The DoD contracting process is a complex and complicated series of events. It can stretch out over several months or even years, at times making any forward movement feel almost impossible, especially for small businesses. Furthermore, it’s best for firms to have solutions on hand to deal with some of the most common obstacles facing small businesses in the DoD contracting process.
The Top 5 DoD Contract Obstacles for Small Business
Not Enough Time to Submit Proposals/Bids
Formal proposals can be massive undertakings that require specific contents such as a technical proposal, past performance, costing, proposed personnel, and representations and certifications (reps & certs). With so much information to gather, it can be tough to meet DoD proposal due dates.
Solution: The best way to avoid a deadline rush is to do proposal preparation in the pre-solicitation phase. Not only should your company be tracking the development of a future RFP ahead of its release, there should also be an initial strategy in place between your business development team, program managers and proposal team on how to address the RFP once it is out. This planning can save precious time once the RFP hits the street.
Past performance can be a thorn in the side of many small businesses. There are many times when a small business has a service offering which hasn’t matured enough to be deemed relevant past performance. This past performance requirement can exclude many capable and successful companies.
Solution: The best way to overcome this issue is by teaming with another company that has past performance which meets contracting requirements. Adding a company on your team through a subcontracting agreement can often overcome past performance issues. Seeking teammates who have prior experience with the requesting agency is also a good idea.
RFP/Bid Documentation is Too Complex
For the DoD, the RFP process and their proposal requirements haven’t changed all that much over the last few decades. There are strict documentation requirements that can be burdensome and overwhelming. For small businesses just starting out in the DoD world, this element can be a huge obstacle to success.
Solution: For companies that are overwhelmed by the documentation required to respond to an RFP, its best to seek out professional guidance. Many consultants and consulting firms exist that can assist businesses in navigating the complicated waters of proposal creation. Many of these consultants are former government officials or contractors who have worked on large corporate BD and proposal teams.
The Review Process Takes Too Long
The DoD proposal review process is known to be very slow. However, while this waiting game may go on for a while, it’s best to make the most out of your time.
Solution: Try to develop new product lines and service offerings. Look to establish subcontractor agreements with businesses that currently have an active DoD contract. However, make sure any sub work you do won’t be a conflict of interest down the road for proposals you have submitted to the DoD that are still under review.
Slow Payment Process
After the excitement of a contract award fades, reality sets in and the work starts. Once the work is underway, a contractor rightly expects to be paid for their services. Unfortunately, there have been many cases in the DoD contracting world where contractors wait for months before ever seeing a check. This issue is almost entirely due to the enormous amount of red tape that needs to be dealt with before funds can be released.
Solution: Be prepared to not get paid on time. Make sure you have enough money in reserve to cover at least six months of operating expenses. Also, ensure you have lines of credit with your financial institutions if you should need it. Remember, even though not getting paid on time can be frustrating, do not let it ruin your relationship with your CO (Contracting Officer) or COTR (Contracting Officer Technical Representative). It’s often not their fault when contractor payments are late. Be assured they are as frustrated as you are in these situations. It’s important to remain positive since the more difficult it is to work with your company, the less likely it is your company will get additional work.
Moving Past the Obstacles
Being awarded a DoD contract is an exciting achievement. However, once the celebration is over, the real work begins. There can be many bumps in the road that may start things off on the wrong foot. With this in mind, it’s best to consult an expert should you find yourself experiencing contract start issues. At Sentient Digital, Inc., we are industry leaders in project management and delivery. We have experienced staff who can work with you to scope, schedule, budget and execute your contract. Contact us today to learn more!