Did you know the feds can award a contract to you in one day, sometimes less? Did you know that new technology, not yet in current production, can be bought by the feds with few rules? Did you know that Department of Defense (DoD) buyers may soon be able to award your firm a purchase order up to $5,000, with no competition, and pay for it with a government credit card?
Don’t feel too bad if you didn’t know the answers to each of these questions. These flexible provisions aren’t well known. Unfortunately, they’re also not known by most government contracting officials. As a result, acquisition is often more complicated than it needs to be.
Even more traditional procurement flexibilities, like sole source contracting or small business set-asides, aren’t always well known or understood by government buyers who could save themselves a lot of time and headaches if they knew how better to use the tools provided to them.
When you understand, though, that 50 percent of federal contracting officials have less than 10 years of experience and that 25 percent have less than 5 years of experience, the failure of contracting officers to know about all of the tools in their kit becomes more understandable, if no less frustrating. Consider also that, in many agencies, including the DoD, senior leaders have been extremely reluctant to send anyone in their agency to a training class, lest it look like a Vegas-style boondoggle. New people, plus little effective training, equals an acquisition workforce that operates with one hand tied behind its back.
What does this mean to government contractors? It means you must take the time to get to know the flexibilities in federal buying rules that can make it easier for the government to do business with you. Simply put, if you know how the system works, then you’ll know how to make it work better for you. Put another way, a little investment of time can add up to real additional dollars.
You’ll be making your customer happy too. Showing an overloaded contracting officer (CO) how to save time, and still stay within the procurement rules, will earn you major kudos. That doesn’t mean that the CO will break rules to give you business, but it does mean you will have strengthened an important relationship. The nexus of relationships and process knowledge is the ideal place to consistently grow your federal business.
Still not convinced? Say a CO says they can’t do business with your firm because they can “only” buy from 8(a)’s located in Schenectady. Knowing the rules means being able to shoot down that “reason” and properly label it an “excuse”. Any good salesman will then be happy to take their chances at overcoming a buyer’s excuse. Knowing the rules doesn’t just make good things happen, it can prevent bad things from happening as well.
Studying federal acquisition rules may not sound like a ton of fun, but government business is like anything else: you get out of it what you put into it. You become better at controlling your company’s destiny if you don’t assume your buyer knows something he or she may not. October and November are great times to take classes and “get in the know”. Get educated and watch your business soar.