Does the deal that a new federal business partner just brought to you for federal fiscal year-end seem too good to be true? It probably is. A lot of business gets done this time of year, but sometimes by companies operating on the fringe. These companies could be trying to get money from you now with the promise of more federal money later. If someone brings a project or idea to you that doesn’t match your experience, trust your experience. If you don’t have any in this market, rely on a partner who has the experience you need.
The dedication to closing the fiscal year strong is a good one. This is, after all, the time of year when most government contractors hit, or miss, their fiscal-year business goals. This momentum, however, can lead to deals that are bad for your business. Here are some tips your firm should follow to ensure that any “bluebird” deal that comes your way doesn’t end up being a buzzard:
Is the company authorized to sell the items or services they bring to the table? This may seem like an obvious question to ask, but a surprisingly high number of contractors don’t ask it. They assume that the new partner is legitimate. Don’t. Ask questions. Make sure you see the proper paperwork. Is the company authorized to re-sell in the federal market, or just commercially? Don’t get involved with a partner that may jeopardize your other business relationships with legitimate re-sellers.
Does the company have any federal experience? Again, perhaps this is obvious, but it is often still a problem area. A would-be new market entry calls and promises you a substantial portion of a federal deal. It sounds like a good opportunity. However, check their bona fides before proceeding. What federal or state agencies have they sold to? Do they have actual relationships with the proposed customer? If you team up with an inexperienced contractor, your company could find itself doing most of the lifting on an opportunity that may or may not actually be viable. This can actually take resources away from more promising projects you were tracking, leading to a double loss.
What reputation does the company have? Is the company on the Excluded Parties List? Is the company willing to share past performance evaluations with you? The bottom line is that your company has worked hard to build a solid reputation as a reliable and trusted federal business partner. Don’t give that away at year-end by teaming with someone who has a bad reputation, or worse, has been terminated for default and is awaiting their turn before a suspension and debarment becomes official. This has happened to more than one well-intentioned contractor.
Are its Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contracts current? Are the items/solutions they’re offering through the contract actually on the contract? There are substantial anecdotes in this market about companies that offer to sell items through an expired contract. They see the expiration date as a mere technicality. There are many, many more stories of companies stating or implying that goods or services wanted by the customer are part of their contract when, in fact, the items for this particular project are totally out of scope for that company’s contract. If your partner can’t deliver, you may be stuck holding the bag while an impatient federal customer waits for project completion. Make sure you review the currency and completeness of your team member’s contract.
Not only are these topics important for your company when considering the best federal business partners to do business with, they are also important for actual federal buyers. If you’re competing against a company that may be less than what they say they are, make sure you can show your credentials and recommend that the customer ask for the same from all prospective contractors. Feds are just as liable to jump for a “too good to be true” deal at year-end. Helping your customers protect themselves can be the business move that makes you look good and increases the chance that you get the business.