Authors: Helene Johnson, President, Bid2Win Consulting
The summer orchestra season has begun. Our first performance of the season features a medley of selections from the Broadway play, Fiddler on The Roof.
Most people have heard of this wonderful show, but do you know the meaning of all its songs?
For example, is Matchmaker about finding future spouses for unmarried children? Or is it about finding the right teammates to bid a deal? Ok, you’re right; it’s the former. But to tie it to business development, let’s assume they are really referring to teaming.
Staying Single Has Its Advantages
Going solo on a deal does have advantages for sure. Two reasons come to mind immediately:
Direct Labor (DL) – no need to share billets. When a company subs to another company, they are looking for revenue. Labor, also known as billets, allows the Subcontractor to bill time for their resources in support of the program. That is great if the bidder (Prime) needs skills that they do not have or subject matter experts that help enhance their offering. The negative side is that when the Prime gives a billet to their Subcontractor, in most circumstances, it is less revenue for the Prime. Also, the more DL a Prime supports on a program, the more Bid and Proposal (B&P) the bidder can spend on future captures. (That is a topic for another day.)
Management and Communication – it is easier to manage your own company’s staff than managing, and in some cases, controlling others. Remember, today’s teammate can become tomorrow’s competitor. How many times has a Subcontractor been told by the Prime Contractor not to go directly to the customer for any requests? There can be several reasons for that:
The customer has requested that they have one primary point of contact to interface with. Customers do not want to worry about what company a contractor works for. They see contractors as a team. This type of dynamic is referred to as a blended team.
The Prime Contractor wants to control messages to the customer. After all, they are ultimately responsible for performance. If the project is going well, the team is doing well. If there are issues to be fixed, it is the Prime’s responsibility to fix them. Either way, performance is reflected on the Prime.
As stated above, a teammate can easily become a competitor, especially as the period of performance is coming to an end. Months before a recompete is to occur, the competitors begin to swarm the existing team. Strategies are executed. Can the deal be shaped so the Prime can no longer bid as Prime? Are their teammates going to go out on their own and prime? Can we pick off the teammates and add them to our team to get intel, key personnel, relationships, etc.?
Neutralizing the rogue teammate: In some cases, especially in teams with many teammates (Subcontractors), there can be that rogue teammate who joined your team to get access to the client and pick up corporate experience citations that they can leverage for future growth. After all, if a company wants to grow in the federal space, there are only two choices – prime or sub. If they do not have the ability to prime (because they’re not a prime holder of the vehicle of choice, do not have an approved accounting system, are new to the federal space, or are stretched too thin to prime), they must sub. But to grow in this market, at some point, the company must prime. If the teammate set their eyes on the Prime’s work or even on the customer or agency, at some point they may become more aggressive and start shaping the work toward themselves as the Prime Contractor.
Teaming has Advantages as Well
Regardless of your company’s size, there are many great reasons to team – whether you are a Prime or a Subcontractor.
You want to prime but do not have the vehicle. Have no fear. You have options:
You can buy the vehicle. That is great for the long term but not for everyone. There may not be time for such a transaction, or you may not have the funds. You may not even fit the vehicle. For example, you want to prime an 8a set aside, but you are not an 8a. Or you want to prime an agency vehicle but do not have the clearances necessary to work in that agency. This is not an ideal alternative for so many reasons, and even if you do buy the vehicle, teammates will most likely be part of the deal.
You can form a JV or CTA. These are teaming alternatives and come with their own set of rules and restrictions. Remembering that JVs and Mentor Protégé JV are typically for large contract value multiple opportunities. The Managing Partner must be a prime on a vehicle for the JV to prime the vehicle. CTAs are typically for a single opportunity. And at least one member of the CTA must be the lead prime and be a prime on the vehicle for the opportunity.
You decide to team with someone who has the vehicle, and you become a significant Subcontractor with guaranteed work share or swim lanes. This is the most common reason to team. You may not be the Prime of record, but you can negotiate a very lucrative deal, especially if you bring work experience and customer intimacy.
You are a large business and have to submit a small business plan. This is the common reason large businesses team. It is common practice for full and open acquisitions (not small business set asides) to expect a combination of set percentages of socio-economic set asides. This is how agencies meet their small business goals while meeting their needs with expertise provided by larger companies.
You are a small business and either lack the customer intimacy, past performance requirements, vehicle, or maturity to prime. This is the main reason companies need to sub.
Matchmaker – Find Me a Match
Ok, so we want to team. Now how do we find the right teammates? Well, that depends on whether you are the Prime or the Subcontractor.
If you plan to prime, you may need teammates to meet your socio -economic goals. Or you may need teammates that have expertise that your company does not. Or you may need teammates that have past performance citations that you may not know the customer or agency well, and the Subcontractors have either name recognition or customer intimacy. Or the best reason to team – you can add either the incumbent and/or their Subcontractors to your team.
If you cannot prime and want to bid on the opportunity, you need to find the BEST Prime to team with. It makes no sense to bid a deal as a Subcontractor if the Prime team cannot win.
Now, certainly, you can go the traditional route one uses to find someone to date. You can “put it out there,” letting potential matches know you are looking and hope that you make the cut and attract their attention to ask you out.
In the case of teaming, you would put your contact information on a potential bidders list on GovWin or other online sources. Or you attend a bidder conference and “work the room,” hoping to gain a potential Prime’s attention.
You could also participate in Happy Hours, or other activities focused on the buying agency or technological needs and again “work the room” to find the Primes. Or you can spend days on Google and GovWin or other online sources analyzing who the incumbent is, who their subs are, who the competition might be, and who has a chance to beat the incumbent. The final option is to reach out to your network of colleagues and ask around to see if they know the competitive landscape.
All these options are undoubtedly doable but very time-consuming and costly. And in most cases, it involves blind luck – all the stars align, you find the winning Prime, and they offer you a great deal to join their team.
Or you can save time and money and contact a Matchmaker. A Matchmaker knows who is single, divorced, looking for a match, and who has the best dowry. The Matchmaker knows who the best Match is. After all, making great matches is how they bring back repeat customers.
The same thing goes for teaming. We at Bid2Win Consulting are Matchmakers. We have the data and the relationships to know who is priming, who wants to subcontract, who are the incumbents, who are the needed leaders in the technology, who has the vehicles to prime, and who wants to sell their vehicles. We have done the work, gathered the data, built the relationships, and know who to call to make a match.
If we don’t have the answers right away, we can find out, because that is what we do. We are strategists who keep up with the technological trends and the market. We’ve done our homework and we know people who know people. We have lists of the top 400 GovCon companies: who they work for, what vehicles they have, what they do, what their socio-economic categories fit, and how to reach them. And we keep this information up to date – altering the information as changes occur.
Yes, that information is available but again, why go through the time and trouble when you can just call a Matchmaker?
Are you interested in a Match?
Reach out, and we will get things started. We’ll soon have you humming another of our fabulous performance songs, If I Were a Rich Man……