contracts

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?

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.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Freshman Government Contractors:

ImageYes, the government has been in 2014 for three months already now, but with the shutdown and the holidays, it seems that we’re all finally ready for 2014 to really start tomorrow. I began to think about what newer government contractors can resolve to do this year in order to make it a successful 2014. The theme turned out to be Patient Investment. So, resolve to be successful in 2014 and read on:

  1. Don’t fall for a scam. For some reason I am seeing more and more spams, scams and sketch artists all of a sudden.  I have clients sending me multiple emails a day asking “is this real”? No, it probably isn’t. I just read a LinkedIn post about a deft scammer and I am getting quite a bit of spam in my inbox trying to sell me services that don’t sound quite right. Trust your intuition. If you get an official-type looking email out of the blue regarding your sam.gov registration, if you get a call claiming you can win no-bid contracts, if you are told you need a GSA Schedule to do business with the government, or that your government registration is incomplete (among a myriad of other “sells”), know that it is probably something to avoid. Your name was probably mined, sold and now out on the market for fly-by night companies and consultants to prey upon.  Look to legitimate, well-established, and qualified companies / consultants that don’t stalk you down with slick unsolicited help. You will save a lot of money and avoid being burned.
  2. Invest in your future customers. It is rare that a good contract will be won out of the blue.  Winning government contracts takes time, and yes, money.  But, it doesn’t have to take too much of your time or your money if you approach the contract correctly. Finding which agencies are buying your products and services, who they are currently buying from, and how the agencies are buying is key. Without that baseline, you’re just shooting in the dark.  Build a targeted marketing plan towards your selected agencies. Find the right folks, get your marketing materials in order, ensure you have a representative getting you out there and keeping you out there.  Make contacts, team up, and keep your finger on the pulse. Be careful in who you target, how and when.  You can easily go down the wrong side of the road and not realize it. Being reactive is not an option for newer contractors. Being proactive is not necessarily free, but it is an investment, and a very worthy one to say the least.
  3. Educate yourself. Aim to become government contract (“govcon” in this world’s speak) savvy. This resolution actually is a thread through the other resolutions in this post.  If you are a newer government contractor, you will soon realize the government contracts world doesn’t really operate exactly like your commercial world.  Marketing, proposals, negotiations, contracts, accounting, and compliance all have spins about them of which you MUST be aware.  Without some education and guidance, you will (not may, but “will”) wander into dangerous territory.  It is a sneaky thing, too because you won’t really know you wandered into that territory until years have passed.  The government moves slow, and so do ramifications of not knowing government nuances.  Make sure you understand the government’s procurement process, the expectations for marketing and outreach, what the government is looking for, what clauses say and mean, and what being a government contractor may change in your operational processes and procedures.  Don’t learn the hard way; learn safe way.
  4. Team up.  The best way to get your foot in the door is to find an experienced teammate. Not only will you have more exposure to the government at less cost (think lower bid and proposal costs, easy name promotion, etc.), but you can learn tons of valuable insight and information from your teammates. They (hopefully) have been around the block in your competitive arena.  Sharing the costs, time and the effort of supporting a government requirement is a great way to slowly and safely graduate from a freshman government contractor.  Don’t be shy about being a prime contractor, either. You can bring a large government contractor under you as a subcontractor and they can help you just as much as if the roles were reversed. Many large businesses are happy to be a sub to a small business since they want to work projects that may have been set aside only for a small business. Network with companies who are both similar to yours as well as those companies that have complimentary offerings. The government is looking for solutions; maybe your offering is a tiny slice of a bigger solution – find your team and then you find the government’s solution.
  5. Keep the faith. Sometimes government wins pop out of the blue, but most times it is a very (very) long pipeline. This pipeline requires patience and diligence. However, the long road is definitely worth the wait.  I hear the phrase, “Once you’re in, you’re in.” I probably have to agree with that statement.  Working on resolutions 1-4 above will all lead you to getting “in” and 2014 is looking like a good year; don’t be left out!

Still have more questions? Call or email Arrowhead Solutions, and we’ll share with you our insight on how to most successfully navigate 2014. Consultations are 30 minutes and completely gratis!

Ph: 720-515-0527 or info@arrowheadsolutionsllc.com

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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.

Are You Really Making a Profit on Your FFP Contracts?

FFP contracts are great — in theory – are they really great in practice?

You put your proposal together: you budgeted your labor, indirects and add in a 7% profit.

Congratulations – you are awarded $100,000 to produce 3 deliverables.

Are you really making a 7% profit —- or don’t you know?

It is really great to know how much revenue you will make, but if you don’t actually track your directs and indirects against the contract you may actually wind up losing money.

You are obligated to the deliverables – you can’t ask for more money – that’s the point of a fixed price contract.  The government doesn’t care if you lose money on the contract – they just want you to produce what you committed to.

Most contractors are not concerned about tracking costs and indirects against specific contracts unless they have a Cost Plus Fee contract. But the fact of the matter it is just as important, from a financial management perspective, to track your costs on all contracts to ensure that you are covering your costs and maintaining a profit.

According to a recent article by Steven Mendiburu in the Contract Management magazine, “Fixed-price contracting is now the preferred vehicle of choice by the U.S. government”; even for large R&D contracts.

Now is the time to get your systems and processes in place to accurately bid on and track actual costs on all of your contracts and make sure you actually make the profit you bid on your proposal.

There is no cost recovery option in FFP contracts like there is in CPFF contracts, so your top line will not change for the contract; but your real bottom line may take a hit if you don’t track you costs accurately.

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.