Highlights From NCMA World Congress 2019

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Nearly 20,000 members strong, the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) is the world’s leading resource for professionals in the contract management field.

Each year NCMA holds their annual World Congress which is the nation’s premier training event for contract management, procurement, and acquisition professionals. Participants from both government and industry backgrounds gather to learn about critical issues challenging our industry.

This year’s World Congress was from 28-31 July 2019, when more than 2,500 contract management professionals from across the federal government, state and local government, private industry and education gathered in Boston, MA. This year’s theme was, “Shaping Acquisition: Modern, Adaptive, Connected.”

An engaging list of main stage speakers included Suzanne Vautrinot, president of Kilovolt Consulting Inc., who spoke about balancing risk with opportunity, as well as a Workforce Challenges panel consisting of several key acquisition leaders in the federal government. They offered their thoughts on innovative ways to make today’s workforce more flexible and nimbler and the use of enabling technologies such as AI and “workforce bots.”

Other mainstage sessions included a panel discussion on managing change and some of the emerging challenges facing government acquisition and a keynote by Stacy Cummings, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Acquisition Enabler, US Dept of Defense. She emphasized the ultimate goal of DoD to modernize its acquisition process and introduced attendees to the Adaptive Acquisition Framework, a flexible acquisition process that is tailorable based on the operational need to have capability delivered.

A new innovation was the use of “Exchange Sessions,” which were informal discussions led by a moderator to focus in on a topic of interest to attendees. These exchange sessions were set in groups of 10-20 and allowed participants to share best practices and ask questions of each other regarding how to overcome a variety of acquisition challenges.

While the conference provided an opportunity to network and learn there was also an opportunity to celebrate NCMA’s 60th anniversary at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art with live music, dinner and an extraordinary view across Boston Harbor.

TAPE LLC’s SVP and Chief Operating Officer Ted Harrison moderated a panel at this year’s event entitled, “What do the 809 Panel Recommendations Mean for Small Business?” The Section 809 Panel has made several recommendations aimed at refocusing DOD’s small business program. While many have extolled the bold recommendations that would allow the government to purchase “readily available” items more like the purchasing department in private industry, still others have sounded the clarion call to stop what some perceive as the destruction of the DOD small business programs. This panel sought to find the truth in a discussion with representatives from the 809 Panel, DOD small business, and industry.

TAPE actively supports NCMA in several ways. TAPE COO Ted Harrison is a Board Director on NCMA’s National Board and TAPE CEO Louisa Jaffe is on NCMA’s Board of Advisors and has supported NCMA for many years. As well, Ted Harrison was the event chair for the annual Government Contract Management Symposium in December 2018 in Washington, DC.

You can read more about the event on the NCMA event page, or check out what’s planned for World Congress 2020.


The Five Most Common Technology Pain Points for GovCons

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This is a guest post by Staci L. Redmon, President and CEO of Strategy and Management Services, Inc. (SAMS).

Sometimes it’s said that Amazon is the only truly modern organization. Because it was founded on the Internet and never had the traditional limitations of a brick-and-mortar business, it could afford to develop and fully embrace technological innovation when it came.

Most of us aren’t Amazon. There are limitations on how much contractors can adapt to technology or use it effectively – and that’s okay. But as federal IT spend increases, businesses in the public sector are called upon to take stock of their organizational structure, highlighting areas where innovation and better planning can make a difference.

Here are five of the most common struggles we have identified in our clients:

1. Too much data, not enough insight

Today, organizations are swamped in data from multiple sources, including IoT, CRM, web analytics, social media and more. 73% polled say they struggle to use it effectively.

Why it hurts

In the first place, contractors are paying for everything they collect, and they’re paying even more to store it. Second – even if they forego collection altogether – they miss out on the many insights that data can provide.

How to fix it

Using data effectively requires two steps:Efficient collection and storage, such as cloud, hybrid cloud

  1. Efficient collection and storage, such as cloud, hybrid cloud or data lakes
  2. An analytics strategy to extract useful information

An analytics strategy to extract useful information

The best data strategy will vary from business to business, requiring human expertise for optimization and refinement.

2. Deprecated systems

We know that technology changes at the speed of light. When organizations get used to a certain workflow, they often stop moving forward and systems become outdated. As a result, some U.S agencies are still depending on Windows 3.1 and floppy disks.

Why it hurts

80% of IT professionals say that outdated tech holds them back. Customers and clients will move forward even when a business does not, thereby slowing down operations, creating customer experience (CX) issues, and lowering productivity in the workplace.

How to fix it

Systems must be updated on a periodic basis to prevent disruption, ensure continuity of operations, and lower expense. Having an enterprise IT strategy and C-level tech officers ahead of time will significantly reduce blind spots.

3. Technical debt

When contractors fail to adopt new technologies, they accumulate “technical debt,” an abstract measure of the expenses they will inevitably have to pay as a result.

Why it hurts

While a business lags behind, it exponentially loses ground in terms of potential profit; it also loses market share to competitors who modernize in the same time frame. Technical debt is thus more costly than an initial investment in new technology.

How to fix it

Organizations must stay ahead of technical trends to avoid debt and minimize future expenses. However, that does not mean they should invest in every new trend – research, strategy and careful observation should inform all business transformation efforts.

4. Underutilized assets

Contractors are often unaware how much they can accomplish with a single solution; both software and hardware are underutilized, and features go ignored.

Why it hurts

Underutilization leads to redundant costs, as businesses invest in multiple solutions which they could consolidate into one. Given power, training and licensing fees, the costs add up quickly.

How to fix it

Ideally, organizations will choose optimized solutions during the Enterprise Architectural Planning (EAP) phase which won’t call for redundant investments. Afterwards, they should consult with their vendors carefully to assess the extensible functionality of every asset they acquire.

5. Lack of expertise

According to a recent Gartner press release, talent shortage is emerging as the top risk for organizations in several categories – among them, cloud computing, data protection and cybersec.

Why it hurts

The majority of technological pain points result from a lack of technical executives or experts, leaving organizations vulnerable to their own mistakes, questionable investment decisions and attacks from the outside.

This issue is especially serious for government contractors who are often responsible for managing confidential data: regulations and auditing add an extra layer of risk for any careless decisions.

How to fix it

An organization should make sure that experts are involved in all the decisions it makes by:

  • Hiring and retaining elite talent in every major area of their infrastructure
  • Positioning one or more C-Level executives (CIO, CTO, CISO, etc.) to oversee continual development
  • When all else fails, consulting with external experts for guidance and an outsider’s perspective

For peace of mind in an organization’s continual stability, nothing can rival regular assessments from those who know what they’re doing.

Planning for Longevity

In 2019, technology is the lifeblood of a business: it shapes client interactions, management, teamwork and productivity across the board. But while it may come with upfront costs, it pays in longevity and success for the long term.

As technology changes, a business must be prepared to change with it, and that means – among other things – enterprise-level planning, good investment strategy, and a dynamic organizational structure. Staying modern is hard, but not impossible for a contractor who always aims at improvement.

Staci L. Redmon is President and CEO of Strategy and Management Services, Inc. (SAMS), an award-winning and leading provider of innovative operations, management and technology solutions in a variety of public and private sector industries and markets. SAMS is based in Springfield, VA.


Beyond the Size Standards – Business Focused Breakfast, Jul 30, 2019

Mid-Tier Advocacy, Inc. presents the next Business Focused Breakfast on July 30, 2019 from 7:00-9:00 a.m. at the Tower Club – Tysons Corner, 8000 Towers Crescent Drive, Suite 1700, Vienna, Va.

Topic: “Beyond the Size Standards” – SBA to Increase Size Standards with Inflationary Adjustment

Featured Guest Speaker: Ms. Pamela Mazza, Managing Partner, PilieroMazza PLLC.

Click here to learn more and register now!


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.

 


Disaster Relief for Small Businesses Affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma

Did you know that SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, as well as other organizations and individuals?

Check out this page for more information: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance


What’s Stopping Women From Becoming Entrepreneurs?

Close up of businesswoman with arms crossed on chest on modern city background

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This is a guest post by Staci Redmon of SAMS.

Women entrepreneurs own 10.6 million businesses in the U.S., and employ 19.1 million people, who account for $2.5 trillion in sales. But according to the Kauffman Foundation, women represent only 35 percent of startup business owners, even though they represent about 46 percent of the workforce and more than 50 percent of college students.

So why aren’t there more women entrepreneurs?

One study, conducted by the University of North Carolina and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (and reported by National Public Radio) looked at 90,000 entrepreneurial projects launched on the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter. The study found that men are much more likely to be overconfident than women. When their project failed, they were much more likely to keep trying, while women tended to give up. Also, when women succeeded, they were more likely to feel that they just got lucky, while men feel that they are “geniuses.”

There is help for women entrepreneurs just starting out. The SBA set up its 8(a) Business Development Program to assist economically-disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs) to compete for federal contracts in industries where women-owned small businesses are underrepresented. Women and minority-owned businesses can get access to specialized business training, counseling, marketing assistance, and high-level executive development. The SBA also offers guaranteed loans and bonding assistance for being involved in the program. SAMS has benefited from its SBA designation, and has also become part of the Mentor-Protégé Program which helps other women entrepreneurs through one-on-one mentorship.

Building a business is not easy, and many women cite the same characteristics as helping them to achieve their dream.

Gayle King of CBS news talks about persistence as a trait helped propel her to achieve her goal. She advises would-be entrepreneurs to “surround yourself with people that are better than you, because it forces you to up your game. Most importantly, never take no for an answer.”

When Staci Redmon founded SAMS, it was important to her to develop core values, which still remain at the heart of the company. These are commitment to employees, commitment to the client, and commitment to the community.

Staci started SAMS out of sheer frustration. As a veteran and a civil servant, she watched as vital equipment for our warfighters was denied funding. She used her determination and commitment to service members to fuel her drive to create an organization with the vision to measure impact not by the bottom line, but by the difference it could make. Since its founding, SAMS has won numerous awards and has been hailed repeatedly as one of the fastest growing companies in Virginia.

Another entrepreneur, JK Rowling, also relied on persistence to overcome adversity. Her literary agency sent the book to 12 different publishers before it was accepted. Rowling says, “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into the only work that mattered to me. I was set free.”

As women entrepreneurs continue to pursue their dreams, the path to success, while never easy, becomes clearer and less uncertain by following in the footsteps of those who came before.

You can find more about SAMS and Staci’s 2020 Vision for the Future on our website http://www.getsamsnow.com.

This article originally appeared at http://getsamsnow.com/blog-post/whats-preventing-women-becoming-entrepreneurs/ and was adapted and reprinted with permission.


Contract Management Professionals, the World Congress is Here!

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© W.Scott – Fotolia.com

NCMA has been holding its World Congress since 1996, and each year it gets better and better. TAPE has been an exhibitor there for the past several years, and it’s interesting to meet contracting folks in a very different environment from the usual locations, or with their small business folk, etc.

I asked NCMA Executive Director Michael Fischetti: What’s new for this year’s event, July 26-29, 2015 in Dallas, Texas?

This year you’ll see some changes in the “interactive” nature of the event. Along with education aligned with the Contract Management Body of Knowledge (CMBOK), attendees will have increased opportunities to provide solutions to problems of the day as well as meet new colleagues in the field.

What are you most excited about?

Our fantastic line-up of key leaders and practitioners in the field, most of whom are new to our podium!

I see World Congress has a mobile app (search “NCMA Events” in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store) – what features does it offer for event participants?

The mobile app contains the A to Z of World Congress. It includes the full agenda (which attendees can customize based on what they plan to go to), speaker information, sponsors and exhibitors, social media tools, and more. There’s even a part of the app that provides detailed local information about Dallas, including local restaurants, directions, and airport information.

Who will benefit the most from attending the World Congress?

Anyone involved in contracting, whether they’re from industry or any level of government. Anyone who wants to network with others across the profession and the environment they work within.

Does the employee justification packet really work to convince employers to send people to the event?

Absolutely, and our attendees tell us they love it! World Congress is well worth the investment of time, and this packet provides answers to the questions that their training officers, leadership, or customers ask.

See you all in Dallas!

If you’re a contract management professional and you haven’t registered for the World Congress, click here to learn more. If you’re a business developer, this is a chance for you to meet contracting folks over a beer or soda between sessions. You’ll hear them discuss the issues relevant to you, like LPTA or small business. This year we’re sending our CFO, who’s also in charge of our contracts shop.


Alternative Financing: How to Maximize Your Chances of Securing an SBA Loan

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© Sergey Nivens – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Richard Lewis, Financial Engineering Counselors, Ltd.

Securing the financing you need to grow your small business can be a challenge. Over the past decade, banks have increased lending to big business by 36%, but over the same period, bank lending to small businesses has declined by almost 15%, and loans of less than $100,000 have dropped precipitously by more than 33%.

Fortunately, small businesses can find alternative financing sources, including a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. There are several different types of SBA loans, including:

Be sure to check which type of loan is right for your needs before beginning the application process.

SBA loans have been around for more than 60 years. These loans, which were established to promote small business growth, typically have lower interest rates and monthly loan payments.

Unfortunately, the process of applying for an SBA loan can be complicated and it can take a long time to complete the process. Once you do, there can also be an extended period of time before you actually obtain your funding. You can speed up the approval process by observing some simple guidelines. Here are five you need to be aware of:

  1. Your credit rating counts: Good credit is important for any loan, and that includes SBA loans. Follow good credit rules, like being sure to pay your bills before the deadlines. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid credit-killing actions like foreclosures and bankruptcies.
  2. Keep your financial documents up to date and organized: This includes all of your financial and accounting documents, as well as your tax records. You might consider using some good accounting software designed for small business if you don’t already to bring greater organization to your records. Having your financial records organized and accessible will move the process along more quickly.
  3. Spell out the purpose of the loan as clearly as possible: Lenders want to know that you’re a good loan risk, and that means they’ll be interested in what you plan to do with the money. Take the time to outline this in the clearest possible fashion, whether your loan is to add vehicles to your sales fleet or expand the size of your brick and mortar store.
  4. Explain how you’ll pay back the loan: You’ll need to demonstrate that you have good cash flow. You can do this through your most recent tax records. Lenders will also want to know how much other debt you have. If the loan is for a start-up business, you should pull together a smart financial plan and include credible projections which demonstrate your ability to make your monthly payments.
  5. Be prepared to describe your history: Lenders will want to know about your finances, but they’ll also be interested in whether you personally are a good risk. That has to do with your relevant experience, how much time you’ve been in business and the degree of professional success you’ve had.

Applying for any loan, whether traditional or through alternative financing, can be confusing. The good news is that there are experienced professionals who can walk you through the process, answer your questions and maximize your chances of success through long-standing partnerships with banks, finance companies and professional service firms.

This post originally appeared on the Financial Engineering Counselors website at http://www.fecltd.net/blog/?p=102 and was reprinted with permission.

Richard Lewis is a government contractor financing consultant. You can contact him at 703-992-8988.


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