Effective Teaming for Veteran-owned Government Contractors

By Mike McDonough, vice president, Capture2

According to a study by the Small Business Administration, 9.3 percent of veteran-owned firms reported the Federal, state or local government as a major customer. Of these firms, 3.2 percent reported the Federal government as a major customer, while only two percent of firms owned by non-veterans reported the Federal government as a major customer. It is not surprising that so many veteran-owned companies focus their business towards the Federal government, a way in which they can continue to serve, even after becoming a civilian. 

While many big contract vehicles (such as GWACs, IDIQs and MACs) are morphing into commodity contracts, there will become a greater need to create multi-award contracts that are focused purely on services. Services are a very important part of any program and have been left out of some big contracts. As we see more focus on the services that companies provide, more opportunities will be introduced for the small businesses that provide unique services, or services such as training and advanced education.

In order to be competitive in this ever-changing landscape, businesses will need to team in order to win. Therefore, your business strategy needs to include team development. This is one of the biggest challenges faced by companies trying to emerge in that market when going after government work. Though it’s not an easy task, it can be done, and you can even become well-versed at teaming strategies. Here’s how to get your foot through the door.

Assessing teaming needs

Take a detailed look at the RFP requirements, as well as a deeper look into your business, and ask “Can we provide or perform 51 percent of these requirements?” Most likely your business will be able to satisfy 50 percent or more of the requirements, and if that number is less than 50 percent, the opportunity is not a good fit for your business. Based on this analysis, you will need to find other contractors to team with in order to be competitive.

In addition to the RFP requirements, it is also important to analyze the contract requirements. Often contracts require a percentage of work to be completed by another subcontractor, which means developing a team. Additionally, Federal regulations state that solicitations expected to exceed $700,000 ($1.5 million for construction) require prime contractors to develop plans and goals for subcontracting with small businesses, small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses, Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

Determining the right fit

In teaming it is essential to start with the right people. When determining whether a company would be an effective team member, it is important to consider the following:

  • The customer. Learn as much as you can about your customer, including their needs, goals, mission, history and technology. Then, look for a partner with subject matter experts who are familiar with the customer and whose products or services align with those key factors.
  • Past performance. When looking at past performance, the incumbent may or may not be the best partner for your team. If possible, ask the government buyer how the incumbent has performed, and if there have been other contractors they have liked in the past.
  • Skill sets. When choosing a partner, synergy is key. Choose a partner with complementary products or services. For example, if your specialty is providing technology solutions, find a partner that can provide services, such as training.
  • Corporate stability. When screening potential partners, be sure to conduct thorough background checks. Choose a partner with a solid corporate structure, stable finances and proven business practices to ensure they will be able to perform the services needed throughout the contract.
  • Trust. You will depend on each other throughout a long and involved process. Make sure you have a high level of trust and comfort with one other and choose businesses that you’d be proud to call a partner.

Finding and vetting team members

When it comes to information, you don’t know what you don’t know. Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that a business will learn they lost a contract because their partner pulled down their score.

With more than 500,000 government contractors looking for business at any one time, it can be overwhelming to figure out where and how to look for partners. Not to mention, knowing what to look for once you are in the right place. By using advanced technology that employs artificial intelligence to produce relevant results to your business, contractors can multiply their internal research results and be better informed when it comes to choosing partners.

When searching for key industry players, it is essential to maximize your industry connections. To do this, it is beneficial to attend networking events and conferences, get acquainted with other contractors through associations and online forums, reach out to organizations such as the National Veteran Small Business Coalition and the U.S. Small Business Administration, and take advantage of the industry expertise of your technology partners. Leveraging industry connections will give you the additional edge to go into every negotiation, discussion, consideration and decision meeting with as much knowledge and strategy as possible.

Developing a successful partnership

Once you have chosen your teaming partners, commit them to a contract that binds your relationship from a legal standpoint. When competing for a small business set aside, the portion of Federal contracts that must be awarded to small businesses and the type of teaming agreement you choose can have an effect on your current proposal and future bids. For example, when using a joint venture, it is assumed that the joint venture members are affiliated. Therefore, you must make sure the combined size of the companies involved does not exceed the size limitation for the small business set aside. In addition, SBA regulations limit the a joint venture’s ability to compete for small business set-asides to no more than three offers over a two-year period, which limits your prospective business. However, teaming agreements do not present these limitations.

Before submitting your proposal, it is important to make sure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. It is the responsibility of all partners to clarify each team member’s role and responsibilities, as well as to update those duties as the project progresses. Additionally, regular communication is critical for maintaining a successful teaming relationship. Everyone must be engaged, open and transparent throughout the entire process. Identify specific employees at each partner company to serve as liaisons, in order to prevent miscommunication.

The number one failure point for any company is oversight. Make sure you have built an organizational structure with business processes that support growth and scales with the company. It is essential to be meticulous when creating your proposal because if you make a mistake, you don’t win. And, if you don’t deliver ideal performance, you may be fined. Business processes that are structured enable your team to catch mistakes before they happen.

One of the most essential strategies to win a government contract is to team. However, choosing a teammate without all the necessary information could result in losing the contract bid. Therefore, when developing your teaming strategy, keep in mind that there are tools that can quickly provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about prospective team members. By using this technology and asking your customer and references the right questions, you can ensure team members are the right fit for your customer, company and project ultimately improving your win rate.