Chelsea Meggitt Govmates member discusses how to acquire government contracts in this podcast.
Govmates, a technology scouting platform, provides amazing new resources and relationship development opportunities. They merge the best practices of technology as well as the human element to promote non-traditional defense contractors within the federal community.
Govmates has assisted with more than 30,000 matches from their system of more than 4,500 government contractors. They are experts in creating valuable relationships within the federal sector.
Chelsea Meggitt Govmates Podcast:
For more information and assistance in acquiring government contract, contact Chelsea Meggitt, Collaborative Compositions
Following article appeared in Bloomberg Government September 8, 2022
Jumping the Line from Sub to Prime Contracting: Chelsea Meggitt
Working with the federal government has a pecking order. Recent changes from Congress have made it slightly easier for small businesses to move up the chain, but there are still several factors that contractors must consider before attempting to make the leap.
Prime contractors, those that work directly with the government, hold the most power. They have privity of communications with the government customer, they receive credit and past performance ratings directly from the government customer, and they hold the contract with the government.
Subcontractors, those that work directly with the prime contractor, hold less power and are generally not afforded those same privileges. Subcontractors are often limited to a specific workshare, restricted from interfacing with the government customer, and they rarely receive credit for their performance on a project from the government customer or the prime.
As one of the most used evaluation factors, past performance is a key resource when submitting a bid to work directly with the government as a prime contractor.
For large prime system integrators that have held government contracts since their inception, providing evidence of past performance doesn’t pose a challenge. These contractors simply direct the government customer to the Contractor Performance Rating System (CPARS), which provides an official record of prime contractor past performance ratings.
CPARS qualitative ratings rank the prime contractor on factors such as quality of product or service, cost control, schedule/timeliness, management/business relations, and small business subcontracting. Those factors are rated on a scale from A=Exceptional to E=Unsatisfactory.
Previous experience as a prime contractor and the availability of CPARS ratings gives primes a substantial competitive bidding advantage.
Subcontractors historically haven’t received CPARS ratings and until recently, due to the legal agreement of the prime contract, didn’t have a right to request them from the government-end customer.
Congress recognized the lack of available, qualifying, relevant past performance ratings as a barrier for small businesses seeking to make the transition from subcontracting to prime contracting. To make it easier for small subcontractors to qualify for prime contracting opportunities, the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (Pub. Law 116-283) revised Section 868 to recognize and require past performance ratings for small business first-tier subcontractors and joint ventures.
The Small Business Administration finalized a rule on the change in July. It gives first-tier small businesses the right to recourse if they’re not provided past performance CPARS ratings by a prime contractor on a vehicle with a subcontracting plan.
Will this change result in a flood of new small business prime contractors? Qualifying past performance isn’t the only evaluation factor in competitive procurements. For small businesses seeking to make the jump from sub to prime, there are numerous considerations, and the path isn’t clear cut.
If you’re a small business that now finds it has the qualifying past performance for prime bids, I urge you to consider the following steps.
- Assess your financial runway. Does your company have the cash flow required to support investments in compliance measures, audited financial systems, bid and proposal teams, or contract management?
- Perform a corporate review to determine what types of tools, systems, processes, or other resources you’ll need to support prime work.
- Determine your current corporate security posture. Prime contractors have the responsibility to ensure that the government data they interact with is protected at the appropriate level internally and throughout their supply chains. As the prime, the responsibility is yours.
- Review your current customer landscape. Are the government customers you currently serve on subcontracts likely to contract with you directly?
- Refine your current corporate policies, processes, and procedures to create efficiencies that drive down cost and time spend.
- Poll your current team to ensure any internal capability gaps are filled and your core competencies are supported.
- Secure your current supply chains. Having a robust and diverse supply chain is critical as a prime contractor. No one company does everything, and having a strong network of capable and reliable resources is key to providing a complete solution, especially as a small business.
- Determine the impact your bid will have on your existing prime relationships. While primes are required to provide you with past performance ratings, they aren’t required to support your prime bids. Without taking stock of existing prime relationships, the outcome could damage them.
- Evaluate your current contracts and past performance to identify work done as a first-tier subcontractor, as well as efforts performed as part of a joint venture, before requesting ratings from the prime.
- Forecast your recompete opportunities to develop a capture list to pursue as a prime bidder in the next 12 to 24 months. This gives you time to ghost the competition by highlighting your company’s value and strengths as the competition’s weakness, without mentioning the competition by name.
- Launch marketing efforts aimed at educating prospective government customers and corporate partners on the benefits of contracting with a small business. These advantages include industrial base development, innovation, accessing new technologies and the brightest minds, flexible/agile processes, and often better rates.
- When opportunities are released, be prepared to craft compelling and compliant proposals utilizing the past performance ratings as evidence of ability to perform.
Entering the government contracting industry looks slightly different for every business. While it has just become easier with the changes to the law, businesses of all sizes need to take an adequate amount of time to assess the risk before making the leap from subcontractor to prime. The process sounds straightforward, but it’s a long-term strategy with no guarantees of success.
Chelsea Meggitt , CEO of Collaborative Compositions, has an MBA from the University of Washington and is a business strategist and government contracting consultant with more than a decade in the industry. She works with small and mid-size businesses to launch and expand their government contracting business and has a knack for identifying the path of least resistance to achieving government contracting success.
Federal contracting officers are no different. They too enjoy having a variety of choices. That’s getting tougher for them.
With the consolidation of prime weapons contractors from 51 in the 1990s to five in 2022, the number of options available to government customers has steadily dropped over the past 30 years. To stand out in today’s competitive landscape, primes need to be asking themselves how they can provide their government customers with more options through their already held contract vehicles.
One approach—build out a robust and varied small business pipeline to offer your government customers accessible options.
The benefits to large primes of sustaining small supplier and teaming partner networks are five-fold:
Lower perceived risk: If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that a single point of failure, like a sole supplier of a critical component, is a significant risk that can cause a catastrophic system failure.
In federal contracting terms, vendors with single points of failure in their supply chains run higher risks of delays and cost overruns than those with diversified supply chains of healthy small businesses. If the goal is to maintain a high rate of availability and reliability, having a robust supply chain helps ensure that and lowers perceived risk in the customer’s eyes.
Best targeted solution: Small businesses have a unique advantage of being able to pivot quickly and provide agile and responsive development processes that truly adapt to evolving edge requirements. They often provide a niche or specialized product that isn’t yet offered by large system integrators.
Offering a small/large business pairing can deliver more value and allow the prime and their customer to access bleeding-edge tech as a faster alternative to developing it in-house.
Access new markets: The first contract is the hardest to win. This is no different for large primes. When contemplating new market entry, large primes can look to their small business counterparts with existing contracts or other footholds in agencies of interest.
Supporting small businesses for set-aside bids limits the competition further and allows the prime, as a subcontractor, to get a piece of a pie that would otherwise be limited. Ultimately, the customer gets additional capabilities from the small prime.
New technology integration: Large primes with varied supply chains of agile small businesses are substantially more likely to be conscious of emerging tech and keep interoperability in mind while developing and maintaining their large platforms. Small businesses can integrate technology rapidly.
Congressional satisfaction: Congressional interest in small business mentor-protégé programs has increased in recent years for a variety of reasons, but primarily because they help small businesses become competitive as federal contractors. That, in turn, creates and retains jobs.
Mentor firms have incentives to maintain more resilient supply chains and meet subcontracting goals. They can receive reimbursement of certain expenses for participation.
Maintaining a robust and varied portfolio of small business partners gives your government customer more options and raises your odds of winning across the board.
#sofic2022 saw the largest in-person attendance ever at approximately 16,000 attendees in Tampa.
The theme “Campaigning with partners for integrated deterrence” was very clearly demonstrated with strong representation from international allies including #australia #UKDefence #InternationalDefenseCooperationDirectorateoftheIsraelMOD #TeamNorway and a variety of individuals from #allynations.
Integrated deterrence considers the #internationalpartners highlighted and the #crossdomain coordination demonstrated at #SOFIC2022. Representatives from every major command at #USSOCOM and representatives from each branch of the DoD were in attendance.
Much of the message communicated was “we are stronger together”.
In line with that message, many representatives spoke about what they need, in terms of technology, industry participation, and cross-domain coordination to accomplish their long-term vision. In each room were discussions of pathways for contracting, with each speaker highlighting accessibility and their available mechanisms for working together. This sentiment was reflected in speeches by Heidi Shyu, Jim Smith, Lisa Sanders, and others.
There were introductory panels and deep dives with the Program Executive Offices (#PEOs) that allowed industry participants to ask questions to understand how to better serve their mission sets. As well as panels with discussions around working with allies, developing technology faster, nuances of RFP sections, non-traditional contracting mechanisms, what it means to be SOF peculiar, and so much more.
On Tuesday afternoon Collaborative Compositions had the opportunity to sponsor the Govmates matchmaking event. The event matched buyers from various commands and large primes with innovative non-traditional businesses based on the buyer’s preferences to have 15 min conversations about product-market fit.
Co-sponsoring the event were Bank of America, ATI, and the Global SOF Foundation. This was an incredible opportunity to bring together small businesses with potential customers for open dialogue. The event was completely free for all to attend and provided an additional forum for discussion at the conference. It was especially helpful as the opportunity to schedule 1-1s with buyers was quickly filled up when made available online before the conference.
Aside from the highlights above, the #SOFDemonstration on #TampaBay was unforgettable. The large-scale scenario included numerous displays from special forces aircraft, divers, SEALs, ground vehicles, and more on the bay and around the Convention Center. The idea was the Mayor of Tampa had been captured and held hostage. #LittleBirds #Blackhawk #Snipers #groundforces #Armoredvehicles and a variety of #watercraft came together to portray a very real scenario with simulated (real blanks) live fire. With heavy fire all around and the smell of #gunpowder fresh in the air, tourists in Tampa that might have been unaware of the conference undoubtedly got the surprise of a lifetime.
There was without question a sense of urgency in terms of pacing threats and the speed of technology development, however, it seemed to be paired with a new openness to work with industry to identify and implement solutions faster. Having government decision-makers actively work to make themselves accessible to industry partners left me with a sense of optimism, and a conference experience I will never forget.
More to come soon…..
Merit is a market invention agency. More than a traditional brand development agency, Merit maintains a focus on achieving category leadership for its clients regardless of their current size. Business strategy drives everything at Merit. These are the folks who put strategic intent above all else and in doing so help shape the future. As defined by Merit: Market invention is a paradigm shift that rejects industry standards in favor of a bold, new vision. Merit is driving that shift to shape a bold new future with its clients.
DIB Tech Talk Episode:
Have you ever wondered what the future of defense contracting holds? What about how you can help shape the future of the defense industry?
This video features Market Invention expert Adam Vasquez talking about shaping the future of defense contracting. Adam is an expert at redefining markets to shape the future.This conversation focuses on the trends shaping the future of the defense industry.
About Collaborative Compositions:
We provide business development consulting services for the federal sector.
Conferences, industry days, forums, and other face-to-face activities have long been corporate marketing plan staples in every industry. These events can create an environment that brings together prospects and existing customers, competitors, partners, and suppliers under one roof to network and make lasting impressions. When the number of in-person events dropped during the pandemic many companies significantly scaled back marketing efforts and spending to save costs elsewhere. After all, conference attendance can get expensive when adding the cost of admission, travel, lodging, meals, transportation, and time away from work to attend.
For many small businesses in the government contracting market, these events can be invaluable in the networking, brand awareness, lead generation, and customer interaction opportunities they can provide. While it is incredibly important to be cost-conscious as a small business in the defense industry, the return of in-person events presents a unique opportunity to get back in front of the prospects you care about. When it comes to conferences in the federal sector, where you are matters. With hundreds if not thousands of events being produced and held specifically for the federal sector every year, it’s clearly not practical to attend every show that seems interesting.
The following ten tips will help you make sure you see a positive ROI and get the best results from conferences you decide to attend.
- Start with the basics: Ask yourself what you want to accomplish by attending an event. Identify your goals and narrow them down to a primary objective.
- Then determine which events cater to your market or niche. Make a list to start from by checking industry associations, pages like govevents, trade media, or even with large prime contractors. Then, narrow it down by looking into the event producer. Are they reputable with a history of successful, large-scale, well-attended events or do they have very little evidence of successful past events?
- What does it cost to attend or exhibit? Is it local? Do you have to send multiple employees to host a booth? Determine the expense of time, money, personnel and compare to the ROI that would be expected from that.
- Next, if it is an annual or bi-annual event, what does attendance at previous conferences look like? How many people, exhibitors, competitors, and leaders in your industry typically attend?
- In-person events like AFCEA WEST boasted somewhere in the ballpark of 14,000 attendees in the years pre-pandemic, the return of the in-person event in 2022 (two years into the pandemic) boasted half of that level with about 7,000 attendees
- The number of attendees is also important to consider when thinking about potential visibility. Small businesses especially need to understand how to stand out amongst the masses of other attendees.
Now that you have decided on the conference(s) to attend you’ll want to make the most of your attendance.
- Study attendee lists and floor plans. Make a list of the exhibitors, attendees, speakers, prospects, and competitors you want to meet with. Take note of where they will be and when.
- Schedule meetings ahead of time and identify the conference sessions you want to attend along with what you want to get out of them. Plan to have an elevator speech as well as a more focused pitch for meetings with prospective customers. Bring materials for taking notes and capturing information at the meetings, panels, and sessions you attend.
- Whenever possible come prepared with specific opportunities to talk to target prospects about. Bring specific and relevant informational materials, projects of mutual interest, or specific synergistic capabilities, not general info that will get lost in the weeds
- Plan to advertise your attendance before you go! Utilize the hashtags, follow the event page for updates, post about your attendance on social media, use linkedin and other channels to determine who is talking about and attending the event and actively engage with their content. Write brief notes about what you’re getting out of the conference at the time and be sure to tag people that are at the conference that you want to see or have already met with on linkedin and other socials as well.
- If you exhibit— take the right tchotchkes. In the age of cyber awareness, most vendors know computers in the federal sector are locked down yet year after year I continue to see companies bringing USB drives or other plug-ins. Bringing SWAG that shows the lack of market awareness can do more harm than good. Alternatively, great giveaways are not only memorable but lasting. Several years ago, I was at a ChallengeHER event at which attendees each received a Rebecca Minkoff canvas bag that says, “Shop Small”. Due to the quality and the lasting message, I still use the bag to this day.
- Finally, don’t forget to do a write-up after you attend! Let people who couldn’t attend live vicariously and give them the highlights, share the knowledge you gained, and follow up with everyone you met. Make sure to take note of what worked and what didn’t as well as noting whether there might be interest in exhibiting or speaking at a future conference. Follow up with hashtags and quick notes with photos during the event AND after the event to stir up buzz about your attendance and start conversations for weeks and months after the event.
Conferences and other industry events can be invaluable resources for growing small businesses. These tips will help you pick the best events and identify and maximize ROI on the events you decide to attend.
Govmates has assisted with more than 30,000 matches from their system of more than 4,500 government contractors. They are experts in creating valuable relationships within the federal sector.
Govmates is a technology scouting platform. They merge the best practices of technology as well as the human element to promote non-traditional defense contractors within the federal community. Govmates is providing amazing new resources and relationship development opportunities via their partnership with OT Consortia Management firm ATI.
DIB Tech Talk Episode:
Have you ever wanted an unlimited Rolodex of resources? What about hand-picked matches to help grow your government contracting business?
We discuss the way they’re providing assistance to large and small federal contractors as well as providing a matchmaking platform. This enables government agencies to connect one-on-one with small and non-traditional defense contractors. Federal Contractors use this support for small business outreach, market research, sources sought, and supplier diversity initiatives.
We work closely with world class partners like Govmates and we deliver valuable resources and helpful information. Our goal is to help drive enterprise as well as defense innovation throughout the country.
More about the Strides Agency:
The Strides Agency is a digital marketing and communications agency and you can find out more about the Strides Agency at Strides.Agency
Stay tuned for more interesting DIB Tech Talk episodes coming soon!
Have you ever wondered how the defense innovation ecosystem works with venture capital and the everyday entrepreneur to drive the commercialization of defense and dual-use technologies? In this DIB Tech Talk interview, I talk with Principal of FedTech Mike Bynum about how he works with entrepreneurs, start-ups, and even established contractors to drive the democratization of Deep Tech. We discuss the role of venture capital in defense technology development, how FedTech helps facilitate an entrepreneur-driven innovation ecosystem, and how the defense community benefits from these efforts.
About FedTech: Backed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), FedTech is a unique private venture firm commercializing deep tech across DoD, NASA, DoE, universities and other national labs. FedTech builds startups around breakthrough technology from the world’s most advanced research facilities.
About Mike: Mike leads the Defense Innovation Accelerator to empower entrepreneurs by facilitating the co-development of startups around breakthrough technologies. Prior to FedTech Mike lead the Sports Tech and Esports focused Global Accelerator at Stadia Ventures and was on the boards of The BALSA Foundation and the Esports Trade Association.
Collaborative Compositions works closely with world class partners like Mike and FedTech to deliver high value resources and helpful information to drive entrepreneurialism and defense innovation throughout the country.
More about the Strides Agency: The Strides Agency is a digital marketing and communications agency. Find out more about the Strides Agency at Strides.Agency
Stay tuned for more interesting DIB Tech Talk episodes coming soon!
A growing buzz term in Government Contracting over the past several years has been Other Transaction Authority (OTA) or Other Transaction (OT). Chances are if you work in the government contracting industry you have heard the term. Since the 2015 and 2016 NDAAs Congress has made several adjustments to clarify and expand the use of OTA. For example, in FY 2018, Congress enacted a law requiring the DoD to prefer the use of OTs for science and technology and prototype programs.
Most of the OTs the public will see are run with a consortium-based model, in which an intermediary third-party firm (consortium manager) forms a consortium usually focused on a specific technology focus area and acts as the facilitator for the government-industry interactions. These consortia are marketed as a more efficient and lower barrier to entry way to work with the Department of Defense and Civilian Government agencies.
A comprehensive list of all the OTA consortia is hard to come by, but this list by MITRE’s AiDA (Acquisition in the Digital Age) is typically up to date. Benefits for small businesses participating in these consortia can include increased visibility with government and prime customers, faster funding, more teaming opportunities, and cost share requirements that incentivize large prime contractors to work with non-traditional small companies.
The increase in spend on OTs is not surprising considering an OT approach allows government to get money out the door faster than traditional FAR contracting and gives the government substantially more flexibility when forming business arrangements with industry members. Jon Harper summarized the explosion of growth in the use of OTAs in a 2019 article in National Defense Magazine
“The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act expanded their application. OTAs are now available for basic, applied and advanced research projects and for prototype projects and follow-on production, noted the Govini report titled, “Evaluating the Innovative Potential of Other Transaction Authority Investments.”
“To ensure U.S. military advantage, it is imperative for DoD to partner with businesses and academia to incorporate innovative technological advancements into military capability,” the study said. “DoD is increasingly using OTAs to leverage commercial technology for research and prototyping.”
Following the change in the NDAA, obligation totals grew by 122 percent, eventually reaching a total of $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2018, according to the report.”
Rolling into Calendar Year 2022 the trend towards OT use hasn’t changed. In fact, the government’s use of OTAs has skyrocketed going from $3.4 Billion in 2018 to over $7 Billion in 2019 and the global pandemic served to accelerate the trend. Early predictions for OTA spending in 2021 top $12.5 Billion on COVID related expenses alone according to an article in NextGov.
“Congress allocated trillions of dollars to federal agencies to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and, in an effort to get that money out the door quickly, the top three spenders awarded more than $12.5 billion using an opaque acquisition method known as other transaction authorities, or OTAs, according to a government analysis.”
With an increased focused on supply chain surety and technological advancements via R&D it’s likely the trend towards OTA spending will increase.
For industry looking to capitalize on the OTA BOOM they’ll have a maze to navigate of various OTA consortia with different managing entities that have different philosophies on what an OT really should be. Most, if not all require annual membership dues of $250 or more and what industry members will find behind the closed access doors of the members only portal varies with the management firm.
To ensure small businesses capture the value available via OTs it’s important they keep their eye on the prize when adding OTs to their contracting portfolios. Here are some tips for picking consortia to join:
- Do your research on the Management Entity
- What is their philosophy/what role do they take?
- What benefits does membership receive?
- Make sure the technology focus areas, sponsors (DoD, Civilian, other), and previously awarded technology profiles align with the business’s strategic direction
- Check if cross consortia membership is available and supported by the management entity. You want to get visibility with multiple sponsors and ensure cross-domain solutions are realized where appropriate.