Posts Tagged ‘government contracting’

5 Tips on How to Market to Government Agencies

March 7, 2011

Many businesses have lost their private sector work. Businesses with any relation to real estate were hit hard by the recession. These businesses include real estate brokers and agents, construction concerns, interior designs, architects, land surveyors, civil engineers, and building permit expeditors. I went to a doctor visit and my doctor was hit hard too. When her clients got laid off, they no longer had health insurance. A lot of my colleagues in the insurance industry were hit hard too because insurance was dropped by many as they trimmed their budgets. Therefore, going after government work may be the only viable option to survive this down economy.

My business Lemongrass Consulting helped with zoning applications, community outreach, and permitting large commercial private sector building developments. We were hit hard in 2008 and shifted gears in 2009. I turned to teaching business law and contracting. I re-engineered and turned my firm toward offering customized, affordable strategic plans to small businesses. I now teach government contracting for the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC).

Here are five (5) tips for going after government sector work:

1. Develop a strategy – Based on work you enjoyed doing in the past, figure out the type of work you want to do and with what government agencies. You do not want to shot gun your approach and bid on anything that comes your way. You want to be credible. You want to do work that you will likely deliver on time and within budget because you love what you are doing. Given your past work experiences in product sales or service offerings, figure out which agencies buy what you sell. Also, make the agencies that have a nexus to your background a priority.

For example, if you served in the military, then military bases should be a priority if they buy what you sell. My background is in planning – urban, transportation, community outreach, strategic planning. So, government agencies with planning departments are ideal. With respect to transportation, more specifically, agencies in the transportation horizontal construction of road and bridge work are ideal.

Your strategic plan can be as simple as a list of government agencies to target. Start close to home and branch out – your city, county, state agencies, and federal agencies. Target about 5 agencies at first and then branch out.

2. Aggressively go after work – Armed with your strategic list of government agencies to target, look for bid opportunities and forecasts of purchases that they intend to buy. If you do not bid on work, you will never win a government contract. You must be appropriately aggressive in going after government work. You have to read bid solicitations and follow through by preparing bids for submittal. You also need not wait until a bid opportunity is advertised. Drill down through each target agency and figure out what type of work you want to help them with or which products you sell that they will likely buy. Then offer those products and services to the agencies. Send them print materials and emails and make offers.

3. Build relationships – This is the most important part of government contracting. It is all about people. Once you stop focusing on contracts and dollars coming in, and begin to see contracting officials people with real world people needs, then you can build the kind of relationships you need to have to do well in government contracting. Just like you, each contracting official has a name, maybe a family, they have a past, and they have future aspirations. Get to know them. Ask for face to face appointments or conference calls and chat. One of my mentors told me that I needed to learn how to hang out. He hangs out and network at trade functions, on the golf course, and at parties. You have to make time to build a network of people you can count on for leads and assistance.

4. Follow up – As you build relationships with government officials, follow through on any leads they give you. They may tell you to talk with a prime that already has a contract with them. Perhaps this will lead to subcontracting work for you. They may tell you which end users to meet – e.g. department heads or project managers. You need to make sure you are reaching decision makers. For services, find out how vendor selections are made and who have typically sat on selection committees. For products, you want to get to know the contracting officials, the purchase card holders, and the end users with budget. These are individuals that you need to get to know.

5. Show appreciation – Whenever someone helps you, be sure to thank them. Be careful about gift giving to make sure you do not break any rules.

Speaking of rules, you need to study the rules of the game of government contracting. You cannot play a game when you do not know the rules. So, you should be sure to take government contracting classes to learn more about vendor registrations, certifications for set aside work, and other topics.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Contact Clovia at http://tinyurl.com/32cqcj9 or follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans

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Top 5 Leadership Lessons

October 19, 2010

This article reflects on my 27 year old career as an engineer, strategic planner, and attorney. It lists 5 traits of strong leaders that I have had the pleasure to work with.

(1) Be organized

One of the first lessons I learned was from Ronald Collins who led the Georgia Department of Transportation’s (GDOT) Materials Research Lab years ago. Ron taught me to act on it, file it, or trash it. That was in 1990. I still act on every piece of paper in this manner to this day. It keeps down clutter and chaos. Taking action simply entails making the decision to delegate it to others or respond to it yourself. The key is to not linger. You have to read it and make the decision as soon as it arrives in the mail or hits your desk.

(2) Help pre-professional buds grow into professional blossoms

Carl Spinks was one of the coolest cats I ever worked under. Carl led Statewide Planning at GDOT. Carl delegated program management and projects to his team members and he gave us our space. If we needed insight or help, he would be there for us. But, he let us do our thing. He did not micromanage, sweat us, or be-little anyone. He was always cool, calm and collected. I recall only one time that he got irate with me. I did not want to go present the status of the Transportation Enhancement Activities program. I shared management duties with another young lady. We were both pointing to each other, telling Carl that we each did not want to do it. Carl said we lacked discipline and we could both use some time in the military. Seeing him upset was enough for me to straighten up.

Carl allowed us to complete management training courses. Some of us attended graduate school in civil engineering or law. Continued education was supported and appreciated.

(3) Hold “everyone” accountable

In every organization, there are heavy producers and there are slack folks. I have always been a heavy producer. I can multi-task and wrap my brain around a myriad of different ideas and data simultaneously. It would upset me when others did not do the same. I worked under the direction of Fernando Costa at the City of Atlanta that on the one hand was extremely organized and seemed to hold folks accountable in staff meetings. He had a cool system of using sticky notes.

For example, we would have a staff meeting of functional area urban planners on Friday. On sticky notes, our director would list each of our tasks that we needed to accomplish during the week. If the task was complete, the sticky note would get balled up and tossed. If the task did not get completed he would inquire further.

While I loved this system, the truth was that not everyone was held accountable for their responsibilities. If someone routinely did not get their work done, eventually their work would end up on my desk. That was annoying and over time I felt burned out. We had an assistant director that gave me the questionable advice to slow down in getting work done so that it would appear that the director would not give me so much work. Wow! What a solution?! I resigned instead.

(4) Share the limelight

I think one of the worse things a leader can do is take all of the credit for program implementation, project completion, or events. If the leader has a team to lead, then the entire team should get the credit. Published photos should not be of the leader only. The photos should show the entire group and behind the scene action. All professionals want acknowledgment and recognition. After all, they are trying to establish themselves. Many deserve it.

(5) Have the ability to envision outcomes and guide others

To lead is to guide. You cannot guide or direct anyone if you are doing it all yourself. Here is a Webster’s Dictionary definition of lead: “To go with or ahead of so as to show the way”. If you do not have a clear vision or way, then you cannot lead. If you are not willing to walk alongside or ahead of your team members, then you cannot lead them.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o

How to Plan Strategically to Market to Government Agencies

September 17, 2010

The purpose of obtaining a Government Contracting Strategic Plan is to target your efforts to create interest in your company. Like private industry buyers, government buyers buy from people they know like and trust. Government buyers cannot buy from your company if they do not know that your firm exists. To gain visibility, it is important to target your efforts rather than take a shotgun approach.

You can create interest in your company to increase sales by marketing your business with advertising, promoting, publicizing, and engaging in public relations. A strategic marketing plan should outline what you will do; where you will do it; what you will say; and how to match your marketing and messaging to the way your customer already thinks and operates.

First, you should build the foundation of the Strategic Government Contracting Marketing Plan by asking yourself:

1. What do you provide of value?
2. Who are your target government agencies?
3. What do your target care about and need?
4. Where do you find your targets?
5. Who influences your target?
6. How do your target agencies want to engage?

With respect to what you provide of value, ask yourself:
1. What do you want to sell to the government? What products? What services?
2. Next, look up your product and services codes in the classification systems used by government agencies.

Product and service codes can be found in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS); National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP); and Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) by conducting key word searches.

With regard to who your targets will be, identify a few government agencies to target. You can start at home with the city, county, and state your business is located in. Then venture out into other counties and the cities in those counties in your region. Next, if you choose, you can expand into other regions in your state and eventually into adjacent states.

A strategic marketing plan need not be complex. It can simply be a list of federal, state, county and city agencies that need what you sell. You will need to identify the players in these agencies that you plan to contact by email, mail and phone to request face to face meetings. Your list should include:

1. Contracting Officers and Specialists
2. Contract Compliance Officers and Small Business Liaisons
3. Influencers such as End Users (Department Heads, Project Managers)
4. Influencers such as Elected Officials, Legislators
5. Winning Prime contractors

You can find these individuals by using Google Unclesam and conducting key word searches. Your goal will be to find government agency websites. The contracting and small business staff may be in the contracting, procurement, purchasing, or finance department web pages. You can also pick off contact information from bid solicitations and contract award notices for work related to the products and services you sell. To find end users and elected officials, you will need to venture onto their web pages.

Create a Contacts Relations Management (CRM) database. You can use Microsoft Excel or Access; or purchase a more robust software program.

With regard to how your targets want to engage, you may be asked:

1. to submit information by email or fax;
2. to attend a Vendor Outreach Session or Trade Fair;
3. to present your capabilities before a panel of agency representatives.

The key is to have a strategy so as to not waste your precious, valuable time and energy. You need to be organized and prepared.

Have the following marketing items at hand:

1. Website
2. Capability Statement
3. Trifold Brochures
4. Business Cards
5. Promotional Items (eg Calendars, Pens, Envelope Opener)

When you meet with government buyers and influences, ask “Do you have any requirements that are a good fit with what my company sells?” and “What are your needs?” Deflate the focus on how great you are, and shift the focus on how you can help the players achieve their goals.

Marketing will grow your business! So, NEVER, NEVER stop marketing!!

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc., http://www.lemongrassplanning.com (@lemongrassplans)
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans.

Government vs. Corporate Contracting

June 28, 2010

In this economy, businesses need not put all of their eggs in one basket.  They should seek public government contracts and private deals.  There are set asides in government contracts for small businesses, woman owned businesses, veteran owned businesses, and minority owned socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.  In order to be eligible, these businesses have to get registered and certified.  Businesses that do not meet these categories can team with businesses that do in order to take advantage of set asides.

I worked in government for more than 25 years and began the business development journey in 2005.  I have met thousands of business owners.  One topic that seems to confuse some business owners is whether their government business registrations and certifications can be used in corporate contracting.  Well, no.  Corporations have supplier diversity programs and look for Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certifications which differ from those in federal, state, county and city programs.

Government Contracting

Federal Contracting – No cost to get started!

Step 1) If 51% woman owned, begin to use Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Small Business (SB) designations for marketing purposes. Put on your website, business cards, brochures, etc now!
 These merely require self-certification.
 A goal of setting aside 5% of government contracts to WOSB is underway.
 There are bid opportunities currently being set aside for SB’s.
 Check your small business status with the Small Business Administration using your North American Industry Classification System (NAICs) codes, annual receipts, and number of employees. Visit:
http://www.sba.gov/contractingopportunities/officials/size/index.html
 Determine your NAICs codes at : http://www.naics.com/search.htm
 Military agencies use Federal Supplier Codes (FSC) and Product Service Codes (PSCs). Determine your FSCs and PSCs at: http://www.outreachsystems.com/resources/tables/pscs/
Step 2) Complete the
Central Contractor’s Registration (CCR) at https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/default.aspx
Step 3) Be sure to complete the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Dynamic Small Business Registration
 You will be prompted to enter this registration process at the conclusion of completing the CCR registration.
Step 4) Consider the SBA 8a certification program.
 But, bare in mind that few WOSB owned by Caucasians get certified.
 You must prove both a social and an economical disadvantage.
 Certain races are presumed to be socially disadvantaged (Black American, Native American, Hispanic American, Asian Pacific American, Subcontinent Asian American).
 Must be in business for 2 years
 The net worth of the individual claiming disadvantage must be less than $250,000.
Step 5) Consider getting prequalified with the General Service Administration (GSA) by submitting a GSA schedule contract proposal to the GSA for the products and services that you sell.

Step 6) Check if your business is located in a Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) zone.
 Visit http://map.sba.gov/hubzone/init.asp#address to find out if you are in a hub zone.
 If so, apply for HUB Zone certification and be eligible for Hubzone set-asides
Step 7) If your business is 51% owned by a veteran or service disabled veteran, you may be eligible for Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) or Service Disable Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) certification.
o Visit http://www.va.gov/vetbiz/index.htm
o Self Certify or get Verified (preferred)
State Contracting
Note: There are no set asides in Georgia other than the US Department of Transportation federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program with the Georgia Department of Transportation and MARTA

Step 1) States use the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) product and service codes. Determine your NIGP codes at:
http://doas.ga.gov/statelocal/spd/procurement/pages/home.aspx

Step 2) Complete vendor registration applications for any city and county that you want to do business in. In Georgia, it is the Team Georgia Marketplace registration:
https://saofn.state.ga.us/psp/sao/SUPPLIER/ERP/h/?tab=DEFAULT

Local Government Contracting (Counties, Cities)
Step 1) Complete vendor registration applications for any city and county that you want to do business in.
Step 2) Complete small business certification applications for any city and county that you want to do business in. The designations are Small Business Enterprise (SBE), Female Business Enterprise (FBE), Woman Business Enterprise (WBE), or Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). In Georgia, there are programs at:
 City of Atlanta
 Atlanta Public Schools
 City of Roswell
 City of Savannah
 City of Augusta
 Fulton County
 DeKalb County
 Cobb County

Corporate Contracting

Corporate Certifications – Fee based

Step 1) If 51% woman owned, submit a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) application with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
 Visit http://www.wbenc.org
 The application fee is $350
 They will conduct a site visit
 It typically takes 30-90 days
Step 2) If 51% minority owned, submit a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) application with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) at a state chapter of your choice.
 The application fee is $500 in Georgia (GMSDC)
 They will conduct a site visit
 It typically takes 30-90 days

I urge businesses to get a Strategic Marketing Plan to determine which agencies buy what they sell; which certifications and registrations to pursue; and to find teaming partners.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o

15 Government Contracting Tips

June 21, 2010

I love this Wall Street Journal article “Government Contracts a Lesson in Patience” by Emily Maltby: http://tinyurl.com/24qpy2o

Here are some tips:

1. Although winning an initial contract can require more time, energy and money than some business owners can afford…[s]till, the federal government is an attractive source of money for many businesses that have lost private-sector work or clients…[use it] to counter the ebb and flow of their business…look hard at the federal market because it has money.
2.  Documentation is required to prove small-business eligibility and to obtain a number of certifications and registrations.
o Have a strategic plan of which government agencies you want to sell to
o Submit your vendor registrations to your target agencies
o Get any small business set aside certifications that you are eligible for
o Submit your certifications to your target agencies
3. Owners need to learn which agencies are best to target.
o Research which agencies are buying what you sell
4. Send your product and service codes (NAICS, PSC, FSC, NIGP) in a Capability Statement to the small business liaisons at the agencies and ask them if they have any requirements that you can help them with
5. Search GTPAC Bid Match results, iSearch, and FBO.gov to find out which agencies are buying what you sell.
6. Owners need to know how to write a government proposals.
o There is no bid proposal template because you need to follow the instructions in the solicitation
o Also, pay close attention to the evaluation criteria used to rank bid proposals and to select contract awardees
7.  Owners need to know how to network with procurement agents.
o Using your research about which agencies buy what you sell, start a contacts database
o Create a Sales process – Systematically email, call, write and visit agency contacts that buy what you sell.
o Bid on jobs you can do as a prime or subcontractor.
o Always be closing (see Running a successful sales office by Michael K McKean at Reuters Small Business website: http://blogs.reuters.com/small-business/2010/04/30/running-a-successful-sales-office/)
8. The process requires lots of patience.
o Learn the process slowly.
o Take a smaller job and don’t get frustrated by the relatively small price tag of a first government assignment.
9.  You may have to rebrand your firm.
o You want to be taken seriously as a government contractor.
10. List your product and service codes, DUNs number, and CAGE number on all of your marketing materials and on your website.
11. List your small business certifications on all of your marketing materials and on your website.
12. List your vendor registrations on all of your marketing materials and on your website.
13. Mention any work you have done for government agencies in your marketing materials (include work you have done as a employee of another firm or government agency; include testimonials and references).
14.  If you have no government work experience, consider volunteering on a job to get experience that you can list in your marketing materials and on your website.
15. You may have to tweak your business model.
o Use the research you have collected to consider whether there are products and services you should expand into or discontinue based on what you now know the government buys and sells
o But, be careful not to put all of your eggs in one basket – diversify and sell both to the private and public, government sector.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Contact Clovia at http://www.lemongrassplanning.com or follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans

Importance of Strategic Planning

June 6, 2010

My firm offers a broad range of strategic planning services. I blog, tweet, and otherwise post about the importance of planning and I share B2B tips!

Planning ahead is a measure of class. The rich and even the middle class plan for future generations, but the poor can plan ahead only a few weeks or days. Gloria Steinem

Although I studied law and civil engineering, I have always enjoyed strategic planning. We offer strategic planning consulting services related to general business improvements, intellectual property strategy (protecting, marketing and licensing trade secrets, patents, trademarks, and copyrights), community outreach, and marketing to government.

We would love to help your organization with its strategic planning!

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o