By Adolfo Vasquez
In my last article, I noted that capture planning is fundamental to being a successful bidder both in commercial and government procurement. But if you don’t have a strategic plan to prepare your bid, you are “playing the slots” with your bid, money and time.
Though a capture plan does not guarantee you a contract every time, the odds of winning will increase with every “qualified” submission. Organizations that practice capture planning win more frequently, larger and more competitive bids.
We will begin our series with “Qualifying the opportunity”. We have always been warned “don’t bite off more than you can chew”.
Valuing your effort is the first thing that must be considered! For example, if your biggest successful contract was $50,000, don’t expect to be considered for anything above that. Even if you have the capacity to perform higher, the contracting officer must justify the selection and defend the award. Rest assured that federal contracting officers would love to issue contracts to “growing businesses” and meet their small business quotas. But the risk is too high and the number of bids or award protests do affect efficiency reports.
Experience is second. Unless your business meets sole source criteria or is considered for an R&D effort, you will be caught in a “catch-22” situtation. This may sound too simplistic and elementary, but the number of “Hail Mary” proposals that are submitted, even today, is staggering. Contracting officers understand that you believe you can perform the work. They just don’t have the luxury of taking chances nor are they allowed to by the FAR.
When I was an active contracting officer, I had a poster behind my desk that read: “Don’t talk, just act; Don’t say, just show; Don’t promise, just prove.” Those principles helped me be a successful contracting officer. I am confident those posters are all over the walls in a procurement office. Even if you show that your team can “technically” perform the work and you have documented it in your proposal, NOTHING substitutes for “qualifying” past performance.
Capacity is third. Opportunities within your performance profile should be your target. If you don’t think you can be a prime, start out as a “subcontractor”. Then, like preparing for a marathon run, initiate a strategy to grow your business in incremental steps to become a “prime”. Developing a sound portfolio of subcontract work with your team is an effective strategic start. “Teaming up” with a successful prime can “take you to the dance” with them. Performing successfully with that prime and being recognized as a “sub factor” in their CPARS /PPIRS (FAR 42.1503(b) (3)) performance assessment for your performance on the team can get you “prime” recognition as a subcontractor.
Fourth is can I afford to bid? We also have heard the expression: “My eyes were bigger than my stomach. Insuring that your business plan and financials are current will insure your capture planning is effective. We have all gone over our heads at one time or another. But, businesses cannot afford it! Does it happen? Of course, it does. But your capture plan should have strategies to (1) prevent the overloading of business resources and assets and; (2) have pre-determined steps to initiate the “recovery” developed “before you jump, not while you are in mid-air.”
In summary, “Qualifying the Opportunity” means reading, understanding and assessing all of the requirements. Then you assess the dollar value of the effort, the experience required, the capacity needed and the availability of funds to see it through. All of these factors should be readily available to you via your Capture Planning tool.
If a manager in your business cannot “Qualify the Opportunity” effectively and in short order, then a trip to your local PTAC/PTAP for instruction on capture planning is recommended. ♦