“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.
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.
A 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.
In the meantime, I wanted to highlight one of the concepts we covered; one that’s pretty close to B’s heart.
Over the last decade, Bijoy’s life and work has centered around bootstrapping businesses.
And that means what to you?
What is Bootstrapping?
Let’s start with what bootstrapping isn’t.
You’re not starting a franchise. You’re not using an existing model.
You’re also not using venture capital or major 3rd party investments.
Bootstrapping is about starting with little money and (relatively) infinite time, and then starting on the journey of building your business. You begin with a seed of an idea, but remain open to and embrace the notion that your business will come to fruition through the process of figuring out HOW it will come to fruition.
In other words, you’re okay with not having the answers right from the beginning. In fact, you appreciate the fact that “the journey” is what will create the business and all its parts.
For example, Southwest Airlines (profiled in our interview) started as a small, puddle-jumping airline. By the time it was ready to begin operations, it had no planes, and no money to buy them.
By looking around, talking to people, and eventually going to Boeing and telling them their situation, they were able to get what turned out to be their trademark 737s for cheap, and Boeing was willing to finance them.
The idea of being open to “whatever shows up” is tough for those of us who mold, craft, and fantasize about every little detail of our impending vision. But the notion of bootstrapping a business is about a willingness to relinquish the “how” and just let the world shape it as you go along.
A little scary, but so is life.
What aspect of your business have you bootstrapped? What else could you do to get further along by finding answers along the journey?
Bryan Caplovitz is the founder/CEO of SpeakerMatch.com. Founded in 2002, Speakermatch provides emerging and professional speakers the ability to find speaking opportunities with all different types and sizes of audiences, and also gives groups and organizations the ability to connect with qualified speakers in whatever topic area they need. The company has had wild success and even been written up in USA Today.
During the interview, we cover a ton of ground that could essentially function as a “how-to” for emerging speakers.
Your marketing materials: the 3 things you absolutely HAVE TO HAVE before even THINKING about booking speeches
The two different types of speakers on the market today, and how every business person has the potential to fit into one
The one thing that 90% of would-be speakers forget to do, and how that costs them thousands of dollars in lost revenue and bookings
When it’s the right time to start asking for speaker fees; how to establish your fee, and how much you should charge (it’s probably more than you think)
How to become a better speaker by leveraging the help of two national organizations that most likely have chapters in your town
Patty Farmer, The Networking CEO™, is a multi-award winning and highly sought after business growth strategist, public speaker, radio show host and author of the highly acclaimed book “Make Your Connections Count.”
Recipient of 2012’s “Best Brand of the Year, 2011’s International Women’s Day Business Service Award as well as 2010’s “Best Business Connector in Dallas” award and a 2010 and 2011 “America’s Most Influential Business Connector” nominee, Patty has created a network of 100,000 + connections while teaching thousands of business owners how to effectively network and market to grow their businesses using a non-competitive and dynamic collaboration strategy.
Her newest venture, Biz Link Global is an unparalleled B2B referral networking and educational online community which introduces experts in their field with their target audience and teaches entrepreneurs how to take their networking global…
During our conversation, Patty and I talked about:
Some little-known networking tips that get people talking about more than just what they do
Why if you ask THIS all-too-common question upon just meeting someone, you’ve probably just tainted the relationship forever
The reason why Patty only chooses networking groups where she has to pay to be a member
Who needs a tagline, and why your business card is your most essential piece of marketing real estate
Utter shock and sheer appreciation for the work of some guy whose name I don’t actually know. Cause he made this:
Pretty sick, eh? They don’t make ’em like this anymore.
Nope….we’ve gotten to a point where faster and cheaper are valued overquality, and knowing the value of something that took a long time to do, because you wanted to do it right.
I know, I know…a video made out of movies that pieces together 90’s booty rap lyrics has little to do with business, and even less to do with making good products.
But the person who must have literally spent hundreds…even thousands of hours poring over every style and genre out there in order to make something that would bring a smile and complete joy to most people who watch it and “get it,” well…that’s someone who values quality.
Compare it to the general production standards of the majority of stuff on YouTube. Bad lighting, crappy sound, choppy editing, and little regard for anything more than what’s necessary to get the message across and make a buck.
This video, however, represents the people who are willing to put in the time to make something great for the sheer value of just that — making something great. It’s like the artisanal cheese maker who spends years perfecting the recipe before she takes it to market. Or the watch maker that builds a timepiece intended to be passed down through 10 generations.
These things and that attitude are no longer the norm.
Should it be?
Who’s to judge. There’s a place in our world for “quick, fast, cheap.” A big place, and one that’s not going away.
I’m just more inspired by businesspeople who strive to over-deliver just for the sake of being a top artisan in their trade, even if their take-home pay doesn’t come anywhere close to what it should be.
There’s a great documentary on Netflix called Beer Warsthat personifies this debate. The craft brewers are always up against the big dogs, and they’ll probably never come close to the volume or margins that the major brewers have. Most don’t care, though, because they take so much pride in knowing they created something so complex and unique, that thousands or millions of people then enjoy every day, and being the stewards of a craft and tradition that’s gone on for literally thousands of years.
Sometimes, that feeling is worth more than parking the latest Ferrari in your driveway. Although, that has its place, too.
Jeremy Nulik is the editor and Creative Energy Officer of St. Louis Small Business Monthly.
He seeks out the passion that drives entrepreneurs and business owners to create something new. He has written countless articles on entrepreneurship and is the co-author of “Business Breakthroughs: St. Louis Style.”
Nulik feels his role in this life, personally and professionally, is to add levity and help others to find their story. In our fairly quick interview, we wax philosophical and throw in as much self-effacing humor as the other can stand in order to establish:
The one undeniable, irrefutable thing that 100% of successful people do, and without it, you’re doomed to absolute failure
What drives entrepreneurs — an external need for acceptance, or a deeper internal struggle
Is there a difference between being a “small businessperson” and an “entrepreneur,” and is that important?
The different opportunities available to small business people and how to take advantage of them
Why conceding defeat to your biggest competitor might lead to the job of a lifetime
You’ve probably heard it before; good listening skills will get you far.
And you might have to finally accept that it’s actually true.
Most people are too busy trying to get their point across or thinking about what they’re going to say next that they don’t take the time to listen.
Becoming a good listener isn’t just a nice thing to do, or a way to make friends. It’s the secret to getting what you want.
Let’s take an example. You’re in a meeting with your business partner right after you met with a client. Both of you are FUMING at each other; your partner just told the client that “we” think they should take a new marketing direction, and you disagree with and contradict her. Not only were you on different pages, but you were both starting to lose your cool in front of someone important.
So the client leaves and you two sit down to have it out. The first thing you do is ask, “How could you do that??!” But you don’t wait for an answer…which you really don’t even want. You’re angry and convinced you were right. The fight escalates, you scream at each other, and that new Mac Mini gets thrown against the wall and cracks open. You’re now out $600 and the issue hasn’t been resolved.
However, let’s revisit the situation with your new and improved listening skills. Your client leaves, and the two of you sit down. You’re still angry, but you set that aside so that you can first understand where your partner was coming from.
What she tells you is that this was actually a tactic to shake up the client and get them into gear. She reminds you that you both agreed that this client needed a little prodding, and this was her way of getting the job done. She concedes that she probably should have asked you first, but she was trying something to see what happened.
She apologizes, and so do you.
Bunnies and puppy dogs.
So, what are some keys to better your listening skills?
Listening Skills Key #1: Set Aside the Pride
As entrepreneurs, we tend to think we’re the ones with the good idea and that we’re right. Sometimes it’s tough to let go of that and let other people’s ideas in. If you let go and realize that you don’t need to be the only one who’s right all the time, better collaboration and, ultimately better ideas, will rise to the top.
Listening Skills Key #2: Ask Open-Ended Questions
Communication skills 101 (or maybe 102): Ask a question that will get more than just a one or two word answer.
“Can you help me understand how you’re feeling?”
“What about that made you upset?”
“Why do you think we should go in this new direction?
As opposed to:
“Do you really think this is a good idea?”
“How many times are we going to do this?”
Open-ended questions invite dialogue and gets people talking to you. Just take the time to hear what they’re saying. My friend Teri Hill says this is valuing being kind over being right.
Listening Skills Key #3: Active Listening Through Reflection
Maruxa Murphy says this one of the most important techniques she uses during her interviews (she’s done close to 600). You listen to what somebody is saying, and then you repeat it back to them in such a way that shows you understood it. You don’t want to just spit it back verbatim, but put their thoughts into your own words. You can even start the sentence, “So it sounds like you’re saying [INSERT YOUR VERSION]. Is that correct?”
By doing this, you show the person not only that you were listening to them, but that their point is valid and they can feel like they got their side of the story out in the open. You don’t have to agree with them — just show that you were listening to them.
This makes people feel more appreciated, can help diffuse disagreements, and lead to conflict resolution.
More puppy dogs.
Listening Skills Key #4: Don’t Interrupt
Let them say what they have to say, in full. Don’t argue, state your case, or infer that they’re wrong until they’ve had a chance to get everything out. Then, ask if they would like to hear your response. If they’re feeling like they’ve gotten their side of things into the open, they’ll likely open the door for you to do the same.
When it comes down to it, good listening skills are really about setting aside your need to talk, and having enough empathy and compassion to allow the conversation to be just that — a dialogue. By doing so, you’re more likely to get your point across in the end and make things a win-win.
Even if you are 100% right, 100% of the time. Which, of course…we all know is true.
Maruxa Murphy is the founder and CEO of Instant Expert Media, the resource created for authors, speakers, coaches and consultants to amplify their brilliance through various online media venues.
She has been called “The Queen of Interviewing,” hosting over 500 interviews with Best-Selling Authors, Internationally Renowned Speakers, Business Trainers, Thought Leaders and Entrepreneurs with a powerful message.
Maruxa specializes in creating and putting on Telesummits (mega-teleseminars with multiple guests over a week or more), and we spent a lot of our interview discussing how to create and use Telesummits for any industry.
As Maruxa eats her way through almost an entire bag of dark chocolate chips, listen to us prove beyond a shadow of a doubt:
How Telesummits can help add thousands of names to your email list and five to six-figures to your bank account
The powerful tools you should be using to put on your Telesummits (hint: most are available for free or close to it)
One secret trick to establishing rapport with your interview subject
The common threads among some of the world’s most successful people
How to stay positive in the face of overwhelming adversity, evenif your interview guest eats through all your chocolate chips.
This is a pretty bad ass new tool to get people looking at your social media channels and websites/blogs. It looks like a Wall Street stock website, but you’re actually trading other users and their web properties, all while socializing and learning. Really cool. I’m slowly getting addicted.
Joel Libava, known as The Franchise King®, has been called a brutally honest, mostly non-politically correct entrepreneur, who’s hyper-focused on teaching people how to become wildly
successful in franchising, and not lose their money.
Aside from his award-winning blog, TheFranchiseKing.com, Joel’s written articles on franchising for websites like Small Business Trends, Open Forum by American Express, SBA.gov, and AllBusiness.com. He’s also done interviews and written articles for media outlets like Fox Business News, Entrepreneur Magazine, Smart Money Magazine, The Street.com, and Inc.com.
Joel’s book, Become a Franchise Owner! The Start-Up Guide to Lowering Risk, Making Money, and Owning What You Do, was just released and has 5 stars on Amazon.
During our 44-minute conversation on Franchising, we cover:
Joel’s attitude toward modern franchising, and the reasons why most people in the industry don’t want (and are scared) to hear it
The one question you should ask yourself before considering opening a franchised business
Why job security is really a myth, and why you should always consider yourself a “free agent”
The 3 characteristics of a superior franchise owner
What “Discovery Day” means, and the one thing you always have to do before you go
How to evaluate a management team
The secret to avoiding “brick and mortar” build-out costs
A breakdown of average costs when opening a franchised business, and where you can save thousands in cash