GSA proposal

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

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!

Time Your GSA Proposal Right

GSA Schedules are becoming more and more popular with government acquisition offices.  Recently, we have seen DoD using them to fulfill small business goals, project managers using them to buy goods/services fast, and companies finding success as short listed solicitation recipients because they have a Schedule.

This popularity coincides with GSA cracking down on those companies that have Schedules with low or no sales.  Cancellation of Schedules is becoming more common.  Also, rejection of proposals is becoming more common as well.  So, the time is right for those companies who have the opportunity to be successful GSA Schedule holders, to increase sales to the government using the tool of a GSA Schedule.  Lower competition and higher use is a good combination for many companies not yet on Schedule.

However, as with most things in life and business, timing is crucial.  Jumping into building your proposal for a GSA Schedule needs to be correctly timed.  There are two considerations 1) current government customer need and 2) government fiscal year.  We will talk about both these considerations to help you assess when the time is right to begin working on, and then submitting, your GSA proposal.

1)      Current Customer Need

If you are already doing a great job of networking and connecting with government customers, you are in a prime spot to submit a successful proposal for a GSA Schedule. More importantly, you are in a prime spot to gather sales under a resulting awarded Schedule.  If you have a customer who flat out is calling you saying “I have to put this requirement on Schedule” or “How fast can you get a Schedule?”, I hope it would be obvious that your company needs to submit your proposal ASAP to get your Schedule.  Don’t worry about timing, just make sure that the government customer is serious about their intent to funnel work your way.  GSA will move your proposal up on the review and negotiation list if you have a federal customer, with a decent SOW and timeline for award, who is willing to contact GSA to let them know they’re ready to use you.  Depending on whether or not you get consulting help (I know companies who successfully win GSA Schedules on their own, sometimes it takes them a year though) it can take a bit of time to build your proposal.  With help you can definitely get a proposal completed in two weeks.  The long pole in the tent is waiting on GSA.  Review and negotiation times vary, but plan on 4-6 months at a minimum between submission and award.  Even with the important customer call, it can still take 4 months.  It is very dependent on the Schedule, some take 12 months, so if you have a customer who says “Can I buy now?” and you’re a year out, you have to help foster that relationship until GSA comes through.

2)      Government Fiscal Year

We are starting the prime government purchasing season. Between now and September 30th, buying will be ever increasing.  If you don’t fall into #1 above, think about your timing. Because of the time it takes to build a proposal, have it reviewed, negotiated, then awarded (again reference #1 above), you will most likely not see an award until the next fiscal year. As we know, the beginning of the fiscal year is usually the slowest time of the year for government spending.  So if you submit a proposal now, it probably will get in Q1, and your clock for reaching the required sales goals starts at the worst time.  You should instead use the time between now and the end of the fiscal to foster relationships and work other purchasing avenues.  Use the slow time of the beginning of the next fiscal year to build a complete and easily awardable proposal; one that can be submitted by the end of Q1.  That way, you will most likely have an active GSA Schedule (and hopefully willing buyers) this time next year to kick off sales immediately at high-buying time, and reach your sales quota sooner.  One caveat to this would be those Schedules that may be 12 months out for review.  The solicitation for the Schedule you are looking at should tell you the anticipated processing time.

Although it can be frustrating to see many opportunities go towards GSA, the government will still be spending money next year.  In the long run, good timing will only help your company be a successful GSA Schedule holder.

Don’t Let Them Fool You – 5 Myths and Facts of a GSA Schedule

In the past few weeks, Arrowhead has received a handful of voice mails that go something like this, “Hi, this is <insert call center employee’s name here> from <insert some GSA Shop here>. Would your company like to tap into the $500 Billion federal contracts market? We would like to discuss with you the opportunity to get a GSA contract and how your company can become a government contractor.”  A typical response would be – whoa – heck yes I’d like to tap into that market! I’m calling them now!

Hold on, not so fast. I found these voice messages frustrating for two reasons. 1) We had more than one call with this pitch in the span of a week and 2) they obviously have NO IDEA what our company does or is about, nor did they care.  If they did, we would not be on their call list.  This second reason then began to bother me.  If they are calling Arrowhead trying to sell as a GSA Schedule, then they must be calling every other small company out there with the same pitch, not caring if a GSA Schedule is a good or bad thing for each company.

Deciding to propose for a GSA Schedule should be a well thought out, analyzed decision for any company; particularly small businesses.   Led on by myths and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, unaware companies throw money at the GSA Shop with dreams of government work.

Unfortunately, we have had to pick up pieces left behind by these GSA Shops. Unsuspecting small businesses who really are looking to get into government work get sweet talked into a cheap GSA proposal prep deal. Many times, the Schedule is not appropriate for the business, but these GSA Shops are in the business of turning out proposals, and that’s all they do or care to do. Often times, the company finally gets on Schedule, but never ends up using it since their government customer would never use GSA to procure their goods/services in the first place.    These GSA Shops then drop away, and you’re left with a Schedule sitting on the shelf collecting dust, not dollars.

Being educated and advised before jumping into the GSA Schedule whirlpool is your best defense if you receive a call like we did. Here are a few Myths and Truths about GSA Schedules that you can vet through if you get such a pitch.

Myth #1: You must have a GSA Contract to do work with the Federal Government.

Fact:  Your company can do work with the Federal Government without a GSA Schedule.  Check out www.fbo.gov.  The majority of these procurements are being accomplished everyday not using GSA Schedules.  Your company can be a very successful contractor outside of GSA Schedules.

Myth #2: Getting on Schedule is the end of the road – you’re set now!

Fact:  You must have sales through your Schedule totalling $25,000 or more in the first two years, then $25,000 each year thereafter.  Before jumping to GSA Schedules, do you have  customers who can provide the funding to meet those goals?

Myth #3: A GSA Shop can provide you a full GSA Schedule proposal for cheap.

Fact:  If you are in the business of providing engineering services, consulting services (such as logistics), or services in general, this probably won’t happen unless you prepare your proposal in house.  Many GSA Shops are accustomed to one size fits all.  For $3,000 you won’t get much more than templates to fill out and send back.  Be aware these templates are not some company proprietary tool – they are the required documents to be completed in the GSA solicitation they just are passing on as such!  You will not get advice, guidance, assistance in writing and molding the narratives, nor assistance in ensuring your pricing will still make you money in the long run from these cheap shops.

Myth #4:  The GSA Schedule is a lucrative method to obtain government funding.

Fact:  Only if you have a high volume in sales to the federal government for a predictable product can this be possible.  GSA wants to lock you into pricing that is a discount  in addition to the prices you give your most favored customer.  For the next 15 years do you want to provide your engineering services at such low rates?  Do you want your other customers to use that rate against you in other negotiations? They will – since these rates will be publicized; anyone can access them – even your competitors.

Myth #5: Once you get your proposal in, you could be working with the government in as little as 3 months.

Fact:  Right now Schedule 871 is taking 13 months to even get to review. Once it finally lands on someone’s desk it could take months to negotiate. Then you have to find customers to buy through it.  On average, GSA is publicizing a revised review period of a minimum of 6 months.

GSA Schedules are not all bad. I will say that the GSA Schedule is beneficial to both the government customer in a number of ways. For many products (and some services), it is a quick way to sell to the government after you receive your Schedule.  It provides great commercial pricing to the government customer.  It is the bread and butter of many companies and can get you to a government customer with money to spend when not other method may be viable.

If you don’t care for extra guidance during the proposal and negotiation process, you’ve already done your analysis and determined that a GSA Schedule would be good for business; then by all means use the the GSA Shop.  They most likely will get you a Schedule since it is what they are really good at; just understand what you won’t be getting ahead of time.

Buyer beware – understand the pros and cons of GSA Schedules (we have a short white paper on the topic here – http://www.arrowheadsolutionsllc.com/GSA.html   ).   Above all, make sure you have a government market for your product/service that is willing to use a GSA Schedule.  Without customers, your GSA Schedule will be of no use regardless of how you went about winning it.