Post-submission Strategies to Improve Success: Our Proposal Won, Now What?
In this series of blogs, we will discuss what companies and teams should do AFTER the proposal has been submitted and how some dedicated post-writing work could reap significant rewards in future efforts, whether you win or not.
Companies that are leaders in their business segment prepare in advance for a contract win and have a high contract execution success rate because of their advanced planning. Advising clients on exactly HOW to prepare for a contract win is different based on the type of contract your company is pursuing. Since there is no way we can cover them all, we will try to talk about some general, customizable tasks that you should have on your checklist to facilitate a smooth contract kickoff.
Let us begin with how you should prepare PRIOR to the win.
- Draft PD’s or job descriptions.
- Acquire tools, software, or other required devices.
- Plan the new contract launch, plan should account for:
Increased manpower – a new contract means increased work and that generally means increased manpower will be needed. Be ready to hire company staff as needed to ensure smooth and successful contract execution.
Resources to cover upfront costs – many companies underestimate the number of upfront expenses involved with contract execution. Again, it depends on the type of contract how many and for what types of items you will need upfront, but the one thing we do know, government reimbursement or payment for deliverables are paid well after the fact. The expense may not be a large factor on small bids, but if you have won a large or more complex contract than usual, it may come with significant upfront expenses.
Additional, specialized, or modified facilities - all required materials and supplies with long lead times have been identified, along with any other products necessary for timely completion of contract requirements.
Agreements and contracts - if you are teaming on the contract, make sure the necessary agreements are in place. However, for those specialized services that you may have stated you would use if you won, you should have at least a draft agreement written to facilitate and expedite bringing that entity onto the team.
Once you have been notified that you won the award, the real work begins. How you start a contract will leave an impression on the government contracting office and the customer who is expecting you to be ready to work and deliver on your promises. So, whether you are a first-time small business winner or are a more established business, we have some suggestions to help you get things started.
- Read the specifications and deliverables of the contact carefully
Read and re-read the specs, make sure you understand exactly what the project requires. It’s up to you to do your due diligence. Note any changes to requirements and discuss with the KO if they are significantly different than the proposal.
- Monitor cashflow
The details of contract payments will vary by the contract, but it's not unusual for a contract, say a contract to purchase a longer-term deliverable, to pay some percentage as an upfront fee, followed by monthly payments, with the balance upon completion. The upfront payment is generally fairly small and often isn't enough money to cover all of the initial expenses, especially if you need to pay employees or invest in capital expenditures. The need for cash, especially for small businesses may require you to consider seeking a line of credit. Once you are established, it is advisable to have a cash account that rolls year-to-year to have funds on hand to pay the upfront expenses.
- Write Detailed Agreements
If you are relying on teaming partners for a portion of the work, the agreements or contracts must be detailed and all-inclusive. Review the contract requirements and make sure everything you need your partners to provide, do, or deliver is captured in painstaking detail and that all costs have been accounted for. Mistakes can cost thousands of dollars and possibly cost you the contract or follow-on work. Remember the quote from Philippe Kruchten, “If it is not written down, it does not exist.” Or as your lawyer will put it, “If it’s not written down, it’s not binding.”
- Focus on Customer Service
Communication - Stay actively engaged with the customer in order to stay in tune with how your company is performing.
Quality – Providing quality, and not just compliant support, will help your company win more business. Focusing on quality means screening personnel before matching them for the work, monitoring performance, and acting swiftly to mitigate any issues.
Bobby Unser once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” If your company wants to develop a winning reputation, focus on planning, communication, and quality. A great proposal will get you the opportunity, but preparation will help you keep the contract and set you up to win many, many more.
To hear more, check out The Inside Scoop with Novelle.
Rita Simmons, Ph.D., is the founder and lead consultant of Novelle, where she provides business and research consulting to companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Simmons leverages her drive for innovation and excellence along with her extensive executive and military experience to help companies grow their business, drive revenue, and achieve strategic goals. When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, contact Dr. Simmons at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with her on LinkedIn.