First Things First

Hi All –

As is usual for all of us, finding a balance between self, family, and my pursuits has been a struggle.  The realization I’ve made is that the balance between choices that provide depth and meaning to my life and necessary daily tasks is more like a seesaw than a balanced scale.  Depending on the hour or week or month, I tend to pay more attention to one aspect of my life than the other…and it’s ok.

I believe that intuitively (when our lives are focused on our self actualization), we will place our attention where it needs to be — self, family, work.  It doesn’t need to be an equal balance; we make choices on what is important and those weighted factors tip the seesaw one way or the other…and sways from one area to the other in constant realignment.

What should drive everything we do is our focus on what brings us the most satisfaction, joy, and peace regardless of where we tend to be focusing our attention on at the moment.  If we are not feeling satisfied, joyful or peaceful, then it doesn’t matter what we are focusing and spending time on.

So as we pursue our business interests there may be times when we are distracted or believe we are not in balance with ourselves or our friends and family, but this is not an excuse not to push forward as soon as you can.  My mantra remains:  “Take Action Every Day!”

The other thing to keep in mind is that we will not do everything we want to do. Period.  We simply need to focus on those things which ultimately brings us satisfaction, joy, and peace in our work and private lives.  Because at the end of the day,  it’s all part of the same thing.

With Love and Respect,

Gary

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NDA’s, TA’s, and SubK’s…Really?

Greetings Entrepreneurs –

Good news for Whetstone Security Group (WSG Inc) and our teammate Ruiz Protective Service!  We were one of three awardees of a Department of Homeland Security contract.  I’m very proud to have had WSG Inc serve as a significant contributor to our team’s win.

The win reminded me that I should share with you the documents you will need to become familiar with when you team with other companies and the jargon used in the federal contracting world.

In this post, you learn a bit about Non-disclosure Agreements (NDAs); Teaming agreements (TAs); and Subcontractor Contracts (SubKs) — see this stuff really is not that complicated; well, the acronyms are not that difficult.

As you begin working in the Federal contracting world, some of the documents you will become to become familiar with are NDAs and TAs.  These documents set the ground rules for partnering with other businesses.

Before most companies will discuss proposal and proprietary information concerning contract teaming opportunities, an NDA is established.  The NDA states that any information discussed is proprietary and will not be shared with other entities outside of the two companies in discussion.  It’s said by some Federal contractors that  NDAs are about as enforceable as a handshake and really do not protect information from disclosure, so there are some companies no-longer requiring NDAs; however, it remains a standard business practice.

You can find an example of an NDA here: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/sample-confidentiality-agreement-nda-33343.html

Teaming Agreements:  TA’s are fairly standardized.  The list below is not all encompassing but is in most TAs:

Purpose – Who is teaming and for what purpose.

Exclusivity – Whether the subcontractor is exclusive to the prime or can team with other companies.  It is often beneficial for a small company to subcontract with different companies to increase the opportunity for work; however, it becomes a challenge to the prime as your price may be the same, higher, or less for other companies and you are privy to their propriety information.  It is reasonable for companies to ask you to be exclusive when signing with them.  This is why guaranteed work share becomes important.

Work share – the percentage of work or revenue that your company is guaranteed or can compete for based on your price for services or labor as a subcontractor.  If at all possible try to avoid a TA that requires you to compete for work (often called “Best Athlete) after a contract has been awarded.  The best scenario is to have guaranteed work share in the event that the team wins an award.

 Proposal Preparation –  The Contractor will act as the prime contractor and will prepare and submit the Proposal and requires the subcontractor to agree to provide proposal support.

Allocation of Cost – Normally states each party is responsible for its own costs and expenses for proposal preparation.

Termination – Sets the conditions for when the TA can be terminated.  Such as when:

  • The contract is awarded to another company
  • Cancellation of the program
  • When the team cannot reach agreement on the terms and conditions of the SOW (price, schedule, and terms
  • The parties mutually agree to terminate this Agreement.

Intellectual Property –  States that any ideas, designs, concepts, techniques, inventions, discoveries or improvement made in performance belong to whom.

Limitation of Liability – Simply states that either party is liable to the other for any lost revenues, lost profits, incidental, indirect, consequential, special or punitive damages.

Enforcement – States where the agreement will be governed in regard to legal action (Usually the State where the Prime is registered).

There are several other articles that may or may not be included in the teaming agreement.  It is highly recommended that you consult your attorney or a contract specialist.  As I have stated previously, you need to have your team (legal, financial, insurance, and others) established to help guide you.

Subcontracts (SubK): The final document will discuss is the SubK.  This is the document that is issued by the prime after a win.  It spells out the terms and condition.

The basis of the subcontract is the Government’s contract with the Prime Contractor.  The Prime will normally “flow down” clauses from the Prime Contract to subcontractor.  Some of these clauses require the subcontractor to following laws regarding federal contracts and are related to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation (DFAR) as well as the Government’s requirements set forth in their Statement of Work (SOW).  Some of the website to review are:

The Department of Labors – Federal Contractor Compliance Adviser:  http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/ofccp/determine.asp

Federal Acquisition Regulation: http://www.acquisition.gov/far/

The Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement: http://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/dars/dfarspgi/current/

The Small Business Administration has a online learning center with an introduction to Government Contracting.  http://www.sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/training/government-contracting-101

I hope this blog added a bit of illumination to NDAs, TAs, and SubKs.  I bet you know what they are now!  Until next time, pursue your dreams and take action each day to reach them.  You can do this.

With Love and Respect,

Gary

Fight Resistance – Gain Momentum and Velocity

The video above is by Steven Pressfield.  He is the author of “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” a very readable book that I highly recommend.  The premise is getting past resistance by becoming a professional.  You may believe the book is about getting past writer’s block, but its real message is about living your potential.  I found it powerful and believe it should be read by anyone thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, artist, writer or otherwise engaged in the act of creation.

Like many entrepreneurs, you may be launching your business while you still have your day job. Until you have sufficient revenue to support both your business and yourself, working on your business is done whenever you can find time. Do not let this be an excuse for not moving forward!  Action leads to momentum and velocity to reach your business and personal goals.  I will continue to make action a theme in all I write as it is something I struggle with.

We all have obligations – besides paying the bills, we also need to invest time in our spouses, kids, and hopefully ourselves.  So how do we find time to do it all without becoming overwhelmed?  There are only so many hours in the day, so as entrepreneurs we have to use our time to our best advantage.

Early mornings are where we can all find an extra two hours to devote to our businesses.  That’s 10 hours a week to gain momentum.  After the chores are done and the kids have gone to bed, there are usually another 1 to 2 hours in the evening available.  That’s another 5 to 10 hours a week with weekends available for catchup time.

For me, Saturday mornings and evenings are devoted to the business.  Saturday afternoon are devoted to my family along with Sunday mornings.  I usually devote another 2 hours on Sunday evenings.  That’s a total of 25 to 30 hours to devote a business on a regular schedule.  There will also be time when you are working on a proposal or other projects that will need addition evening and weekend hours, but you can do this!  You may find that you actually enjoy seeing your business start to evolve and also enjoy your down time more especially when you realize how productive you’ve become.

The time we spend working toward our business goals will provide small successes that will help to keep us motivated.  As always, take action each and every day to keep your dreams alive.  When you want to sit on the couch or putter around, that is the evil presence of resistance.  When you have this feeling, it is time to fight and do something that will drive your business forward.

Somethings will no longer be on your daily schedule.  One of the primary activity you will not longer have time for is the great dream killer – television.  I’m not suggesting that you will never watch TV again, but when you do need to veg out (and we all do), it will probably only be for 2 or 3 hours a week rather than every day.

We can also use time to increase our knowledge. For example, I like to read or listen to pod-casts about entrepreneurship.  Pod-cast and audio books are a great way to learn while driving or waiting in traffic.

My advice is to place the following on your daily “to do” list:

1.  Spend time with your family

2.  Spend quite time to think and mediate

3.  Exercise

4. Work toward your dreams

5. Sleep 7 to 8 hours a night

Life is more satisfying when you have your priorities right.  We can have more control of our futures and relationships.  It’s time to turn pro!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

Sections C, L and M – What the Heck?

This blog post is a primer to  guide you through the Government request for proposal (RFP) process.

Starting out as a Federal Contractor can be an intimidating experience, but the rewards can be substantial.  There are very few businesses that can go from a start up to having a multimillion dollar contract in a very short time span.  And with the Government’s sudden shift to Low-Price, Technically-Acceptable (LPTA) proposals and small business set-asides, your business can be competitive without past performance — a major advantage to a newly launch business.  The evaluation factors for LPTA proposal and winning comes down to who has a technically acceptable proposal and the lowest (realistic) price.

Now that you’ve located an opportunity under your NAICS code where you believe you can be competitive, what are the next steps?

You will need review the Request for Proposal (RFP).  The RFP is a document that informs you of the requirements the Government is looking to have a contractor perform.  Try not to be overly intimidated by the size of the RFP; you do not need to read the entire proposal although, you may want to be familiar with the standard contract jargon that goes into Government RFPs.  After going threw a few RFPs, before long you will be able to quickly determine what is important to know.  For now, all you need is the most critical information found on the cover page and in  Sections C, L and M.

The cover page will inform you of the type of contract, Cost plus, (CP) Firm Fixed Price – Level of Effort (FFP-LOE), or Time and Material (T&M) or derivatives of these types of contracts.  You should also become familiar with the the Federal Acquisition Regulation www.acquisition.gov. You can look up and review the FAR references that apply to the proposal.

You have already determined if the proposal falls within your NAICS code, so now see if the proposal is Full and Open (meaning it is open to all contractors) or a set-aside contract (set asides are only open to those companies qualifying, such as SDVOSB, WOSB, 8(a), and etc.)

If you are not familiar with Federal Contracting, please see my previous blog posts on building a pipeline http://wp.me/p4xkC1-16 and competing for Federal Contracts http://wp.me/p4xkC1-Q

After downloading the Request for Proposal (RFP), you will need to:

1. Review Section C – the Statement of Work (SOW), this is the Government’s requirements for the service they are expecting a contractor to perform.

2. Look at Section L – this is where you learn the Government’s requirements for formatting (font size and type; page count, and etc.) and the organization of the proposal volumes (Technical, Program Management, Past Performance, Security, and Cost) of the proposal you will deliver to the Government.

3.  Closely review Section M – this is where the Government lists the criteria they will evaluate each proposal volume .  Failure to follow all the Government’s requirements could result in a non-compliance proposal which will automatically be taken out of competition.

4.  Develop and Outline – Once you have reviewed the RFP, you will need to develop an outline for each volume you will be writing.  You will want to provide an outline that will provide you with the best organizational flow for how you will meet the Government’s requirements.  Sometimes it can tricky to combine the SOW and evaluation criteria so it flows logically and smoothly but you should include both both Section A and M in your outline.

Below is a sample of a Technical Volume outline I developed for a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposal.  Remember, you are providing the Government what they are requesting, not what you believe they should have.  Make sure that you following L & M to the letter and combined them within  your outline.  Beautiful writing does not win proposals — compliant and technically sound proposals win when combined with price.  Also be aware that various sections are assigned higher weighted values for the overall evaluation of the proposal.

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NOTE:  This is the sample outline with guidance taken from the RFP combining sections L & M and guidance for Volume I, Technical.  The outline decomposes the Government’s requirements to include page count limits.  Anywhere you see “writer’s directions” this was added by me to help the writer know the Government’s criteria.  RFP guidance varies based on the Government customer and the type of procurement.

Writer’s Directions: The information provided from the RFP provides overall guidance for the proposal submission. This information will be deleted after the guidance is no longer needed by the writers.

III.1       52.212-1 INSTRUCTIONS TO OFFERORS — COMMERCIAL ITEMS (JUL2013)

(a)   North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code and small business size standard.  The NAICS code and small business size standard for this acquisition appear in Block 10 of the solicitation coversheet (SF1449). However, the small business size standard for a concern which submits an offer in its own  name, but which proposes to furnish an item which it did not itself manufacture, is 500 employees.

(b)  Submission of offers. Submit signed and dated offers to the office specified in this solicitation at or before the exact time specified in this solicitation.

(1)  The solicitation number
(2)  The time specified in the solicitation for receipt of offers;
(3)  The name, address, and telephone number of the offeror;
(4)  A technical description of the items being offered in sufficient detail to evaluate compliance with the requirements in the solicitation.
(5)  Terms of any express warranty
(6)  Price and any discount terms
(8)  A completed copy of the representations and certifications at FAR52.212
(9)  Acknowledgment of Solicitation Amendments;
(10) Past performance information
(11)    If the offer is not submitted on the SF1449, include a statement specifying the extent of agreement with all terms, conditions, and provisions included in the solicitation.

(c)   Period of acceptance of offers.  The offeror agrees to hold the prices in its offer firm for 30 calendar days from  the date specified for receipt of offers.

Volume I – Technical Proposal

This volume must not contain any reference to price; however, resource information (such as data concerning labor hours and categories, materials, subcontracts, etc.) must be contained in the technical proposals or that the Contractor’s understanding of the requirements may be evaluated.

This volume shall consist of the sections described below.

1.0   Section 1 – Transmittal Letter

A letter that formally transmits the proposal and states in general terms how the offeror meets the solicitation requirements. (not to exceed 2 pages)

2.0   Section 2 – Executive Summary and Table of Contents

In this section, the offer will be summarized, highlighting salient features of the proposal, including a description of the offeror’s approach and plans to satisfy and support requirements of this solicitation. Any technical and schedule risks should also be detailed. The summary should indicate the offeror’s complete acceptance of the technical requirements or specify any exceptions. A clear table of contents with page numbers referenced should be included. (not to exceed 5 pages)

3.0    Section 3 – Technical Approach

The technical approach should be in as much detail as the offeror considers necessary to fully explain the proposed technical approach or method and must demonstrate a clear and concise presentation that includes, but is not limited to, the requirement of the technical proposal instructions. The Technical Proposal shall be tabbed as indicated below and each tab shall not exceed the maximum page limit identified after the title of each tab. The Technical Proposal should reflect a clear understanding of the nature of the work being undertaken. The technical approach should discuss any perceived areas of risk and risk management. If subcontractors are to be utilized, the offeror shall submit the same information pertaining to the subcontractors.

The offeror should state all assumptions, exceptions, and deviations at the end of this section. For every instance where the offeror does not propose to comply with or agree to a requirement, the offeror shall propose an alternative and describe its reasoning therefore.

For requirements that describe a mandatory feature, the response may consist of a reference to the offeror’s technical literature. Any technical literature used as a reference must be furnished as an attachment to the proposal. If the reference contains the required technical detail, it is not necessary to restate such detail in the proposal itself. All references must clearly identify the volume, page and line number of the referenced material. For requirements that describe an optional feature or function, the offeror must provide a response on how this optional requirement is to be satisfied.

Elaborate brochures, binders and the like are neither required nor desired. Legibility, clarity and completeness are important. The submission of brochures or flyers alone without an accompanying explanation specific to this proposal is not acceptable.

Page limits have been established for each tab. If the offeror includes more pages than are allowed, all pages that exceed the page limit will be removed from the proposal prior to the evaluation.

4.0     Tab A: Corporate Experience and Assessment Methodologies (not to exceed 5 pages)

The offeror shall provide a detailed description of their experience, qualifications, and technical knowledge, as it pertains to the requirements outlined in the solicitation. This should detail the number of years of experience in providing polygraph services, any major accomplishments, and how they can contribute to CBP.

4.1     Description of Experience, Qualifications, And Technical Knowledge

5.0     TAB B: Polygraph Examination Processes, Methodologies, and Quality Assurance (not exceed 20 pages)

The offeror shall fully-describe their polygraph examinations process. This should completely outline all steps and processes for the Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (LEPET) polygraph examination format. This should outline all pre-test preparations, the polygraph exam, any other additional procedures, and correspondence measures with CBP.

The offeror shall describe their methodology to ensure quality polygraph examinations. Details need to be provided that clearly explain their processes, methodologies, strengths, and how it contributes maintaining our timelines for delivery.

5.1         The Law Enforcement Pre-Employment Test (LEPET) Polygraph Process

5.1.1      Pre-test preparations

 5.1.2     The Polygraph Exam, Additional Procedures, and Correspondence Measures

 5.1.3     Methodology to Ensure Quality Polygraph Examinations

 6.0        Tab C:  Facility Resources:

6.1          Detailed Description of Current Facility Resources/Locations

6.1.1      Details on the Number of Polygraph Rooms and Total Square Footage

6.1.2     Additional Facility Locations to Meet Capacity

6.1.3     Steps for Procuring Additional Facilities

6.1.4     Resources/Locations and the Anticipated Timeline

7.0         Tab D: Equipment Resources and Training (not to exceed 15 pages; process flows and screen shots can be included in a separate appendix and are not included in the page limit)

7.1         Detailed Description of Their Current Equipment Resources

7.1.1     Meeting DHS CBP’s Requirements for Conducting Polygraph Examinations

7.1.2     Staff’s Experience using Software and Equipment.

7.2         Steps for Procuring Additional Equipment to Meet An Increased Capacity

7.2.1     Procurement Timeline

7.3         Training Program

7.3.1     Timeline to Complete Training

8.0         Tab E:  Staffing Representation and Training: (not to exceed 15 pages)

The offeror shall provide the extent of their current polygraph examination workforce and their ability to provide qualified candidates that will be utilized for purposes of this contract.

8.1         Our Polygraph Examination Workforce and Ability to Provide Qualified Candidates

Name Current Certification Years of Experience Time Away to Maintain Certification

Figure 8.3-1. Polygraph Examiners Current Certification(s) and Experience

8.1.1        Anticipated Number of Examiners and Estimated Yearly Workload to Meet Contract Requirements

8.1.2        Recruitment strategy for increased capacity

8.1.3        Recruitment timeline

9.0            Tab F:  Approach to Security Requirements (not to exceed 10 pages)

Provide a detailed description of the approach to maintaining all security requirements related to this contract.

10.0        Tab G: Communication (not to exceed 5 pages; process flows and screen shots can be included in a separate appendix and are not included in the page limit)
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Once you have your outlines completed, double check to ensure you capture all the proposal requirement.  For the most part, try to ensure the outline is easy for a Government evaluator to follow; if you follow the evaluation criteria it will make the evaluator’s job easier.

Here’s to writing your first Government proposal … and a win!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

What does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur?

I truly believe that each of us, regardless of our past or background, have the capacity to enhance our lives for the better.  The spark that can propel us into richer and fuller versions of ourselves is perspective.  The simple act of changing how we view the world.  When we can be truly present and look about the world and see the beauty and bounty available,  ignoring rather than listening to the chattering negative voice inside our head, we suddenly change from a place of comparison and criticism to one of gratitude.

When life’s daily toll has removed the shine and wonder from our eyes, it is hard to refocus and see through the mental haze  thrust upon us through the sometimes hurtful actions of the unconscious,  culture, societal roles, and a media that praises appearance and material possession as the way to self fulfillment and happiness.  I believe that when we work  toward achieving goals that we set using our own internal compass, we change our lives from simply existing to living dynamic lives where passion grows and thrives.

This is what I love about being an entrepreneur.  The ability to set my own life’s direction based on my values and how I view success.  The very concept of success changes.  Since starting my business, I become excited when small victories are made — the first website, the first proposal, the first win.  I see my dreams begin to take shape and to me, this is success.  I am more fulfilled, confident, and happy as a result.

When we decide to take responsibility for our own lives, as if by magic, ideas begin to appear more frequently and for the first time, perhaps in years, we begin to see the true possibilities of our potential.  With a new clarity we understand that we do not have to be limited by the narrative of what success “should” look like.

Here is to us — for living rather than existing and complying to others idea of who we are, how we should behave, and what our limits should be — the deciding factor is ourselves!

So let’s launch that new business and make the decision to live with determination and persistence and the knowledge that passion is created from doing what comes from within us.  We can do this.

Here’s to being entrepreneurs and taking action toward our goals each and every day!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

 

How to Obtain a Facility Clearance (FCL)

Ah, the great bane of many start up federal contractors is how does one obtain a Classified Facility Clearance (FCL)?  You cannot pursue classified contracts without one and you cannot obtain one without having a classified contract…a classic catch-22!  Hopefully, the process will be clearer by the time you finish reading this post.

Your company will need a facility clearance to pursue or team with another company for classified work and to have the ability to hold clearances for your employees.  As a Government Contractor, having a facility clearance is vital to growing your business and going after classified opportunities.  So how do you go about obtaining an FCL and having a classified Cage Code?

There are two way to obtain an FCL.  The first is to win a classified contract. The Government will issue an DD Form 254 which allows you to apply for a FCL through the Defense Security Service (DSS). http://www.dss.mil/  However, the actually ability to bid and win a classified contract without a FCL is difficult at best as many proposals require a company to already have one.

The best way forward is the second option which is to be sponsored as a subcontractor by a company holding a classified contract.  As part of the subcontract, the prime contractor will prepare a DD Form 254 allowing you to request an FCL from the Defense Security Service (DSS).

So how can you find a sponsor?  You will need to build relationships with larger primes that may be willing to bring you on.  There are many successful business owners that understand the difficulties of starting out and are often willing to provide a leg up.  As a business owner, you have to go out into the contracting community to establish yourself.  If you have set aside status as a SDVOSB, it can be beneficial for the prime to establish a working relationship with you as there are several small business set asides where larger companies cannot bid as a prime and must be a subcontractor under a small business.  The bottom line is you will need to prove that you will be a valuable partner and will bring value to the relationship. Other small companies have done and continue to do so and so can too.

For a start up business, subcontracting to other established contractor is not only a way to obtain past performance, but to also obtain a facility clearance.

Once you have found a company to sponsor your facility clearance, there are a slew of paperwork requirements through DSS.  I’ve posted about the about the process here http://wp.me/p4xkC1-2g.

Until then, go out and take action today!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

Building your Pipeline

If your business is looking to pursue Government contracts, you will need to find opportunities that match your NAICS Code.  What the heck is a NAICS Code you might be asking yourself.  NAICS stands for North American Industry Classification System.

The http://www.census.gov states, “The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy.”

You can find the various NAICS codes here:  http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/

So what does all this mean?  The Federal government uses NAICS codes to categorize contracting opportunities.  For example, the primary NAICS codes used by Whetstone Security Group is 541611, Investigation Services.   This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing investigation and detective services.  We use the NAICS codes to search for opportunities in FebBizOpps.gov, https://www.fbo.gov/ the Government portal for Federal contracting opportunities.  However, you can also select other NAICS codes that match your business.  When you register in the System for Awards Management http://www.SAM.gov, https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/##11v  You will want to identify and list all the NAICS codes that apply to your business.

Once you register in FebBizOpps, you can watch opportunities, see other contractors who are interested in the opportunity and obtain automated email notifications when there has been an update or change to the opportunity.  When you see opportunities that you want to pursue, you add these opportunities to your pipeline.  Your pipeline is the lifeblood of a Federal Contractor.  It is the sole purpose of your business existence – to pursue and win contracts.

It is important to manage your pipeline closely to get ahead of opportunities before they are released.  There are other commercial tools available to companies and are used by all the bigger contracting firms. One of the most popular is Gov Win, http://www.deltek.com/products/govwin which offers a 30-day free trail.  However, you should stick with FBO.gov until your business is generating enough revenue to cover all your expenses.

There are also commercially available tools to track your pipeline opportunities, but for now you can used a spreadsheet.  Some basic information you will want to track is the Agency the procurement falls under, the NAICS code, if it is a set-aside, the estimated value, and your estimate of your chance of winning.  These numbers will go into how you develop your fiscal year budget for the next year and what your estimated revenue will look like.

You should also approach other companies that are pursing the opportunity and try to join their team.  This is the primary way that start ups gain enough past performance to pursue (prime) opportunities on the own.  Joining a larger prime has many advantages for a newly form SDVOSB, VOSB or other set aside category.

On my next post, I’ll talk about teaming and how one goes about obtaining the holy grail of many small businesses – a classified facility clearance (FCL) and a classified cage code.

With Love and Respect,

Gary

How to Compete for Federal Contracts

Congratulations!  You’ve taken the first steps to launch your first enterprise.  Now it is time to build the team that will support your business and to register online to conduct business with the Federal Government.  At a minimum, you will need to establish a relationship with a banker and legal counsel as well as obtain a DUNS number to register your company to do business for Federal contracts.  There may be other relationships you need to establish based on your needs such as an accountant, an insurance broker, or an Government Contracting specialist and etc.  It is important to develop a team that is available when you need them and are responsive.

1.  Establish a bank account for your business.  There are several banks that service small businesses.  There are several banks that cater to small businesses.  I am currently using two different banks.  They are Access National Bank https://www.accessnationalbank.com/home/home and Capital One http://www.capitalone.com/small-business-bank/.

I selected Access National Bank for Whetstone Security Group, Inc since WSG was established as primarily a Federal Contractor for Government proposals.  I also wanted a small business-friendly bank with Government Contracting experience.  To that end, Access National Bank is geared to small businesses and has solid experience in supporting Government contractors.

For Connectify Social, my partners and I chose Capital One.  I was impressed with Capital One as they hosted a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) forum at their offices in Tysons Corner, Virginia, explaining Capital One’s services to the SDVOSB community.

Whatever banking solution you chose, look for banks that make you feel like a valued customer and that can support and understand your business goals.

2.  Obtain a DUNS Number.  Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) provides a D-U-N-S Number for all businesses required to register with the US Federal government for contracts or grants; this is a free service. http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/displayHomePage.do;jsessionid=81407B1F03F2BDB123DD47D19158B75F

3. Register with SAM.  The System for Award Management (SAM) is the Official U.S. Government system that allows a Government Contracting Officer to find your business status, banking information, and your representations and certifications (I’ll get more into this on another post).  It is within SAM that you will self-certify your business as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business, a Woman Owned Small Business, a Veteran Owned Small Business, and etc. https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/##11

Remember, you need to have a Veterans Administration disability rating to self-certify as an SDVOSB.  The minimum is a zero percent disability rating.  That’s right!  You can be rated with a zero percent rating to self-certify as a SDVOSB.  There is also an SDVOSB verification for doing business with the Veterans Administration (VA).  This certification is through the Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) http://www.vetbiz.gov/, but CVE certification is not required (normally) to do business with the rest of the Federal Government.  I’ll post more about the CVE process with the VA in the future.  There are legal considerations that must be in detailed in your business to pass the CVE process.

You can validate your status or apply if you have a disability that arose during your military service at the VA’s website https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/

4.  Search for Government Contracting Opportunities.  You can now search the Government website www.fbo.gov to search for contracting opportunities and build your pipeline.

5. Find Like-Minded Entrepreneurs.  There are a plethora of resources available online and through local organizations.  There are blogs, podcasts, and websites specifically for entrepreneurs.  Build or find a community that will support you.  I highly recommend joining a Veteran’s organization such as The SDVOSB Counsel.  The counsel is there to help Veteran and SDVOSB’s achieve success through a host of activities and political action.  They have already been contacted by several Government organizations to find SDVOSBs for procurement activities.  https://www.sdvosb-council.org/

Do not wait another day to live the life you want.  You have everything you need to launch your business today!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

 

Business Partners

Developing and making your business profitable can be an overwhelming task, but you needn’t take the journey on alone.  The right partner or partners can help the business develop momentum and velocity to move forward.

For example, I am now engaged with two businesses — crazy, right?  One is Whetstone Security Group where I serve as president and CEO and am the majority shareholder and the other is Connectify Social where I own 30 percent of the company and … am president of the company (I have reservations about overextending myself and do not plan on retaining this title for the long-term).

For WSG, the company was founded by two other partners and myself.  My partners are absolutely great people and I trust them completely.  We all come from the intelligence world and have similar visions on how we want WSG to evolve – placing integrity, innovation, and people first.  Each of the partners enhance the company by bringing different skill sets and strengths that help balance out the areas where we each have individual weaknesses – a win/win situation.  However, we recently transferred some ownership shares to bring aboard two new partners.  Our new partners have added new energy and are providing great ideas on how WSG can evolve.  I truly believe it is better to add partners/teammates to reach your goals and generate momentum rather than try to hold all the company.  Of course, there is a point where adding addition partners might not make sense financially or operationally, but do be open to the possibility.

For Connectify Social, it was an idea I had and wanted to bring partners aboard to push the business vision forward.  I knew I could not launch the business alone; I simply did not have the time or brain cells to bring it to reality.  I chose my partners based on trust, drive, personality, and to be truthful — because I like and respect them.  It was an easy decision to give away 66 percent of the company because I know they will drive the company forward.  This leaves me time to primarily focus on WSG while launching another business!

So, if you are having trouble launching and need to put your goals back on track, considering bringing the right people onto your team.  It is much better to launch the company with partners who can move you forward than let your vision lay fallow!

With Love and Respect,

Gary

 

Getting Started

With any new challenge, just getting started is the hard part.  So how do you turn your business idea into reality?  My advice is to not over think it.  Over thinking or waiting until you have the perfect solution, plan, partners, and etc. is a prescription for inaction and unrealized dreams.

Step 1.  Write down your vision of how your business will look, feel, smell like (especially useful if you are opening a bakery), the culture you wish to establish and your financial goals.

Step 2.  Working backwards, mark out milestones for your business over the next 12 months.

Step 3.  Take action – launch the business and get started.  Trust me, you will work out the details as you build out your business.

Step 4.  Take action each and every day.  Action will keep your dreams alive; inaction leads to the death of dreams.

Step 5.  Do not let resistance defeat you.  Resistance is your enemy.  Keep step 4 alive by doing something for your business each and everyday.

Starting a business really is easy as that.  Really.

I’ll go into more detail on further posts.

You can do this and succeed.

With Love and Respect,

Gary