Your guide to federal contracts

Federal agencies try to ensure that they wisely use the funds budgeted for them during a fiscal year. This often leads to conserving funds until the fiscal year is almost over and then identifying requirements that could be funded by remaining budget dollars. This apparent rush to obligate funds to meet the needs of each agency’s internal customer opens a window of opportunity for the prepared contractor. So how can your small business become the prepared contractor?

First and foremost, get your past performance documents ready so that you can successfully respond in the little time you will have available. Why is this so important?

For the following reasons:
• If there is an overall theme it is “if you don’t have it already, you don’t have enough time to start now.”

• Past performance, in all of its variations, is the discriminator most used by the government buyer throughout the acquisition cycle and particularly during the end of fiscal year spending.

• Sources Sought, Requests for Information (RFIs), and other government market survey methodologies typically emphasize the reporting of past performance information over technical ability or other potential evaluation factors.

• During the end of the buying season, government contracting officials will often reach out to contractors directly via phone calls or emails. Almost always these communications start with “I see that your company does fill in the blank” — which means they have reviewed your past performance.

Many contractors think of past performance as only answering the typical solicitation requirement for “no more than three examples of performance within the last three to five years of similar size and scope.” This usually results in the listing of contract title, what customer, a narrative of what you did, who the customer point of contact is, and dollar amount. But this is only half of the questions that the government will ask around past performance so you need to be ready for all of them. There are at least six different ways that the government asks for past performance, and this is why you need to be prepared for all of them. Can you imagine trying to come up with all of these documents, some of which require strategic thinking, at the last minute or on a very short timeline? This is especially true related to Sources Sought and RFIs and leads to many businesses not being able to respond to these critical requests for information that could drive business in their direction.

You must have all your past performance elements ready and “in the can” or on the hard drive so that you can quickly tailor a well thought out response to year-end opportunities.

Dõna Storey is the American Express OPEN Advisor on Procurement and a woman-owned small business contractor herself. She helps other small firms navigate the procurement process. For more information, please visit http://www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting.

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