Sometimes you’ve got to remember the basics. There are some best practices you can implement in the world of government contracting to make sure you don’t get caught out in the open. For some tips on how to stay ahead of the game, Federal News Network’s Eric White talked with Larry Allen, President of Allen Federal Business Partners on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

Interview Transcript: 

Eric White Of course, you know, you’re always invited here. So, what are some of those best practices that you think that contractors can keep in mind while they are going through their daily workings?

Larry Allen Eric, I think the bottom line here is that contractors can oftentimes get distracted about the latest business numbers, the latest federal spending trends, whatever cabinet secretary or other senior official has to say. And while those can be important, really hitting the basics, the fundamentals, is equally, if not more important. And I’m writing this week about some of the things that I’ve observed recently that should be obvious to contractors, but based on my experience, isn’t always. And the first thing that I’m talking about is the old Boy Scout motto, which is be prepared. And recently, what I’ve run into was a rash of companies that they come on to a meeting, they go to a meeting physically, and they’re not ready to meet. They don’t have their notes. They’re not prepared that come hastily from another meeting. And I can only thing if they’re sitting in front of federal agencies doing that, what the agency customers might most be thinking, they must be thinking that their time isn’t valued, that, this company has other fish to fry that are more interesting to them. You know, the things that you don’t as a government contractor want your potential customer to feel about you. So, my first piece of information is be prepared.

Eric White Gotcha. And what else can they do to make sure that they’re not only prepared, but prepared for the things they don’t see coming?

Larry Allen Well, that’s the second one, Eric. And that’s where I’m telling companies you have to be vigilant. And when I’m talking about vigilance here, this is the fact that the regulatory underpinnings of your market change on a very frequent basis. There are, you know, well over a dozen pages of open, federal Acquisition Regulation cases right now. And that’s before you get into executive orders, things that individual agencies might be doing for their own procurement policies. So, the market that you’re doing business in today is not going to be the same around that you’re doing business in a month or two from now. And you need to understand how those things are changing. Recently we’ve seen GSA, for example, on their much-anticipated Oasis Plus contract issue, poster board or post solicitation amendments after the offers imposed because they had to keep contract clauses for things like tracking federal priority orders because the market keeps changing. So, companies shouldn’t get lulled into a false sense of security that they have all of their compliance bases covered because there are new bases is to touch coming down all the time.

Eric White I don’t mean to get any more zen on you, but, you know, so you’re saying be prepared. Keep an eye out. But how do you make sure that you’re staying on track of what you’re trying to take care of, right here and now?

Larry Allen Eric, this is a frequent thing that I touch on, and it’s actually a little early in the fiscal year to talk about it, but it’s important anyway. And that is to be focused. But you have to stay focused. If you’re in the government market and not seen this lack of focus be an issue for both new market entries and experienced businesses. And Eric, really of all sizes. So, and that is there’s an overwhelming temptation to look at the federal market and try to say yes to all of the potential business opportunities. That’s what I call the throw it up against the wall and see what sticks approach to the government market. That’s a recipe for frustration. You have to be focused. You have to do your due diligence to create your pipeline, and then continually vet that pipeline to make sure that the opportunities that you created to track three months ago were still valid. And also, are there any other opportunities that are coming down since then that you may want to add to your pipeline? Because things again, they change, they evolve. The pace of business is only going to accelerate between now and the end of the fiscal year. So, making sure that you stay focused on what you can rightly try to capture is going to be the difference between being successful, making good use of your resources and waking up October 1st feeling like maybe you’ve been on an all-night bender.

Eric White We’re speaking with Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners. Switching gears now, you know, we saw the recent report by the Cyber Safety Review Board regarding Microsoft’s security standards and how they were deemed as falling short. And then Microsoft coming back saying, we just did whatever, you know, what we could afford to do with what you were paying us. And you think that may be a good place to start a conversation on? You know, there’s been so much emphasis on making sure that people aren’t bilking the government out of extra dollars. You think it’s gone too far the other way?

Larry Allen Yeah, I really do, Eric. I think in a lot of cases, we have a fundamental disconnect here between what the government’s expecting, particularly when they’re buying commercial solutions and what they’re willing to pay for, their will that the expectations, like all of ours, are, often exceed what the budget is that we can pay for. And yet the predisposition is to hold contractors accountable for those extras, even though they’re not getting paid to provide that level of service. And the Microsoft example, I think is probably just one example of many. You look at FedRAMP. That’s another area where we’re seeing all the time today, particularly DoD organizations requesting top level FedRAMP or even a higher DoD equivalent. And the mission itself may not really call for that. But, you know, if it doesn’t have that top level branding, then maybe it doesn’t have the sense of internal importance. And yeah, my project is very important to me. So of course I want to ask for the highest FedRAMP standard possible. Well, the result of that is that while there are a lot of commercial companies who will build out a top level FedRAMP solution, they are not going to do it unless they’re going to get paid for it. You know, they can’t afford to just throw all these resources into the market based on what could happen. And agencies don’t want to pay for companies necessarily to stand up, accelerated FedRAMP standard. So, what does that mean? Well, it means that the pool of companies that can compete for that top level is pretty limited and limited only to those companies that do have the resources and don’t really have any other choice but to develop those standards. And you’re losing out on innovation and you’re losing out on competition that you don’t need to lose out on.

Eric White It’s the old adage of whenever you use a piece of government bought equipment, you’re using that of the lowest bidder, right?

Larry Allen You’re right. Yeah, right. And you have to pay attention and understand that, you know, if you want things, if I want that Mercedes convertible, then I’m going to have to work a little bit harder to get that Mercedes convertible, or I’m going to have to settle for maybe a five year old Prius.

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