The Good News and Bad News About Uncooperative Proposal Contributors

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This is a guest post by Carl Dickson of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY. Here he shares 29 techniques for dealing with uncooperative proposal contributors.

One of the joys of managing proposals is that none of the people who are drafted to contribute to the proposal actually report to the proposal “manager.” And frequently they are expected to contribute to the proposal after all of their other responsibilities are taken care of. It can be like working two jobs. So even when they want to help out, they often aren’t the most enthusiastic and cooperative people to depend on.

I recently had a discussion about this with a friend of mine, Chris Ryan. He’s an expert in organizational improvement and management consulting and brings a different perspective to the proposal arena. He clued me in to some studies regarding human performance improvement.

Apparently Thomas Gilbert is often credited with inventing the whole thing. He showed that some of the things that drive behavior are individual, but some of them are organizational. For example, each individual has their own knowledge, capacities, and motives, but environmental factors like information, resources, and incentives can actually play a larger role in their ability to contribute to something like a proposal.

Proposal managers are great at solving things at their own level. But you can’t maximize your win rate without also addressing the organizational level.

Techniques at the proposal level

Here are some of the techniques that we can use on our own, without involving The Powers That Be:

  1. Manage expectations. Also known as “proactive scolding.” I prefer to think of it as a preventative. This should be your standard opening.
  2. Just-in-time training, in all its forms. A major reason why people don’t cooperate is that they don’t know how to do what you’ve asked. Building in training, often without calling it “training,” is a great way to get past the hurdle.
  3. Job aids. What can people reference or use that will make completing their assignments easier
  4. Anticipate information dependencies. When people don’t have the information they need to do what you’ve asked, things grind to a halt. Anticipating that and proactively providing that information smooths cooperation. If you don’t have the information yourself, then providing the workaround or source to get it is the best you can do.
  5. Persuasion. Sometimes we beg and plead. Sometimes we threaten. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all technique that works in all circumstances.
  6. Work the chain of command. Sometimes you go over people’s heads. Sometimes you persuade The Powers That Be to publicly support you. Sometimes you get them to shuffle resources in your favor or reduce the workload of proposal contributors. Sometimes The Powers That Be are not available and you’re on your own.
  7. Conflict resolution. Advanced techniques for conflict resolution can help you get everyone on the same side and balance the competing priorities.
  8. Make it easier for them to do what you need than it is for them to fake it on their own. If you ask people to put effort into following “the process” because it will “pay off later,” you’ve already lost half of them. But if the steps in your process make it easier for them to complete their assignment and get back to their “real” job, you might just get some cooperation out of them. Think tools, checklists, recipes, and guidance instead of process, steps, and mandates.
  9. Oversight. No one likes someone hovering over them while they work. But if you can structure frequent checks, especially ones that aren’t obviously checking up on people, you’ll get more cooperation. Some people procrastinate. So give them more deadlines. Instead of two weeks to complete writing a section, give them two days to plan it, a day to write the introduction paragraph, etc.
  10. Self-assessment tools. Enable people to know when they are on the right track without having to ask. Equally important, you also enable them to see when they are not on the right track.
  11. Alternatives. The more alternatives you have, the fewer points of failure. Can you replace people? Can you switch them to another task or role?
  12. Automation. If we can’t force them to cooperate, maybe we can get the computer to do it for us!
  13. Team building. Don’t just think of team building as morale boosting and cheerleading. Think of it as collaboration. Can you change the collaboration model to reduce the amount of friction that’s leading to a lack of cooperation?
  14. Peer pressure. Sometimes you don’t need the chain of command to apply pressure.

And now for the bad news

All of these techniques have their limits. Collectively they amount to a smaller chance of improving cooperation than any one of the organizational approaches below can achieve. They amount to keeping honest people honest and enabling people who want to cooperate to do so.

Getting The Powers That Be onboard regarding the organizational issues ultimately decides your success and the organization’s win rate and growth. But you can usually get a proposal out the door without their explicit support when you have to.

This is what should motivate The Powers That Be to lend a hand. Getting by will not maximize your win or your ROI. Most already realize this, though, and are trapped in an ROI dilemma and negative incentives of their own that exaggerate the chances of winning and minimize the resource requirements to do so.

In Part Two of this post, Carl will reveal some organizational improvement techniques that can have a profound impact on how well people cooperate during a proposal.

This article originally appeared at PropLIBRARY at https://proplibrary.com/proplibrary/item/739-29-techniques-for-dealing-with-uncooperative-proposal-contributors/ and was reprinted with permission.

Carl Dickson is the founder and president of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.


How to Build a Game – The Serious Game Design Workshop at I/ITSEC 2017

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This is a guest post by TAPE’s Information Systems Analyst Jeff Long.

The Serious Game Design Workshop occurred on the last day of the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), an annual five-day convention held in Orlando, Florida. The TAPE group in attendance included Business Analyst Walt Long, CEO and President Louisa Jaffe, and our PM TRASYS contract team.

The I/ITSEC showroom floor had closed when we walked into the workshop and were greeted by our two instructors for the day: Peter Smith, an assistant professor of game design at the University of Central Florida, and Vance Souders, founder of Plas.md, a creative studio focused on developing innovative immersive solutions for health, wellness and education for DoD, government, and commercial entities.

This was an excellent experience that I think didn’t got the attention it deserved. I believe everyone from beginners to advanced would benefit from this high-level overview about making a “serious” learning game (definition below). The entire course was done with pen and paper, with no programming required.

One engineer at our table commented that it was great to see non-game designers interested in the inner workings of what can be a complicated process to understand. “We don’t see enough manager types in these classes but I noticed we have a great mix today.”

So what is a serious game? A serious or applied game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment, typically for training.

We began with a high-view concept of what kind of planning and stages it takes to make a simple serious game. Then we were split into various groups, taking on roles related to instruction (instructional designers, trainers, and instructors), game (game designers, game developers, and producers), subject matter experts (who might have experience with procedures/tactics/equipment regarding a profession, or other processes to be used as curriculum within a game), and technical/management (software developers, managers, and artists). Each participant chose a role and we acted in that role over a series of 15 exercises throughout the day.

Analysis

Our first task was in the realm of analysis. Before we could make a game we had to ask ourselves a few questions: What purpose does it serve and who would be the audience? What’s our game concept? What are our learning objectives? What are we assessing? These great questions helped focus our plan of attack. Without knowing these basics it would have been easy to go off the rails. Each group collaborated to answer these questions and develop the initial idea of what their serious game could be.

Core Design

Next we moved on to core design. Here we would take our assessments and begin to develop a story, one that was relevant to the interest of the audience we identified during the analysis. The next step was to figure out how we would take the learning objective and teach our audience the required skills.

This is where a creative mind can go just about anywhere. In general gaming there is almost an infinite number of genres, with new ideas showing up daily. My four favorites are role-playing games (RPG), real-time strategy (RTS), first-person shooters (FPS), and virtual reality (VR). A quick Google search of any of those terms will reveal countless games to find inspiration for your game.

Finally, we asked this very important question: What shouldn’t be in our game? It’s easy to lose yourself in a wish list of features, but each feature will need to be created and with limited resources having too large of a scope can run your project over budget and behind on development time. Having an ambitious project is great, but don’t go overboard, especially if it’s your first rodeo. Distilling your ideas so not to overburden the player will result in a better gaming experience.

Experience Design

Here we started with a small discussion about common pitfalls. The instructors provided a helpful overview of the concept of design patterns. This is about establishing reusable systems so people don’t end up reinventing the wheel. (See this excerpt from Robert Nystrom’s Game Programming Patterns for more on the concept of design patterns.) Using these wherever possible will help ensure that your game design is easier for your team to create, understand and implement.

In experience design, we explicitly define and iteratively refine each of these learning game elements: goals, control, actions, assessment, guidance, and feedback. Each of these concepts help the player understand and move through your serious game.

Revise

In this stage we did a mental walkthrough of the game from the player’s perspective. We wanted to identify issues that the player could experience, such as edge-cases, poor performers, “gaming the game,” or bored players. You want to be a devil’s advocate to find anything that breaks immersion, flow, or buy-in.

Finally, we tried throwing a wrench into the works like what might happen when real life intervenes, like what happens when a customer doesn’t think the game is fun, or wants to go deeper? Or when students don’t like the game or it isn’t producing the desired learning outcomes? What if it takes too long to play? Or your budget is reduced or money runs out before you finish creating the game? What if the players aren’t taking the game seriously?

Any of these problems have the potential to tank the entire project. While we can’t predict or avoid every problem, we can imagine these situations and try to have a plan when possible.

I personally hope they bring this workshop back and that we see a larger group there for 2018. If you are interested in making a serious game, this workshop was designed around a book called Design and Development of Training Games Practical Guidelines from a Multidisciplinary Perspective, edited by Talib S. Hussain and Susan L. Coleman. If they don’t have another workshop in 2018 or you can’t make it to I/ITSEC, this book might be for you.

Good luck and have fun!
Jeffrey Long


Team TAPE and Operation Blended Warrior at I/ITSEC 2017

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This is a guest post by Walt Long, Business Analyst at TAPE, LLC.

In this post we’ll continue our recap of the 2017 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), in Orlando, Florida, the world’s largest modeling, simulation, and training conference.

While we were there, we visited Marines conducting a training exercise as part of the 2017 Operation Blended Warrior (OBW), a yearlong collaborative, live-virtual-constructive (LVC) planning and execution event that culminates during I/ITSEC with the purpose of uncovering and documenting the challenges in the rapid development and integration of diverse simulation systems and components.

We’re proud that this work was supported by our Orlando TAPE office in Research Park. There, we provide contracted subject matter experts to support the Program Manager Training Systems (PM TRASYS) program office. In this specific case, we provided analysts who supported the set up, execution, and breakdown of the OBW demonstration at I/ITSEC.

In a video for I/ITSEC TV, OBW Manager Kent Gritton discussed the need for this type of event:

“There are multiple ways of doing training: you can do it live where you actually jump into your aircraft and go fly with your actual system itself; you can do it virtually, where you are in a simulator actually controlling the event – it’s a man-controlled event; or you can do it in constructive where it’s a computer controlled event.

Each of those capabilities are used for certain objectives in the training world. With the richness that [an LVC event] can provide by blending all these three together we have a better training environment for whatever we want to accomplish. Plus we have some warfare capabilities now that cannot be trained solely within the live realm and so it’s a necessity to go ahead and bring that virtual and constructive into the live domain so that we can train all of the capabilities of the new warfare platforms.”

Team TAPE devoted extensive time and effort over these many months in setting up the network infrastructure, developing the scenarios, and coordinating with multiple government and industry participants to execute the four-day Ground Scenario portion of OBW. Team TAPE’s professional presentation of the ground operations set a high mark of achievement and received many accolades from senior government and industry personnel.

Carlos Cuevas, project manager of Orlando team, shared the support team’s highlights from the training event:

• Operation Blended Warrior (OBW) is a unique forum to assist military services, industry and academia in meeting tough challenges associated with live-virtual-constructive simulation environments. I/ITSEC 2017 was an overwhelming success. PMTRASYS/TEAM TAPE were among the 38 government and industry organizations that participated.

• Team TAPE PTSS support to I/ITSEC/OBW was comprised of extensive coordination prior to IITSEC commencing. This included, but was not limited to loading specific software on designated laptops and creating and rehearsing scenarios in Virtual Battle Space (VBS), and working directly with the Reserve Detachment; these Marines would serve as the actual operators for the OBW demo.

• Upon I/ITSEC start, Team TAPE personnel participated in the setup of the TRASYS booth and assisted in booth duties as required throughout the week. During this time, several OBW scenarios or “vignettes” were executed; this required communication, coordination with other entities participating, as well as any last minute troubleshooting.

• At the conclusion of I/ITSEC, Team TAPE personnel assisted with the teardown of the booth, and return/accountability of the equipment utilized. Additionally, all provided detailed after-action report comments.

In the final post in this series, TAPE’s Information Systems Analyst Jeff Long will share his notes from the I/ITSEC Build a Game workshop.


VR & Game Technology Showcased at I/ITSEC 2017

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This is a guest post by Walt Long, Business Analyst at TAPE, LLC.

In Fall 2017, I joined TAPE’s Information Systems Analyst Jeff Long, and CEO and President Louisa Jaffe Louisa Jaffe, as well as several others, for the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), an annual five-day convention held in Orlando, Florida. Orlando has many good facilities for large conventions and the nearby University of Central Florida (UCF) plays a major role in modeling and simulation research as well as implementation for the US Military.

From the official I/ITSEC webpage: “I/ITSEC is the world’s largest modeling, simulation, and training conference. Held near the beginning of December in Orlando, Florida, USA, I/ITSEC consists of peer-reviewed paper presentations, tutorials, special events, professional workshops, a commercial exhibit hall, a serious games competition, and STEM events for teachers and secondary students.

I/ITSEC is organized by the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA), which promotes international and interdisciplinary cooperation within the fields of modeling and simulation (M&S), training, education, analysis, and related disciplines at this annual meeting. The NTSA is an affiliate subsidiary of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). Hence, I/ITSEC also emphasizes themes related to defense and security.”

Having attended the previous year’s conference, I saw that there were some interesting evolutions happening on different fronts. In the few booths I visited where I experienced virtual reality (VR) thru a VR headset/goggles, I was able to see that VR comes a little further every year in sophistication.

Once you get past the fear of how you look to others who are outside of your virtual world, it is pretty amazing to put on VR goggles and really experience how real everything looks that you are seeing in the virtual world. You can usually look in any direction and see detail that stretches out quite a ways. It’s always fun to see what folks come up with each year in the way of virtual landscapes.

The other type of software that impressed me was a set of learning games in the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge section, as described on the I/ITSEC website: “The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge (SGS&C) celebrates the use of games and game technology as a delivery medium for instructional material. The Challenge is divided into categories: Business, Government, Student, Mobile, and Special Emphasis. After a rigorous evaluation, the top entries from all received are selected as finalists and invited to Showcase their Games on the exhibit floor during I/ITSEC.”

These game products were specifically designed to put the user into a workplace setting where they faced other people in difficult situations and needed to make tough decisions in managing those people as well as other resources. The games introduced levels of stress in terms including people that were difficult to deal with and/or a stressful fast-paced office environment with many choices needing to be made in a relatively short period of time while navigating one-on-one conversations, phone calls, and subordinates requesting direction.

Unlike other sections of the I/ITSEC showroom floor, some of these games had nothing to do with combat or even in some cases the military. One was about how to deal with a white collar office environment and make choices about email content and how to manage a piece of work.

Another game was designed for veterans’ hospital staff, on how to speak to ill and sometimes poorly informed veteran patients about their treatment and expectations of what healing they might be able to accomplish in partnership with VA staff.

In subsequent posts we’ll highlight how TEAM TAPE in Orlando, Florida had their work showcased at I/ITSEC, and Jeff Long will share notes from the Build a Game workshop.


The 3 Most Critical Elements of a Small Business Cybersecurity Plan

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This is a guest post from Tonya Buckner of BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc.

In a previous post, we looked at the disturbing prevalence of cyber-attacks, and how small businesses are especially at risk.

As of December 31, 2017, any company wishing to work with the government is required to have a documented cybersecurity plan. This is an excellent opportunity to make sure your business is prepared for this inevitable threat.

The three critical elements of a cybersecurity plan

1. People

• Requires executive leadership commitment to security
• Train and educate employees about cyber threats and hold them accountable
• Require employees to use strong passwords and to change them often

The bottom line is that employees should participate in identifying and protecting your business from security incidents. Ultimately, your goal is to build a culture of cybersecurity that includes employees knowing how to protect themselves and the business.

2. Processes

• Create a cybersecurity policy for your business
• Develop procedures for safeguarding employee, vendor, and customer information
• Establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information
• Include protocols/processes that employees must follow in case of a breach

3. Technology

Although all three are critical, the technology is the most critical element of a cybersecurity plan.

• Update computers and software
• Regularly update your computers, including desktops, laptops, and mobile devices
• Ensure operating systems, software applications, and web browsers are up to date
• Encrypt data and create backups
• Regularly backup the information so if information is stolen, you will have another copy somewhere else
• Limit and control access
• Unauthorized personnel should not have access to company computers and accounts
• Secure your infrastructure (physical location, network, etc.)
• A business’s Wi-Fi can be an easy way to access data; secure your Wi-Fi so only authorized personnel can access it.

If you become a victim of a breach take the following steps:

Act immediately
• Contact your IT team, legal counsel and cyber liability insurance agent

Contain the breach
• Take affected systems offline, but don’t turn them off – that way your IT team can examine the source of the breach

Document every step
• Authorities will need to know these details

Communicate clearly
• Ensure affected groups are made aware of the issue and the steps being taken

A great cybersecurity resource is the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), who distributes bulletins and alerts. It provides information for both technical and non-technical users, shares cybersecurity tips, and responds to incident, phishing, and vulnerabilities reports.

It is imperative that businesses exercise breach preparedness and readiness in order to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. Cybersecurity strategies are not optional; they need to be regarded as a core activity in your business.

BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc. (BucknerMT, Inc.) is a verified service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and woman-owned small business (WOSB). Since 2007, they have supported the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) by providing engineering, integration, and sustainment solutions to protect its critical military infrastructure, platforms and data. Department of Defense is the highest level of cyber protection.


Cybersecurity: What Your Small Business Needs to Know

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This is a guest post from Tonya Buckner of BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc.

“I am convinced that there are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked and those that will be.”Former FBI Director Robert Mueller

The City of Atlanta, Amazon, BlueCross BlueShield, Disney, Equifax, Home Depot, Microsoft, Sony, Target, and Yahoo. What do all these companies have in common? These are large organizations with massive infrastructure. If it can happen to them, it can definitely happen to you. Small businesses are the heart of the US economy and yet we are some of the most vulnerable to the threat of cyber attacks.

Cyber-attacks are growing every day, from influencing major elections to crippling businesses overnight. Consider these statistics:

  • There is a hacker attack every 39 seconds, affecting one in three Americans each year
  • 64% of companies have experienced web-based attacks
  • 62% experienced phishing & social engineering attacks
  • 59% of companies experienced malicious code and botnets and 51% experienced denial of service attacks
  • The average cost of a data breach in 2020 will exceed $150 million by 2020, as more business infrastructure gets connected
  • In 2017, 61% of small businesses experienced cyber-attacks
  • 60% of all small businesses go out of business within six months of experiencing a cyber-attack

(Source: Verizon Data Breach Report)

Most disturbingly, the same report found that 90% of small businesses do not use any data protection to secure their company and customer information.

As small business owners, we often find ourselves “laptop road warriors,” working in our cars, at Starbucks, on a plane, in a restaurant, or in a hotel room, just to name a few. Yet these environments are playgrounds for cyber attackers. Public Wi-Fi systems are unsecure and a gateway for hackers to access your system and steal your information. By using them you are exposing yourself to the world.

It is important to take proactive steps to combat cyber attacks to protect your company and your customers’ information, as well as to avoid excessive financial cost. It is critical that you do not underestimate the effect cyber warfare can have on your business.

Cybersecurity refers to a set of techniques used to protect the integrity of networks, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access, ensuring the integrity, confidentiality and availability of information. It represents the ability to defend against and recover from attacks by adversaries.

The first step to cybersecurity is to assess the current vulnerability of your organization. It is equally important to understand the cyber risks as your business grows, adding new technologies or functions. Once you understand the risks associated with your organization, you can better protect it from theft. Potential risks include:

  • Outdated and/or unlicensed hardware and software
  • Ineffective/nonexistent policies
  • Ineffective/nonexistent procedures
  • Lazy oversight/lack of training
  • Loose enforcement

In a follow up post, we’ll look at the most important elements of your small business’s cybersecurity plan.

BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc. (BucknerMT, Inc.) is a verified service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and woman-owned small business (WOSB). Since 2007, they have supported the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) by providing engineering, integration, and sustainment solutions to protect its critical military infrastructure, platforms and data. Department of Defense is the highest level of cyber protection.


Trends in Government Contract Financing

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This is a guest post by Katie Bilek of Republic Capital Access.

Small businesses face a unique set of financial challenges as federal government procurement has evolved over the past few years. Here are some recent trends that stress small businesses:

Awards too large for a company’s financial wherewithal

The nature of the federal contracting environment has led to many out-sized contract awards to small businesses. It’s not uncommon for us to see a contractor win work that is at least 3 to 4 times the size of their existing portfolio of contracts. In many cases, this may be the result of desired efficiency, where a contracting officer chooses to merge multiple legacy contracts into a single vehicle.

More frequently, contracts are “flipped” from full and open to a small business preference (such as HUBzone, SDVOSB, etc.) to achieve set-aside goals, introducing the potential awardee to what was previously a large business task, most likely at the high end of their NAICS ceiling. It is important to have a financial institution that is prepared to triple or quadruple the size of your existing financing upon contract award.

Cost of pursuing indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) and blanket purchase agreement (BPA) contracts

While multi-billion (or trillion) dollar contract ceilings sound enviable for any small business owner, IDIQ/GWAC and BPA contracts are merely a license to hunt. We have seen many small businesses expend nearly all of their resources and cash reserves to win large IDIQ contracts. When they finally pursue task orders and hire key personnel in advance of execution, many lack the capital to perform the work.

Focus on cash flow projections and choose a financial partner who can provide financing based upon the creditworthiness of your government customer and contract, not your balance sheet.

Requirement to have financing in place in order to be compliant with bid

We have seen increasing scrutiny on the part of contracting officers to make sure small businesses can demonstrate financial capability to execute the contract in compliance with the FAR.

Many solicitations now require a financial capability letter from a financing institution citing the solicitation, description and a financing facility equal to at least three months’ worth of billings in. Your financial partner should be able to provide this commitment letter at no cost for future contract awards.

Challenges related to financing joint ventures

Unpopulated joint ventures are a popular teaming vehicle, yet the unpopulated joint venture structure itself often struggles to qualify for stand-alone financing without significant capital contributions or guarantees from its participating partners. Even when the JV partners maintain their own bank lines of credit independent from the JV, those banks are often unwilling to extend credit to the JV as an external entity.

Find a financial partner who will underwrite the unpopulated joint venture without requiring capital contributions from either party. This is done via non-recourse receivables financing.

Surges and volatility of product procurements

For value-added resellers, the federal fiscal year-end results in the lion’s share of revenue. For our small business friends holding NASA SEWP, CIO-CS and other contract vehicles, a combination of receivable and vendor financing is critical to executing large product orders.

While vendor credit programs can be affordable sources of financing, not all small business balance sheets can support 8-figure product orders on vendor credit alone; the non-recourse sale of receivables to pay vendors and manufacturers completes the financing package that allows resellers to execute during peak seasonal times. Choose a financial partner with a vendor financing solution with adequate availability for your largest product orders.

Loan sharks in sheep’s clothing

The prevalence of online, financial technology (FinTech) loans is startling. These fast money products are basically like an electronic version of payday loans for businesses, usually priced well above 30%.

They dress their virtual storefronts up in any manner of ways: the jeans-and-t-shirt, San Francisco techies; the self-proclaimed veteran lovers invoking images of patriotism, the Buy by Midnight! used car salesmen and the not-so-subtle cash advance lenders.

All of these lenders hawk financial products that are priced higher than most small business government contractor margins can support. Beware of online lenders, and always read the fine print; even if they tell you “It’s only 9%!” share the proposal with a banker who can shed light on the real math.

Republic Capital Access (RCA) is a specialty finance company for government contractors. RCA’s product offering includes non-recourse receivables financing, unbilled (mobilization) financing, financial commitment letters, joint venture financing, term loans and more. Katie Bilek currently serves as senior vice president of Republic Capital Access. She is also co-founder of govmates and board member of the National Veteran Small Business Coalition. Katie lives in Alexandria with her husband Beau and son Jackson.

 


7 Steps for Innovators Wanting to Work with the Feds

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This is a guest post by Eileen Kent, The Federal Sales Sherpa.

1. Reach out to a Procurement Technical Assistance Center who can help your connection register with the federal government – it’s free, and SAM.gov is the site. If you want to learn more about it, listen to this episode of my blog talk radio show. It’s not rocket science – but it’s the first step a company needs to take first before approaching anyone in the federal government.

2. Find basic training if you’re dabbling in the market and doing it yourself. For a small investment (often under $100 and sometimes free), attend a few SBA-sponsored local events or PTAC-sponsored local events, or listen to some of my connections’ webcasts, podcasts, and webinars (including The Federal Sales Sherpa Show).

3. If you’re serious about this market, purchase one-on-one training from federal sales experts who have “been there/done that” – and can customize the material for your business and your services. This is only for those wanting to stand up a team member – or hit the ground running. It’s refreshing and time saving to hear a non-government sponsored training – because an expert giving you the training will tell you the realities of what it truly takes to win federal contracts.

My training is called, “The Federal Sales Game-How to Play to WIN!” but others have something similar. You and your team need to learn the difference between the goals of the contracting officer and your customer on the inside – the END USER – who will need what you sell. You need to find and capture their attention, imagination, pain, needs, and perceived solutions. You also need training on clearly understanding contracting vehicles. What is a GSA Schedule, IDIQ, BPA, GWAC? What are set asides, 8(a), SDVOSB, HUBZone, EDWOSBs? Know the difference and understand the power of having these contract “bridges” or partnering with someone who does.

4. Build a strong capabilities statement, with provable, quantifiable best values. Follow this document up with several past performance/case studies ready to present in a capabilities briefing, stand-up field meeting, or webinar.

5. Perform a competitive analysis of the data, which is available at your fingertips WITHOUT BUYING A SUBSCRIPTION. Know how to use all the tools available to you that can uncover which agency buys what you sell, from whom and with what contract vehicle, so you know who to approach, what to say and how to differentiate yourself from their current provider.

Only buy a subscription when you understand the data you’re looking at and you plan to DO something with the intel uncovered. One client of mine just got a renewal for a subscription which is $20k a year now for them. Stop the madness! Wrap your head around the intel and stop living in it. It’s time to take that intel and DO something with it, such as make decisions about which contract vehicles (like GSA, Seaport-e, GWACS and such) to keep and which to drop.

6. Build a federal sales action plan focused around the 3-5 agencies who buy what you sell. Stop stumbling around the public bid sites and randomly bidding on contracts you think are “perfect for us.” Start developing relationships and finding the end users and program managers making decisions about purchasing like-products/services as yours and execute that plan.

What do I mean by execute? Simple. Call. Email. Ask for directions. Call again. Email. Email. Call. Email. Visit. Present. Follow up. Call again. Check in. Follow through. Ask for referrals. Email., Call. Share an article or a whitepaper. Call again, and again, and again. Develop comfortable relationships with federal clients who start to share with you what’s really happening, and whether or not they need you now or later. If they don’t need you now, who would they call on if they were you? This is a long-term process of relationship building and you can’t hire a 100% commission sales person or a consultant to do it for you. This needs to be someone who is involved with your company – invested. You need the A-Team out front. Customers don’t want to talk to someone who represents you – they want to talk to YOU.

7. Train your team on proposal writing and have a standby proposal consultant ready to help if you have a sudden need to respond to an RFP/RFQ. But understand the process so you don’t waste a dime on misunderstandings between you and your proposal team. You need to have a strong bid/no bid process so you don’t waste a minute on a loser. You need to understand win themes, evaluation criteria, the past performance you need to submit which fits the opportunity perfectly, the technical, and more. If you don’t, get training and find a strong proposal team. Put this statement on your wall: We Only Write Winning Proposals.

About the author: Eileen Kent is The Federal Sales Sherpa and helps companies one-on-one with training on the federal sales game, a deep dive competitive analysis on who buys what you sell from whom and with what contract vehicles and then she builds you a custom federal sales action. If you’re serious about this marketplace and ready to hit the ground running, contact Kent at 312-636-5381.


We Need to Blur the Line Between Education and Training: Former TRADOC Commanding General David G. Perkins

© United States Army Training and Doctrine Command – tradoc.army.mil

We’ve been highlighting ideas from the keynote speech of retired Four-Star General David G. Perkins, former Commanding General of the U. S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Florida in November 2017.

In Parts 1 and 2, we recounted General Perkins’ three aspects of training that require innovation from industry. In this third and final post, we will present his ideas about the differences (and similarities) between education and training.

General Perkins stated that we have to redefine the idea of “education versus training.” He went on to describe that during a recent combined arms field training exercise, an Army major approached him with the question, “Are you educating us or training us?” In other words, the major understood education as learning concepts at a high level of thinking, while he understood training as learning potential courses of action to apply to real life. General Perkins indicated that as a commander, his greatest need was to strive to blur the line between education and training. He wants to see the two concepts combined into one practice.

General Perkins discovered that soldiers want to be trained, which in their understanding, often means they WANT to be told what to do and how to do it. He believes that trainees often do not believe that they need critical thinking (thought of as part of education) because they mistakenly feel that this will not prepare them for the “real world,” where they face the unknown. In actuality, General Perkins thinks education, and the critical thinking that comes from it, better prepares us for the unknown. He suggests incorporating critical thinking, decision making, and leadership into training events, even virtual and constructive ones.

General Perkins believes the Army must adapt future Programs of Instruction to a changing world. His question is, “How do we bring that changing perspective into the educational domain?” He added that the military cannot tie itself to only one domain; training must incorporate all the domains: land, air, sea, space and cyber.

General Perkins explained, “A lot of times as I was growing up in the Army, we would have a training strategy with various gates and sometimes some of our simulations and training aids and devices weren’t all that great. But it would be put in the strategy like, ‘You have to do this first, then you have to do this, and you have to do this.’ And it may not have actually been a particularly useful tool for getting at what you want to get at, but it was a requirement. You can’t do this until you get to this, and so it was a little bit of a check the block.”

Ultimately, General Perkins advocated for “command, training, and student (training, education and the art of command)” to come together so that training is an integral part of command and not something different or extra. He wants to see not just industry change their technology ideas, but for the Army culture to change regard training as integral with command and operations. His challenge to industry is to help the Army make this happen.


Training is a Tool, Not a Task: TRADOC Commanding General David G. Perkins

© United States Army Training and Doctrine Command – tradoc.army.mil

In a series of three posts, we’re highlighting remarks from retired Army Four-Star General David G. Perkins, former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command from his keynote address at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Florida in November 2017.

This is a guest post by TAPE President and CEO Louisa Jaffe.

In Part 1 of the blog series, we discussed three innovative aspects of training that a commander needs from industry as identified by General Perkins. In this post, we delve deeper into the third aspect – that we must see training “as a tool, not a task.”

General Perkins stated, “What we need to do is make sure that when we take a look at our training capabilities and training aids, devices, simulators, and simulations (TADSS) that commanders will say, ‘This actually solves one of my training problems.’ It’s not a tasking to do it. It’s a tool that I can use to get better.”

He exclaimed that he does not need “a tool that is just a tool to train, for training’s sake.” General Perkins specified that he needs industry to innovate a tool “that I can use to train for specific missions – mission rehearsal exercises.” He sees a future where a commander, when given a mission to conduct an attack, will also, “look immediately at what training capability [is needed] to get ready for that mission.”

General Perkins called upon the Army to completely integrate training in a mission from its inception. Moreover, he challenged industry to develop the type of training tools that the Army could use across the enterprise from education to training to mission rehearsals. He does not want any more “one trick ponies.” Using General Perkins’ framework, soldiers would waste less time learning multiple training tools and the training data inherent in the tools would benefit commanders across multiple domains.

General Perkins provided key insight into industry’s difficult task of innovating for military training. In Part 1 of this series, we detailed that he not only wants to see the emotional and practical experience of a large-scale live exercise, but one that is put into live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) environments to scale a combined arms training experience.

General Perkins further wants to see all possible domains – land, sea, air, space, and cyber – be interactive in LVC environments. To buttress his goal to integrate training into mission-accomplishment strategy, General Perkins wants to see TADSS become integrated tools for operations instead of separated tasks.

General Perkins envisions innovative training that becomes an extension of the service member at the same time it becomes an innovative extension of leadership itself up to the highest levels. He affirms that the Army is open and receptive to innovations “that connect useful powerful tools with mission strategy.”

The third and final post in this series will explore General Perkins’s innovative views about the concepts of education versus training.


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