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Growing from within

The grass is always greener on the other side. Is it though? 
This is a prevailing mindset in Federal Contracting. Specifically, companies who have been awarded work by an agency tend to put more energy into prospecting for new work with different organizations. For example. A company has been awarded their first contract at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They celebrate the victory, get to work delivering against the contract, and almost immediately divert their attention to the Food and Drug Administration or an agency outside of Health and Human Services. This is not to say they don’t occasionally check in with the Contracting Officer to see if any new opportunities surface, but more energy is expended trying to establish a foothold in a new organization instead of increasing their presence in a place where they are already known by some, possibly liked, and trusted at least for this first requirement. I see this strategy as a misstep. Here’s why.
Generally speaking, Federal Contractors seem to believe the Contracting Activity making the award to them is the only or primary organization of relevance to them, for the entire agency.  This is rarely the case and literally personifies leaving money on the table. Let me paint a picture for you.

A few years ago, I led an exercise with the CEO of a thriving services company with a little more than $10M in annual revenues, primarily from federal agencies.  The business leader was a member of our first Wingman SOARR™ cohort and was executing a strategy of having their team prospect for new customers and asked for advice. They described their current relationships and contracts that included extensive work at NIH. The intent was to grow their business outside of NIH based on the belief they were doing as much business as they could with that organization. To validate or refute that belief, we did a query into overall spending by NIH when the agency was buying related services. We distilled the information to identify relevant Contracting Offices within NIH. The very first revelation for the CEO was the fact there were more than ten contracting offices purchasing what they were selling. At the time, they had a relationship with one contracting office that had issued nearly $10 million in awards to the company over multiple years. The next revelation was the fact four other offices spent as much and more than the one they worked with. In fact, contracting offices in the first and second spots nearly doubling the obligations of their contracting office. After additional validation, and a look at the competitive field, how the buys were being made and budget trends, the decision to further develop their presence at NIH was put into play. Today, this business leader has expanded their footprint within NIH and to other agencies, and celebrates revenues of more than $20M annually, partly because they decided to grow from within.
Why does this matter? The short answer is time, money, and morale. This is a scenario we conduct on a regular basis with companies in our Ethical Stalking for Government Contractors® Bootcamp, and SOARR™ REFUEL & REFOCUS programs. We call it a census and it applies to buyers, customers, opportunities, requirements, programs, and more. It’s part of (should be part of) strategy development initially and ongoing. After all, budgets, priorities, and requirements change, right? This matters because it takes more time and money to establish traction in a place where you are not known, versus a place where you are known. This is not to say developing new customers is not needed, but there needs to be a logic applied to making this decision that leverages the value of what has already been accomplished. A frequently used word that, in my opinion, is understood less frequently, is stakeholders. Do you know the stakeholder individuals and organizations associated with the efforts your company is supporting? Who are they and how much do you know about them. Why are they considered stakeholders? What is their “stake” in the effort you are supporting, and might they be your next customer? Are they within the same agency or department, or is it an external stakeholder?

The real story here is how well do you know and understand Buyer and Customer organizations, especially the ones you are currently engaged with? How many different customers does the contracting office support, and how many contracting offices does the customer rely on?

During fiscal year 2022, total contract obligations consisted of procurements issued by more than 3300 uniquely identified contracting activities. These were made possible by the requirements and funding dollars submitted by more than 15K uniquely identified funding activities. Do you have a solid grasp of which ones matter to you?

Peace, Health, and Success,

Go-To-Guy Timberlake
Chief Visionary Officer and Co-Founder