Government Funding versus Business Funding
There are two kinds of numbers you have to know cold—the government’s numbers and your numbers. Not knowing either one thoroughly is business malpractice. I see this condition too often. Given that malpractice is not something to strive for, minor investments can indemnify you and your business from this risk.
During my recent visit to the inaugural GovCon Giants Summit in Miami, I had the occasion to meet a variety of business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s typical for people to ask me what I do or what’s my connection to the conference. I often say, “I help companies achieve great outcomes in DC using tools of influence most don’t even know exist.” It always leads to the follow-up. “Oh really, like what?” or, “How does that work?”
Understanding Funding Dynamics
My response to the follow-up is equally consistent.
Me: “I help companies recognize where the funding is long before the contract is ever thought of.”
Them: “Oh, so you can help me get capital and funding in order to compete? Are you an investor?”
Me: “Well no. I know how to identify and position the government’s money so the contract you want will have funding behind it. You’re thinking of capital with an ‘a,’ but you need to be focused on the capitol with an ‘o.’ That’s where all of the funding decisions get made, and you can participate in that process.”
Them: “Ah, I guess that makes sense.”
I usually continue, “Lots of people chase phantom opportunities that aren’t real because the government hasn’t funded them. You can outmaneuver your competition when you better understand this part of the process that most don’t think they can influence.”
The Government’s Financial Timelines
Knowing the government’s numbers means paying attention to the release of the President’s Budget request that goes to Congress every spring. It also means keeping track of the defense appropriations bills throughout the year, not just when there’s a threat of a CR or a shutdown.
Another aspect of contracting hammered home at the GovCon Giants Summit was the need for absolute credibility in execution once a contract is awarded. Cautions were exhorted to beware of the words “must, shall, or will” in your contracts, warning that your signature on the contract meant you could execute what you agreed. To have confidence in your ability to comply with “must, shall, or will,” you absolutely must know your company’s numbers that allow you to deliver on cost and schedule. Overhead, allowable, unallowable, headcounts, supplier delivery timelines, retooling time, material costs, and shipping constraints all factor into your ability to support, “must, shall, or will.”
The Consequences of Ignorance
What does malpractice look like when you are unfamiliar with your numbers?
Your credibility slips away right before your customer’s eyes. While the customer may not always be well-versed in the facts themselves, their job security remains intact. When the customer detects your lack of knowledge, it’s extremely rare to recover from such a misstep.
Focus on what you can control. You have considerable influence over your level of knowledge regarding the crucial numbers—the government’s and your own. Do you invest in your own knowledge?
For a copy of my book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring Circus of Federal Sales, and more information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.