There are many different barriers and processes when doing business with the government. It can be challenging entering this space if your only experience is in the private sector.
Long Capture is a team of veterans and military spouses that has helped over 206 companies win more than 300 contracts. We’ve won our clients $209M in the last 3 years of which $30M was sole source Phase III. Our goal is to leverage our experience to help you understand how to work with the federal government.
Relationships vs Processes
The private sector focuses on who you know, like, and trust as well as an understanding of your customer’s problems. Meanwhile, the government prioritizes acquisition processes and systems over relationships. This system is shaped around getting “competition.” The government will take a requirement and put it into a package that allows multiple vendors to come in, submit proposals, and compete based on the requirements. Compliance in these proposals is key. Even if a government organization is interested in working with you, you will be disqualified if your proposal is over the page limit requirement in the proposal package.
When you win a contract with the government, there will also be additional requirements. These can include cybersecurity, ownership, vaccines, accounting, etc. Additionally, the fiscal year and budgets differ from the private sector. For example, if you are under a continuing resolution, a temporary funding for a limited amount of time, it may limit the spending and purchases the government can make over a length of time.
The government follows this process:
- Requirement Development: The government end-user identifies a problem or need. Often, building these requirements are an additional duty for the end-user, and they don’t fully understand their problem or the tech solutions that exist in the private sector.
- Acquisition Planning: The written request goes to the contracting office.
- RFP Draft and Release: The contracting office helps draft the request for proposal (RFP).
- Evaluation: The proposals are evaluated against strict criteria. The evaluators are usually looking for someone who meets the minimum requirements, not someone who exceeds them. Price is also extremely important.
- Contract Award: The small business is awarded a contract. The time from proposal submission to award can vary.
Contracting officers can be a factor that slows business development. Often, they won’t even meet with the businesses to hear about the technology. They do not own the actual requirements and needs that are in an RFP and are not usually taking input from the industry back to the end-user. Their main goal is legal compliance. Their role is to help the government end-user develop and release the RFP. The contracting officers are also focused on getting competition. They broaden the requirements to open it up to multiple vendors.
At the end of the day, it is about what is in the written proposal. The proposal must be compliant and meet the evaluation criteria. Compliance means that the proposal meets the minimum requirements of the RFP. This can be formatting, file names, numbering, etc.
Evaluation criteria are the benchmarks that the evaluators are looking for businesses to meet. These criteria vary, but they can include: proving private sector success, creating a plan to mitigate risks, proving technical merit, etc. Relationships and business intelligence can help at times, but sometimes, the government takes steps to reduce bias by redacting company names.
So, what might all of this look like in action? Russell Long, Long Capture’s CEO, experienced these excessive delays first-hand during his time as a contracting officer.
He has a variety of stories around the complications of the processes required to do something even as basic as buying a laptop. He expressed that even if the end-user has a specific laptop brand that they want, the contracting officer will have to break the decision process down, requiring the end-user to provide the specifics of what they need in detail (screen size, processing power, etc.). They are then required to allow for competition between multiple vendors, opening the floor for each top bid based on requirements. However, if even one requirement is missing, such as a webcam, the process will restart.
It can take many months for this process to complete for something as simple as a computer, so imagine what this might look like for multi-million-dollar technology grants.
It is challenging to work the system, get your foot in the door, and get through the acquisition process. Long Capture plays this game better and lowers barriers to entry.
We leverage the SBIR program to get our clients sole source authority. Sole source authority makes you eligible to pursue a Phase III sole-source contract. Long Capture’s goal is to get you sole source eligibility so that you don’t have to go through the vetting process, compete against many other companies, drive down your price, water down requirements, or sit through extended timelines.
We help you use the SBIR process and sole source-eligibility to work directly with government end-users so that you can understand their problem and the solution that they need.
If you are looking to pursue government funding for your small business but don’t know where to start, contact Long Capture Today, and let one of our experts guide you through the process.