This is the end of our calendar year, but we’re already nearing the end of Q1 2015 in the federal government’s desk planners. Government has always done things its own way, and that applies to AV systems, too.
Understanding the nuances of bureaucracies can be a career in and of itself, and in some cases large AV systems integrators have specific staffers hired on the basis of their previous positions inside government agencies who act as organizational sherpas, guiding proposals through the maze of regulations and three-letter acronyms (a/k/a TLMs).
Gregory Fechner, national government market manager at Crestron, has an extensive background in both realms, including a decade as an NCO in the U.S. Air Force, which gives him a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to work within the confusing but potentially lucrative government market. He sat down with Commercial Integrator to answer some key questions about that.
What are some strategies that AV integrators can apply to address 8(a) Business Development Program and other small-business requirements that government agencies have to comply with?
Gregory Fechner: Participating in a Joint Venture or teaming arrangement is a great strategy for a small- or medium-size AV integration firm to participate in for larger government contacts. Combining capabilities and assets of various small and 8(a) companies into one team allows for that integrator to have visibility to opportunities they wouldn’t normally have access.
In addition to that, if a small- or medium-size AV company is interested in doing business with the government and feel they may qualify for 8(a), HUBZone or Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business (SDVOB) status, they should reach out to the Small Business Administration and discuss the programs available to promote their business.
The SBA offers assistance to many small businesses to gain a foothold in government contracting through set aside contract requirements, participation in joint-ventures, and mentor-protégé programs. In some cases, companies can even receive sole-source award contracts.
The law requires that 23 percent of all federal prime contract dollars be awarded to small businesses. Is that an opportunity or a hindrance for small- and mid-sized AV integrators? What are some strategies for subcontractors in this regard?
Fechner: The opportunity for a small- or medium-size AV integrator to be a prime or team with a large prime contractor on a federal contract is a great opportunity. Though it can be challenging, in many cases it opens new doors to opportunities with the government that they wouldn’t have had visibility to otherwise.
One strategy is to research the existing and upcoming federal IT contracts that will be put out for bid. Find out who the incumbents are and which companies are interested in priming the contract. Begin reaching out and letting folks know your company’s size, small business designation and capabilities. Inform them how your company’s services can make them more valuable as a prime contractor on the contract. Teaming is a very big part of contract strategy today.
How are Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC) requirements changing versus open solicitation?
Fechner: GWACs have become very popular over the last several years. This is due to a more streamlined process. GWACs are pre-competed IT-based contracts that can be issued and awarded in a much shorter time than the typical open market solicitation. GWACs typically are established by one agency for government-wide use.