Small Business vs. 8(a), SDB, WOSB, 8(m), VOSB, SDVOSB, etc. (The Saga Continues...)
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Posted by: Guy Timberlake
In an entry to the Visionary's Blog last summer, I talked about an increasingly divided community of small federal contractors and one of the net effects being the "who the heck ate my lunch?" scenarios rampant in this business.
Not sure what division I'm talking about?
On one hand, it's a mindset I've seen fostered over the years that results from a lack of information, and a lack of informing by stakeholders. Know how to spot it? Look for small federal contractors who represent themselves as SDVOSB, WOSB, 8(a) or one of the other socioeconomic designations, but not as a small business.
Don't believe me? Everyday I see companies fill out their profiles on various systems where they check the box for every socioeconomic program for which they are eligible, but omit 'small business.'
They also ask questions demonstrating this disassociation at industry days, conferences and online
Just the other day on LinkedIn, I saw where a representative of a Veteran-Owned Small Business posed a question that epitomized how companies seem to believe that "small business" is something completely different from who and what they are. The company rep inquired if they would be eligible to respond to a solicitation posted by the contracting officer as a "small business set-aside" since they were a Veteran-Owned Small Business. Someone from GSA offered the very polite and accurate response that the company could respond as a small business. I would love to have seen the face of the GSA representative as they responded to that question.
This just happens to be one of the most recent instances telling of the state of the small business community, in my opinion.
For whatever reason, quite a few of the folks associated with companies participating in these programs seem to ignore the fact the last two words of their socioeconomic designation is "Small Business." Or maybe they really don't understand.
There are many causes for this and they stem in part from how the Government treats these programs, competitively speaking. Take for example the recent bill introduced by Senator Udall of New Mexico that seeks to raise the goals for 8(a)/SDB and Women-Owned Small Businesses from five percent to ten percent. I would not dare say they do not deserve, it, but why them and not our Service-Disabled Veterans, a group that consists of socioeconomically disadvantaged men and women who have served and sacrificed in support of our freedoms. Under his proposal, they would be stuck at the current goal of three percent.
Another glaring example is the steep decline in awards and opportunities to small businesses. You know, plain old, no other socioeconomic boxes to check, American small businesses. There are contracts being ramped up that have set-asides for every other subset of the small business program. One check box small businesses are, for the most part, relegated to 'full and open' competition. It seems punitive to me.
It is also a result of the in-fighting between these groups and their lobbyists who are constantly jockeying for pole position in the media and on the Hill. Groups representing a very specific segment by the very words in their charter, try to assuage the fears of other groups by saying "we support you too" all the while quietly (or not so quietly) slicing the proverbial Achilles of other socioeconomic groups by cutting deals on the Hill to shore up their position. Trust me, I have seen it done and know it still happens.
Some larger companies are guilty of pouring salt in the wound, too. Instead of seeking viable small businesses to help support their customers, they literally seek to check the box with companies who will likely never realize any business as a result. If you really want to know what happens in a lot of these situations see "The Mystery of the Subcontractor's Lost Phone Number".
Until small federal contractors can find a common cause and a unified approach to it, we will continue to struggle.
The Chief Visionary
"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."
Differentiate Yourself. Develop and Leverage Your Small Business C4ISR™.
(Capacity, Commitment, Core Competency, Intelligence, Strategy and Relationships)