Federal contractors share at least three things in common right now with the inauguration of a new President and the launch of perhaps a different looking federal market than the one we’ve known. While what, specifically, might not be fully known, one thing is assured: Federal business will not be dull this year. Let’s take a look at the three commonalities:
Waiting for Trump: Routine, mid-level business is conducted by federal agencies year-round. Anything else is on hold right now pending the installation of our new President and, more to the point for most federal contractors, the team he appoints to lead federal agencies.
Opinions vary on how disruptive or dramatically different the Trump Team will be. Early signs are that large programs with the distinct stamp of the outgoing Administration will be closely scrutinized at least and may be altered or shut down. New priorities may be very different, as will expectations on how quickly progress should be made.
Federal contractors need to prepare for new leaders who want things done quickly, but perhaps at a low cost, and perhaps with little attention to process. Some clues of what may happen will be released in the President’s State of the Union address he will give shortly after taking office. It will still be well into the spring and summer, though, before enough of the President’s Team is on the ground to have a real impact in shaping the federal market.
You Must Wait Patiently: Precisely because of the timing of a new President and his people, contractors will have to exercise patience. Again, routine, non-controversial programs and projects will likely continue, but even they may be slowed as the people working on them get peeled away to brief the transition team or new appointees.
This reality has already been felt by many contractors and has them very frustrated. Unfortunately, patience will have to last for several more months, and not just because of the transition.
Most federal agencies will run out of money at the end of April, adding back uncertainty to just how much money agencies will have to spend this year and on what. If Congress, for example, decides to simply extend their Continuing Resolution through the entire Fiscal Year, new projects will have to wait till FY’18.
This is irresponsible, and ultimately more costly, from a management standpoint, but those points don’t mean it might not happen.
In the Meantime, Get Focused: Despite numerous discussions in the space and elsewhere, it is still amazing to see so many federal contractors use the “throw it against the wall” approach to federal business development. It’s a little bit of a mob mentality, too. “Everyone else is running over to the X Federal agency, there must be something going on there, so we should go there, too.” No. Do not do this. Stay focused.
Look at agency business forecasts, many of which can easily be found on-line. Get smart at industry events. Read trade publications. All of this can help you become more focused so that you can know with better certainty who is buying what you’re selling, how much they might buy, when they want to buy it, and a little about the personalities of the people you’re seeking to do business with. Each subsequent business call now has a higher likelihood of success and you’ll be making good use of your time and that of your potential federal customer.
The bottom line for federal business right now is to be patient, but gather as much information as you can about how your federal market may be changing in the months and years ahead.