During the Fourth Quarter of the Fiscal Year (Q4) federal agency
contracting offices and the contracting officials who "make it
happen" are working as diligently as they can to quickly but
responsively contract for goods and/or services to meet the needs
of their internal customers. The key here is to move the
procurement process along as fast as possible without violating any
acquisition regulations or other contracting regulatory
guidance. One great solution for the busy contracting
official is to use existing GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS)
contracts (often referred to as "schedules") to procure what they
need. And you want to take advantage of this opportunity.
The agency contracting official benefits several ways from using
a GSA schedule to contract for goods and services, especially
during the Q4 buying season, and it is important that you
understand these benefits to the government so that you can
position your company to benefit also. Some of the benefits
So, how do you take advantage of this opportunity? How do
you make your company a known quantity to the government
buyer? You want a GSA MAS contract. This will allow you
to be a "player" in this particular aspect of the Q4 buying
period. Bottom line: if you aren't on schedule or able to
team with a schedule holder you will be on the sidelines watching
the Q4 game play out.
Now if you are on a GSA Schedule here are some of the strategic
and tactical things you want to do to be prepared for this aspect
of the Q4 buying season.
The important take away is that a very critical way to take
advantage of the Q4 buying season is to be prepared by being on one
or more GSA schedules. This will allow you to match your
company's capabilities with the government's desire to contract
quickly and efficiently. You will be in the game and in
position to win contracts by "helping" the acquisition process as
part of the Q4 solution.
Doña Storey is the American Express OPEN Advisor on
Procurementand through her experiences as an active woman-owned
small business contractor, she lends her expertise to help small
businesses navigate the procurement maze and find
For more information, please visit http://www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Dona_Storey
During the fourth quarter of the federal fiscal year,
which ends on September 30, government agencies are finalizing
their acquisition for the year and assessing their remaining
dollars to potentially check off a few items not purchased on this
year's wish list. Many small business contractors find that they
can pick up a few hundred thousand dollars or even a few million
dollars from various government customers during this period. This
is especially true for small businesses with special
certifications. In some cases this may be your first chance to get
in the door if you are prepared and satisfied to capture something
on a smaller scale.
To read more….
Federal agencies try to ensure that they wisely use the
funds budgeted for them during a fiscal year. This often leads to
conserving funds until the fiscal year is almost over and then
identifying requirements that could be funded by remaining budget
dollars. This apparent rush to obligate funds to meet the needs of
each agency's internal customer opens a window of opportunity for
the prepared contractor. So how can your small business become the
First and foremost, get your past performance documents
ready so that you can successfully respond in the little time you
will have available. Why is this so important?
Read more about the importance of past performance
is a recent proposed rule for the bundling of task and/or delivery
orders that could further address the issue and make changes that
supplement or reinforce the legislation found in the Small Business
Jobs Act (see below). Below is the "proposed" rule that you need to
be aware of and understand how it could favorably impact your
strategic marketing plan. Take special note of the due date for
comments on proposed rule as you can make a positive statement in
support of actions that are good for your business.
Task and Delivery Order Contracts, Bundling, Consolidation
(3245-AG20) This proposed regulation addresses task and delivery
order set-asides under multiple-award contracts, multiple-award
contract partial set-asides, and reserving multiple-award contracts
when using full and open competition (See interim FAR rule
2011-024). The procurement authority must publish rationale for
bundling on agency website and for consolidated contracts valued at
greater than $2M it requires that a Senior Procurement Executive /
Chief Acquisition Officer ensures that market research was
conducted and that it was determined consolidation is necessary and
justified. This was published on 5/16/2012 (77 FR 29130) and
comments due 7/16/2012.
bundling of contracts has always been an issue with contractors and
especially with small businesses. The act of bundling is seen as a
limit to competition and favors large businesses who have the
assets to bid on and manage large complex single awards with
bundling issue has been the subject of many complaints to SBA and
testimony before Congress. Recently there have been efforts to
address this through both legislation and regulation and you owe it
to yourself to become familiar with what's going on that can open
opportunities that previously were not available.
Business Jobs Act: Implementation of Conforming & Technical
Amendments (3245- AG15). This establishes the requirement to
publish a list and the rationale for any bundled contracts on the
agency website within 30 days of data certification. This was
published on 10/13/2011 (76 FR 63542) and was effective as of
The Obama administration has proposed combining the functions
and staff of the Small Business Administration; the Office of the
U.S. Trade Representative; the Export-Import Bank; the Overseas
Private Investment Corporation; and the Trade and Development
This proposed restructuring is being pitched as a way to ease
the regulatory burden on businesses and a savings $3 billion over
10 years is being claimed. That said, there are some trade groups
who are concerned about the execution of the proposed restructuring
and they are concerned that the move could strip resources from
entrepreneurs rather than reinforce the needs of small
Such a massive reorganization will face difficulties getting
approved in an election year and Congress may be less likely to
approve the idea because several of the affected agencies currently
report to different Congressional committees.
Many small business groups are concerned that the restructuring
will take resources away from small-business programs. Several of
the agencies in the proposed consolidation concern themselves
primarily with large firms and although small businesses tend to be
skeptical of government in general, they have a favorable
impression of the SBA and don't want its influence diminished.
Personally I am worried that small contractors would be
disoriented by the change. With fewer resources, the new agency
might not be able to adequately educate small contractors on how to
pursue government dollars. As I told the Washington Post, "If you
change an entire agency, how are they going to put together the
outreach? Where is that money? The confusion it's going to cause in
the market place is my number one concern,"
To read more on the proposed government consolidation at the
It is very important that federal contractors, especially those
new to federal contracting, understand that only contracting
officials (KO) can modify an existing contract. That means that
only they can:
• Change the scope of the work (approve
additional or new work)
• Change due dates or formats for
• Authorize additional payments
• Change the FAR clauses that are part of
your contract (add or delete)
• Change how you must invoice for
• ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOUR CONTRACT!
The point is that your "customer/client/PM" can't do any of the
above without going through the KO. Where businesses get in trouble
is usually getting caught between wanting to provide outstanding
customer service (the "rock") and the actual scope of work in the
contract (the "hard place"). It is great to expand existing work on
a contract but you also want to get paid for doing that work. If
you do work without the proper KO authorization the government is
not obligated to pay you.
So what should you do? If your customer wants to expand your
• First, tell the customer that you are
more than willing to do the work on the third floor and ask her to
contact the KO responsible for your contract to request a
• Send an email to your customer
verifying the conversation and the details of the proposed
• Send an email to the KO to give them a
"heads up" that the government customer should be contacting them
to modify the contract for additional work.
• The KO may require that you submit a
price quote for the new work. If so, respond quickly.
• When the KO issues the modification,
acknowledge it and start working.
All communications should be in writing and/or verified in
writing by email.
I was recently asked to provide my thoughts for a Washington
Post article titled, Small federal contractors feeling the pinch of
reduced government spending, concerning how contracting "batting
averages" have declined for both primes and subcontractors.
American Express Open provided data that showed that the success
rates, or "batting averages" for prime contractors bidding on
government work have declined in 2008-2010, from 2007-2009. The
decline has been greater for subcontractors than for primes.
As all small businesses know, providing services for the federal
government has always been hard work, and now it's getting even
harder. Small business owners are having less success in securing
federal government contracts even as they go after contracts more
aggressively, according to data from a new report released this
week by American Express OPEN, which polled 740 small business
federal contractors in an online survey.
According to the survey, active small business contractors
reported that they spent an average of $86,124 seeking federal
contracts in 2009, but they spent $103,827 doing so in 2010 - an
increase of 21 percent. The costs include both staff time and
expenses such as travel, mail and meetings.
The success rate declined even more - by 27 percent - for
subcontractors, who tend to be smaller. The AMEX OPEN research team
thinks this might be because prime contractors are holding on to
more of their work as government spending dries up, rather than
doling it out to subcontractors. "Large primes are not opening up
for as much subcontracting activity," an AMEX OPEN research advisor
said. "Federal spending is down, and it's impacted big contractors,
which then has a ripple effect on small businesses that are
suppliers to the larger primes."
My point of view is that a small contractor should network with
agencies and prime contractors, attend all industry trade shows and
build a stellar Web site that showcases examples of past work.
My rule of thumb is that a contractor should "say 'no' more than
they say 'yes' to decisions to bid" so as to ensure that they're
not wasting resources on contracts they likely won't get. The AMEX
OPEN survey found there are diminishing returns for those taking a
scatter-shot approach. Bidding on more than six contracts in a
three-year period actually caused a business's "batting average" to
decrease suggesting companies are better off trying for just two or
three contracts each year.
To read more about the AMEX OPEN study and the Washington Post
article go to:
In May of 2006, President Bush signed into law the Tax Increase
Prevention and Reconciliation Act (TIPRA) (Public Law No. 109-222).
The measure was a combination of small tax provisions, including
extension of capital gains tax rates, increased expensing
provisions for small businesses and some alternative minimum tax
relief. To offset these revenue-negative provisions it also
contained sixteen "revenue offset" provisions to make the bill
While most of the provisions of the bill were debated in both
the House and Senate, there was a provision that emerged from the
conference committee that had never been part of the original bills
and never discussed in hearings on the chamber floors. Section 511
mandates that federal, state, and local governments withhold 3
percent of their payments for goods and services (the "government
withholding regime") starting in 2013. Assumptions are that it was
added into the bill to help reconcile the bill and make it "revenue
Implementation was delayed until 2013 largely due to the fear
that many contractors would increase bids on projects to account
for the delay in payment, increasing the overall cost of projects
dramatically. An increase in project costs on a local level could
have been devastating to communities that are struggling to finance
projects while dealing with deep budget cuts.
Because the profit margin for many businesses working with local
and state government is often less than three percent, the
withholding tax would have created significant cash flow problems
for day-to-day operations in addition to reducing capital that
could be invested in job creation and business expansion. Many
planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and engineering
firms work extensively with government agencies and would have been
negatively affected by this change.
This provision was repealed as a part of a larger bill (HR 674)
that contained several elements of President Obama's jobs bill.
Introduced by Reps. Wally Herger (R-Cal.) and Earl Blumenauer
(D-Ore.), the bill was a bipartisan effort with 269 co-sponsors. It
was passed unanimously. The Senate previously approved the bill on
a 94-to-1 vote.
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During tough and challenging business times your main goal
becomes survival….staying alive! At this time there are three key
areas of your business that you must examine and focus on in order
to ensure your survival. These areas are:
Your core competency must be your brand and can be defined in
the following areas. Intangibles… what are you known for? I hope
one intangible is being known as an ethical business. Do your
customers trust you and is your word your bond? What are you known
for? On-time delivery or low cost, high quality? What do you and
your customers get as their return on investing with you?
Another key to survival is to make sure that you have all your
critical business processes defined and documented. You need to
ensure that your business data is secure and that you are managing
the knowledge that defines your business. The key processes that
must be defined and documented are proposal management, contract
management, and financial management. These three all have
important elements of data that must be created, tracked and
maintained to ensure that you are ready for opportunities that come
During these tough times do you need to re-examine your go-to
Market Strategy? How you have positioned your firm in the
marketplace can be referred to as your go to market strategy. Are
you a Sub or a prime contractor to the government? Do you have key
customers you have served that no longer seem to hold potential?
Have you teamed with a partner who seems to have changed direction
and no longer includes you in their strategy? These may all be
signs that you need to step back and re-examine how you survive and
thrive in this economy. Your examination and the plan developed
from that review should result in a strategy that allows you to
turn around the circumstances and sue your strengths to re-position
your small business for survival and possible even growth you had
not considered in the past. In many instances this forced
examination will result in a new beginning with surprisingly good
This is part of a presentation I made at the Virginia Beach
Minority Business Council "Connect and Grow Your Business"
conference and Expo. To learn more go to the link below.
As more businesses, especially small, are looking for more
opportunities in a shrinking economy the world of federal contracts
are looking more and more appealing. The maze of small business
certifications can be very confusing. When you add to the mix
terminology that gets into the daily conversations that are
incorrect, you have the perfect storm of confusion in a marketplace
that can already be a challenge for the new comers. Make a point of
understanding the difference between the uses of the term 'set
aside' versus 'sole source' in federal procurement. People have the
tendency to use the term set aside thinking and meaning sole
source. A set-aside means that the government can determine that
there are enough of one type of companies…let's say for example
'small' to be able to 'set aside' a requirement for only small
businesses to compete for that work. It does not mean that a
requirement will be 'sole sourced' or 'directed' or awarded to a
firm without competition. It means that eligible small businesses
can compete on a more level playing field to compete among
themselves for a specific requirement. I have found this confusion
in terminology even used by well intentioned and seasoned
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