small business

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?

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.

Meet the team! Douglas Wells – Contracts Specialist

Arrowhead Solutions is growing!

Each week, Arrowhead will be highlighting a new team member’s skills and expertise.  We’re thrilled to add their expertise to the Arrowhead portfolio and join in assisting current and prospective small business clients.

New Team Member Spotlight: Douglas WellsDouglas Wells

Doug Wells brings to Arrowhead almost 25 years of hands-on experience in Government contracting.  As an Air Force officer, he was a Contracting Officer with authority to award contracts up to an unlimited dollar amount.  His Air Force contracting experience ranges from nuts and bolts, spares and repairs, and logistics, all the way to multi-billion dollar weapon systems and IT support.  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.  A short list of Doug’s specialties include:

–        Contract management, related documents review and approval
–        Thorough understanding and use of FAR, DFARS, and other supplements, including DLA and civilian agencies
–        RFP analysis
–        RFP shredding and requirements matrix development
–        Proposal preparation
–        Source Selection process
–        Contract clause compliance and flow down
–        Subcontractor management
–        In-house process documentation and government compliance review
–        Contract closeout/records disposition

Welcome aboard, Doug!

 

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!

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.

Introducing ArrowBD – The Complete Government Contracting Solution

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It’s finally here, and tailored for small business government contractors! A complete contract opportunity solution, ArrowBD matches the most current contracting opportunities to your specific niche. One simple, easy-to-read weekly email, and access to your own, well-seasoned Account Analyst, will allow you to feel confident that you will never miss that next big opportunity. Because ArrowBD is backed by the experts at Arrowhead Soltuions, LLC you can be sure that your spending your BD budget intelligently.

Simple. Easy. Opportunity. 

With ArrowBD, you can spend your resources and time on the pursuit of the opportunity itself, or in many cases, opportunities, highlighted by your ArrowBD report (AKA: “push”). You no longer have to spend hours looking through multiple search agents and opportunity tracking sites. We take the burden completely away, and present you with one email, once a week. This removes all the inbox-clutter from daily tracking agents that return results not typically fit for your business. The opportunities received in your weekly ArrowBD “push” are hand-picked by a designated Account Analyst, so you can rest assured that they are a “perfect fit” for your company. The Account Analyst will set up your subscription after just one quick phone call; then, you pick the date on which to receive your opportunities in your inbox in one, clean PDF. We can track based upon NAICS codes, keywords, departments with which you wish to work, and even help you with teaming efforts.

ArrowBD also sets itself apart from other government opportunity search applications currently on the market due to is unique customization options and affordability. The Foundation package (the base: opportunity, news, and events package) can be tailored to add market analysis, capabilities statement creation, the management of other search platforms, custom insights/advice, and more. See the Pricing page for more information on customization options.

ArrowBD was developed out of necessity. Often times, small businesses lack the BD budget of their much larger competitors. How can you get ahead of the competition when you’re going against a large company with a dedicated BD department or assigned contract analyst? Access to your own Account Analyst is included with a subscription of ArrowBD. Don’t worry about waiting to hear back from an “automated” or generic email address that may have more than one person answering when you have time-sensitive questions. With ArrowBD, you can be sure that a seasoned professional is providing you with relevant, accurate information – fast.

News and information are the key to remaining “in the know” when it comes to new opportunities; especially as we move into the fast-paced end of Q4 of 2013. There are sure to be, and have been, many contracts up for grabs. Even with sequestration, the government still plans on spending relevant amounts on small business set-aside projects. With ArrowBD, you can be sure that you are always on top of these new opportunities. Industry day notices, sources sought, requests-for-information (RFIs) – all are delivered in your weekly ArrowBD report when announced.

More questions? We’ve prepared some FAQs – make the right decision – enlist in ArrowBD and feel confident in your pursuit. Feel free to contact us, as well, if you have any other questions related to ArrowBD, or any questions about Arrowhead Solutions full suite of government contract services.

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!

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.

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.