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.

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.

Area Resources to Help Your Business

Alexandria Small Business Development Center
Many of you know that the Alexandria SBDC is your local business resource to provide information on how to start, manage and grow your business. We are always looking to see what additional regional resources there are to help our clients and area entrepreneurs. George Mason University and Arlington Economic Development, along with several other entities, have teamed up to present three upcoming events that provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to hear from global thought leaders, learn cutting edge concepts and build their entrepreneurial networks and toolkit. To see what is happening at this spring’s “Venture Camp Entrepreneurship Speaker Series” at the Arlington George Mason University campus, go to the Events Calendar of Arlington Economic Development. This is an example of just one of many worthwhile programs you can find on Alexandria SBDC’s “Regional Workshop Schedule.” I encourage you to regularly review the Workshop Schedule to see what is available to help you or your employees learn new things, update skills or broaden your network. Go to Alexandria SBDC’s website and click on “Events.” As always, feel free to contact Alexandria SBDC with any of your business needs!


Patricia (Pat) L. Melton, Counselor

Pat Melton joined the Alexandria Small Business Development Center in 2006 as a Counselor focusing on providing business research to the center’s clients, after working with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership on its International Trade Team.  She then worked at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology helping northern Virginia technology companies grow.  Both organizations exposed her to numerous resources available to help Virginia businesses.

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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!

Non-Competition Agreements for Small Business: Not Too Broad or Too Narrow, But Just Right

The Supreme Court of Virginia Building, adjace...

Non-competition agreements, or non-solicitation agreements, are generally clauses within employment agreements which limit employees’ ability to enter into employment or to start a business which competes with a former employer.  Under Virginia law, non-competes (sometimes called or written plainly “noncompetes”), though viewed as a restraint of trade, are enforceable if the three prongs of the non-compete–time, geography and function–are properly limited.  The non-compete terms should be broad enough to protect the employer’s business interests, but not so broad as to prevent the employee from earning a living and should not violate public policy.

 

Many times the focus on non-compete agreement terms fall on the time and geography prong.  In November, the Virginia Supreme Court squarely refocused the discussion on the function prong of the non-compete.  In Home Paramount Pest Control v. Shaffer, the Court reviewed a non-compete agreement that it had approved 22 years ago in Paramount Termite Control v. Rector.  This time the Court declared that the function provision, which the company had not changed in the ensuing time, as overly broad and the entire agreement as unenforceable.

 

The Court held that the language which stated that the former employee could not engage “directly or indirectly. . . in any manner whatsoever in the carrying on or conducting the business of exterminating, pest control, termite control and/or fumigation services as an owner, agent, servant, representative, or employee, and/or as a member of a partnership and/or as an officer, director or stockholder or any corporation or in any manner whatsoever . . .” was not reasonable because the clause effectively prohibited the employee from holding any type of job in the industry.  The reasonableness of the time and geography prongs were insufficient to save the agreement.  Under the Home Paramount, if a business wants to preclude an employee from performing any work for a competitor, then it must be ready, willing and able to prove a “legitimate business interest” to do so. That’s not necessarily an easy task.

 

So, to ease the process for small businesses, now is the time to review any non-compete clauses used in your business.  Be wary of non-competition agreement forms or templates.  What terms are permissible in a non-compete clause in Virginia may not work at all in California – and vice versa. Terms permissible 20 years ago or even 6 months ago  in Virginia are no longer workable.  Court decisions over time can and do change the law.  The laws of individual states evolve over time and the laws of each state differ.

 

All three prongs of the non-compete must be appropriately limited, reasonable and related to the position in question.  The function prong cannot be so broad that it effectively precludes the employee from performing any job in the industry from CEO to janitor or even from owning stock passively in a multinational, publicly held corporation.

 

 

Law Office of Paula Potoczak

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Alexandria, VA 22314

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