Small Business and Teaming Agreements

Disclaimer – I am not licensed to practice law or give legal advice.  The information written in this blog is based on my experience negotiating hundreds of teaming agreements for large and small businesses over my 20+ years in Government Contracting.

In a perfect world, two parties (prime and sub Government contractors) determine that they have capabilities that complement one another for a particular effort and decide to become a team. A teaming agreement is successfully negotiated, the prime wins the contract, a subcontract agreement is signed between the prime and the sub, and the team goes on to deliver either a great service or product(s) to the Government and they create a long term relationship. There are however instances when a teaming agreement is negotiated and nothing ever happens for various reasons, such as the Request for Proposal (RFP) was cancelled, amended or put on hold, or the prime decides not to pursue the effort.

A teaming agreement is a contract between a (potential) prime and a potential sub in pursuit of a Government contract.  In most cases, the terms and conditions negotiated in the teaming agreement are later incorporated into the subcontract agreement, once the subcontract has been fully executed the teaming agreement then becomes void. Based on this, it is very important that you as a small business sub attempt to negotiate an agreement that is mutually favorable as possible for your business.  I use the word attempt, because in some cases there will be items that the prime will not be open to negotiating regardless of the push back that is received from you.

Teaming agreements can be issued before or after the prime has won a contract.  In most cases, the prime will issue a teaming agreement prior to the release of a RFP but there are times, when the work has already started and because the contract with the Government requires the prime get permission from the Government before bringing a subcontractor onto a project, a teaming agreement will be signed while waiting to receive the OK from the Government.

The terms and conditions that a business considers favorable will vary from one business to another. As a small business owner, you will have to determine what terms and conditions are important to your business. Lastly, as mentioned previously the terms and conditions agreed to in the teaming agreement will more than likely be incorporated into the subcontract agreement, it is helpful if most of the terms and conditions have already been agreed to prior to the subcontract phase. A teaming agreement is legal and binding as is any other contract, it is best to educate yourself or hire someone that can review your teaming agreements prior to signature and acceptance.

In part II of the blog, I will compile a list of some of the terms and conditions that I have seen negotiated most often between the prime and the sub in teaming agreements.

Designing for Various Retail Environments

Recently Carrie Rossenfeld wrote and article for Globest.com dealing with current changes in the retail environment that are affecting how architects and designers approach a project. The title, The Changing Art of Designing Urban Retail Projects, is especially appropriate, not a little because retail store design is acknowledged as an art, but mostly because it offers a thought provoking comment on the current retail context near and dear to all of us working in the DC area; namely the shift from auto dominant to pedestrian dominant shopping. Anyone who visits this site knows that this is not the first time I have engaged this topic, it is though, the first time I am inspired to organize the various environments in which I work into a single picture as follows:

Past Trends

Urban Retail – This requires little description. It is Main street USA, whether in a big city or small. It is pedestrian dependent and spans American History from Colonial Willamsburg to Old Town Alexandria. It is an all inclusive spectrum of retail types and has become a model for current development.

Suburban Shopping Centers – Historically these followed suburban expansion after WWII supplying life’s necessities to newly mobile shoppers. A typical shopping center consisted of a grocery store, a drug store, some specialty retail, and a couple of out-lots. In time a big box was added, eventually becoming the force behind development until today we have acres of big box shopping centers. The type has come to include a range of retail offerings from outlet malls to ethnic centers merging into a sprawl-scape along major roads and axes, all depending on the car for shoppers.

 

Suburban Malls – These days almost relics, most of us have seen their rise and fall. The ones that are doing well are, some say, surviving because the others have failed. They are often in high income suburbs, connected with public transportation, draw international shoppers, boast multiple department stores, have expanded the types of anchor tenants they attract, and perhaps most important to this discussion, although dependent on the car for shoppers, the stores are designed according to a specialized pedestrian model. Local examples: Tysons Corner, Pentagon City.

 Present Trends

Mixed Use, also known as Emerging Urban, New Suburbanism, and the Mall Reborn (Don’t you love all the names?) – Of course, this is where the action is. From my standpoint – designing for individual retailers – it is where pedestrian vs. non pedestrian visibility collapses into complexity. David Kitchens, in the aforementioned article, drew attention to the challenges involved in designing for, and integrating multiple uses into a development project, telling us that “…residential, office or hospitality…needs to be intertwined with or added to existing retail..” The “repositioning” of Ballston Common and Landmark Mall were sited as local examples and in particular caught my attention because I have had inquiries from retail tenants being affected by the changes going on in these places. Architects and designers working in the mixed use environment must have confidence that they, together with stakeholders in the greater design environment, will produce a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. They must be willing to release some control, to admit a bit of “chaos.” Kitchens put it well when he said it is about creating neighborhoods. As an independent design firm working on retail projects in many different environments, I get this better than most.

Future Trends?

Industrial/Commercial/Business Parks – Defined by the National Institute of Building Science, Light Industrial “… can include but is not limited to spaces for printing, commercial laundry, photographic film processing, vehicle repair garages, building maintenance shops, metal work, millwork,..cabinetry work…” Think specialized showrooms, i.e., kitchen, lumber, restaurant supplies, catering, swimming pools, motor cycle accessories (Really, I had one inquire). Think those moving from online sales toward brick n mortor. Think those responding to “showrooming.” Recent experience has lead me to believe that this is an overlooked retail environment and as such an opportunity. From a store design standpoint, diametrically opposite to the complexity of mixed use, their retail presence is straight forward, direct and dependent on the car for shoppers. It is a sector starting to see the value of investing in professionally designed retail showrooms.

Describing these retail environments has been a fun exercise but I didn’t do it just for fun? I did it to make a point about designing a retail store to increase sales. Few would argue that designing a retail store is involved with issues of shopper behavior, in particular how it can be influence by a store design. I have accumulated an ever multiplying list of “Strategies for Designing Your Space.” and do a presentation on the subject. The article that started this survey, on the other hand, is about the other side of the issue, specifically how shopper behavior is influenced by the environment in which a store finds itself. Of course, real estate people would sum this up as “location, location, location,” a subject that shows up in business plans and marketing activities all the time. If, though, we understand the ideas set out in the article, the issue is more complex, suggesting that the current trend is for there to be little or nothing spontaneous or random about the macro environments in which retailers find themselves. Also, I have often found that in the process of macro planning developers have let go of micro constraints typically found in places like leases and tenant handbooks. This can be deceiving, leading a retailer to overestimate their control of a project. In local terms this means that a space in a planned urban environment like the Mosaic Retail District is a lot different than a space in Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria or in a strip center or industrial complex as well. I would urge any retailer thinking about their store design to consider responding to both the macro and micro point of view. It is what has motivated me to summarize the several retail contexts listed in this post.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Retail store design is a language everyone can read.

2015-11-08 12.24.21Semiotics

Anyone who has ever seriously tried to design a logo for their business can tell you that it is not so easy, even for graphic designers who specialize in all things related to visual imaging. Certainly, any serious investigation will lead one to the subject of Semiotics, which might be defined as how meaning is created and communicated, or more simply the study of linguistic and non- linguistic signs. Without getting too technical, for this is a specialized academic discipline, it is worth noting that signs fall into three categories:

  1. Icons which are images of a thing itself, as in a picture of a dog and a real dog, or a map of a river and the actual river.
  2. Indexes which are relational where objects affect the sign, like fire (object) creates smoke (sign).
  3. Symbols which have neither similarities in appearance nor causal links, but are rather linked by conventional or cultural knowledge. In short the meaning can be quite arbitrary and is simply known, as in the group of letters that mean bus and an actual bus.

When considered in light of concerns about marketing and branding, ever present in the minds of most retailers, it is instructive to draw some parallels. First though, it is worth examining the terms which have been nicely summarized by Jacob Cass, graphic designer and author. He tells us a brand is “the perceived emotional corporate image as a whole;” an identity “is the visual aspects that form part of the overall brand;” and a logo “identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon. Knowing this, it is not difficult to understand the brand as the idea of a business. It is the semiotic meaning, or sign, expressed by the use of the icons, indexes, and symbols, all of which are visual or have a visual component, leading us to examine the visual image, AKA store design.

Visual Image

I am bringing this up because I think that architecture is semiotic, and more specifically, retail store design, which might be thought of and applied like a language. One that everyone can read. The Sherwin Williams Paint Store in the photo provides a clearly defined demonstration of these principles, and I must say that I spotted it at 50 MPH while rushing to an unrelated event in a Pennsylvania college town. The impact was direct, and completely comprehensible. I was late to my appointment because I turned the car around to get the photo. The symbol, of course, is the Sherwin William sign on the building. No doubt about who they are and what they are selling.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/telstar/151930908/in/photolist-4sjUaD-4ZMqA9-4ZHbKM-5uWtwt-cvvPYC-61K54M-8Vf3Zm-82hFSR-afWumj-eqFLq-9pkbo2-B6JH2-66dQ7oThe logo, not very big, relatively speaking, is both icon and index. When considered in the light of what we now know about semiotics it is complicated and communicates a lot of meaning using symbols in the form of company name and tag line; iconic images of the product, container, location; and an index demonstrating the application. It becomes a statement that says Sherwin Williams paints the world.

The “pièce de résistance” of the entire composition though, and a big part of the reason I stopped, is the larger than life paint sample cards installed as graphics in all of the storefront windows. According to our labels these probably qualify as icons but are also undeniably symbolic of everything we know about decorating and painting.

There is absolutely no question about the marketing message delivered by this storefront design, but there is another tactic operating here which has less to do with semiotics than it does with tried and true principals of good storefront design. It is what pushes this design into the stratosphere of marketing message delivery, and defines the point where graphics leave off and architecture begins. There is a basic rule that says, if you want a display element to be visible from a distance to both walk and drive by traffic, then it must be exaggerated. It must be bigger, brighter, more colorful than its surrounding. In this case the larger than life paint sample cards are the agent of a cohesive marketing message. The effect is magical.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Do’s and Don’ts of Business Development in Federal Contracting

The Alexandria SBDC held a seminar this week about business development in Federal Contracting, presented by John Boulware. The full PowerPoint presentation used during the seminar is available, but it is helpful to review his summary points about what to do, and what not to do, when trying to set up meetings and build relationships with… Read more »

The post Do’s and Don’ts of Business Development in Federal Contracting appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

Dos and Donts of Business Development in Federal ContractingThe Alexandria SBDC held a seminar this week about business development in Federal Contracting, presented by John Boulware. The full PowerPoint presentation used during the seminar is available, but it is helpful to review his summary points about what to do, and what not to do, when trying to set up meetings and build relationships with government program managers or representatives of large prime contractors. The following are things to do, and what to avoid:

Do:

  1. Develop a clear role, purpose, or goal with each contact and client
  2. Maintain consistent effort in both information collection and client development – this starts with maintaining regular contact
  3. Make it about them – always
  4. Be a good listener and a good learner
  5. Treat information collection and client development as you would a client project – think in terms of milestones, progress reviews, and measurable results plus data capture
  6. Develop relationships with career managers who will be around long-term
  7. Once you meet with client staff find “excuses” to stay connected and help them
  8. When you talk with people ask questions about their work environment; show interest
  9. Look for issues and problems and then gather relevant information
  10. Provide solutions – even if it does not involve your firm
  11. Find ways to do small but legal favors for client staff – it gives you needed visibility
  12. Figure out ways to prove your reliability and dependability to client – builds KTR (Knowledge, Trust and Respect)

Don’t:

  1. Give up too quickly trying to get a meeting once you start trying
  2. Talk a lot about you or your firm – always make it about them
  3. Give a briefing at your first meeting – unless…
  4. Assume a problem means money will be available or that work will follow
  5. Fail to stay connected with those in your target client network – monthly at least!
  6. Dominate any conversation with Federal agency or large prime staff – guide it; listen
  7. Fail to replay information to show you understand
  8. Focus on one very senior person in an agency
  9. Send frequent or long emails to clients
  10. Expect too much from agency small business staffers and contract staff and don’t focus your energies on them
  11. Spend too much time collecting information
  12. Fail to record information obtained about the client

Following these guidelines will help prepare you for gaining business with the Federal government.

The post Do’s and Don’ts of Business Development in Federal Contracting appeared first on Alexandria Small Business Development Center.

What do you mean by “Feasibility Assessment?”

Now What?
Now What? How do I turn this in to a new store?

Contemplation – Imagine you are a retailer contemplating this tenant space. Clearly, you might be asking yourself; “now what?” Suppose a few of the questions below move from unconscious reflection to conscious contemplation without ensuing answers, then assessing a project to see what is actually required could facilitate the decision making process and provide many benefits.

Resources – Landlord provided documents, previous project cost summaries, consultations with building departments, contractors, engineers and sometimes professional construction estimators are all resources informing project feasibility. The intent is to simplify, consolidate and summarize the probable scope of work, professional fees, construction costs and time that might be anticipated for a project. It is the purpose of a feasibility assessment and a highly recommended means of beginning most retail projects.

  • Do I need to build the walls?
  • Do I need to build the bathroom(s)
  • Why do I need 2 bathrooms?
  • Why do I need 2 entries?
  • Do I need to install the storefront system?
  • Can I use my own storefront design?
  • Do I need to have my own electric meter installed?
  • Do I need to install my own Air Conditioning and heating system?
  • What is the best mechanical system to use?
  • Is there water in the space?
  • What about hot water?
  • What about gas?
  • Where is the sewer?
  • How do I connect to it?
  • Will my store fit in this space?
  • Must I supply my own storefront sign?
  • Who will design it?
  • Can I design the store myself?
  • Can I turn a logo into a store design?
  • Where do I get the store fixtures?
  • What if I can’t find the exact fixtures that I need to display my products?
  • Are custom store fixtures required, if so who will design them?
  • What about lighting?
  • Who sets up the Point of Sale (POS) system and how do I hide the wires?
  • How do I accommodate the cabling and hard wiring for my computers?
  • How much can I expect to spend for all this?
  • A contractor told me he could build my store for $45/sq. ft. Should I believe him?
  • Do I need a building permit?
  • What does an architect charge?
  • Can I get this done in time to open before I must begin paying rent?
  • How do a pick a contractor?
  • Is the construction allowance from the landlord enough to build the store?
  • Does the location have enough parking?
  • What is the visibility from walk and drive by traffic?
  • Is this space a good choice for my project?
  • If I don’t take this space do I need to start all over with a new feasibility for a different location?

Please feel free start a discussion here and maybe even see some answers.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.

Successful Contract Management – Part 2 of 2

 

Successful Contract Management, Part 2 of 2In Part I we discussed the importance of requesting a debrief even if you win, reviewing the contract award in its entirety to ensure that everything is accurate and contacting the Contracting Officer in writing immediately to address any mistakes within the contract award before signing.

The Program Management Review (PMR) is a meeting with key members of the Contractors Staff (Finance, Contracts, and Programs) and their counterparts on the Government side. PMRs are usually scheduled monthly or quarterly and can be held over the phone, virtually or in person. The reason this meeting is critical to contract management is because you and the customer will give and provide feedback on the status of the contract/program such as are you on schedule, within budget, are your deliverables received by the due date and last but not least is the customer happy with your performance. This meeting also provides an opportunity to bring up any issues that you as a contractor maybe facing that impacts your performance and to discuss your plan to correct these issues. If you are meeting with you customer on a regular basis and having honest and productive discussions regarding the program there should be no surprises at the end of your contract when the Government rates your performance in the Contractor Performance Assessment Systems (CPARS). This information will be used in most cases when you submit future proposals for Government contracts, so it is imperative that you read the rating in its entirety and respond accordingly. Your assessment and your response are available to any Government agency for determining your eligibility for future Government contracts.

Almost all contracts experience some issue during contract performance. These issues can be caused by the Contractor, the Government and outside sources that you have no control over. When a problem or a potential problem is discovered, you should contact the Contracting Officer immediately. You can contact the Contracting Officer via phone, but you must always follow up the conversation in writing. If the issue has been caused by the Contractor, you should take steps to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible, those steps should be documented in writing and provided to the Contracting Officer. In cases where the issue may have been caused by the Government, or forces beyond your control, after bringing the issue to the attention of the Contracting Officer, you should work with the customer on a resolution and ensure that everything is documented to ensure that it does not appear that any interruptions were caused by you or your staff. It is imperative that all correspondence between you and the Government be kept in the contract file.

In general, within six months of the physical ending of the contract, the Government will start closeout procedures. Depending on what the work was that you were performing the documents that you receive will vary. You may receive the following documents, that must be signed and returned to the customer; a statement advising that the work is complete, a statement that the final invoice has been submitted, a statement that any Government property has been returned and is accounted for, Patent reports and if you had subcontractors, the items above have been settled with the subcontractor as well.

As previously mentioned, after the period of performance has ended the Program Manager and/or Contracting Officer will provide a performance rating in the CPARS system. You will have the opportunity to review and respond to your rating, including documenting the reason and resolution for any issues.

The steps documented are high level and general rules for what is required for Successful Contract Management. Your particular situation may require more or less input to ensure the success of your contract performance.


 

Constance Jackson is the owner of Jackson Contract Solutions, LLC. Constance has more than 20 years’ experience working with small and large Federal Government Contractors, and Federal Agencies providing proposal management, contract management, training and acquisition planning.

How Business Owners Can Blog Locally

Blogging is not a new phenomenon. It was introduced as a term in the late 90’s but for entrepreneurs and business owners, it is just starting to become mainstream and be seen as a way to promote, brand and generate leads for your business.

I decided to write a step-by-step guide for how business owner can get started with blogging.

What is a Blog?

First, I thought it was important to define blogging. I have a more “broad” definition for blogging that most. I don’t see it as just having a Blogger, WordPress or Medium account. I see it simply as the publishing of digital content. It’s a lot more of a broad definition than is traditionally thought. There’s two reasons for this broader definition:

  1. Some of the social media sites are building a way to blog within their platforms. Twitter was always defined as micro-blogging. LinkedIn has Pulse and even Facebook has Notes.
  2. Blogging can take many different forms including video (YouTube), audio, and photos (Instagram). When I’m speaking with clients, I usually recommend blogging related to their strengths. Are you great at talking to people, maybe start a Podcast? Are you great in front of the camera? Maybe start a YouTube channel.

3 Steps to Get Started

  1. Come up with a list of ideas for blog ideas. As a business owner or entrepreneur often your best way to use your blog is to educate your target market. I always believe the best way is to provide content and information that is simultaneously relevant to your target market and your business. So some blog topics can include questions that your clients might ask you.
  2. Choose a way to blog. There are many ways to blog including guest blogging or writing a guest post. You can even blog on one of the existing platforms like LinkedIn, WordPress.com or Medium. If you have a blog on your website, you can also start to blog there.
  3. The most obvious step is just to start writing. While, it is always better to have a strategy and an approach. I think one of the biggest reasons that people don’t get started is because they think too much about it. Really, what you should be doing is to just start writing. Find a blog within your industry or target market and reach out to the editor and ask to guest blog or add a  if you can add a blog to your website, if you don’t already have one and just blog there.

If you thought this was interest would love to see your comments below! Also check out my FREE Business Blogging Course at CEO Blog Nation.

Successful Contract Management – Part 1 of 2

Successful Contract Management, Part 1 of 2

You have won a Government contract, now what?

You have received the award letter from the Government advising that your proposal was chosen and you are the successful offeror. Congratulations! Successful contract management begins immediately after you receive the letter and the new contract for review and signature. Let’s discuss some of the steps that will help to ensure that your contract is managed successfully.

Request a Contract debrief – You should always request a debrief. The debrief request must be in writing and received from your company by the Government within 3 calendar days of receipt of the notice that you won the award. As no proposal submission is perfect, the debrief will provide an opportunity to review errors and mistakes with your submission, and will assist with creating lessons learned for future proposal submissions.

Schedule an internal kickoff meeting – An internal meeting to review the award should be scheduled ASAP. During this meeting a single POC for Contracts and the Program should be established.

Read, Review and Compare – Read the contract award in its entirety and compare your proposal submission to the contract documents to ensure critical areas such as the Statement of Work, Contract Deliverables, Period of Performance, Special Requirements, Invoicing Instructions, Contract Type, Contract Value and Funding are accurate. If any errors are found within the contract award they should be addressed with the Contracting Officer immediately in writing. (The Contract Award documents should be read and understood by Contracts, Finance, and the Program Manager at a minimum). Notes should be taken during this the internal kickoff meeting to document any questions or items for clarification which will be raised during the kickoff meeting with the customer.

Schedule an external kickoff meeting with the Customer – The kickoff meeting with the customer should be scheduled as quickly as possible to ensure that any questions or misinterpretations are addressed and to make certain that you and the customer are on the same page. Any ambiguous dates in the statement of work for contract deliverables such as “due on the 2nd Tuesday each month”, should be made as specific as possible and the interpretation of calendar days vs. business days should also be addressed to ensure that there is a firm understanding on actual due dates. During this meeting you should also establish dates for monthly or quarterly Program Management Reviews which should happen throughout the entire period of performance.

In Part II, we will discuss Program Management Reviews, Problems during Contract Performance and how they are addressed and Contract Closeout.


Constance Jackson is the owner of Jackson Contract Solutions, LLC. Constance has more than 20 years’ experience working with small and large Federal Government Contractors, and Federal Agencies providing proposal management, contract management, training and acquisition planning.