Recently in the Contracting Category

The dawn of the New Year provides an excellent opportunity to review the successes of 2014, and to assess areas of improvement for 2015. The National Women's Business Council's annual report, "Building Bridges: Leveraging Research and Relationships to Impact the Business Climate for Women" does exactly that, providing us with an overview of women entrepreneurship, including a summary of key research findings, policy recommendations and the Council's agenda in the year ahead. The report rests on NWBC's four pillar platform- access to capital, access to markets, job creation and growth, and data collection- and confirms what many of us already know, that the full economic participation of women is essential to economic growth in the U.S. 


Access to capital remains a key issue for women business owners. In order to better understand the ways in which women business owners accessed capital, NWBC worked with the SBA to analyze loan data, partnered with Walker's Legacy to host a round-table specific to women of color and access to capital, and commissioned new research on under-capitalizationThe research shows a direct link between access to capital and revenue generation, with men starting their businesses with nearly twice as much capital as women, a disparity which increases among firms with high growth potential. The report highlights crowdfunding as an important new resource for women business owners seeking capital.

The NWBC also focused much research on access to markets for women business owners, using WIPP's own ChallengeHER campaign as a building block for identifying best practices in government procurement. Thanks to the Women Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, more and more federal contracts are being awarded to women owned small businesses. However, disparities still remain in regard to award amount between WOSBs and non-WOSBs, most likely as a result of different contract types. 

In 2013, the Council called for an increase in the number of women owned or led firms in incubators and accelerators in an attempt to increase job creation and growth. In 2014, the Council honored this commitment, through championing the SBA's Office of Investment and Innovation's Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, convening a public meeting on STEM, entrepreneurship, and women, and commissioning new research on micro-businesses and accelerators and incubators. Research shows that women with dependent children are less likely to add additional employees, indicating that child care burdens are still a significant obstacle to the growth of women owned small businesses. 

The report concludes with a number of different, concrete strategies for each pillar, building off of past success while also acknowledging areas for improvement. Among many other things, the NWBC recommends: tax credits for investors who finance women-owned and led firms; creating opportunities to align women business owners with government and corporate procurement officials; improvement of the availability and timeliness of government and private sector data on women owned small businesses; the implementation of the sole source authority for the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program (yay!). 

The National Women's Business Council is a crucial resource for women entrepreneurs and business owners. The research and recommendations they provide acts as a road map for the success of women entrepreneurs, success which is reached through hard work, partnerships and persistence. 2014 was a great year for women entrepreneurs, and 2015 looks just as promising. 

 

New Report from the White House Council on Women and Girls

 

This month the White House released a report on the status of women and girls of color in the United States. The report, compiled by the White House Council on Women and Girls, covers everything from education to criminal and juvenile justice, and is an important step in assessing the policies that have had a positive impact, as well as areas that could be improved. 

 

According to the report, women of color have made great economic gains over the last 5 years, including increasingly choosing careers in entrepreneurship. Black women-owned business increased by 258 percent from 1997-2013, while Hispanic women-owned businesses increased by 180 percent, Asian American women-owned businesses by 156 percent and American Indian/Alaska Native women-owned businesses increased by 108 percent. As the rate of women entrepreneurship has risen, so has the number of small business loans made to women. From fiscal year 2013-2014, the SBA has increased the number of 7(a) loans made to women in all areas, including Black, Hispanic, AAPI and American Indian/Alaska Native women. 

 

In addition to the increasing number of SBA loans made to women of color, we have also seen more government programs focused on providing women with the tools they need to make their businesses successful. Nearly one third of businesses in the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program are women-owned, while the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program has increased the number of federal contracting dollars going to women-owned small businesses by 7.5 percent between 2012 and 2013. 


Despite these gains, women of color still have many barriers facing their economic success. High rates of unemployment, unequal pay, and under-representation in management positions affect all women, but have a larger impact on women of color. As President Obama noted, women of color "struggle ever day with biases that perpetuate oppressive standards for how they're supposed to look and how they're supposed to act. Too often they're either left under the hard light of scrutiny, or cloaked in a kind of invisibility". In order to combat these challenges, it's necessary to look at both race and gender as barriers to success, and to understand the complexity that occurs when they intersect.
 



FAR 101: SEALED BIDDING OR CONTRACTING BY NEGOTIATION


By Maria L. Panichelli and Jennifer M. Horn

Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman, P.C.


Whether you a contractor working on federal, state or private projects, certain construction practices should be followed to insure that you and your company is protected on the project. Following certain business practices can mean the difference between a profitable construction project and one that exposes your company to financial risk. This Webinar will focus on best construction practices before, during and at the conclusion of a construction project. It seeks to outline best contracting, accounting, insurance, documentation and claims prevention strategies for beginner and experienced practitioners alike.


Give Me 5: Best Practices in Construction

Course Instructor:

Jennifer Horn, Partner, Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC 

Maria Panichelli, Associate, Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman PC

Wednesday, December3, 2014  *  2:00 eastern / 1:00 central / 11:00 pacific


The fiercest competitors in the federal contracting world know that, if you want to win a contract, it is imperative to fully understand all of the terms of the Solicitation.  To that end, it is critically important that you understand the type of procurement you are participating in, and the process by which you will be judged against other contractors.  Although it might not seem like it, familiarity with the procurement process can make all the difference between award and disappointment. 


As those of you who attended our webinar already know, in the federal procurement world, there are two primary contracting methods.  The first, sealed bidding, is governed by Section 14 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation ("FAR").  The second, contracting by negotiation, is governed by Section 15 of the FAR.  Those sections lay out the distinct procedures required under each type of procurement.


There are some key differences that you should be aware of before you bid.  First: vocabulary. (Nothing announces inexperience like an inability to use the correct jargon!) In a Sealed Bidding context, the government issues a solicitation known as an "Invitation to Bid" or "IFB" and the contractors, or "bidders," submit their responsive "bids."  In comparison, when the procurement proceeds under FAR Section 15, the solicitation is referred to as a "Request for Proposals"  or "RFP" and the contractors, or "offerors," submit their "proposals."    It is not just the terminology that is different, the procurement process under these two methods differs, too.


In sealed bidding, the award is made on the basis of price alone; the lowest "responsible" and "responsive"  bidder will win the contract.  A bidder is considered "responsible" if it has demonstrated the capability to successfully perform the project (i.e. the contractor actually possesses the equipment, labor, resources and experience necessary to complete the contract).  A "responsive  bidder" means a person who has submitted a bid that conforms in all material respects to the IFB.   In other words, be sure that you supply all of the information required, and that you do not get creative or try to "spin" your answers.  Conversely, do not provide extra, unsolicited information.  That type of bid will be deemed non- responsive.  Make sure you comply with all the requirements and specifications to be considered "responsive."  Only the responsive, responsible bidders will even be considered.  Of those, the lowest price bid wins, period.


In contracting by negotiation, the process is a little different.  Price is not the only factor; rather, price is weighed against other "evaluation factors" selected by the agency.  It is then determined which bidder, on balance, presents the "best value" to the government.  (Common evaluation factors include: Management Organization; Proposed Technical Approach; Past Performance; Key Personnel Qualifications; Past Experience with Similar Types of Projects; Proposed Schedule; Technical Expertise; and Small Business Subcontracting Plans.)   Upon submission of proposals, the government has two choices.  First, the contracting officer ("CO") can choose to simply award the contract to the offeror who it believes presents the "best value".  In the alternative, the CO can select certain offerors to be in the "competitive range" and conduct "discussions" with those offerors alone.  Those discussions will identify weaknesses in the proposals,  and may include persuasion, alteration of assumptions and positions, give-and-take.  The negotiations may apply to price, schedule, technical requirements, type of contract, or other terms of a proposed contract.  Following the conclusion of these discussions, the offerors are asked to submit their final proposal revision.  The CO decides, based on those final proposals, which offeror constitutes the "best value."  The contract is then awarded to that contractor.


It is important to understand these differences so that you can tailor your bid, or proposal, accordingly.  For instance, if you are responding to an IFB, getting your price the lowest it can possibly be is likely the most important thing you can do (assuming you are responsive and responsible).  The trick, of course, is to figure out a way to be the low bidder at a price that still enables you to make a profit.  In contrast, when submitting a proposal in response to an RFP, you would be wise to carefully study the terms of the solicitation, and see what other evaluation factors the government is considering.  Moreover, you should determine the weight of each of these factors.  Maybe price and technical experience together are weighted the same as past performance.   Maybe past performance, key personnel and proposed technical solution, collectively, are given equal weight as price.  After you ascertain what the government views as the most important, you should shape your proposal to address the evaluation factors in order of importance.  In these ways, you can use your understanding of the procurement process to build a better proposal, and ultimately obtain more contract awards.


Now that you realize the importance of understanding the federal procurement process, you must be dying to learn more about it, right?  Lucky for you, you came to the right place!  Get yourself up to speed on solicitations and bid/proposals using our previous Give Me 5% webinar on the FAR Fundamentals: Bidding 101, and keep an eye out on the GM5 website for the upcoming webinars in our series, including a webinar on the next step in the procurement process, Source Selection and Award.    In the meantime, if you have any questions, contact a legal professional.


REGISTER HERE



As a business owner you are always looking for ways to take your business to the next level and grow your revenues.  One key to doing this is to hone in on your target customer base - the customer that is ideal for your services or product.  Well, did you know that if the federal government is a customer, women-owned businesses are 23 times more likely to be million-dollar businesses.

Contracting with the federal government is a growth opportunity that more and more women business owners are taking advantage of resulting in increased revenue for their businesses. In 2000, the Equity for Contracting for Women Act reiterated an existing goal of giving five percent of federal contracts and award dollars to women-owned small businesses and set the foundation for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program

The WOSB Federal Contracting Program authorizes contracting officers with the federal government to set aside certain federal contracts in eligible NAICS codes for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) or economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs). 

Unfortunately, this program was not fully implemented until 2011.  Despite the delay, according to the National Women's Business Council, WOSBs were awarded 182,791 contracts worth $11.5 billion in 2012. That amounts to 11.5% of all contracts and 5.3% of all award dollars.  In fact, among women-owned active contractors, 35% have won $1 million or more in federal contracts, with 15% receiving $10 million or more, according to Women and Minority Small Business Contractors: Divergent Paths to Equal Success.

Talk about growth!  Yet another reason to celebrate the contributions of women-owned businesses this week during National Small Business Week. 

If you are looking for contracting opportunities, don't forget to take advantage of WIPP's procurement programming to help you take the leap into federal government contracting.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a webinar on performance metrics, measurement, and evaluation for WIPP members. I spent a lot of time discussing the Administration's focus on performance metrics, how they've changed over the years, and what it means for Federal programs.  We went into depth on how the right performance metrics matter to Federal clients--particularly because the use of meaningful measures of effectiveness are being tied more and more directly to budget formulation decisions, both in the White House (through the Office of Management and Budget) and on the Hill. 

 While discussing the impact of performance measurement on Federal contractors, a few questions arose specifically on how to incorporate these considerations into proposals and contract execution, and additional questions and feedback came in after the webinar.  We realized that the WIPP audience is looking for more definitive answers on how best to incorporate performance into their strategies to win and complete business.  To that end, a few thoughts:

 Everything ties back to budget, and budget ties back to performance metrics.  Programs are funded through the budget cycle.  (To hear more about that budget cycle, please see my earlier webinar for WIPP from January titled, Understanding the Federal Budget Process).  The budget cycle is tied more directly to program outcomes than ever before.  How your client's program fares in the budget cycle directly impacts their ability to fund their program, including contracts.  Helping your clients to be better positioned for budget decisions means they'll be able to fully fund their mission priorities.  And if you've done a good job as a contractor, you'll be part of completing those mission priorities.  But if your client isn't positioned for mission success, for whatever reason, and their metrics are showing that, it probably behooves you to expand your client pool so that you have clients who can continue to resource the required services/supplies you offer.

The metrics define the central priorities of an office, and you need to know what are your clients' priorities. There's an old adage that says, "What gets measured, gets done."  Particularly now, with so much attention being paid to performance metrics, good measures are tied directly to mission, and only those missions defined by metrics are going to matter (and be funded).  Not only can you discern what the central mission of your client is by the measures they're using, but (particularly in a fiscally-constrained environment) you'd better be able to tie your services directly to that mission.  So, absolutely--highlight the clients' metrics in your proposals to them, but only if you have a good answer on how your offerings will directly help them meet their performance goals.

  If clients are being measured, they're certainly going to measure you as well.  It probably goes without saying, but the focus on performance metrics has absolutely begun to filter down to the contracting world as well.  We've been seeing "performance work statements" instead of "statements of work" for years now, but contracting officers are absolutely starting to get more serious about really measuring contractor performance.  If you can help them to become more savvy about exactly how to measure performance effectively--outcome-based measures, return on investment, tying mission to requirements--you can continue to prove your worth.  This is particularly critical in an environment of "Lowest Price Technically Acceptable" (LPTA) contract awards.  If you can't show your worth relative to a low-ball bidder, and prove that your higher-priced solution will yield the technically-acceptable results that are required by the mission, you will continue to lose to low-priced bidders who cannot actually perform the required work. 

 The Administration's message on performance metrics and evaluation is clear: it results will impact a Federal program's budget. Having a holistic view of your clients' priorities and really understanding their requirements life-cycle--and particularly how they will be judged during the budget formulation process--is critical when setting your own strategy for your firm's success. 

 To listen to Lauren Weiner's webinar on Metrics, please log onto the link below:

GM5: Focus on Performance Metrics - Why it Matters in the Federal Space

The U.S. Government charges its agencies with developing best methods to measure performance, and to tie program effectiveness to the budget formulation and execution. . In the current fiscally-constrained environment, meaningful performance measurement is important not only for actual program management, but also for convincing outside stakeholders (including the White House/OMB and Congress) to champion agency initiatives and programs. Federal contractors will not only be required to prove their own effectiveness in a Return on Investment (ROI) metric, but may also support their clients in measuring government program effectiveness. This webinar provides a brief history of performance measurement, a review of "best practices" and difficulties in developing outcome-based performance metrics, and will discuss the considerations of both agencies and Federal contractors surrounding the current performance measurement initiative.

Course Instructor: Lauren Weiner, President/CEO, Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, LLC

Click to watch the podcast

 

 

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