) to Curtain Number Two (overall obligations to small business concerns), you may be surprised. I'm not, but that's because I'm writing this piece and have the inside scoop. Obligations to Curtain Number Two pretty much doubles the result of agency efforts that are the numbers behind Curtain Number One.

The issue with the 'set-asides or bust' approach is these companies are not allowing themselves to look at prospective customers or opportunities not flagged with a set-aside tag. Essentially, if an agency does not make it blatantly obvious they are setting aside a large portion of opportunities, these companies never even look their way.

Considering the difference in the size of the prize opportunities, I have no problem saying, I'll take what's behind curtain number two Monty!


The Chief Visionary

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

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Tags:  COBSS  contracting  government  set-aside 

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