“Good teaming wins business” – Co-Founder & CEO Tom Skypek’s Interview on Federal News Radio

GovBizConnect’s Co-Founder & CEO Tom Skypek was interviewed today on Federal News Radio. Tom appeared on the Ready to Prime show, hosted by Columbia Technology Partners’ Allen Scott, to discuss contractor teaming in the government market.

Good Teaming Wins Business

by Allen Scott

On this edition of Columbia Technology Partners Ready to Prime, Allen Scott discusses one of the most important parts of government contracting, the art of teaming. It’s not about checking boxes as so many people will suggest, it’s about relationships and capabilities and fully examining the statement of work to fill in any gaps you may find with quality partners.tom-skypek

Tom Skypek is aware of all aspects of teaming and takes it so seriously he co-founded GovBizConnect based on the principals he’s learned about the subject in his years of producing winning teams.

Listen and learn, it’s not just business, it’s a relationship that wins business.

Online Lending for Government Contractors: An Interview with The Credit Junction’s Sergio Rodriguera

Small and medium-sized government contractors have a range of financing options available to them from traditional loans underwritten by brick and mortar establishments to factoring (invoice advances) and crowdfunding. Each form of financing carries with it its own risks and should be evaluated carefully by the small business owner and his/her leadership team. Increasingly, there are more and more options available for small business owners from online lenders.download

For this post, we had the opportunity to speak with Sergio Rodriguera, Chief Strategy Officer with The Credit Junction, an online marketplace lending platform focused on providing working capital and supply chain financing solutions to small and medium businesses.

Q: In 2016, what are some of the most popular financing options available to small and medium-sized business owners?

A: Over the past several years there has been a host of new finance options available to small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). Some of these are financial technology (FinTech) firms that fall under three categories, including crowdfunding, marketplace and online lending platforms. Given that access to capital is still difficult for SMBs to secure from traditional financial institutions, these platforms offer business owners a wealth of new opportunities to meet the demands of a growing business.

Q: As you know the small business owner frequently wears many hats. Many are subject matter experts in their fields but may not necessarily have a hard finance background. Are there any resources you’d recommend to help the small business owner build his/her finance knowledge?

A: Being a small business owner is tough. Many start a business with a dream and invest in technology or tools to improve marketing or human resources, yet, do not invest in the “back office” to make their lives easier. I would highly recommend any business owner make an investment in either accounting software (like Quickbooks) or retaining an certified accountant. Having a pulse on the financials of one’s business is essential to understanding when it is time to increase inventory or bid on the next contract.

Q: For the new small businesses owner, where do you recommend they begin when analyzing their available financing options? Which questions should they be asking themselves with respect to risk, term, etc.?

A: I would suggest a small business owner start the process of finding their financing options by talking to their trusted network. That network must include their Chief Financial Officer, accountant or banker. With a good understanding of the financial health of the business, a business owner will know the best financing option for the company. Furthermore, the type of business will determine the best financing option for the business owner. For example, if your business has good collateral (assets or inventory), then this will help secure a more affordable loan rate.

Q: What are some of the most frequent finance challenges you see small business owners facing?

A: Small business owners have many challenges in building a growing business. Often times, small business owners fall prey to unreliable or opaque lenders who do not have the best interest of the small business owner in mind when providing financing.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see small business owners make when deciding on the best financing option for their company?

A: The most common mistake small business owners face when deciding on the best financing option is not reading the fine print of loan or term sheet that the lender provides. The small business owner should feel comfortable to ask questions of his or her lender at any point through the process. Your lender should be a partner for your business to help accelerate growth.

Q: Your company, The Credit Junction, is an online lender. Which type of lending options does your company offer?

A: The Credit Junction is an online lending platform focused on providing working capital and supply chain financing solutions to SMBs. The company employs an asset-based lending credit evaluation model, and offers businesses up to $5 million in capital availability in term loans, interest-only term loans and lines of credit.

Q: If a small business is interested in speaking with The Credit Junction about potential financing options, what is the best way for them to contact you?

A: I am happy to connect with any small business via email. I can be reached at sergio@thecreditjunction.com

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Government Contracting at the State and Local Level: An Interview with Onvia’s Lyndon Dacuan – Part II

GovBizConnect co-founder and CEO Tom Skypek had the opportunity to sit down with Lyndon Dacuan, a Market Analyst with government business intelligence firm Onvia. This is Part II of a two-part series on the State, Local, and Education (SLED) market. You can read Part I here.

Are there any industries in which there is particularly significant growth occurring in the SLED market right now?

Yes, Tom, there are. One of them is IT/Telecom which saw a 4.5% increase in published bid & RFP volumes in Q3 – 2015 vs the same quarter in 2014, the most notable growth rate increase of all major industries that sell into SLED. Here’s a chart showing how growth in IT/Telecom has played out on a quarterly basis over the last couple of years:

promo_IT_industry_snapshot [38362243]

Part of this growth could easily be attributed to IT/Telecom increasingly playing a role where it hasn’t before, or the rise in projects relating to the Internet of Things. The smart cities movement is one major motivator that has really helped to build that argument, especially in local government.

Additionally, the growing popularity of cooperative purchasing contracts among SLED agency buyers isn’t necessarily affecting the total amount of goods that are purchased in a given industry, but it is certainly affecting where goods from a few industries are purchased. Onvia put together an index to help rank the industries that are the best fits for cooperative contracts. Companies that sell office equipment, IT/telecom products, transportation equipment and industrial supplies all stick out as areas where more purchasing of these goods is happening through cooperative contracts. Companies in industries that are “above average” in the chart below should be assured that their product or service is available on cooperative contracts as agencies are increasingly buying from these industries using cooperative vehicles.promo_cooperative_puchasing_buying_index

One of the challenges facing federal contractors is the continued budget uncertainty and periodic threats of a federal government shutdown. Many state governments have similar budgetary challenges. How does this business risk manifest itself in the SLED market?

Budgetary challenges are certainly an issue at all levels of government. First, federal contractors who are afraid that federal government shutdown may affect their business, can help to “soften” that potential blow by diversifying their range of buyers across multiple levels of government.

Other trends in state government procurement spend have helped to alleviate their budgetary issues while continuing to service their community and vendors. Some of these trends include: Streamlined eProcurement, consolidating systems and contracts into fewer/larger contracts, buying through cooperative purchasing entities, using multiple award schedules (MAS) and limiting formal bids to only the largest purchases. We recently spoke to Chief Procurement Officers from California, New Mexico, Idaho as well as a representative from a leading national cooperative, NASPO ValuePoint, and Michael Keating of American City & County Magazine to get a full-perspective on state spending trends that impact budgets. Here’s a blog that I would recommend to GovBizConnect readers who are interested in learning more.

What is the best resource for a company to get educated on the contract vehicles available in a particular state?

For individual state contract vehicles I would recommend visiting the procurement websites for each state. Furthermore, the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers has government contracting advisers ready to assist contractors and help them maximize their success available in every state. Here’s where vendors can find the local PTAC best suited for their efforts: http://www.aptac-us.org

What are the most common products & services you offer to federal contractors entering the SLED market?

Onvia offers a variety of products for federal contractors who are entering the SLED market:

  • Project Center allows contractors to access past, current and future government projects in a single location. This product is used by our clients on a daily basis and new, relevant bids & RFP are delivered to them daily.
  • Term Contract Center helps our clients build and maintain a government sales pipeline by helping them target and identify long-term, multi-year contracts. This is a trend growing in popularly in the SLED market as mentioned previously.
  • Spending Forecast Center is an advanced intelligence tool that allows contractors to search within budget and planning documents, to help forecast future bid & RFP opportunities years before they are released. Our clients are able to use this tool to set up government sales well before the bid or RFP is even published.
  • Agency Center is a unique tool that delivers deep firmographic information including up-to-date key agency decision makers and purchase history. Our clients use Agency Center to better inform their agency research, outreach and marketing efforts.
  • Vendor Center helps contractors navigate competitive research in the vast and fragmented SLED market by tracking their competition in a convenient dashboard that allows our clients to see recent awards, identify areas of regional strength and weakness and reveal competitive gaps.
  • Purchase Order Analytics is a comprehensive purchase order database that can be used to do pricing research. Like federal government contracting, accurate pricing can make or break a bid response and this tool allows our clients to see what agencies are the top buyers of their product or service as well as insight into what agencies are paying for their offerings.

What is the best way for a federal contractor to learn more about Onvia’s capabilities?

The best way for contractors who are interested in learning more about how Onvia can help them succeed in the SLED market is to contact us or request a free demo via Onvia.com.

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Advanced Profile Search is Now Live on GovBizConnect

Advanced Profile Search is now live on GovBizConnect.com. We’re excited to launch this enhancement and we continue to seek feedback from our users on the features they like and what they’d like to see improved. Making your search experience faster and more robust is the next step in that journey of continuous improvement. Please continue to share your feedback with us at info@govbizconnect.com.

Improving Post-Award Contract Management: Thoughts on Steve Kelman’s Recent FCW Article

Writing today in FCW, Harvard Professor Steve Kelman asked the federal government contracting community to contemplate how best to improve post-award contract management. To facilitate discussion, he proposed three specific actions including expansion of the 18F program as well as independent verification and validation and personal service contracts (in certain instances).

Professor Kelman writes:

Within the area of public management, procurement is something of a neglected stepchild — especially considering the amount of money spent and the significance of contracting for accomplishing the government’s work. And post-award contract management is a stepchild of a stepchild, getting scant attention even from people engaged in contracting.

Yet the ultimate success or failure of a contracting effort is very dependent on how well the government manages the contract after it is awarded. Most contracting failures are significantly failures of contract management. In its annual 2015 annual report on the Performance of the Defense Acquisition System, the Department of Defense, citing a 2014 report by the Institute for Defense Analysis, noted that weapons systems “started during the reforms of the mid-1990s — which encouraged a more ‘hands off’ and ‘let industry do its job’ approach and included a significant downsizing of the DoD acquisition workforce — produced significantly higher funding cost growth than other regimes.”

De-emphasizing contract management, in other words, seems to have hurt performance. (Mea culpa: This downsizing took place while I was in government and, though I was not personally involved in it, it was driven by colleagues in DOD with whom I closely worked. It now appears that the “hands off” approach, which was well intentioned, in hindsight went too far.)

I think Professor Kelman makes some great recommendations and should be lauded for his willingness to make specific, actionable recommendations. I would recommend decomposing the overall problem into two buckets: Talent Acquisition & People Management and Business Process Improvement & Change Management. From here, you can bucket Professor Kelman’s proposals and brainstorm others.

Talent Acquisition & People Management.

As the Baby Boomer generation retires and exits the workforce, there is certainly a brain drain risk among the federal acquisition workforce–as years of institutional, legal, and regulatory knowledge walks out the door. However, I think there’s a tremendous potential upside, too, as Generation Xers and millennials, enter the federal acquisition workforce and assume more senior roles.

With the exodus of Baby Boomers, there is an opportunity to drive large-scale, organizational change within the federal acquisition system. Organizational change of this magnitude is difficult but this demographic shift in the workforce will provide a rare opportunity to make serious changes. This will only happen if change is intentionally driven.

Millennials’ comfort level with technology is one of the primary enablers of this. Their conversance with technology has the opportunity to eliminate process waste, accelerate delivery, and improve customer satisfaction. This will need to be coupled with legal, regulatory, and process reforms as well, but at the end of the day it is individuals who perform the work.

Departments and Agencies should be thinking about how best to capitalize on this trend. What would be even better is if there was a coordinated, unified approach to capitalizing on this trend across the federal government. One challenge will be attracting millennials to the profession. But there are opportunities to re-brand federal acquisition in ways which would make it a more sought-after career choice. These generational shifts don’t happen often, so the federal government should be thinking about how they can capitalize on this macro trend. The benefits could be significant–from more successful programs, faster delivery times to savings for the taxpayers.

Management 

One of the other levers must be improved management of personnel. There must be more accountability for successes and failures. Contractors, civil servants, and military personnel alike need to be held accountable for their performance. As a former consultant, I saw first-hand, on numerous occasions, the inability of both civilian and military leaders to hold staff accountable and cultivate the kinds of behaviors and attitudes required to be minimally effective, let alone drive large-scale transformation.  This is not because they were all bad leaders. They are operating in a system where it is difficult to hold individuals accountable.

There needs to be serious reform to allow federal managers more leeway in holding their staffs accountable for performance.

Business Process Improvement & Change Management.

The best talent in the world and the slickest technology won’t matter at all if business processes are inefficient and riddled with red tape. Outmoded contract management processes should be identified and streamlined. This, of course, is much easier said than done but it’s a critical first step to make the enterprise function at a higher level and achieve the desired outcomes on a more frequent basis.

Then the next challenge is implementation–transforming the behaviors and attitudes of the workforce to work more efficiently in this new environment. This will be incredibly challenging but, as I mentioned earlier, the demographic shift that’s ongoing provides a rare opportunity to affect large-scale change and make some serious improvements in contract management outcomes.

Resources

I am not convinced that throwing more dollars at this problem will make in better. To the contrary, targeted and thoughtful cuts will help to drive leanness into the enterprise. Without profit as an incentive one of the great drivers of human behavior is off the table. Working in a resource-constrained environment can be poisonous to morale, but when done correctly it can have a tremendous focusing effect.

Government Contracting at the State and Local Level: An Interview with Onvia’s Lyndon Dacuan – Part I

For business development professionals whose experience is limited to the federal government market, contracting with governments at the state and local level can be a bit of a mystery. With fifty states and thousands of local governments, where do you begin? How do you properly size your market?

GovBizConnect co-founder and CEO Tom Skypek had the opportunity to sit down with Lyndon Dacuan, a Market Analyst with government business intelligence firm Onvia. This is Part I of a two-part series on the State, Local, and Education (SLED) market.

You recently sized the SLED market at $1.5 trillion. Do you see the SLED market contracting, growing, or remaining at that level in the coming years?

That’s correct, Tom. Out of $6.5 trillion in annual government expenditures, nearly half, or $3.2 trillion comes from SLED agencies. “SLED” includes all levels of government outside of federal: State, county, city agencies as well as school and special districts. $1.5 trillion of the $3.2 trillion represents the annual procurement spend from SLED agencies. For government contractors who are interested learning about how Onvia came up with these figures I encourage GovBizConnect blog readers to download our free report, “Sizing up the $1.5 Trillion State & Local Contracting Market.”

We have seen some growth in bid & RFP volumes in the SLED market. The nature of this growth is examined in our latest State & Local Procurement Snapshot for Q3-2015. Each quarter we track SLED bid & RFP volumes and analyze other developments in the market that may be influencing those volupromo_annualized_rate_of_change_by_quartermes. The graphic below does a good job of illustrating how the market has steadily improved over the last four consecutive quarters, a trend that we think will continue.

One notable aspect that has been affecting contracting volumes in the SLED market is the trend of cooperative purchasing which allows agencies to be more agile in their purchasing and is growing in popularity. Any vendor that is selling into SLED, or is considering it, should be aware of the potential positive impacts of participating in cooperative contracts for their business. To learn more about the cooperative purchasing trend, Onvia recommends GovBizConnect readers to download our free Leverage Cooperative Purchasing to Grow Your Government Sales report.

Let’s say that an established federal contractor is interested in offering their products and/or services to the SLED market. They have expertise in contracting with the federal government, but have no background in the SLED market. What’s the best first step for the company to assess their prospects in the SLED market?

This is a great question Tom. In March of 2015 we conducted a survey of 188 government vendors and found that contractors sell into multiple levels of government. Basically, the typical and most successful contractors didn’t ignore SLED, they embraced it. Here’s an interesting graphic from that report that can help demonstrate the results of the survey:

promo_levels_of_government_servedThe first step for federal contractors who are curious about entering the SLED market is to find out if their product or service in demand by SLED agencies. There are over 90,000 procurement entities in the SLED market that issue around 400,000 bids & RFPs annually. The likelihood is high that most products or services are in demand at some level in the SLED market.

Once the company has determined if their product or service has been purchased by SLED agencies recently, they should identify the buyers at those agencies to prepare outreach initiatives.

Like federal contracting, winning contracts is a lot of work in SLED. Onvia recommends doing the right research, performing outreach and sales pipeline building work that will ensure the highest level of success and awards. Our recent Building a Long-Term Sales Pipeline in the Public-Sector free report goes into detail about how to perform the necessary research and line up sales for years to come in the SLED market.

Since there are fifty states and thousands of local governments, what is the best way to analyze the SLED market?

The SLED market is certainly vast and fragmented – with around 90,000 purchasing agencies of all sizes issuing over 400,000 bids & RFPs annually across all industries. The market can at first be intimidating to some, but when you start really think about the market in a data-oriented way, it becomes easy to strategize your focus areas and capitalize on the $1.5 trillion spent annually by SLED agencies for your business.

Here are a few simple ways to help you analyze the opportunity for your business in the SLED market:

  • Find out which levels of government are most interested in your product or service. For example, if your business sells books, you may want to consider school districts as your target market and if your business sells streetlights, perhaps city agencies are where you should start. Here’s a handy chart that breaks down opportunity levels by industry and level of SLED government:

promo_opportunities_by_agency_type

  • Once you’ve determined the level or levels of SLED that make the most sense for your business, Onvia recommends that you think about your ideal contract size. Can your business fulfil multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts? Or are you more able to serve one time contracts worth a few hundred thousand dollars or so? Here’s a chart that helps to break down the level of opportunity by industry and average SLED award value that could be helpful in performing this analysis:

promo_opportunities_by_award_value

  • You should also be aware of how many opportunities are published annually on average in your industry. You should ask, how many opportunities should I expect to capture (and respond to) per month and does that meet the expectations of my business? Here are some annual bid & RFP averages for key SLED industries that we’ve compiled to help you get started on this research:

promo_appendix_annual_volume_of_contracting_per_industryWhat do you see as the biggest barrier preventing federal contractors from entering the SLED market?

Tom, we can see two big barriers preventing federal contractors from entering the SLED market.

First, there is a common perception that the SLED market doesn’t purchase products the federal government would. That is simply not the case. Outside of some highly specialized products and services such as heavy defense equipment, the SLED market purchases in almost all industries.

The second barrier relates well to your last question, and that is the perception that the SLED market can’t be approached strategically due to its nationwide fragmentation across many thousands of agency buyers. We think that with access to a government procurement intelligence database, such as Onvia, this fragmentation can be handled smartly through data-oriented decision making and strategy. Here are some key SLED market planning and strategy questions that companies who feel hesitant about the SLED market should consider to help alleviate that hesitation:

promo_strategy_questions_for_vendorsWhat’s the most common mistake you see made by a federal government contractor entering the SLED market?

This one is a harder question to answer as mistakes can vary greatly based on size of contract, regional scale, product type and service, etc.

One mistake that federal contractors entering the SLED market may tend to make is the failure to recognize the open-minded attitude towards innovation in SLED. For example, the smart cities movement has opened the doors for large vendors offering high-tech infrastructure solutions, smaller technology vendors and even start-ups to participate in a more innovative and willing local government environment. Companies may not be aware that local governments are testing and accepting technological innovations in government. Companies that offer these tech-related solutions may be missing out on a large piece of the market by only selling to the federal government.

Read Part II of this series here.

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GovBizConnect Partnering with Virginia PTAP to Offer Free Webinar on Contractor Teaming

logoGovBizConnect is partnering with the Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) at George Mason University to deliver a free webinar on Monday, January 25th, from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST. You can sign up for the webinar through the PTAP website here.

The webinar, “Government Contractor Teaming as a Dimension of Business Strategy,” will examine a variety of topics including:

  • Why Companies Team
  • Importance of Finding Great Teaming Partners
  • Risks of Ending up in Bad Teaming Partnerships
  • Current Process for Finding Teaming Partners
  • How to Integrate Teaming into your Business Strategy

The presenter, Tom Skypek, is the co-founder and CEO of GovBizConnect.com. Prior to co-founding GovBizConnect, he worked as a government contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton and SAIC as a program manager and business developer. His writing has appeared in Bloomberg Government, Washington Technology, and elsewhere.

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