Category Archives: Procurement

Government Shutdown and Your Small Business- 5 Things You Need to Know

  1. There are several functions of the U.S. Small Business Administration that will be affected by the recent government shutdown. Click here for SBA’s Plan for Operating in the Event of Lapse of Appropriations packet.  Business functions such as applications for business loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will be halted until the agency returns to its normal operations. The agency will, however, still administer disaster loans for businesses, such as those affected by droughts or Hurricane Sandy.  Existing loan guarantees will remain in effect.  For a complete listing of loans you can and can’t get, please click here.
  2. Contractors can find a listing of the contingency plans of the Federal agencies with which they do business on the White House’s websiteThis includes agencies such as the General Services Administration (GSA), Department of Defense (DoD) and the SBA. You can find a list of full and partial agency shutdowns here.
  3.  Many Federal call centers and help desks will be closed at this time, but some will remain open. The Federal Service Desk – a call center designed to respond to questions regarding your System for Award Management (SAM) registration will remain open.  Additionally, SAM will remain operational; registrations can be updated, managed and processed throughout this time.
  4. Several Federal government websites will not be updated until funds are appropriated to their respective agencies.  Others, however, will currently remain operational, for example, Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps), the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
  5. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) and Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) like the PTAC/SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center are here to provide information as it becomes available regarding how your business may be affected.  Please do not hesitate to contact your local PTAC or SBDC.  If your business is located in Illinois, please click here to schedule an appointment with our PTAC/SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center.  If your business is located outside of Illinois please click here to find a PTAC in your area or here to locate an SBDC in your area.
Kristin Travis Pic

Kristin Travis

 

by: Kristin Travis, IL PTAC Associate

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Writing Winning Proposals – The Bid/No Bid Decision

By: Freida Curry, Director of the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) In last month’s Insider, I provided 6 steps for writing winning proposals.  The first step listed was ‘Make a Bid/No Bid’ decision.  In this issue, we are going to spend more time on this important step, and have invited Eileen Kent, President of Custom Keynotes, as our guest blogger.  Eileen, who has trained thousands of business owners nationwide in federal sales, proposal writing and GSA schedule contracting, is known in the industry as the “Federal Sales Sherpa” because she guides companies up the long and treacherous mountain path of federal contracting. 

The following are Eileen’s comments and suggestions about establishing a bid/no bid decision process: 

Eileen Kent

In my experience, one of the more rocky roads up the path to federal sales success is writing a blind proposal as a response to a bid posted on the public website FedBizOpps.gov. It’s as dangerous as walking up a mountain path with a blindfold on. You only have only a 5% chance of making it to the top three finalists.

If that is the case, then why do owners gamble their resources when there is such a low probability of making it to the top? Because owners believe their companies are perfect for the project – when, in fact, they often had no business bidding on it in the first place!

It is crucial that you take the time to evaluate and explore whether you should bid or not bid on an ‘opportunity,’ and I strongly advise owners and business development professionals to build a bid/no bid decision process that helps you decide which proposals to invest your time and talent.

Build a Bid/No Bid Decision Process

In my opinion and experience, you don’t stand a chance if you’ve never pre-sold to the customer inside the government. The goal is to “only write winners” (proposals) and that means you’ve already pre-sold the solution and you’re simply defending the win within theproposal.

A great way to judge your potential success is to ask yourself these questions below. If you don’t know any of the answers, you’re writing a blind bid and that means you only have a 5% chance or less of winning.

  1. Who is the incumbent?
  2. What does the customer think of the incumbent?
  3. Who are the other competitors calling on the client?
  4. Can the incumbent bid on this opportunity? What if they are a large business and the proposal states it is seeking small businesses? Could they bid with a small business teaming partner? If so, who is that small business? What does the customer think of them?
  5. Do I have the bonding capacity and the finances to be able to back such a project?
  6. Do I have the ability to provide the government agency the transparency it requires in terms of my costs, my team’s pay and my finance system? Would I withstand a Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audit?
  7. Have I performed work at this agency before? How did I perform?
  8. What are the past performance requirements? Did I do something in similar size and scope – at that agency?
  9. What are the products the government agency is requesting? Do I have the name brand products it is requesting or the “equivalent?”
  10. Does the customer know me? Do I know the customer? Have we worked together? Did they ask me to watch out for this bid?
  11. Have I built teaming partners and lined them up prior to the bid hitting the streets?
  12. What is the contract vehicle? Do I have it? If it is an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, do I have the sales team to uncover and win each task?
  13. What are the billing processes and the invoicing procedures at this agency?
  14. If the government agency is asking for key staff, do I have THE people on my staff it  told me it wanted or am I just filling a position to fit their description?
  15. Is this opportunity in my specialty? Do they know me for this specialty?
  16. Do I have the security clearances for this project, or am I scrambling to get them now?
  17. Do I know the story behind the opportunity? Why is this on FedBizOpps? Why didn’t they use a current prime, a GSA schedule or another contracting vehicle to avoid all the “noise” of a public procurement?
  18. When did I hear about this bid?
  19. When is the bid due?
  20. Was I invited to bid, or did I just pull this off the public bidding website?
  21. Who do I know at the agency – the end user, the contracting officer, or the stakeholder, or all three or none?

My motto is “Write Less Proposals – WIN More.” If you put as much time and investment in knowing the answers to the above questions by developing strong relationships, great past performance and excellent teaming partnerships before the bid hits the streets – as you do writing the proposal – you should be in a good position to be among the top three finalists. And even if you lose, you’re in a great position to be the winner the next time around.

If you want to hear more from Eileen Kent, visit her website at http://www.customkeynotes.com.

For more information on proposal writing, certification, finding contract opportunities, and developing a government contracting strategy we invite you to schedule a free appointment today with a WBDC Illinois PTAC counselor by calling 312-853-3477 x 100.

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Writing a Winning Proposal

Freida Curryby: Freida Curry, Director of the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC)

Successful proposal writing is one of the important keys to winning contracts, whether it is in the private or public sector.  When responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) there are several important factors to keep in mind.

  1. Make a bid/no bid decision.  Before spending time, money, effort and resources to prepare a proposal, you want to determine if this is the right opportunity for you.  Review the scope of work thoroughly.   Are you capable of satisfactorily fulfilling all that would be required of you according to what is asked in the RFP?  Do you have the financial ability to deliver quality products/service on time?  Do you have time to prepare a dynamic proposal?
  2. Attend pre- proposal meetings (if applicable).  If a meeting is offered you definitely want to attend!  At these meetings you have an opportunity to meet the buyers and ask questions.  In addition, prime contractors, contracting officers, buyers, supplier diversity specialists and other small business owners are likely to be present.  This provides a unique opportunity for networking for the purposes of subcontracting, teaming and relationship-building.
  3. Research. You want to do research to insure that you have identified all of the information that can assist you in writing a strong proposal.  This can be about your competitors, the incumbent contract holder, the contracting agency’s or corporation’s buying trends, or industry trends, etc.   For government proposals, you can check agency procurement sites, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), or public research sites like Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).
  4. Break down the work.  Create an outline to make your efforts in responding to the RFP more manageable. If you are working with a team, assign duties to specify who will address each section of the proposal.  Also, make sure the headlines you use in your proposal match the headlines for each section within the RFP.  Set a timeline that allows several days to proofread and make necessary changes. Give yourself ample time to submit your proposal – being even a minute late can result in your proposal being deemed ‘non responsive’.
  5. Write your proposal so that it about the buyer – and not about you.  This is one of the most important steps for writing a winning proposal!  Your proposal must make it clear to the buyer that you understand their problems and that you can provide the solutions to solve them.
  6. Get a debrief. The last and often overlooked step is to request a debriefing – most government agencies are required by law to give one and many corporations offer them as well.  A debriefing is an opportunity to find out more information on how your proposal was evaluated and why you were not awarded (or awarded) the contract.   Debriefings will be valuable for understanding how buyers perceive your strengths or weaknesses; this knowledge will be invaluable for future proposals

All in all, responding to a Request for Proposal can be manageable process, if you seek guidance (when needed), do your research and allow yourself ample time to complete each step of the process. Remember — write your proposal with the client in mind making it clear and readable.  And remember — always answer the question the buyer is asking —  ‘What’s In It For Me?’

Schedule an appointment with the WBDC for more tips and pointers.  Also, a site with a wealth of information is www.CapturePlanning.com.

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Teaming for Contracts and Growing Your Business with the Federal Government

From (L-R): Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming; Freida Curry, PTAC Director, WBDC; Alexandra Ytuarte, American Express OPEN, Senior Manager, Customer Advocacy

American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement has done a fantastic job of creating a robust environment through its LinkedIn group, with discussion from group members, over 50% of who are either chief operating officers or business owners.  Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming, who recently spoke at the Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government event, provides insight.

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez’s responses in the group, along with feedback from an attendee of the Chicago event, will give you a jumping off point in navigating government contracting and tell you what the Victory in Procurement program can offer your business.

Q: What do you look for in a successful teaming relationship?

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez:

“When you are looking at a potential teaming partner, there are a lot of questions you need to answer:  Are they reliable? Do they have experience? Do they have a positive industry reputation? Are they solid financially? You need to be comfortable and trust who you team with. Once you have vetted them, think about what the “team” will offer [you]:  do their services/products complement yours and is there a demand for what the team may offer? Also remember that teaming does not necessarily have to be with folks you don’t know.  Don’t overlook former employers and businesses within your circle.”

Q: Are there any particular websites that are used to identify companies in search of teaming partners?

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez:

“Federal Procurement Data System www.fpds.gov; USA Spending www.usaspending.gov GSA E-Library http://www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov/ElibMain/home.do; central Contractor Registration System www.ccr.gov*; trade associations for certain certifications, such as the 8(a) Association etc…”

Join the American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement LinkedIn group here: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4214818&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

Joanne Cleaver attended the May 3rd American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government workshop. Below is her response when asked what she learned  from attending the May event as well as what attendees can learn from the Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government workshop in St.Louis on October 3rd?

“My key take away from the May OPEN [Marketing to the Federal Government] event was how to tailor my pitch to specific upcoming contracting opportunities. Denise Rodriguez-Lopez was an engaging and informative presenter, with well organized material and thorough answers to all our questions.

Based on what I learned, along with the ongoing coaching from the WBDC’s well informed staff, I have developed a ‘government pursuit plan’ that focuses on identifying the highest-potential opportunities, marketing my firm’s strategic communication services directly to small business advocates and hopefully to purchasing managers and customizing our materials to be most effective.  As a result of all this, I have been invited to respond to a proposal for a substantial subcontracting opportunity with another woman-owned business.”

-Joanne Cleaver, Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc.  Develops and delivers effective strategic messages.  For more information about Ms. Cleaver’s business visit:  www.wilson-taylorassoc.com.

Register for the St. Louis American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government here: http://goo.gl/I0Z1w

*Editors Note: As of July 29, 2012 ORCA and ccr.gov no longer exist. It is now www.sam.gov. If you have a prior CCR or ORCA account, it is possible to move data into www.sam.gov, once you have registered.


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The Women’s Business Development Center Invites You to the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference in Chicago, IL!

The WBDC staff invites you to attend the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, Women’s Business & Buyers Mart on September 20, 2012 at Chicago’s McCormick Place-West!  View the video below for your invitation!

Register now to spend a full day connecting with key buyers, supplier diversity staff and/0r purchasing decision makers from both the corporate and government sectors!

Learn more about the events taking place on September 20th by clicking here.

Take a look at the Women’s Forum Breakfast Speaker Announcement here!

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5 Tips for Attending Trade Shows & Government Fairs

On April 25th, the WBDC-Minnesota office will be working with the U. S. Small Business Administration Minnesota District Office and the Minnesota Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to support a Government Procurement Fair.  Below are tips to make any procurement fair a success for you!  If you’re interested in registering for the free government procurement fair in Minnesota, click here.

    1. Do your homework.  Study the list of exhibitors
      from the trade show/fair brochure, identify prospects and create a targeted hit list.

      • The contacts that are most important to you should be your first stop.  People in the booths are more alert and patient in the morning.  In fact, if you can arrive early to meet with those key contacts, you may beat traffic.
    2. Budget sufficient time and resources. Trade shows/fairs often have many components, including workshops and matchmaker meetings, so be sure to block half a day or the entire day, and possibly bring your sales force.
      • Make sure to take note of already scheduled appointments – do not skip an appointment!  If you must miss your appointment, provide adequate notice to your contact to ensure they can fill the spot and maintain a good relationship.
      • Also include time for new opportunities when budgeting your time.  You never know what’s out there for you and your business until you explore!
    3. Bring lots of business cards.
      • Always overestimate the number of business cards you need.
      • Ensure your card includes all the essential information including: name, title, company, website, work number, business address, and if this information doesn’t explain what your company does, be sure a one line description somewhere on the card.
      • Before you hand your card over, put the date of the fair on it to give a point of reference to the recipient.
    4. Look and act professional.
      • Taking the time to do your homework will give you an edge, as knowing what different agencies do can help you act more professional.  Being able to ask smart questions, as opposed to “What do you buy?” is essential.  You should already know what the agency buys before approaching the table.
      • Dress in a manner that distinguishes you while still being professional.
    5. Don’t forget to follow up with your new contacts and act on items you promised.
      • By taking quick action and touching base with new contacts you show that you have initiative and take seriously what you discussed.  Keep in mind the people working at the fair see hundreds of individuals in one day – make sure they see you again a few days later in their inbox or voicemail.

What else do you find useful when attending procurement fairs?  What about business expos and conferences?  Take a look at our article on how to have effective outreach during those as well!

Contributing Author: Natasha Fedorova, Program Director, WBDC-Minnesota

Source:  Bradt, Judy “2010 OSDBU Tips Want More Government Contracts in 2010?” 2010 PDF file

For more tips on how to make the most productive use of your visit to a Procurement Fair, please visit http://www.summitinsight.com/blogviewd.asp?id=93.

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Investing in Contracts – An Infographic

Join the WBDC May 3rd, 2012 at the East Bank Club in Chicago for American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Event.

Learn more and register here.

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Small Business Getting a Boost in Chicago – Compliments of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

For those of you following this blog, you know that the WBDC is a proud partner of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in Chicago.  As the first cohort of program participants heads toward graduation, we’ve heard incredible feedback about their experiences.  The business education is highly interactive and engaging, equipping business owners with the tools to take their business to the next level.  Key areas of education include:

–          Understanding business financials

–          Creating sales and marketing strategies

–          Becoming a “bankable” business

–          Developing true leadership skills

Additionally, through this program you have the opportunity to interact with other business owners looking to learn and enrich their businesses.  So not only will you be gaining valuable lessons on business from top business educators, you will also be networking with key connections in the Chicago area!

Are you:

  1. A business poised for growth?
  2. Committed to growing your business and creating jobs?
  3. Having a business model that could scale to create more jobs?
  4. Seeking practical business and management education, access to capital and business support services?

If you answered yes to all these questions, then you should APPLY for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program today!

For more information on specific eligibility requirements and to hear from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program representatives, attend one of the WBDC’s informational events March 20th at Illinois Institute of Technology or March 21st at the WBDC.

Mayor Emanuel visits with 10000 Small Business scholars

This great opportunity is offered in Chicago by partner organizations including the WBDC, City Colleges of Chicago, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Urban League and Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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New NAICS Code Size Standards for Small Businesses

For the first time in about 25 years, the Small Business Administration recently changed its definition of “small business” in a variety of industries (see chart below). The end goal for these changes is to increase access to federal contracts and access to capital. “It allows small businesses to retain their small-business status and contracting officers to have a larger selection of small businesses to choose from for contracting opportunities,” said a SBA spokesperson.  The changes go into effect March 12,2012.  How do you think they’ll impact your small business?

Chart provided by: Cherry, Bekaert & Holland, published originally here.

NAICS Codes

NAICS industry title

Current size standard
($ millions)

Proposed size standard
($ millions)

Revised size standard
($ millions)

541110 Offices of Lawyers

$7.0

$10.0

$10.0

541191 Title Abstract and Settlement Offices

7.0

10.0

10.0

541199 All Other Legal Services

7.0

10.0

10.0

541211 Offices of Certified Public Accountants

8.5

14.0

19.0

541213 Tax Preparation Services

7.0

14.0

19.0

541214  Payroll Services

8.5

14.0

19.0

541219 Other Accounting Services

8.5

14.0

19.0

541310 Architectural Services

4.5

19.0

7.0

541320 Landscape Architectural Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

541330 Engineering Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

Except Military and Aerospace Equipment and Military Weapons

27.0

27.0

35.0

Except Contracts and Subcontracts for Engineering Services Awarded Under the National Energy Policy Act of 1992

27.0

27.0

35.5

Except Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture

18.5

25.5

35.5

541340 Drafting Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

Except Map Drafting

4.5

\1\

\1\

541350 Building Inspection Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

541360 Geophysical Surveying and Mapping Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

541370 Surveying and Mapping  (except Geophysical) Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

541380 Testing Laboratories

12.0

19.0

14.0

541410  Interior Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541420  Industrial Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541430 Graphic Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541490 Other Specialized Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541511 Custom Computer Programming Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541512 Computer Systems Design Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541513 Computer Facilities Management Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541519 Other Computer Related Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541611 Administrative Management  and General Management Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541612 Human Resources Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541613 Marketing Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541614 Process, Physical  Distribution and Logistics Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541618 Other Management Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541620 Environmental Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541690 Other Scientific and Technical Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541720 Research and Development in the Social Sciences and Humanities

7.0

19.0

19.0

541810 Advertising Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541820 Public Relations Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541830 Media Buying Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541840 Media Representatives

7.0

14.0

14.0

541850 Display Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541860 Direct Mail Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541870 Advertising Material Distribution Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541890 Other Services Related to Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541910 Marketing Research and Public Opinion Polling

7.0

7.0

14.0

541921 Photography Studios Portrait

7.0

7.0

7.0

541922 Commercial Photography

7.0

7.0

7.0

541930 Translation and Interpretation Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541940 Veterinary Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541990 All Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

7.0

7.0

14.0

811212 Computer and Office Repair and Maintenance

25.0

25.5

25.5

“The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is increasing 37 small business size standards for 34 industries and three sub-industries (“exceptions” in SBA’s table of small business size standards) in North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 54, Professional, Technical, and Scientific Services. SBA is also increasing the one size standard in NAICS Sector 81, Other Services, which it did not review in 2010. These size standards are all receipts based. SBA is retaining the current standards for the remaining industries in NAICS Sector 54. This rule also removes “Map Drafting” as the “exception” to NAICS 541340, Drafting Services. As part of its ongoing comprehensive review of all size standards, SBA has evaluated every receipts based size standard in NAICS Sector 54 as well as the one previously unreviewed size standard in NAICS Sector 81 to determine whether the existing standards should be retained or revised.” – from Federal Register

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New Chicago Programs Create Opportunities for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

This week Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced two plans, effective immediately, to help to create a level playing field for small minority- and women-owned businesses.  These plans are designed to increase opportunities for both groups in the public and private sector as well as to ensure that City of Chicago inclusion goals are being met.

According to a  City of Chicago press release, the first program, the Small Business Initiative, is a race and gender neutral opportunity, for small businesses to compete for construction projects totaling no more than $3 million. “Small businesses, which often don’t go up against the big guys, will have fencing, roofing and other construction work set aside for them.  In 2012, that work could add up to $40 million,” said Emanuel.

The second program, known as the Diversity Credit Program, was developed to increase the use of minority- and women-owned businesses on contracts issued in the private sector.   For every $3 of private sector contracts, $1 in credit will be issued to the contractor, which can be used to provide up to 5 percent of a subsequent city contract.  This will encourage the City’s largest construction contractors to work with minority- and women-owned businesses in not just the public, but the private sector as well.

“It’s not enough that we’re committed in City government to supporting our small businesses and women- and minority-owned businesses,” says Jamie Rhee, chief procurement officer for the City of Chicago.  “We must involve the private sector, the non-profit community, and the City of Chicago.  Everyone’s support and involvement is crucial to our success.”

To receive the credit, companies will be required to sign a sworn affidavit and allow the City to audit their books to verify the hiring of minority- and women-owned businesses, according to a Chicago Tribune report on the program.

These programs, coupled with the recent announcement that Chicago will join the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, will undoubtedly ensure the health of local small businesses going forward.

Kristin Travis is Program Assistant at the WBDC.

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