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.

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.

6 Reasons Local Business Owners Should Blog

Business owners have a huge opportunity at their fingertips and that’s because social media and the internet has made it easier to have a direct relationship with the consumer. At no other time in history have business owners had the opportunity to directly communicate with their target clients and customers. While “blogging” is not the only way, it is a great way to communicate with your target audience.

The beauty of websites like Alexandriasmallbusiness.com is that it is an opportunity to put this specific area on the “Internet” map. There are many areas that have a very special or unique culture and when business owners blog about the areas it’s a great way to not only promote the area but also to promote your business in the area.

I used to have a column for the Lake-Ridge Occoquan, VA Patch called the “Entrepreneur’s Spotlight” where I used to interview and write about entrepreneurs located in Lake-Ridge and Occoquan, Virginia. I wrote about the local ice cream shop, the event planner, and a community of artists. What I found as I interviewed and connected with each business owner was that this small strip of local businesses (much like other areas across the world) has a collective spirt and a story that needed to be told. These posts were the catalyst for me to start CEO Blog Nation which includes DMV CEO–which covers entrepreneurship in DC, Maryland & Virginia. The beauty of these articles that I wrote for Patch was that it was a way to highlight the Occoquan, VA area and promote the local businesses there.

So, why is blogging important to the local business owner? With so many things to juggle and so little time, why should a business owner take the time to blog? At CEO Blog Nation, we often ask entrepreneurs how they use their blog for their business, so I highlighted some of the reasons we’ve published below:

Blog Post From Rescue a CEO (CEO Blog Nation)
Blog Post From Rescue a CEO (CEO Blog Nation) – www.rescue.ceoblognation.com
  1. It’s good for SEO – Blogging provides fresh content which can help you and your business to rank well on search engines. Even if you take the time to follow a great strategy which is to guest blog or repost your blog on sites like LinkedIn Pulse or Medium, it is still a good way to help you to be found on Google.
  2. It’s a unique way to tell your story – One of the common questions and concerns from business owners is that they don’t know what to write or blog about. Business owners can tell the behind the scenes of the their business or their shop. It could be anything from having spotlight interviews of employees or maybe a customer or client can guest post on your blog. These types of posts provide fresh content and information to your readers, but can make you a more trusted option that your customers are more likely to buy from.
  3. Answer potential questions – One of the pains as a business owners is getting “shopped.” This is when a potential client asks a bunch of questions and you provide all your great answers for “free” and they don’t actually buy from you. While that’s not always a bad thing, when time is scarce why not create blog posts with frequently asked questions that you can direct people to and can save yourself time. It’s a great way for you to tell a potential client that “someone asked a similar question so you decided to write a blog post that you can send to them to answer that question.” This is also a great way to solidify yourself as an expert. Here’s an example I had from a client that wanted to know how to name images for SEO.
  4. More leads and opportunitiesAccording to Hubspot, B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. You will receive opportunities especially if you have a way to build your list or if you have a way for people to take action (see the bottom of this post).
  5. It helps to drive traffic to your site – If you have your blog integrated or built into your website or even if you just link to your website, it’s a great way to drive people back to your website. If you are providing quality content that is relevant to your target market, they will come to your blog and might sign up for your newsletter or connect with you on social media.
  6. It’s the future – Another interesting fact, which is evident in our every day human interaction–we aren’t speaking to each other as much in the “old way.” Now, interaction is taking place through FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Periscope or Groupme. That will only continue. By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human.

There are numerous reasons why business owners and entrepreneurs should start to blog. If you want to get started or want to find out how to get more out of your blog, check out my free business blogging course at CEO Blog Nation

The Value of Professional Proposal Support

The Value of Professional Proposal Support - Jackson Contract Solutions, LLCThe expectation that because your business is small, your proposal cannot compete with large experienced businesses is simply untrue!  Investing in professional proposal support can ensure that your proposal submission is compliant, complete, submitted on time and professional.  While no individual or organization can guarantee that your company will be awarded a contract with local, state or federal Government, investing in professional proposal support could absolutely be the difference between new or additional business for your company and a Dear John letter from the Government advising that you were not selected as the awardee.

Compliance, completion and timeliness are the top tier reasons proposals are rejected and/or not selected for contract award.  Let us explore compliance, completion and timeliness as they relate to the Request for Proposal process with the Government.

Compliance – When your proposal is compliant, this means that you have read the entire document including the technical, management, pricing and past performance information requested and you have responded accordingly to all requirements as the Government has asked.

Completion – A complete proposal includes compliance with the requirements, the cover letter, representations and certifications, table of contents, page count, margins, font size etc. The instructions have been followed and packaged as the Government requires.

Timely – A timely proposal is one that is received by the Government on or before the due date and prior to the set time.

Professional – A professional proposal is one that is free of typos, math mistakes and grammatical errors.

The right professional proposal support can ensure that these critical areas are addressed and requirements are met by developing a compliance matrix specific to the request for proposal. This document captures the requirements, who is internally responsible for writing and provides a crosswalk to show where each requirement is addressed within the response. The development of the proposal outline ensures a complete proposal as the items that are required for compliance, and the other areas that have to be addressed are all included.  The proposal schedule is developed to ensure that your final submission is ready to go with ample time for review and corrections and delivered to the Government prior to the actual due date.

If you are unfamiliar with a compliance matrix, proposal outline and a proposal schedule, these documents are used by large contractors for every request for proposal that they respond to. Hiring a consultant to assist with your proposal support gives your small business the same tools as large businesses. While the cost varies based on the level of service required, it is well worth the investment to propel your organization to the next level in the multibillion dollar business of Government Contracting.


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.

Roundtable Recap – Identifying Your Target Market

Identifying Your Target MarketOn April 16th, Alexandria Small Business Development Center hosted the monthly Business Development Roundtable here in Alexandria, Virginia. We discussed the all-too-important marketing topic of identifying your target market. First, we defined a target market to start the discussion of identifying your target market. Some of the definitions we heard were really insightful and ranged from “finding ideal customers” and Patra Frame of Strategies for Human Resources really honed in on “who will I call” not just the broader concept of “small to medium-sized businesses.” Eliza Dolin of Ivy Quill Communications echoed Patra’s sentiment on the point and added that you’re actually “targeting individuals” because “companies are not hiring you” people are. Looking back at who has been your customer is equally important. We also discussed demographics, psychographics and understanding the individual profile of your buyer.

Director Bill Reagan noted the caveat that “we’ll serve anybody” is counterproductive; you should “narrow that down” to “help you plan, strategize and emphasize where you’re going to market and align your resources.” There is a lot of research you can do for identifying your target market before you start your business. Alexandria SBDC Business Analyst Jack Parker posited the important question: what does your client profile look like? He stated that you need to look at your core market area, as geographical data matters for most local businesses. Peter Baldwin of MarketForce Strategies looks at target markets a little different in that he looks at the “want’s and need’s” of his clients’ buyers. He noted that target markets change over time; different generations have different want’s and need’s.

Next, we tackled the challenge of actually identifying your target market. I asked the seasoned entrepreneurs in the room, “did you know that you needed to target your market? And, where did you start in identifying your target market?” Patra Frame indicated that she started off at her local library (since she started her business before Alexandria SBDC had started here in Alexandria, Virginia!) to research her audience and made a point that it’s a continual process. Director Reagan mentioned that it isn’t quite as scientific since you will likely have to adjust your target market after you start your business, honing in on the right people over time. But, as he indicated, you need to start somewhere. Assistant Director Gloria Flanagan pointed out that knowing who your buyer is can sometimes be tricky, as in the case of children who may be making the buying decision and the parents are merely providing the capital for a purchase.

Finally, we discussed tracking your customers over time so that you can create a historical record to refer back to you, and then making action upon this data for your target market. Most of the business owners found difficulty in naturally finding ways to meet hands with their direct target market so they had to get creative both in referral networking and advertising strategies. There was a consistent theme that you needed to engage with your target market where they congregated, whether online or offline, with a strong strategy. So much great conversation was additionally had in the roundtable, but you had to be there to absorb it all!

If you’d like to join the Biz Dev Roundtable, just come any third Tuesday at noon at the Alexandria SBDC; our next one is tomorrow, May 21, 2013, and the topic is “Referrals & Leads: How to Use, Get and Give Them.” Bring your lunch, or coffee, network and have a conversation with 30+ Small Business owners and professionals about a pertinent business marketing or management topic.

The Critical Importance of Good Advice

Alexandria Small Business Development CenterSmall businesses and small nonprofits often face situations where it may make sense to get expert guidance to avoid costly mistakes. At the very earliest concept for a business venture, there are resources that can provide objective feedback and suggest approaches you might not have considered. The Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides accessible and experienced resources through its staff and its new SCORE counselor. These experts are adept at identifying areas that even the best of planning might have overlooked, and every entrepreneur benefits from getting a fresh perspective. With comprehensive feedback at the earliest stages, your strategies, approaches, and next steps are much better defined. In addition, the services of the SBDC and SCORE are without cost, leaving you more resources to spend on starting and growing your business.

During these counseling sessions, entrepreneurs may identify issues that require further research. Often, these include zoning and other locational considerations. They also include licenses, permits, and potential restrictions. Forewarned of these requirements, the entrepreneur can make better plans with fewer surprises. City staff is also ready to help the entrepreneur with preliminary and detailed planning – all before leases or other obligations are signed. The City now has small business facilitators who are entirely focused on helping novices through permitting and licensing processes. They can be reached at 703-746-4199 or 4268.

For help with site selection and advice on leasing, the entrepreneur should consult the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP). Their expert staff knows the City, the real estate market, rental rates / sales comps, and can assist you with the site selection process for leases, sales or development. Their services are free and an essential stop before anyone considers, much less signs, a lease. Additionally, the Alexandria SBDC has a “Leasing Checklist” on its website. Both AEDP and SBDC staffs can advise you on Alexandria neighborhoods, their civic and business groups, and how to make the best entry with your business.

Financing is another area where entrepreneurs may need to get advice before making a formal application. Every application you make could affect your credit score, and being declined reduces your prospects with other lenders. Meeting with the SBDC’s business analyst – a retired banker – will help you strengthen your presentation to a lender, much like preparing with a coach before an interview. The earlier that preparation takes place, the better.

In addition to the free economic development resources like the SBDC, SCORE, and AEDP, there are other professionals whose expertise will save entrepreneurs many headaches – and dollars – if they are consulted early-on. Attorneys and accountants should be part of your management team from the start, and human resources consultants can help you avoid potential pitfalls as you start hiring employees. Alexandria SBDC keeps lists of reliable professionals for a broad range of small business matters, and we welcome your contacting us for referrals.

For more information, visit www.alexandriasbdc.org or contact Alexandria SBDC at 703-778-1292 or [email protected]

 

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Virginia SBDC Success Story – Amanda Sozer, PhD

Here at the Alexandria SBDC, we’re delighted when we meet someone as a startup and watch them grow into a multinational success story. And, we’re proud to say, we have several of these success stories in our roster of SBDC clients! One of those successes is Amanda Sozer, PhD, of SNA International.

Here’s the direct link to the embedded YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAJJrIoj47E

Virginia SBDC’s Small Town and Merchant Program Highlights Several Alexandria Retail Businesses

Independent retailers and restaurants are the heart and soul of small towns and main streets across Virginia. Successful retailers build vibrant downtown destinations, but they face unique challenges ranging from inventory control, advertising, merchandising and staffing, to big box competition. To help these vital small businesses, the Virginia SBDC network has developed STAMP.

Small Town and Merchant Program (STAMP)

Independent retailers and restaurants are the heart and soul of small towns and main streets across Virginia. STAMP is a comprehensive collection of workshops, hands-on initiatives, and resources designed to address the specific needs of main street retail and restaurant businesses.

Local organizations such as the Virginia Main Street program, chambers of commerce, retail and restaurant associations, and others work with STAMP to sponsor and deliver targeted and relevant guidance that business owners and managers can put to use immediately.

STAMP offers:

  • Individual, Comprehensive Retail Business Checkup and Restaurant Check-up
  • On-site business visits
  • Seminars held before or after hours
  • Complete confidentiality

This is a great video detailing the program:

Small Town & Merchant Program (STAMP)

For more information about STAMP, feel free to reach out to Alexandria Small Business Development Center today!