Government Contracting

Look – We’re Growing!

Arrowhead Solutions Announces the Addition of Four New Team Members

Boulder, CO (April 21, 2014) – Stephanie Amend, Founder / Executive Consultant of Arrowhead Solutions, LLC announces the addition of four new team members. Specializing in aiding small businesses in the processes relating to government contracting, Arrowhead has continued to grow in both the number of clients they assist, as well as the number of consultants on staff. Caroline (Carrie) Grigg, Douglas Wells, and Steve Griffin have joined the team as Contracts Specialists. Carrie brings ten years of experience in contract management and business development in diverse fields including IT, A/E/C, bioscience and energy. Doug brings to Arrowhead almost 25 years of hands-on experience in Government contracting. Since active duty retirement, Doug has used his expertise to assist the USDA and US Department of Education, as well as an Air Force operational contracting office.  Stephen’s expertise in government contracting brings into the mix experience in the dynamics present in government, how to read and interpret laws, regulations and policies, and how government agencies are structured, operate and think. Stephen holds both a PhD in Communication Studies and Master of Applied Communication degrees. Another new addition to Arrowhead, Lindsy Bentz, has joined as the Director of Marketing and Operations. Lindsy will assist clients with marketing their services to the Government as well as overseeing the internal marketing and operations efforts of Arrowhead.

About Arrowhead Solutions:

Arrowhead Solutions, LLC has been serving Boulder and Denver, Colorado metro areas and clients across the nation for five years. Stephanie Amend, Founder / Executive Consultant formed Arrowhead after seeing a need for assistance in the small-business government contracting arena. As both a civilian working for the Air Force as a Contracts Specialist at Hill Air Force Base, and as a Contracts Negotiator in the private sector, Stephanie teamed up with Janet Shea, CPA after getting Arrowhead off the ground to provide the small businesses services much needed in the Boulder/Denver area.  Five years later, Arrowhead has grown to carry a roster of clients from coast to coast with the ability to assist in every area of government contracting.

Part 4 of 4 – You are now Ready for Government Contracting! Go Get ‘Em!

To give back, we’d like to share some government contracting tips and tricks so that you can be the best government contractor possible. Each week, throughout the month of March, we’re have posted 5 tips to celebrate 5 years. Time for the drumroll as we share our last set (for now)…5-years

This week’s post: Government Contracting Tips and Tricks
Part 4 – And not to forget…

#16: Analyze your approach to government marketing. Need help with strategy?

#17: Know your nicheWhy?Trust us – it’s most important in determining direction of efforts.

#18: Know your resources. Did you know you can go to your local Business Development Center and the SBA for resources?

#19: Make sure to reach out to past teammates regularly. Ask about new opportunities.

#20: Don’t get discouraged! The government contracting cycle is LONG. The effort to go after a contract can be exhausting. However, heading the previous 19 tips will really help you become a successful government contractor. As, always, feel free to contact Arrowhead Solutions. Now, go get ’em!

Don’t forget to follow Arrowhead Solutions on Twitter (@arrowheadllc) for daily tips, too!

Thanks for tuning in! All of these tips will “live” here on our blog for quite some time. We look forward to many more years to come and helping out small businesses in any way that we can.

CHEERS!

Five Years; time to give back to our wonderful readers! Part 1 of 4:

As Arrowhead celebrates our 5th anniversary, we realize that we could not have done it without all the support from you – our readers and clients!

To give back, we’d like to share some government contracting tips and tricks so that you can be the best government contractor possible. Each week, throughout the month of March, we’re going to be posting 5 tips to celebrate 5 years. Cheers!

This week’s post: Government Contracting: Tips and Tricks Part 1 – DCAA and Government Accounting

#1: Ask “How would we fair during a DCAA audit?” Not sure? Try a mock audit with Arrowhead’s experts on the other side of the table before there is DCAA in the picture.

#2: Make sure you know what wrap rate means. Need a refresher?

#3: Be familiar with indirect and direct rates. Read On…

#4: Read RFQs carefully – response instructions must be followed exactly as stated.

#5: Make sure to time your GSA proposal right  (if you have one). Not sure? Just call Arrowhead and we’ll help you sort it out. Don’t know if you really need a GSA? You could be right. Not all companies can benefit from being on a GSA Schedule. Arrowhead will also help you sort this out.

Don’t forget to follow Arrowhead Solutions on Twitter (@arrowheadllc) for daily tips, too!

See you next week!

Press Release: Arrowhead Solutions, LLC Celebrates Five Years of Continued Growth

Boulder, CO (March 3, 2014) – Stephanie Mueller Amend, Founder of the boutique consulting firm, Arrowhead Solutions, LLC, announces the company’s five-year anniversary. With specialties in supporting small businesses with the processes and cycles relating to government proposals, GSA Schedules, contracts, accounting, compliance and marketing to the government, .  Arrowhead continues to experience significant revenue growth year over year. Focusing on quality and effectiveness differentiates Arrowhead as a top-rated, government contractor consulting firm. Positive reviews of Arrowhead from current clients are well documented, and continue to lead to the company’s growth supporting clients from coast to coast. Diversification into commercial support for clients and placing emphasis on strengthening client marketing efforts has allowed Arrowhead continued success; even as a recession, funding cuts, government shutdowns, and sequestration nearly paralyzed the industry of government contracting.

Marching with the rhythms of the government has been one key to Arrowhead’s continued success. Slow periods in government spending translate to “focus time” for Arrowhead clients’, as well all Arrowhead’s own, business development; hence the birth of the ArrowBD service and addition of the government marketing division of the business in 2013. Arrowhead’s next major advance, coming in 2014, will continue to propel Arrowhead and their clients forward for years to come.

About Arrowhead Solutions:

Arrowhead Solutions, LLC has been serving Boulder, Colorado area, the Denver Metro area, and clients across the nation since 2009. Stephanie Mueller Amend, founded Arrowhead after seeing a need for assistance in the small-business government contracting arena. Five years later, Arrowhead has fostered the ability to assist in every area of government contracting and grown to support a diverse roster of clients nationwide. For additional information about Arrowhead Solutions, LLC call 303-515-0527, email Lindsy Bentz, l.bentz@arrowheadsolutionsllc.com, or visit the website at: www.arrowheadsolutionsllc.com.

Doing more with less; government contracts and sequestration

MP900387060It happened, sequestration has come to pass and everyone seems to be wondering what is happening now or what happens next.  In the world of government contracting, we are used to dealing with the unknown, however sequestration adds an unappetizing icing on that unknown.  Government contractors large and small are questioning, worrying, and doing their best to figure out what it all means for them.

There is a lot of news, and a lot of data being offered; it can be tough to figure out exactly what to plan for.  The one thing to plan on is increased focus by the government on doing more with less.  Therefore, contractors need to be prepared for potential increased competition, longer sales pipelines, and helping the government do more with less.

In particular, how do small businesses wade through the quagmire to come out on top in GFY13?  A) Being proactive and B) Having knowledge.

If you are a small businesses, waiting for a solicitation to pop up on FBO, then reacting with quick proposal is a very poor use of limited B&P dollars. Your other small business competitors most likely have already scoped out the need, the customer, the timeline, and perhaps even geared that acquisition towards them.  It is obvious that large and medium businesses do this all the time. It is surprising to some small businesses that their competitors invest valuable resources into pre-RFP activities.

Investing in these resources doesn’t mean hiring an ex-Colonel to schmooze around bases and centers (although it can if the company budget allows).  It just means including more “pre-Bid and Proposal” dollars in your B&P budget.  To truly bring work in your doors in the atmosphere we have now means honing into your customer(s) with laser like focus. So focusing on getting the intel and making the effort may cost more up front, but will definitely place your company in a better position once the proposal clock starts.

Find out who your key customers are or could be, avoid a shot gun approach to getting your name out there, watch expiring contracts, learn about incumbents, reach out to the customer before solicitations are issued, match your unique offering to their needs, watch developments in large acquisitions like a hawk.

During this uncertain time, establish your company with your customer. Make them know that they can count on your company to support them with uncertain budgets, timelines, and goals.

Be Heard by the Government Using Sources Sought and RFI’s

It is that time of year, we’re about halfway into Q1 of Fiscal Year 2013 when the holidays (read : time off for federal employees), budgets, and, this year, sequestration, all impact government spending.  Many people think this is a slow time of year, which it can be, but your company can take advantage of Q1 to set course for the remainder of the year.

Right now is the time to reach out and be known.  Requests for Information (RFI’s) and Sources Sought are bubbling up through FBO.gov daily.  Although responding to these requests is not mandatory, not responding to these requests could hurt your future chances.  Per FAR 10.001(a)(2), agencies must conduct market research:

i) Before developing new requirements documents for an acquisition by that agency;

(ii) Before soliciting offers for acquisitions with an estimated value in excess of the simplified acquisition threshold;

(iii) Before soliciting offers for acquisitions with an estimated value less than the simplified acquisition threshold when adequate information is not available and the circumstances justify its cost;

(iv) Before soliciting offers for acquisitions that could lead to a bundled contract (15 U.S.C. 644(e)(2)(A));

(v) Before awarding a task or delivery order under an indefinite-delivery-indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract (e.g., GWACs, MACs) for a noncommercial item in excess of the simplified acquisition threshold (10 U.S.C. 2377(c)); and

(vi) On an ongoing basis, take advantage (to the maximum extent practicable) of commercially available market research methods in order to effectively identify the capabilities of small businesses and new entrants into Federal contracting, that are available in the marketplace for meeting the requirements of the agency in furtherance of—

(A) A contingency operation or defense against or recovery from nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attack; and

(B) Disaster relief to include debris removal, distribution of supplies, reconstruction, and other disaster or emergency relief activities. (See 26.205).

In addition, agencies are seeing more benefit in gathering industry input prior to releasing a solicitation.  So agencies are using RFIs and Sources Sought even outside the required FAR situations.

Providing timely, and informative responses to the government helps your company in the long run for a number of reasons:

1) You have the ability to present your company and capabilities directly to the CO – This is great because unsolicited proposals or cold calling CO’s is typically not the way to make friends with them.

2) You have the opportunity to provide input, as the expert in your industry, towards the future solicitation – Your professional input provides a better chance that when the solicitation is released, it will make more sense from an industry perspective and will be easier to respond to.

3) You are allowed a more open dialogue with the acquisition team during this time- Your company can make more personable connections with decision makers and requirements developers and those connection can go a long way.

By missing the opportunity to respond to the government’s market research, you are missing an opportunity to connect.  It is well-known among industry and government that winning proposals out of the blue is rare and difficult.  The winners are those that invest the time AHEAD of the solicitation’s release and jumping on those FBO RFIs and Sources Sought is a simple and easy investment to make.

Budgeting: Are you ready for 2013 ?

Have you updated your budget and indirect rates for 2013?
It’s that time of year if you are a calendar based fiscal year business.
You should approach your budgeting process as an opportunity to reflect on the successes of your company this year and to understand what can be done better next year.

Do not take the approach of just adding x% to this year’s financials because this may not sufficiently address the financial needs of your growing organization.

Instead take the time to review the financials and the new budget line item by line item. Use this basic outline to guide your organization through the process:

Sales pipeline:
1. What are your known contracts, what is their POP and how much is the remaining funded value for each contract?
2. What proposals do you have in process? What is their likelihood of award? What is their funded value for 2013?

Build Your Labor Budget:
3. Direct Labor: Identify by person or labor category the direct labor hours and dollars required to support / perform the contracts identified above.
4. Indirect Labor: Identify current and future indirect positions desired to support the organization.

ODCs:
5. Identify all additional direct costs required to support current and potential new contracts – materials, travel and other costs.

Indirect Costs:
6. Review your indirect expenses, such as fringe, overhead and g&a expenses by discrete line item.

Budget Notes:
7. Annotate all assumptions used in developing your budget: this will make it easier to analyze variances that may occur between the budgeted and actual amounts next year!

Update Pricing templates:
8. Based upon your reviewed and approved budget, use your updated indirect rates to update your pricing templates for future cost proposals.

Are You Getting Your Consent to Subcontract?

If the answer is either a) no or b) what is consent? Then the topic of this blog could be hugely important to you; particularly if you are performing cost type government contracts.

The clause 52.244-2 Subcontracts is most likely contained in your government contracts and is most likely incorporated by reference.   This clause dictates that a contractor, if they do not have an approved purchasing system, must obtain consent to subcontract if the subcontract meets the following conditions:

(1) Is of the cost-reimbursement, time-and-materials, or labor-hour type; or

(2) Is fixed-price and exceeds—

(i) For a contract awarded by the Department of Defense, the Coast Guard, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the greater of the simplified acquisition threshold or 5 percent of the total estimated cost of the contract; or

(ii) For a contract awarded by a civilian agency other than the Coast Guard and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, either the simplified acquisition threshold or 5 percent of the total estimated cost of the contract.

Also note that per FAR Part 44, the definition of “subcontracts” includes all types of purchasing conducted under the contract. Whether your company calls it “purchasing”, or you use “vendors” or “consultants”, that is all subcontracting in the eyes of the FAR.

The contents of a consent request are dictated by the FAR, but the ramifications of not obtaining consent are not.  The government (as usual) hasn’t been consistent over the years on requiring consent, checking up on your consent or hitting you in audits on consent. Nor is there consistency across agencies or even among offices. Some offices state that if you name your subs in your proposal and that proposal is incorporated by reference into the contract, then they gave consent. However, your ACO and DCAA auditor may not agree.

We recently have run into a situation, during an incurred cost audit, where the client did not have proof they obtained consent required by 52.244-2.  Due to the lack of consent, DCAA was suggesting that ALL those subcontract costs be disallowed.  This is HUGE negative impact on a company.

It is better to be safe than sorry. Check your contracts for 52.244-2 Subcontracts, decide if it is applicable and either

1) Ask the CO to list the names of your subcontractors in (j) of the clause before you sign the contract; or

2) Obtain the consent as required regardless if you think you received de facto consent.

This one small step may help you out more than you realize in the long run.

Top 5 Wrap Rate Pitfalls a Small Business Should Avoid – By Linda Mahnke of Mahnke Consulting

From time to time we will be spotlighting guest bloggers in order to provide expanded insight into the world of government contracting.  Today’s guest blog comes to us from Linda Mahnke of Mahnke Consulting.  Linda’s experience in government accounting provides her with the background to discuss the topic of wrap rates.  

Top 5 Wrap Rate Pitfalls a Small Business Should Avoid – By Linda Mahnke of Mahnke Consulting

1. The small business wins the award, at a loss to the company.

Many small businesses bid a wrap rate they believe rivals competition, with no understanding of the actual costs (e.g., bookkeeping, rent) included in that rate.

2. The small business does not follow directions.

The solicitation (e.g., RFB, RFP) details what is and what is not included in the wrap rate. Usually, materials and travel are bid separately – but might be included in the rate.

3. The small business sees more value in technical quality than in managing the business.

By their nature, small businesses have room for few top executives – at least one of whom should be an administrative professional. Providing the customer better quality than expected, does not prevent suspension, debarment, and/or bankruptcy.

4. The small business is not prepared for a DCAA audit of the Accounting System and the Estimating System.

Even if all current awards, funded by the U.S. Government, are competitive, Fixed Price – growing small businesses want options. Consistent practices that reflect “the Government way” open opportunities for more types of awards. Actual incurred costs must be compliant (e.g. FAR, FAR supplements, labor laws, etc.), before using them as a basis for proposed estimates, especially wrap rates.

5. The small business builds the wrap rate on managers’ experience.

Build the wrap rate on supportable, auditable, general ledger data that both a) uses Job Cost Accounting (not accounting for the whole company), and b) a Chart of Accounts that encourages compliant recording of unallowable costs (per FAR 32.2).

Summary – The overall suggestion to avoid all five pitfalls above is to understand what should and should not be included in a wrap rate, understand the necessity of a solid wrap rate, and be able to support that wrap rate.

Intellectual Property Rights, Subcontractors and the DoD

For R&D companies, intellectual property (IP) is the bread and butter of the company.  Without the IP, the company’s future isn’t as bright.  The most difficult thing for companies, who are doing innovative things, isn’t the R&D, it is the protection of what comes out of the R&D.

Protection can become particularly interesting when the Department of Defense is your customer.  If you are an R&D company, there are probably a few things happening all at once. You are probably investing your own R&D funds into innovations, you are probably subcontracting some specific work out and you are probably looking to the government for grant seed money and contract money to garner profit.  Most likely all of these things are happening in one big mixed bag.

So how best does an R&D company protect their precious IP with so many hands in the pot?  Segregation.  The first step is to make sure the money funding the R&D (that is developing IP) is tracked separately.  The government (DoD particularly) determines what rights they have to your IP  based upon the funding source from which the IP was developed.    Without the segregation, it is highly difficult to assert your right to your IP  when the government is asking for their unlimited rights.

The second step is CYA.  This is particularly true with subcontractors. The rights to data under a government contract flow right through the prime contractor from a subcontractor to get to the government.    Therefore, the prime must assert rights to data under DFARS 252.227-7017 (for example) on behalf of their sub.  Therefore, the prime should be proactive in obtaining the correct certifications and representations from subcontractors. Without such certifications, a prime can be left holding the bag or open to suit if they are required to deliver a subs’ data to the government and the sub disagrees with such delivery.

Retaining rights to data under government contracts is possible.  Successful R&D and growth as a commercial company is doable with government funding and teaming.  However, a company needs to put IP protection first on the list of things to review before, during and after the project.