The federal government has long dedicated itself to supporting small business government contracting success. From $120 billion in annual set-asides to the 8A program, new companies are given a leg up to become fully competitive firms or set themselves up for acquisition down the road.
However, many 8A companies fall into a trap – one we want you to avoid: they forget to plan for open competition when their 8A status ends. Here are three ways you can prepare for this and turn it to your advantage.
- Most importantly, create a military-efficient business structure that works during and after being in the 8A program. Set quarterly, annual, and five-year goals. Develop strategies to accomplish those goals and tactics to support the strategies.
For example, if your five-year annual gross revenue goal is $10 million, and you’re at $1 million:
A. What finance, logistics, and HR strategies do you need?
B. What cash flow, savings, staffing, and capital investment tactics do you need?
C. What objective metrics will define success, failure, and adjustment?
D. How will your five-year goal break down to annual and quarterly goals so that you can anticipate needs and scale effectively?
- Build the right relationships with contracting officers. Know what they want and how they want it – and then develop the relationships with these data points in mind. The old sales mantra that people do business with people they know, like, and trust is as true today as it was 1,000 years ago. By building relationships early you will set yourself up for long-term contract success even when you don’t have favored status.
Be ready to invest in human capital, technology, and other resources so that contract fulfillment and other key components of scaling do not wither.
- Create relationships with younger 8A-owned companies and open market prime contractors within five years of your company’s launch. This will give you competitive advantages to receive contracts as a sub-prime because prime contractors will favor you over open market competitors – and, if you become a prime, working with 8A companies will give you the same advantage as your company matures.
Just as the military has a graduated promotion system that trains you to become the next level of leader, the 8A program sets you up for success by giving you eight years to build a strong foundation for success and infrastructure so that you can scale into full and open competition. Implementing the above strategies will help you to stand out in your competitive niche during and after your time as an 8A.