Industry Discussion

Is a GSA Schedule Right for Your Company?

GSA Schedule Proposals


Arrowhead Solutions, LLC is the state of Colorado PTAC’s Subject Matter Expert for GSA.

What is a Schedule? – The General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule (also referred to as Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) and Federal Supply Schedules) establish long-term government contracts with commercial firms. GSA Schedules provide fast, flexible, cost-effective procurement solutions that allow customers to meet acquisition challenges, while achieving their missions. There are forty different Schedules that cover everything from environmental services, furniture, restaurant equipment and finance to business solutions.

Acting almost like a catalog of supplies and services for the US Government to procure from, GSA Schedules can be an easy way for customers to access your supplies/services quickly and easily, to an extent. It seems to be a common belief that a GSA Schedule is a necessity and if your company doesn’t have one, you’ll be left behind. Let’s look at some of the pros, cons and considerations you should make before jumping into GSA.

Pros

– Access to all government customers, not just one particular agency – the Schedule Program is government-wide
– Ability to receive orders quickly
– Pre-negotiated terms, conditions, and pricing (thus allowing for your quick orders)
– Diversification of your company’s contract tools – having more ways for your government customer to reach you is good
– Five year award, with options up to another fifteen years

Cons
– Requirement to sell twenty five thousand dollars under the Schedule within the first twenty four months and twenty five thousand dollars every year after
– Work involved with proposal preparation – piles of documents and time needed to navigate the submission rules/process
– Length of time to award – although advertised and quick (for eOffers), GSA is backlogged by eight months right now
– Lower profit margins – your company is required to offer to the government a discount on top of your lowest prices
– Administration – your company is required to pay back the Industrial Funding Fee and report sales


Your particular company’s industry, size, time in business and client base should be taken into consideration before making the leap.

Considerations
– Is your industry dominated by competitors with schedules? Do they receive most of their revenue from GSA Schedules?
– Is your product or service in high demand and do you have current government clients complaining they can’t reach you easily?
– Have you been in business for over two years and do you have stellar track records and solid sales?
– Do you have the extra funding available to pay for your time, or that of outside assistance, to build your proposal?
– Are you willing to wait nearly a year to get on Schedule, or is your time better spent chasing other opportunities?


So, do the benefits of having a Schedule outweigh the costs of building a proposal, offering discounted pricing and administering the schedule? If the answer is yes, we can help.

Contact Us

Compensation Cap on Federal Contractors, Latest FAR Requirement

ed murphy

Article Ed Murphy – CEO at Financial Management Institute


For an explanation of the recent FAR change imposing a new employee compensation cap on federal contractors, go visit:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/24/2014-14379/federal-acquisition-regulation-limitation-on-allowable-government-contractor-compensation-costs

and

http://federalsoup.com/articles/2014/06/25/rule-will-implement-contractor-pay-cap.aspx?s=FD_260614

The recently revised FAR Part 31 cost principles neither preclude nor forbid contractors from incurring employee compensation in excess of the cap. Instead they make employee compensation in excess of the cap unallowable in determining or negotiating the contract price. But only when the FAR Part 31 cost principles apply. And they don’t always apply! For example, any fixed-price type contract where the price is market-based.

But cost reimbursement and other flexibly priced contracts will be affected by this change. As will those fixed price contracts where cost analysis and related FAR 31 cost principles are used to negotiate the contract price.

So how will the change impact you or your government contractor clients? You decide.

The impact will be zero, if…

No employee earns compensation in excess of the cap, or
All business with Uncle Sam or prime contractors is based on “bottom-line” market based selling prices.

The impact may be minimum or insignificant depending on —

The dollar value of aggregate compensation in excess of the cap;
How and where the excess is recorded (direct or indirect costs); and
The mix of contracts based on market-based vs, cost-based pricing.

My opinion, for what it’s worth.

Take good care of yourselves. Or as Garrison Keillor would say “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
federalregister.gov federalregister.gov

STOP – Don’t pay for SAM Assistance or Registration. Why? It’s FREE and EASY!

Let’s debug this common urban legend of government contracting: Someone tells you have to pay for a “service” in order to register your company with SAM.gov OR you have tocon-artist-alert pay for someone to update your entity’s registration.

So, you’re a government contractor, or you’re wanting to become one. You ask around, “What do I do first?” The responses are muddled, you do some Googling, then you start to really notice the emails offering services to set up or update your registration. WAIT – WHAT?! Services?? I have to pay for this?? The long and short answer: NO

You should never, ever in a million years have to pay for these “services” the emails claim to offer – EVER! The SAM registration takes about 15 minutes to complete, and any updates to it take less than 5 (honestly – it’s that easy)

Be aware of these other “offers” and how the issues can be addressed for free:

1) Year Long Technical “Support”
  • Updates are only as necessary, and often times SAM.gov only needs to be reviewed once a year
  • There is no “support” required
2) SAM.gov Migration Annual Updates
  • Migration happens once; Most likely all government contractors who have registered in the old CCR have already been migrated
3) FAR Updates (if necessary)
  • SAM.gov DOES NOT provide FAR updates!
  • During the annual update of the entity registration, these are already incorporated
4) Basic Changes to Registration (NAICS codes, contact info., contracts awarded, etc.)
  • This is a part of the basic updating
  • Takes 5 minutes!
5) Government Buyer Submission
  • Only if offering disaster response
  • One page within SAM.gov
  • Takes 30 seconds to complete!
6) Verification of Dun & Bradstreet Number (required)
  • Can be done by logging into iUpdate
  • If it is needed, you will be directed after SAM.gov login
7) SAM Registration Completion
  • This is a 15 minute process
  • Can be done for free! (or divide the completing person’s rate by the time it takes – that’s really the cost; just a few dollars of opportunity cost)
8) Verified Vendor Seal of Approval
  • BEWARE – THE GOVERNMENT WILL NOT RECOGNIZE THIS “SEAL”!
So, all in all it may take one person a total of maybe, maybe 25 minutes PER YEAR to either register or update SAM.gov. Now, unless you are paying your employees an exorbitant salary, isn’t 25 minutes much more affordable than the approximately $600 price tag companies out there are charging? I’m not an economics specialist by any means, but I think I’ll go with the 25 minutes, and I hope you do the same.

Still need help? Check out Arrowhead Solutions – we’ll lead you in the right direction with a FREE 30-minute consultation. We don’t like to be scammed, and we definitely don’t want our clients to deal with these “support” claims either.

 

Meet the team! Carrie Grigg – Contracts Specialist

New Team Member Spotlight: Carrie Grigg

ProfilePicGrigg

Carrie joins Arrowhead Solutions,LLC as a Government Contracts Specialist.  She brings ten years of experience in contract management and business development in diverse fields including IT, A/E/C, bioscience and energy.  While specializing in federal and state government contracts, Carrie collaborates with partners and clients to identify strategic contract opportunities, write proposals, improve business processes, and is passionate about creating a positive customer interaction.  In addition to assisting companies win government contracts, Carrie’s interests include writing, painting and exploring the use of social media to obtain customer feedback and build relationships.  Carrie holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Virginia.

Visit Arrowhead on the web to see what our government contract specialists can do for your small business.

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.

What is your Niche? Narrowing Down What you can do for the Government Customer

arrow and dollarAs you probably already know, there is quite a bit of competition in the government marketplace.  Even among the “small business” set-asides, thousands of companies could potentially go after the same exact opportunities.   It is true that many companies find success by hiring ex-government officials to go off and schmooze the customer and track leads likes blood hounds on a full time basis.  It is also true that many (if not the majority) of very small businesses cannot afford to have such a person or even a generic business development person building key relationships with government customers that will steer contracts their way.

So, what is a small business to do?  Find your niche.  If you have ever read a government statement of work, you may have realized how specific they can be.  The government often knows EXACTLY what type of contractor they’re looking for.  Check out this recent FBO.gov posting from GSA. This is a 100% Woman-Owned Set-Aside requirements list:

The contracted evaluator must have the following skills and/or knowledge:

• Utilize the OIG’s AutoAudit software to document evaluation efforts;
• Utilize Corporation’s information technology (IT) systems (Momentum, MyAmeriCorps Portal, eGrants, and eSPAN) and government-wide IT systems (Payment Management System [housed by the Department of Health and Human Services] and Federal Audit Clearinghouse Database, including Image Management System [housed by the Census Bureau]) to assist evaluation work;
• Operational knowledge of Corporation’s unique grants, including experience in special VISTA grant provisions;
• Working knowledge of the Corporation’s IPERA efforts;
• Understand the Corporation’s internal control environment;
• Knowledgeable of the Single Audit Roundtable; and
• Knowledgeable of the Corporation’s audit resolution processes.

You may say, “Ok, this has got to be geared for a specific contractor.” That may be true, but why would the government want to go with that specific contractor? Because they have a skill set that is so specific to GSA’s needs and GSA wants them!   Every bullet above is a niche, on top of the icing niche on the cake, 100% WOSB set-aside.

So often I work with clients and I ask them to tell me about their business, what they do and what they can do for the government?  Often I hear “we do IT services”, or “we have like research and development”, or something along those lines. Yes, I understand you are just chatting with me and not your government customer, but I also need to know what your niche is, that way I can help you get to the right customer.  The government is BIG, there are lots of contractors, and there is lots of work to be done. So where do you fit?

Improve your messaging to find your fit and to sell your fit. A few of the many questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your company really good at?
  • What unique skill sets do you have?
  • Why are your different than the next guy?

For example: Instead of “Our company provides IT Services”, say, “Our company solves the high risk problem of cybersecurity with engineers experienced in building and maintain defensive networks.”

Have a person familiar with the marketplace review your answers to the questions above with you.  You may think you are communicating sufficiently, but only someone else can really tell you if you have honed your message.

By identifying your niche you are able to pinpoint a) your target customer and b) communicate to your target customer exactly what you can do to support them. You may have a couple of niches, that is great, use them with the right audiences, not all audiences at once.  Take some time to really think hard about what makes your company different than the rest; finding, then communicating your niche will only help in today’s environment.

In the next article, we’ll talk about marketing to your niche. Stay tuned!

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.

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.