Announcements and news
Every now and then cities experience events that serve as a clear line of demarcation between “then” and “now.” In the case of Amazon's search for a home for their new HQ2, the 20 finalists’ regional leaderships are actively seeking a major event that will change their area’s landscape for decades to come. As part of the process to attract and win the opportunity to host HQ2, the decision-makers and influencers involved in each region’s bids are putting plenty of thought into preparing for the changes facing their communities should Amazon choose their location as the winner. Fortunately, they all can look at Seattle as a living laboratory and business case to get a good idea of how life in their region is going to be impacted. Based on lessons learned to date from Seattle there are four major areas that most likely be at the forefront of the conversations surrounding the unique changes that will face the region hosting HQ2, as follows:
1. Rapid and Specific Demographic Population Growth
Based on the population changes in Seattle - the city was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation twice in the past decade - we can assume that HQ2 will bring with it rapid population growth. And, continuing to use Seattle as a guide, it is also safe to assume that the population growth at HQ2 may be disproportionately made up of young (30-39 year old) professionals.
With HQ2 serving as a strong attraction, professional young adults will relocate to and settle in the winning region. So, what does this mean for the community? Improved transportation, the creation of more urban “green” spaces, and a rise in the types of commercial enterprises that cater to this specific demographic, such as customized exercise studios, boutique eateries, higher-end daycare establishments, etc, all seem par for the course. This will be good news for most of the area’s residents, especially those that can use the improved urban experience to lure highly qualified employees in their own sector, or if they run one of the businesses in high demand by this demographic.
2. Improved Infrastructure and Attendant Costs
Amazon was clear that efficient and reliable modern public transportation and urban green spaces are “must-haves” for any metropolitan area hoping to land HQ2. Plus, even if Amazon wasn’t specifically asking for these features, infrastructure improvements would likely be required to help accommodate a rapidly growing population.
In the long run, this change will likely be great for whatever region lands HQ2. The recent coming together of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia to finally agree and pass the desperately needed funding to improve and modernize the regional metro system is an example of the region changing to attract HQ2. But, while this decision is a response to HQ2 specifically, the resulting improvements could also lead to other companies who are looking to develop additional major campuses (for example, Apple) to prioritize this region ahead of others going forward. After all, improved infrastructure benefits everyone and is a very attractive characteristic for any company considering new office locations.
Updating or creating infrastructure, regardless of the necessity, is almost certainly an expensive undertaking, and current residents will most likely be asked to shoulder most of, if not all of, the improvements through increased taxes. Although Amazon has been clear that they aren’t interested in subsidizing these types improvements through taxes, this likely won’t be as significant a factor for whatever area wins HQ2 as it has been for Seattle. Washington state does not currently benefit from having an individual income tax, so Seattle has not been the recipient of the rise in income tax revenue corresponding with the rise in highly skilled (and highly paid) residents, who work for Amazon as well as for the other large employers in the area. With the exception of four finalists (Miami, Austin, Dallas, and Nashville), every potential new home being considered on the short list for HQ2 does have a state-level personal income tax to help defray the necessary infrastructure costs.
3. State, Local and City Policies Become More “Pro-Business”
The job growth, population boom, and improved local economic activity that accompanied the meteoric rise of Amazon have served to underline just how essential Amazon has become to the city of Seattle. As a result, the local, city, and state governments in Seattle and Washington state are very aware of Amazon’s requirements as well as likes and dislikes. In the case of Seattle, Amazon has successfully displayed that the organization’s and Seattle’s best interests are frequently aligned, and has successfully leveraged their position as a large and growing employer to work to widen the city’s pro-business policies and influence their local environment to work in their favor by governing tax breaks and incentives.
Most recently, after the Seattle city council proposed a “head” tax on Seattle-based companies making more than $20 million in revenue annually, for the purpose of funding programs aimed at addressing homelessness as well as to help create more affordable housing, Amazon (and other large local employers) strongly balked at the initiative for a variety of reasons. In response, Amazon halted construction on their new 17-story office tower and threatened to sublease space in its downtown campus. They also accelerated their search for their new HQ2 site.
When it comes to HQ2, regional business leaders will benefit from Amazon’s ability to unite and rally both the local business community and all relevant government entities, establishing an environment that is very “pro-business”, and possibly attracting even more large business headquarters in the process. After all, the notable and very public objection from Amazon, along with other leading voices in the business community, did not fall on deaf ears in Seattle. The Seattle City Council didn’t abandon the tax entirely, but they did make an effort to involve Amazon and other business leaders in the conversation and approved a moderated and more business-friendly version of the head tax. Amazon has resumed construction on its downtown projects, however, they have made it known publicly that they are still keeping the option of subleasing its office space on the table.
4. Increased Unpredictability
As unbelievable as it seems now, Amazon got its start in Jeff Bezos’s garage as an online bookstore. Now as a multi-billion dollar conglomerate it is hard to predict exactly which market segments and offerings Amazon will be moving into, and dominating, by the time the new HQ2 is complete. And if it’s hard to predict what Amazon will look like in a year two, it’s almost impossible to predict where Amazon will be focusing in a decade. As an organization, Amazon is continuously growing, developing, and pushing past established norms to create new ones, making wherever their HQ2 lands an attractive and energetic place for that region. And while Amazon’s unpredictability is undeniably exciting, it also requires its host region to plan for and attempt to predict the infrastructure, cultural changes, and challenges that will follow. As Amazon dives further into the autonomous revolution as an innovator and expands into other major verticals, such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, the rapid shift caused by their innovations in these areas will first cause ripples into whichever local communities are affected. The bottom line: although we many not be able to predict exactly how the organization grows, we know (based on past years results) that it does grow, and the area surrounding HQ2 will benefit from this growth in turn.
Over the next year, one of the HQ2 finalists will have their landscape permanently shifted when Amazon accepts their proposal and signs the dotted line. Growth for all businesses, with or without Amazon, will remain a constant challenge in today’s ever-changing and volatile environment. Amazon’s HQ2 coming to your region just accelerates the pace. At growth[period] we are experts at helping our clients grow and thrive regardless of the current environment and have great success stories of achieving excellent results we would be happy to share with you. Please contact us at email@example.com to set up a time to speak or meet to learn more.
Congress and DOD Address the Roles Cybersecurity and Price Play in Evaluating Defense Contracts
On August 1, 2018, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) - clearly defining the role Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) will play in evaluating cybersecurity or IT contract proposals. By passing the NDAA, Congress publicly backed concerns put forward by industry trade groups; namely, that placing too much value on a proposal’s price creates an environment in which contractors build their bids around LPTA, sometimes at the expense of presenting the best solution. Although fiscal responsibility remains an important consideration when evaluating bids for federal contracts, relying on LPTA as the deciding factor in the decision making process can prevent the government from getting the most value over the duration of a project. After all, no one really wants to fly in a plane built by the lowest bidder!
At the same time that Congress passed the NDAA, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shannahan discussed the Department of Defense’s increased focus on cybersecurity when evaluating bids for Department of Defense contracts. Deputy Secretary Shanahan was careful to say that the DOD will not consider paying extra for cybersecurity, likening it to the DOD’s existing policy of not paying extra for quality. However, he went on to describe cybersecurity as “...the fourth critical measurement” upon which the DOD will evaluate proposals. When examined alongside the NDAA, these policy changes will fundamentally alter how successful organizations structure their proposals. Contractors may find it challenging to meet the DOD’s new higher cybersecurity requirements if LPTA dictates their ability to proffer their best technical solution. Recognizing the potential issue, the DOD will consider paying more money for the best cyber solutions - as long as the solutions proposed are the most appropriate for the government’s demands.
In order to be awarded contracts with the DoD that have cyber security components, organizations now can focus on offering the best solution - and structuring their proposals to clearly explain how their solutions present the government the best technical path forward. Contractors are now expected to shift back to telling a story that differentiates their solutions; not just offer the cheapest bottom line. One strategy that we have found to be particularly effective is for our clients to underscore this narrative with the theme that by implementing our client’s technical solution the USG can get the best result technically while at the same time saving them money in the longer term - as a direct result of increased efficiency realized. The experienced executives at growth[period] work alongside contractors every day to craft successful strategies that set their solutions apart from their competition and lead to wins. Contact our team today to learn more.
At growth[period], we are grateful for our veterans each and every day of the year. We believe that all veterans and their families should have access to the support and resources necessary to ensure they have the ability to live full and rewarding lives. Hope for the Warriors, a four-star Charity Navigator rated nonprofit organization, has just such a mission. We are proud to have worked alongside Hope for the Warriors for more than 10 years in support of its goal of creating opportunities for the veteran community, to include expanding its brand recognition as a first-tier nonprofit, increasing its donor base, and establishing a formal relationship with NASCAR.
The growth[period] team identified a key demographic overlap between the veteran community served by Hope for the Warriors and NASCAR’s constituency and devised a strategy to develop a partnership between the two organizations that ultimately led to a formal agreement. The effects of this partnership were immediate and significant, as Hope for the Warriors reported a three-fold increase in donations in the first year of the partnership alone, along with other valuable and tangible results.
Hope for the Warriors continues to provide valuable services to the veteran community, and its success in doing so has raised expectations for the future. On this #GivingTuesday, we encourage you to learn more about what Hope for the Warriors does - and explore how you might be able to help.
While holiday parties demand time and effort to execute, they are worth the effort. If you’re feeling particularly swamped, it might be tempting to host a scaled-down event or eliminate the party altogether. But, that isn’t usually the right call. When done well and within budget, holiday parties boost employee morale and set the groundwork to promote your organization’s brand in the new year.
Consider a “Widely Attended Gathering” (WAG):
To facilitate your ability to invite a wide audience to your holiday party, your legal counsel can get the event designated as a “widely attended gathering.” This designation will ensure that customers can legally attend the event in compliance with the appropriate ethics guidelines and laws. If you do throw a “WAG” holiday party, it becomes a great opportunity for customers to mingle with you and your staff. The holiday doldrums are usually less present at parties, which allows for more informal and upbeat interaction with your customers, targets, and teaming partners. (Just make sure to control, or stop, the alcohol flow to save yourself some headaches!)
How can a holiday party promote growth?
Introduce your customers to your staff: Your party is an opportunity to get more members of your key staff in front of potential strategic partners or customers- allowing you to brag about your team in a social environment and help the groups connect, even if networking on their own isn’t their strength.
Expand your network: If you’ve spent some time assembling a robust invitation list, your party can also strategically expand your network. Don’t underestimate the value of face time with valuable contacts in a pleasant and casual environment. The relationships that you build at your holiday party may prove invaluable come after the new year.
Improve brand perception: A professional and well-planned holiday party can help create goodwill around your brand. This is particularly valuable for smaller businesses, as the event will reinforce the fact that you are a stable, profitable, and well-run business. Also, if you have a strategic invitation list, your holiday party will get your brand in front of a larger-than-usual audience, including some potential new contacts, for a feel-good reason.
Hosting a successful holiday party each year can lead to new opportunities in the future. The experts at growth[period] can create a plan that will lead to a strong start in the new year. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you develop a plan for strategic and sustainable growth.
The challenges inherent for government contractors in today’s environment are literally historical. While as difficult as this period is, as a business owner you can also try and make use of the extra time you now have (and did not want) to focus on how to help your company grow, not just with a short-term focus on when the government starts fully functioning again but for the long run. As Bill Gates famously pointed out, the most valuable asset anyone has is time - and as a business leader you rarely have time to spare! Try and use some of this time to regroup and figure out if you are positioned where you want to be for your company’s future. Here are some things to consider as you think through your current growth plan.
First: do you have a strategic growth plan? If yes, then look at it with a critical and, if possible, dispassionate eye. Does it really fit your company’s identity and future goals? If so, great! If not, then sit down and figure out what your realistic growth objectives are and in what time frame you want to achieve them. One thing to keep in mind is whether you have an objective for your growth trajectory, i.e. is your goal to be acquired someday? If so, in what time frame and for what multiple? Are your goals for both realistic given the market environment? If you want to grow to sustain- and continue to be a “lifestyle” business- do you have the customer intimacy necessary to maintain the incumbency you have currently? Do you have the correct talent in place whom the customer respects - and what is your plan to retain them in the long term, especially if no equity event is ever anticipated? If you do not have a current strategic growth plan email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we are happy to create one with you!
There may be only one thing that's certain in business: uncertainty is a growth killer. So, thriving businesses might see laws and regulations as providing a necessary element of certainty. They tell us the rules of the game. However, laws can also create uncertainty. When this happens, it can be tempting to tune out.
But there's danger in complacency and often ignoring the issue is not a viable option. So, what's a business owner to do? The way to win this game is to stay engaged without letting the uncertainty make you crazy. Let's look at a recent example of legislative uncertainty to see what we can learn.
"Small" Business and the Small Business Administration (SBA)
If you are running a business that bids on government contracts or have clients in that vertical, you probably know that the Small Business Administration (SBA) defines what counts as a "small" business. You may also know that there are no federal definitions for businesses that exceed the SBA's small business size standards. There's no definition for a "mid-size" business, for example. As a result, the category of "other-than small" businesses encompasses firms that barely exceed the "small" limit all the way up to multi-billion dollar corporations.
This categorization (or lack thereof) puts many businesses in a serious bind. Imagine having an amazing growth year that disqualifies your business from competing for small business contracts (the very contracts that have been the drivers of growth) and from receiving SBA assistance — Congrats on climbing that ladder! Now figure out how to compete with the titans of your industry.
Many businesses caught in this situation have to make tough choices such as:
- Selling, often at a devalued rate
- Being subsumed into the supply chain of larger competitors
- Being forced into disadvantageous subcontracting partnerships with other firms
- Deliberately impeding their own growth and passing up opportunities to maintain their "small" business designation
For too many small businesses, "graduation" day spells the end of growth or the worst circumstances can be the end overall.
Enter the Small Business Runway Extension Act.
Recognizing the pressure graduating from small business status can put on companies teetering on the edge, Congress passed the Small Business Runway Extension Act to help bridge the gap. The bipartisan bill signed into law in December of 2018 allows small firms additional time to solidify their growth and beef up their infrastructure to compete against much larger companies.
Here's the CliffsNotes version of the legislation: Whereas prior to the legislation, the SBA used a three-year average of annual gross receipts to determine whether a company is considered small, the Act extends the look-back period to five years.
And there was much rejoicing...except there wasn't because the SBA threw a curveball. Shortly after the Act was signed into law, the SBA stated that the amended law would not go into effect until the SBA issues new regulations to implement the extended look-back period. This is problematic because it will (obviously) take time for the SBA to issue regulations and in the meantime, small business contractors are left wondering which period (three years or five) counts.
Why It Matters
If the Small Business Runway Extension Act affects whether your business is designated as "small" or "other-than small," you already know all the ways the effective date impacts your business growth strategy. Planning how to invest in employees, equipment, software, infrastructure, and business development is tough enough without having to navigate this kind of uncertainty.
Here are a few inadvertent consequences of the current reality which could occur:
- Suppose a contractor wins a small business government contract after electing to calculate size based on five years of revenue (in anticipation of the change to the law). The contractor may find itself the subject of a size appeal raised by a competing bidder or some other stakeholder. Should the appeal be successful on grounds that current law says size must be calculated on the basis of three years of revenue (and the firm is "other-than small" on this calculation), the contractor could be penalized by the SBA for violating the size requirement.
- Or suppose a contractor wins a small business government contract based on the current three-year look-back period. The contractor could later experience two years of growth pushing it over the "small" limit on a five-year calculation and find itself the subject of a size appeal arguing it is "other-than small" once the Act goes into effect.
Either way, contractors face significant uncertainty that can be paralyzing and have beyond the single contract being pursued. For instance, if a firm is found to be pursuing small business contracts in violation of the size-requirement, not only does the contractor lose the contract it has won, but it is also banned from bidding on future contracts until it has been recertified by the SBA.
So What's a Business Owner to Do?
First, our experts would not recommend a business stay intentionally small on the basis of uncertainty alone. Growing a business entails certain risks and making smart business decisions means figuring out which risks you can tolerate. If your firm falls within this three-year vs. five-year gap, the best plan is to be as prepared as you can be.
- Know your numbers cold
- Gather whatever data you need to be ready to pursue any opportunity that makes sense
- If you plan to bid on small business contracts, talk to your legal team about a potential size appeal
But above all, pay attention to the committee hearings and information being released about the Act going forward. For the latest update, watch this video recording of a March 26 hearing of the Committee on Small Business. Not only will it bring you up to speed, but listening to other small business owners discuss the impact of the Act's uncertainty will help you understand how it could impact your business.
In fact, even if the Small Business Runway Extension Act doesn't immediately affect your business, paying attention to this issue could benefit you in less direct ways. Your clients may be holding off on business growth in ways that impact your bottom line, for instance. Staying engaged may not make this uncertain mess any clearer, but it does ensure that you're in to shift as soon as the SBA declares an effective date.
If after reading this, you're left wondering what to pay attention to in this fast-paced and often uncertain business landscape, you're not alone. At growth[period]Connect with us and let's discuss how we can be your partner in realizing intelligent growth with sustainable results.
Government contractors strategize less about how to expand to support commercial clients than their counterparts in the private sector strategize about breaking into the government market. This is strange. Setting aside weapons systems, the government buys many of essentially the same products and services as businesses in commercial industries. So, opportunities for growth abound for the smart government contractor looking to grow.
Few federal sector small businesses successfully expand to support commercial clients simply because they do not set up properly to realize the value of growing this way. Going commercial can be a challenge and it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s worth the trouble. Let’s talk about the major benefits of expansion and how to increase your odds of success.
Major Benefits of Expansion Into the Private Sector
It isn’t hard to see why many government contractors hesitate to go after commercial markets. After all, focusing on RFPs, monitoring legislation, and keep track of all the other relevant information put out by the government regarding procurement is enough to keep any business busy. Besides, no savvy business leader wants to expand into a new market at the expense of current operations.
There are three reasons why going commercial can be a smart use of resources under the right circumstances:
1. Commercial buyers move faster than the Federal ones.
The procurement process for government contracting is comprehensive and the cyclical nature of government work can leave you in limbo waiting until the next big opportunity gets green-lighted. By comparison, commercial buyers move lightning quick. As long as you are prepared to deliver in line with commercial expectations, you will likely find the private sector pace to be invigorating.
2. There are fewer barriers to entry in the private sector.
There is less of a learning curve when it comes to selling to the private sector. Whereas with government contracts, you must wrap your mind around complying with strict government regulations, procurement, and thousands of acronyms, there is less to learn in the commercial space.
While the federal government customers will tell you exactly what they need and expect you to explain exactly how you will deliver, commercial clients flip the pitch. If you expand to support commercial clients, they will expect you to figure out what they need, develop the product or service to solve the problem, and convince them that your solution is best.
3. You have more negotiating power with commercial customers.
Whereas the supporting federal customers require that you maintain accounting records in a particular way, can penalize you for offering discounted rates to other customers, limit your profits, and terminate your contract for convenience, with commercial customers, you can negotiate terms that are more favorable. Overall, working with commercial customers gives you more leverage and flexibility when it comes to pricing, delivery, and negotiating terms of your contract.
How to Expand to Support Commercial Clients
When we discuss lateral growth with clients, one big hurdle seems to be an unwritten rule that once your business heads down the government contracting road, there’s no turning back. But as long as your corporate structure doesn’t make expanding into the commercial space prohibitive, there are few reasons not to grow this way.
So, let’s look at the actionable steps you can take to expand into the commercial market.
1. Determine What the Impact on Your Business Will Be
It’s important to realize that growing your business does not mean abandoning your current operations. The first step to successfully expanding into any new market, then, is knowing that your business can survive the demands of the new market. To ensure this, you will want to assess the full impact of expansion on all aspects of your business.
Ask your team the following questions:
- In what ways will expanding to support the commercial market affect our government contract work? Map it all out.
- Will team members need to split their time between supporting the current market and the new market?
- Will you need to hire additional team members? In what capacity?
- Will you need additional resources to support your new commercial clients?
- Will you need to raise the bar on your business processes and systems?
2. Choose Your Route to Expansion
The move from government contracting to the commercial sector is easier the closer you stay to your current strengths. One common area where we see a lot of movement between the two markets is in the area of cybersecurity. Many security firms move easily between supporting government agencies and supporting IT departments in large corporations. This makes sense since cyber security pain points are basically the same regardless of what type of work you’re trying to protect.
There are opportunities in small and mid-size companies too. For example, one of our clients, Nathan Associates, Inc., has successfully expanded, with our help, from working with the federal government to working with commercial clients. Nathan Associates is a leader in providing diversity training, among other offerings. Working together to successfully adapt their diversity training program from a focus on government agencies, such as USAID, instead for commercial clients, including Capital One Bank and Leadership Greater Washington, was fairly straightforward and has been very successful.
Which brings us to the next point:
3. Align Your Current Business Model with the New One
It helps to think of expanding into the commercial market as if you’re developing a new business, not simply launching into a new market. Many government sector businesses choose to create an independent subsidiary or LLC to build out commercial offerings, for instance. This also can help you surmount pricing issues that may arise if you want to vary your prices based on your client focus.
However, while it may help you to think of the commercial side as separate from the public sector side of the business, if expansion requires an overhaul of the core of your business, it’s probably time to pump the brakes. Playing up the overlap between your current business and the newly expanded business will always result in a more seamless transition.
4. Do Your Research
So far so good. Are you ready to pull the trigger? Not quite. Expanding to serve the commercial market takes time, energy, a diversified sales plan and staff, new collateral and branding, and financial resources. You have to look at the data and make sure it confirms your instinct that this is the right next step for your company.
Step #1: Clearly define the commercial market for your product or service you’re entering.
Think hard about what the new market looks like. Hire a market research team if you aren’t 100% sure you can do this work yourself.
State in definite terms:
- The demographics of your target market (age, gender, occupation, etc.)
- The psychological profile of your target market (attitudes, aspirations, values, etc.)
- Location (actual physical location or geographic data for an online audience)
- Problem (what problem are you solving?)
- Solution (the complete details of the products or services you provide)
Step #2: Validate the new market
Validate that there is a place for your offering in the new market. There are four factors to consider:
- Make sure the problem you’re solving is a big enough pain point for your customer.
- Test your product with a few target users and listen to their feedback.
- Make sure the target market is large enough to justify expanding to fill this need.
- A problem, a product, and a market do not necessarily get you to profitability. You also need to be pretty sure your target audience will pay you for your solution.
5. Decide How to Position Yourself in the New Market
The last step is to figure out how to position yourself. There are likely competitors in your space that will be entrenched within an existing customer base. So the best edge you have is to differentiate yourself in a way that helps you capture their attention. The good news is that since you’ve been selling to the public sector, you already know a lot about how to pitch a successful value proposition to customers. Ask yourself what specific value you can add to a commercial customer and how to adapt your pitch to resonate with them.
When we worked with Calibre Systems, an employee-owned consulting and information technology solutions company supporting the federal government, we helped them continue to diversify their customer base into the commercial sector. They had been successfully leveraging their network of veterans with automotive mechanic skills with commercial auto companies and have been highly successful working with Ford and Range Rover, among other companies. Having a focused approach to the market with a target market for your offerings, like they have, is also essential for success.
At the end of the day, if the benefits of expanding to support commercial clients are enough to entice you to enter this new market, following the above actionable steps will help you position properly for success.
And of course, it always helps to have the experience of a team who has guided other government contractors down this path. The experts at growth[period] are ready to deliver smart growth for you. If you’re ready to talk about diversifying your business growth into the commercial sector, connect with us today!
Summer can seem like a dead zone when it comes to networking. The swirl of galas, conferences, tradeshows, and business dinners that overwhelm our calendars during the other seasons, slow to a trickle in June and do not start back up again in force until September. But, don’t let this dearth of organized events lull you into inaction. Summer is a great time to tap your existing networks and create growth. How can you use summer to your advantage?
Revisit your contact list - Even the most organized networkers have prospects or potential partners with whom they have lost touch. Perhaps the timing wasn’t right when you last spoke and then they fell off your radar. The summer is a great time to look through your contact software or LinkedIn connections to see who you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Create a list and call a few people a week.
Baseball is the perfect sport for networking - Sure, you can take a potential client or partner to any sporting event, but none of the others are as good as baseball for creating an opportunity to really talk and connect. The slower pace of the game, the summer evening out (and even the readily available beer) mean that you will have a chance to really get to know your client as a friend and colleague. No hometown team? Find a waterfront restaurant or patio bar to take your client on a slower summer afternoon.
Vacation connections - Are you traveling this summer? Do you have clients or prospects near your planned travel destination? You might be thinking, “but wait, I travel to get away from work!” Of course, I am not suggesting cluttering your vacation with work meetings. Instead, ask your contact to join you for at your vacation destination. Bonus, since your connection is local to the area, he or she will likely have great recommendations for places to go!
Successful summertime networking only deepen your relationships to your existing clients and prospects but can create new opportunities from old relationships. The experts at growth[period] can create help your company 2019 strong. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you develop a plan for strategic and sustainable growth.
The end of the federal government’s fiscal year is upon us. Fiscal year 2019 ends on September 30th. If you’re a government contractor, this is likely not news to you. But what might be news is how your company can prepare for the end of the federal fiscal year and take advantage of opportunities to increase revenue.
Many government agencies increase spending in August and September, so if you were thinking you could wait until October to get those proposals ready, you might want to reconfigure your schedule. With this in mind, let’s dig into the reasons for the increase in contracting opportunities as well as some of the ways you can position your company to reap the benefits.
Why does the government increase spending this time of year?
Like many private corporations, government agencies have a “use it or lose it” mentality when it comes to fiscal year-end. Having money left in the account at the end of the year likely means that amount will be subtracted from the budget for fiscal year 2020 because the assumption is if they don’t use it, they don’t need it. So, the looming end of the budgetary year brings a rush of purchases as departments try to spend their “emergency” or “rainy day” funds.
The end of the fiscal year also means that new funds will be released with the start of FY 2020. So many agencies that have spent all of their funds earlier in the year can now start thinking about how to use anticipated funds when the new budget takes effect.
What can your company do to prepare for the end of the federal fiscal year?
The first step in the process to be able to compete for federal contracts is to register your business in the System for Award Management (SAM). Basically, any person who wants to do business with the federal government needs to complete the SAM registration. This includes small businesses providing services such as construction, architecture, and engineering, as well as other product vendors.
If you’re reading this, though, you’re likely registered already as a pre-approved vendor and are very familiar with SAM. So let’s talk about how you can make the next few weeks count.
1. Focus on deals that you can close fast.
Because you are dealing with a hard deadline, it’s time to focus your efforts on deals that are ripe. These might be deals you’ve had in the pipeline for a while and just need a little shove. Or perhaps you can identify products and services customers are asking for now and target agencies with similar needs.
However, before you go too far chasing down money that isn’t there, do some research at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Learn what appropriations have been withdrawn and think about how they might affect your bids. For example, according to the June 2019 monthly budget review, defense spending was up 8 percent, with the largest increases being in operation and maintenance, procurement, and research and development.
2. Be on the lookout for new contract opportunities.
Most federal agencies post requests for proposals on websites such as FedBizOpps.gov or the Contract Opportunity Finder on usa.gov. With these services, you can create a free account using your email address, choose basic keyword or industry-specific searches, and set up daily alerts.
To avoid the inevitable missteps involved in DIY-ing the process of researching opportunities, however, growth[period] offers opportunity identification as a client service. We begin by matching your firm’s core competencies with market areas and identifying opportunities in each space. Next, we research lateral markets to determine performance cross-over opportunities. Our research staff will keep you updated on all forms of contract and funding opportunities.
3. Stay persistent.
If you’re used to doing business with the private sector, you may be surprised to find that no response to a bid for a government contract doesn’t necessarily mean that you are out of the running. While it does take a fair amount of time and effort to have your bids considered, it is worth it to keep submitting.
If this is your first time applying for a government contract, this is a great time to give it a shot since there is an increase in opportunities at fiscal year-end. You’ll want to pay attention to the specifics of each Invitation for Bid (IFB), Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Tender (RFT), or Request for Quotation (RFQ) and be sure to address them in your submission. Once you understand the terminology, requirements, and qualifications it gets easier to submit.
Will there be another government shutdown?
This is a fair question to ask, in relation to what you need to do to prepare for the end of the federal fiscal year, especially if last year’s December federal government shutdown came as a surprise and left your company scrambling. Of course, we don’t have a crystal ball, but Congress passed and the president signed into law a two-year budget deal that increases federal spending and raises the spending ceiling.
The legislation eliminates the threat of a debt default until after the 2020 election and reduces the chances of another government shutdown. This is good news because if Congress had not taken action, the Treasury Department was projected to run out of money to pay its bills as early as September, which would have resulted in a default on U.S. obligations and likely shattering of financial markets.
Still, Lawmakers will return to the Capitol after Labor Day to hammer out the North America trade deal, the outcome of which remains uncertain, and a thin legislative agenda. They will also need to pass individual spending bills to avoid a government shutdown on October 1st.
So, while disaster appears to have been averted for now, none of the above guarantees there won’t be a government shutdown in the near future, which is all the more reason to go for FY 2019 contracts in the next several weeks. At growth[period] our team is ready to help you position yourself to take advantage of these opportunities. If you’re ready to try a new growth strategy, connect with us. We’re focused on your growth.
Understanding the government contracting landscape and which trends to watch will help you position your business to take advantage of emerging services and keep up with the industry. As you work to develop a long-term strategy for business growth, staying ahead of your competition requires analyzing and predicting these trends.
In addition to keeping up with industry news, looking ahead to FY2020 and anticipating government spending will pay off down the road. This article discusses four trends in federal government spending you will want to watch closely.
1. The Continued Advancement of AI Technologies
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not a new technology at this point. AI continues to evolve as machines perform increasingly complex tasks such as driving cars and predicting global economic trends at levels equal to or better than the most skilled human beings.
Now more than ever before, government agencies are seeing the potential applications of AI. Innovation in AI drives much of what we’re seeing in increased I.T. spending by federal agencies. The growing toolkit of AI promises to reinvent almost everything the government does from education to health care to national security and defense in 2020 and beyond.
For government contractors specializing in the tech, cyber, digital, or telecommunications markets, it’s crucial to be plugged into this trend. When it comes to business growth, you can’t go wrong if you follow the data. In particular, these data signals are noteworthy:
- Around 1.3 billion hours could be freed up through automation in the U.S. Federal government.
- The estimated growth rate for spending on AI technologies by central governments around the world is 44%, which is faster than AI spending in consumer services.
- 84% of U.S. public sector executives cited data privacy and quality as the biggest challenge for AI adoption.
- 68% of respondents to one survey (Deloitte-NASACT) reported staff would be provided more training in AI and cognitive technologies.
2. The Rise of Data and AI Ethics
With the advancement of technology, the government will play a bigger role than ever when it comes to managing the ethical complexities of this new “industrial revolution.” In addition to being the “owner” of an enormous amount of data, citizens will continue to look to government to regulate corporate data use.
As machines collect more and more information from us, the government and industry need to prioritize privacy, equity, and transparency. Using the Internet, Internet of Things, and sensors, machines can track an astonishing amount of data from individuals—everything from sleep habits, to location movement, to every keyboard click can be stored.
For government agencies seeking to formalize their ethical standards around the risks inherent in using algorithms, there is a growing need to contract with emerging technology consultants to help sort through these thorny issues. In many ways, the U.S. Federal government is playing catch-up to other nations here:
- 107 countries have passed legislation to protect citizens’ data and privacy.
- More than 91,500 complaints were received by the Data Protection Authorities under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation since its implementation.
- The UK Government launched a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation with a £9 million budget.
3. Prioritizing Air and Missile Defense
In March of 2019, the U.S. Army published the Army Air and Missile Defense 2028. This document provides the Army’s vision for air and missile defense. By 2028, the AMD force aims to provide commanders with a flexible, agile, and integrated air and missile defense program. This AMD program will be capable of executing operations in multiple locations and supporting unified land operations.
One of the biggest changes this new program calls for is the modernization of radars and radar systems. This means government contractors in this space should be on the lookout for opportunities to showcase new technologies and to build prototypes.
4. Legislation Watch: FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act
With the Senate passing its version of the bill in June and the House subsequently passing its version in mid-July, Congress is getting closer to the passage of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation is an annual spending authorization bill that lays out how the DoD should spend its budget.
Although challenges remain in reconciling differences between the two bills and getting the President’s signature, potential changes relevant to government contractors include commercial items, data rights, and cost or pricing data. This article provides a detailed rundown of the provisions that could go into effect as soon as October 2019.
Here are a few key points:
- The House bill would create a pilot program within the DoD to encourage engagement with commercial technology companies through the Small Business Innovation Research Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program, which are conducted under the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. § 638 (Sec. 878).
- The House bill would amend 10 U.S.C. § 2306a, frequently referred to as the Truth in Negotiations Act or “TINA,” in several important respects that would make it easier for the government to obtain a contractor’s cost or pricing data.
- The Senate bill requires the DoD to review how it decides to use fixed-price contracts to support its acquisition objectives to ensure that its decisions are strategic and consistent (Sec. 806).
- The Senate and House bills would each require the DoD’s Office of Small Business to set performance goals and would expand the definition of “Disadvantaged Small Business Concern” (S 1790, Sec. 841, H.R. 2500, Sec. 881).
- Both bills also would permanently authorize the DoD’s Mentor-Protégé Program, which is intended to increase the participation of small businesses by encouraging mentorships with DoD contractors.
How will government contracting trends affect your business? Our world-class experts have insight into how to manage and capitalize on current and future government contracting trends. Connect with us and let’s get you on the pathway to phenomenal growth!