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Is your plan to find and win 'small business' opportunities or business opportunities?'

Saturday, November 16, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Guy Timberlake (
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If you lead or work for a small business currently pursuing contracts and/or subcontracts with the U.S. Government, I have a question for you.

Does your company charter cite something to the effect of "growth through identifying and winning small business opportunities where our capabilities and culture add value?" Or does it more closely resemble "growth through identifying and winning business opportunities where our capabilities and culture add value?"

Most folks I know including those I've posed this question to directly indicate the latter statement by far represents what their intent is, or was. I say was because government contracting can be a confusing and discouraging business. Confusing because much of the information espoused by many industry "experts" and even more government small business representatives would have you believe pursuing set-asides is the only game in town for you. This usually comes somewhere right after they recite the necessity of getting 8(a) certified and on the GSA Schedule without ever understanding your offering, delivery model or customer alignment. Sound and qualified advice it most often is not.

As far as discouragement, by owning, operating or working for a small business you are likely already well-versed in the reality that is "Feast or Famine" and some of the many other perks associated with independent ownership and control. Discouraging as it can be, this is the path we chose.We can either buck up or pack up and get out.

I'm staying.

I want to discuss what aspect of GovCon business you are pursuing. I'm not talking about your offering or the problems it solves, I'm talking about the type of business from a competition standpoint.The reason is too many companies enter this industry with a mindset of "set-asides will be our lifeline because Uncle Sam has to make those awards to our small business" and many find out (some quicker than others) that particular philosophy doesn't serve them well. The same goes for those companies invoking a similar belief when it comes to the Small Business Subcontracting Program and those companies "required" to dole out work to them simply because they are a small business or some variety of small business. Again, we see everyday how well that's working.

So I sat and thought about the business I used to win for the companies I worked for, led or owned, and realized that set-asides and small business subcontracting were of little importance to me. Yes, I did work for one of the 8(a) 'beltway bandits' for a stint, but most of the business I won supporting Luke AFB, Port Hueneme, NAS Fallon, FISC Bremerton, FISC Norfolk, NS Everett, NAS Whidbey Island, Edwards AFB, Fort Lewis, NS Pearl Harbor, Travis AFB, IHS Arizona and New Mexico and the others, had more to do with me than it did the socioeconomic designation(s) of the company I worked for. Can anyone say relationships?

Many members of The American Small Business Coalition are pursuing and winning business because they are darn good at what they do, have good rates (or prices) and are not focused on leveraging their small business status. There was a story conveyed to me earlier this year by a member and the government that drives this home. As I'm told, while making an award to one of our companies after orals, a defense agency had to drag the small business information out of them. Mind you, the company had already smoked the technical, price and incumbent. That information was a formality so the agency could indicate it on the contract. Yes I am still grinning!

Here's the other part I want to share. If you look at the obligations presented in the Federal Procurement Data System Next Generationand compare what agencies set-aside for small business since FY2009 versus what small businesses were awarded regardless of if a set-aside was used, you might be surprised.

From FY2009 through November 15, 2013, when agencies set-aside opportunities for small business, the obligations total $226,843,044,932.86. If we look at the same period, and review obligations where the Government indicated making an award to a small business, the total is $428,336,097,968.90. Looking at the numbers year-by-year shows small businesses winning as much or more than was set-aside, without the benefit of set-asides.

One of the issues with the "set-asides are my lifeline" model is those who follow that philosophy never reaching out to potential customers whose organizations may not doing set-asides, but who may be making a great number of small business awards.

Which brings me to this.

Set-Asides? Why limit your opportunities? I say consider them a gift and not a lifeline. Small versus Small is a given in GovCon. How about more smartly played Small versus 'Other Than Small' as those wins are much more rewarding. How do you do it? Develop and execute a plan based on finding and winning business, not 'small business.' That takes information of which there is plenty around, you just need to know what to do with it.

For that, see what people are saying about our Ethical Stalking for Government Contractors™ workshop and let us help you change how you find and use information to enhance your marketing, business development and capture activities.



The Chief Visionary

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

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