Guest Post by Kevin Houston of A Turnaround Group

“I have searched for thousands of bids.
I have found hundreds of them.
I have applied for a lot of them.
But in the end, I only won a few.”

Sound familiar? Oh I am sure that you have been down this path before in fact I dare say that you are on it right now. I applaud you for your efforts on finding and obtaining government procurement opportunities.  But did you know that there is a cycle?

I am sure there are a number of names for it, but we will call it a procurement cycle. All government entities have them, so it stands to reason that it is simple, right? Well, yes it simple, but it is still difficult to understand. So today I am going to take some excerpts from the book Cutting the Red Tape, the Definitive Guide to Federal, State, and Local Government Contracting and give you a brief description of what the procurement cycle is and how you fit in to it. Here are the seven steps.

1. Accumulating Information:

This is where it begins. This is where the buyer is gathering their requirements and begins seeking out suppliers to satisfy those needs. It is here that we have to find out anything and everything about that
government agency or private corporation because they are doing the same when it comes to potential vendors. You want to make sure that you are on that buyer’s mind each time they are looking to satisfy their company’s needs. If a relationship hasn’t been established they will check their database for vendors that meet their qualifications. The way modern technology has grown, especially with social media. Don’t be surprised when they put Google to use on finding your company.

2. Buyer/Supplier Contact:

Now that they have narrowed down their list to a select few, the buyer is making the phone calls, sending out the emails, checking the back channels. They are looking for you to do business with them. They will use RFQs, RFPs, or RFIs in order to bring solicitations to the public.

3. Qualification Critique:

When you are selected, they look at your background. The government entity’s buyer will call your references. They will contact your suppliers. They will even contact your financial institutions if necessary. This is the government so please don’t take offense and if you have something bad against you. It isn’t the end of the world but it may hamper your chances of winning that contract.

4. Coming to an agreement, also known as negotiation.

I think you could do this, but if you haven’t done it in awhile it will come back to you soon enough. Just bear in mind that the federal government will set the price and you will take it. They make you factor in a profit though which is a good thing. As you do a few contracts you will get the hang of it. Also make sure you read the fine print. The last thing you want to do is make a mistake and don’t abide by the contract.

If you don’t abide by the contract, one thing that could happen is that you could get kicked off the project. That said, the even more bad thing is that you can’t come back. The worst thing is that you pay fines and go to jail or both.

Stay on your toes and, when in doubt, ask for help.

5. Implementation:

Getting the supplier ready, dispatching production, shipping the product, delivering the goods, and receiving payment for the product are completed, based on contract terms. Installation and training may also be included. And make sure you create and send proper invoices. You want to get paid in a timely manner, right?

6. Usage, Upkeep, and Removal:

It is here your client is using, maintaining, and when they are done, disposing of your product. And all the while they are taking notes on what’s good and what’s bad.

Solicit their feedback. Are you doing this project efficiently?

I am sure you can make a few tweaks here and there. It would be good that you have a standardized form for tracking your client’s feedback. Be proactive and gather information for getting more referrals.

7. Option to Renew:

We have arrived at the end of the contract. It was a fun ride, but now what do we do?

Well, let’s think about what you have accomplished, what you need to work on, and so forth. The client will let you know, but if you’ve done your work and tracked it properly, this will be a short conversation.

If you didn’t, well let’s just say you want be playing here again.

Here’s what may happen:

Problem: The client is done with your service/product and no longer needs you. (one-time use, i.e. Construction).
Solution: Ask them for more business in the form of referrals. You did ask them about this earlier in the process, right?

Problem: Client will not renew your contract because they are going to another company.
Solution: Determine why. Lower costs? Faster service? Higher quality product? Go ahead and ask. Once again, make sure you have kept in touch with your client. Communication is important you have to know or at least have an idea of what you are doing good, bad, or indifferent.

Remember, there are a lot of factors to consider when a contract gets renewed.  I hope that you have a better understanding of what the procurement cycle is like and how it affects you as a
vendor/contractor. Make sure you do your homework and seek expert assistance when doing government contracting.

Kevin Houston, Expert on the procurement cycle and founder of A Turnaround GroupA Turnaround Group is a small business assistance provider to companies that want to do government contracting and engage in the procurement cycle. Owned by Kevin Houston, A Turnaround Group has guided, trained and helped the small business owner by becoming better at winning bids and proposals with the federal, state, and local governments. In partnership with other small business assistance providers, A Turnaround
Group brings additional resources and help to companies seeking to expand and increase their revenue streams. A Turnaround Group is very active in the community and presently works with a number of non-profits by providing volunteer work and other resources.

Kevin is also the author of the book: Cutting the Red Tape – the Definitive Guide to Federal, State, and Local Government Contracting.