Making a deal with Uncle Sam can be a lucrative endeavor that can help boost your bottom line. While many big businesses do get contracts, 80 percent of Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contracts are given to small businesses.
If you can survive the immense amount of paperwork required as part of the government contract application and have the good fortune to secure a contract, before breaking out the champagne, you should line up all your proverbial ducks and prepare yourself, your employees and your suppliers for the project, advises former Air Force contracting officer Eldonna Lewis-Fernandez, CEO of Dynamic Vision International.
“It’s imperative that you prepare for the inevitable demand for increased manpower—which may be substantial,” says Lewis-Fernandez, who is also a negotiation expert and author of Think Like A Negotiator.
Ask Plenty of Questions about Your Government Contract
Once you’ve received a government contract, you should discover as soon as possible exactly what's required according to the demands of the contract so you can calculate the necessary manpower and other resources you'll need.
“It’s important to understand that the people awarding the contracts are government contracting personnel,” Lewis-Fernandez explains. “They are not the end user and [may] not understand for the most part much about what they are buying. Their job is to award the contracts and get them off their desks. They also generally have never been in business and [may] not understand anything about costs, overhead, labor, etc., from the perspective of the small-business owner. This is why it’s so important that you take the responsibility to ask these questions yourself—because they [may not] come up otherwise.”
Inquire About Hidden Requirements
According to Lewis-Fernandez, it’s the hidden requirements that come out after the contract award that can cause trouble. “It’s important to have a strategy for how you’ll handle those requirements that seemingly come out of the blue once you receive the contract,” Lewis-Fernandez says.
“Often, bids are low price driven and many bidders leave out some of those extra man hours from their proposals," she says. "You have to read between the lines and ask questions about extra requirements. If they want a monthly report, for instance, what is going to be required in that report? How much manpower will that process take? The statement of work usually isn’t completely clear regarding what the government wants. Asking questions in advance is the key to discovering the hidden requirements that will be necessary in order to honor the contract.”
Consult With Small-Business Contractors
You may be able to get useful tips for staffing your business in the event of winning a government contract by consulting with other companies that have received contracts and fulfilled them. Hearing straight from another small-business owner what it was like to get a contract in terms of the demands and any possible constraints on their business goes a long way toward giving you useful guidelines for what to do and not do as you proceed.
Meet With Your Employees
Once you have a good indication of the extra work and hours you’ll require of employees, you should have a meeting to outline how the contract will benefit the company and your employees. Be fair in your assessment. Cover the fact that they will see an increased workload, yet also emphasize the many ways the increased capital can be good for the company and them. Allow employees to voice concerns, and relay any plans to hire more personnel. Your employees may even know of good candidates.
Alert Your Suppliers
Speak with those vendors that provide the goods and services you require to run your company. Now is the time to discuss having sufficient inventory to meet demand. If a supplier says they may not be able to handle the uptick, this can give you some time to find additional support.
Remember Your Regular Customers
At some point, the contract will end. During the process, you should continue to provide excellent service to your regular customers, who have stood by you and helped get your business to where it is today. True, you may secure another government contract, but you can’t be sure of this. Consider dedicating an employee to oversee regular clients to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and that your company continues to place a premium on excellent customer service for everyone.
Read more articles about government contracting.
The information contained in this article is for generalized informational and educational purposes only and is not designed to substitute for, or replace, a professional opinion about any particular business or situation or judgment about the risks or appropriateness of any government contracting strategy or approach for any specific business or situation. THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING ADVICE. The views and opinions expressed in authored articles on OPEN Forum represent the opinion of their author and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions and/or judgments of American Express Company or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions (including, without limitation, American Express OPEN). American Express makes no representation as to, and is not responsible for, the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or reliability of any opinion, advice or statement made in this article.