Stay Home, Stay Safe, and Stay PRODUCTIVE!

Just like the homeowner utilizing his unexpected downtime with home improvement projects, government contractors can be productive by focusing on in-house business needs while typical work is stalled.

Last week we suggested brainstorming with your team to generate ideas on what you can do now to get ahead of the wave of business backlog expected when the COVID-19 threat wanes. Effective, creative brainstorming is essential now that we are in a disrupted environment.

Get your entire team involved – use this “lull in the action” to teach new skills, cross-train your staff, and let your BD support teams explore and try new things while typical deadlines are indefinitely lifted. Most importantly, teach necessary communication skills that will benefit staff members new to working remotely.

If meeting face-to-face is your normal business practice, then the prospect of working apart for an extended period can be daunting. Even when the economy begins to reopen, it is likely that we will need to continue Work from Home practices – possibly for many months to come. That means now is the time to climb the learning curve on effectively functioning as a remote team. High-performing employees sometimes experience declines in job performance and engagement when they begin working remotely. Here are a few reasons why:

  • No face-to-face supervision: Managerial support and communication typically supplied in person must now be provided by other means. This can be a gap for both employees and managers until remote communications and feedback becomes routine.
  • Different ways to access information: Newly remote workers are often surprised by the added time and effort needed to obtain information from coworkers.
  • Reduced non-verbal communication: This manifests as a need to be much more aware of the tone and choice of words used in emails, texts, and phone conferences. The ability to infer the intent of the communicator is reduced when you are not working face-to-face.
  • Less social interaction: As a team, we need to learn how to synergize our efforts without the benefit of being together in the room.

While remote work can be challenging, there are relatively quick and inexpensive actions that managers can do to ease the transition:

  • Establish new standard work: To support your team, the routine that they knew in the office needs to be replaced with new standard work routines. This can be as simple as a daily team teleconference with an agenda that mirrors your existing staff meetings. The important feature is regular interaction with the team on the subject of work.
  • Become skilled with collaborative communication tools: Long-term, email alone will be inadequate to keep your team functioning at a high level. Consider video conferencing, collaborative work sharing, and other tools. These may be resources that you already have in place.
  • Assess your future IT and telecommunications needs: You should also think about the communications technology that is available. You might need to increase your IT and communication capacity. As you consider evolving your IT and telecommunications, be sure to also think about changing security requirements to protect your important information.
  • Build in Ways to Boost Employee Morale: Our mental health and job performance are inextricably linked. Working from home in these uncertain times is isolating, stressful, and interferes with natural social interaction which typically takes place in the office. Designating time at the start or end of a virtual meeting for personal chit chat or planning company games via video conferencing are ways to connect your employees and monitor overall morale.

My Contract Due Dates Are Extended – Right?

Contract Due Dates Don’t Automatically Extend When Your Business Is Forced to Close

On top of trying to keep your business running during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remember that delivery dates in your government contracts are not altered because of external events – including business closures forced by State governments trying to stem the spread of COVID-19.

You must seek delivery extensions on all your contracts.

During the COVID-19 crisis, closures and restrictions on businesses are becoming the norm to “flatten the curve” and shield our health care system from an impossibly high surge in critical cases.  During these times it is important for government contractors to be sure we are in sync with government expectations.

On March 20th, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord issued a memo that read in part, “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule. That applies to prime contractors and subcontractors that support essential production and services required to meet national security commitments to the federal government and the U.S. military.”

While government contractors are expected to perform during this crisis, state and local government restrictions on business operations may not consider DoD requirements.  And since government contract deadlines can only be changed by the Procuring or Administering Contracting Officer, you cannot safely assume that missing a delivery date is permitted if restrictions in your area have impacted your ability to perform.

If that happens – either because your state or local government requires your business to close, or because your suppliers work in states where those restrictions have occurred, you MUST take immediate steps to communicate your situation.  It is critical that you:

  • Immediately send notifications to your KO informing that you are unable to perform, and why (include copies of shutdown declarations)
  • Request immediate extensions to all due dates affected by the shutdowns – on a day-for-day basis plus a minimum 2-week buffer

The earlier this communication occurs, the higher the possibility of a resolution that is beneficial to both your business and to the customer.

Given the uncertainty facing everyone in this situation, you may not even hear back as many government installations are equally affected by COVID-19 response. But, by having submitted a request for extension and citing the extenuating circumstances, you have at least put the government on notice and sought relief. This will help you in later exchanges and negotiations.

But the worst thing you can do is just assume that the government will offer an extension simply because of what’s going on. They may – but you cannot assume that; especially if the government deems your product / service as essential.

Our last two blogs offered actions you can take at both the federal and state / local level to receive an exemption from closures.

URGENT COVID-19 ACTION for GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS

Is My Business Essential under COVID-19 Shutdowns?

Sam I Am (No Longer)

For fbo.gov Users, BetaSAM is Here and We Can’t Hide Any Longer

If you are a frequent user of the Government’s System for Award Management (www.SAM.gov) you are probably aware of the initiative begun in 2014 to consolidate many of the Government’s online management tools into a single system.  Ultimately, SAM will absorb the functionality of 10 separate government web sites with the relaunch of a new SAM site including enhanced search and security functions.  However, if you don’t often use these web sites, it may come as a surprise that sites such as fbo.gov are shutting down soon – very soon for fbo.gov – which will be completely phased out and shut down in November 2019.

The Government has established a web site called BetaSAM (beta.sam.gov).  When fbo.gov and the other 9 web sites are migrated, you will find those functions on BetaSAM which is already up and running now and available for user sign-in.

For frequent users of fbo.gov, it is important to note that your fbo sign-in information will not migrate automatically.  Moreover, many of the terms and categories of information will change.  For example:

FBO TermBecomes SAM Term
Fbo.govBeta.sam.gov
WatchlistFollow
Search AgentSaved Search
ArchivedInactive

Beta Sam also promises enhanced capabilities, including:

  • The ability to search for opportunities by number, keyword, or location
  • The option to access previous versions of opportunity notices with one click
  • The ability to easily set up notices that will inform you when frequently used contract opportunities are updated
  • The ability to manage alerts easily through a new user workspace (frequency, turn on/off)
  • Shared login, search, workspace, data services, reports, and a design that will allow you to leverage other IAE system data easily

Note the last bullet…it means that your old fbo.gov log-in will no longer be valid once the site is decommissioned. BetaSAM will require that you use entity-based login.gov account information to access BetaSam.  The good news is that if you already have a current SAM account you can use that log-in information to access BetaSAM.  If you are an established entity (i.e., have a DUNS number or CAGE code), you will be able to easily access BetaSAM using that information.

Once the SAM system has been completely migrated into BetaSAM, the old SAM site will be decommissioned and BetaSAM will be renamed SAM.  This process is ongoing now and for a limited time period SAM and BetaSAM are both operational — providing you the opportunity now to get familiar with the new system while still accessing the familiar one.

Love ‘em or Hate ‘em, Color Reviews are Essential to Proposal Development

OK, I admit it.  I hate color reviews.  First, they force proposal preparation to pause while the review occurs costing valuable hours in what is usually a time-constrained process.  Secondly, comments, inputs, and direction from the reviewers often conflict with each other or, worse, would make the proposal non-compliant if implemented.  Then there is the part about having our work picked apart by non-proposal people that do not understand the fundamentals and, yes, the art that goes into a fine offering.  Oh, yes, I do hate color reviews. Continue reading “Love ‘em or Hate ‘em, Color Reviews are Essential to Proposal Development” »

Be a Student of Your Customer

by Steve Anderson

Last May I wrote about the importance of understanding your customer’s organization in a potential service relationship, i.e., how will your customer interface with your organization as you perform work? It’s not only important to get this right to be an effective contractor, it’s essential to winning the work initially. Continue reading “Be a Student of Your Customer” »

Take a Critical Assessment of the Opportunity

Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. Except, of course, pursuing the WRONG opportunity – that is a far costlier mistake.

Recognizing which opportunities to pass on is as important a skill as any in your business development (BD) approach. Unfortunately, it is common practice to sift through opportunity announcements looking for requirement descriptions that most closely align with organizational capabilities. I say “unfortunate” because this path usually leads to writing many proposals pursuing opportunities with a low probability of win (Pwin). Without a proper assessment, Pwin is unknown (at best) AND often falsely assumed to be high based solely on the alignment of organizational ability with the published requirements. Ability to meet the job requirements is where many assessments start, but it’s much more important to know IF you can win. Continue reading “Take a Critical Assessment of the Opportunity” »

Going With the Flow(chart): Aligning with the Customer’s Organization

It is important to stand out. It is necessary to demonstrate your unique qualifications. It is vital to show that your company deserves the bid because you can supply something superior — something DIFFERENT than the rest. But, not so different that your proposal alienates its evaluators.

RFPs are released in order to locate a company that can best fulfill a need, i.e., a product or service   that is outside the bounds of a given Government agency’s capabilities, so most sections of your proposal are devoted to selling your company’s distinctive offerings. Yet, there is one section that is your opportunity to strike a necessary chord of familiarity: the Management Volume. Continue reading “Going With the Flow(chart): Aligning with the Customer’s Organization” »

Requests for Information are Your First Opportunity to Make an Impression: The Value of Responding to RFIs

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work.” Thomas Edison

Those that wait for a Government solicitation (RFP) to land at their door miss their chance at giving critical input during the early stages of the government procurement process.  Industry feedback advises the Government’s changes and adjustments to RFPs — PRIOR TO RELEASE, perhaps even customizing the solicitation to suppliers who do the job of responding. Continue reading “Requests for Information are Your First Opportunity to Make an Impression: The Value of Responding to RFIs” »

Bidding Jobs: Just Because You CAN Does Not Mean That You SHOULD

Bidding Jobs: Just Because You CAN Does Not Mean That You SHOULD

Swing for the Fences. Just Do It. Go Big or Go Home. These messages to strive for success at all costs work well on bumper stickers but not one of them is worthy of basing your business practices on.

Most times, recognizing a promising opportunity for getting new business involves nothing more sophisticated than having a gut instinct about being right for the job. But, make no mistake, even obviously promising bids need to be carefully scrutinized before proceeding. Continue reading “Bidding Jobs: Just Because You CAN Does Not Mean That You SHOULD” »