Opportunities

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.

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Meet the Team: Steve Griffin, Contracts Specialist

StephenGriffin200Arrowhead Solutions would like to introduce and welcome  a new team member, Steve Griffin. Steve, PhD, joined Arrowhead Solutions in February 2014 and brings with him over 32 years of experience in Federal Government contracting.

Mr. Griffin has worked a wide variety of contracts types involving acquisition of supplies, services, research, weapons development and testing, and managed healthcare.  In his career, Steve has worked for, worked as a contractor employee providing support to, or worked for firms contracting with the Federal Government.

Steve started his career in contracting in 1981 as a contracts intern with the U. S. Air Force at Luke Air Force.  In 1983 the Air Force moved him to Nellis AFB, and from there he moved to the China Lake facility of the Naval Air Warfare Center in 1985, where he worked until 1992.  In 1992, Steve moved to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, as a subcontract administrator.  From 1994 until 1996 he worked for a small disadvantaged business which held a number of contracts with the FAA for asbestos inspection and monitoring as the manager of contracts at its Denver area office.  From 1996 until 1998 Steve worked for an environmental engineering firm that held contracts with the EPA, Corps of Engineers, the U. S. Forest Service, and other Federal agencies.  In 1998 Steve moved on to a contract administrator position with a firm supporting the contracting operations of the DoD TRICARE program, and in 1999 he returned to the Government with TRICARE as a contract administrator working a number of contracts to acquire healthcare services for active duty military, their family members, and military retirees.  In 2000 Steve was appointed a contracting officer at TRICARE, and was responsible for the administration of five different regional healthcare services contracts over his time as a contracting officer at TRICARE.  In 2006 Steve left TRICARE and contracting to pursue a PhD.  During his time completing his degree program, Steve provided contracting advice and assistance to a firm that held healthcare administration contract with the DoD and the VA.  From February 2013 through January 2014 Steve worked as a contract specialist as an employee of the firm providing support to the GSA, Region 8 FAS office in Lakewood, Colorado working a number of service contracts and task orders.  With the end of his work at GSA, Steve joined Arrowhead Solutions.

Steve holds a BS in Natural Resource Management degree, a Master of Applied Communication degree, and a PhD in Communication Studies degree.   He received a DAWIA Level III certification while with TRICARE, and earned a graduate certificate in ADR from the University of Denver while completing his master’s degree.

How can Stephen and Arrowhead assist your business?

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.

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.

SBIR Primer

I wrote this article for eZine back in 2009. I thought with the upcoming DoD SBIR proposals being due next week, it would be a good time to refresh our memories on this small business R&D program.

Small businesses are always on the lookout for opportunity and the Federal Government is a great provider of opportunities for the small guys. However, small businesses typically do not have the resources or expertise on hand to navigate their way through finding, comprehending, and then winning government contracts. Or so they think. Yes, it can be a test of your will (and wits) to find certain types of federal work when you are a small business spending your valuable time and hard earned money on keeping and growing your business. There is one program out there for the savvy and innovative small business (in a variety of industries); the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR).

The SBIR Program is administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration and twelve federal agencies participate in spending over $2 billion in funding. This Program provides small, high-tech companies a great shot at contributing to the nation’s research and development, and eventually commercial growth, efforts. Think of the SBIR Program as being one large river of funding with all the agencies being streams of funding off this river. Some are very large creeks, such as the Department of Defense, and some are smaller brooks, such as NOAA.

Each agency may follow slightly different solicitation methods and cycles, and may use slightly different formats and submission methods. However all have the goal of bringing a small business’s innovative idea to commercial fruition via a three phased approach. Phase I: This phase allows a business to provide proof of concept or prove the feasibility of their idea. Awards usually hover around $100,000. Phase II: This phase takes that feasible idea into a demonstrative prototype and awards can be upwards of $1 million. Phase III: This is an “unofficial” phase as it does not include SBIR Program funding, however it can include internal funding and perhaps outside source investment to bring the prototype into commercialization.

The key for a small business is finding that great opportunity on which to propose and then winning a Phase I. Getting to Phase II and III should be considered from the onset, but if a company has not yet jumped into the SBIR pool, getting that first Phase I sometimes is the biggest hurdle. It can be done however, and with minimal time and expense. Here is how.

Each agency will solicit Phase I proposals throughout the year; the DoD solicits three times a year, whereas NASA solicits only once. All of these solicitation release dates (and sometimes pre-release dates) are posted on agency websites. A great starting point is http://www.sbir.gov. Find an agency that suits your service/product and industry well and find out when their solicitation release date(s) may be. Then:

1. Review all the topics publicized in the solicitation. Not only the topic titles, but also the description and objective;
2. Decide which topic(s) on which you wish to propose. Use the information you gleaned from the description and objective to decide if your business may have an INNOVATIVE approach, solution, or idea that matches the needs of the agency;
3. Review the solicitation. Make note of eligibility, format, content, and submission requirements. Also make note of certain restrictions and limitations;
4. Build your proposal. There is a short time line from when the solicitation is officially released to when proposals are due, typically it runs one month. Make sure you can build the company information, technical proposal, and pricing proposal in time;
5. Red Team your proposal. It is helpful to have an outside set of eyes review your proposal. As a business who is excited about your idea, it is great to have a sanity check to make sure you have clearly stated why you are innovative, how your work will be of a benefit to the government, and if you met the agency’s objectives;
6. Submit and wait. Sometimes it may be over four months before you hear back on your proposal. Sit tight, you will find out how it went once the agency has made its decisions.

Keep in mind that you want to promote your innovative approach or idea, your qualified employees, and your ability to take a Phase I idea through to Phase III. Matching those things with an agency’s need means easy opportunity for your business. As complicated as other non-SBIR solicitations and proposals can be to find and successfully win, the SBIR Program is set up to make it easy on the small business. It provides you with clear direction, a level playing field, decent profit, and an opportunity to grow your business with little risk.

What does 2011 look like for big solicitations?

GFY 11 has a line up of what look to be some biggie solicitations according to the November 10th article by  Nick Wakeman on the Washington Technology website.  “20 hot contracts you can’t ignore” lists mainly IT-related contracts for the DoD.  From hardware, to software. From engineering support, to logistics services. IT and periphery services seem to be the focus for the new year’s solicitations.  Granted these won’t be awarded until 2012 at the earliest, but they provide quite a bit in the way of offering multiple awards, combinations of requirements (thus opportunities for teaming), and  even a couple without an incumbent.

The Army seems to be a big client in this new GFY by making the list with 7 of the 20.  In not so close second is NASA with 3.   I have to say I’m surprised by the lack of Air Force showing here – only 1? Perhaps my shock stems from the fact I used to be an Air Force civilian who released and awarded these types of contracts and I was trained in the mind set that the AF is king of acquisition.From what I’ve been seeing the past couple of years, this no longer seems to be true.  Even at the small $ level of the SBIR Program, where is the Air Force money?  They only released one set of topics last year and seem to be following the trend again this year.  This, from an agency you could always count on as having the most topics every single release of every year?

Also surprising is NASA – from what we hear on the news is that the budget is being cut, programs are disappearing, etc.  But here we are with three big and important solicitations slated for release in the next 12 months.

I like seeing the USPS, DHS, USAID and other non-DoD agencies having a good showing here too.  I highly  recommend taking a look at each of these 20 on your FBO and watching them.  Besides awaiting the big winners from last year’s huge solicitations, now we have the “excitement” of seeing what is headed our way.