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Ask for the Meet & Greet. Make the Phone Calls.

Neil McDonnell at GovCon Chamber of Commerce on had a great session yesterday on LinkedIn where he talked to small businesses about moving left and connecting with agency personnel early, before the next opportunity, to be known and help shape future acquisition strategies. It got me thinking about my days as a Branch Chief and Chief of Contracting, and the small businesses I know that are still flourishing today.

One particular company stands out. They were a new 8(a) firm that asked for a meet and greet. They had no federal work but showed a level of understanding about our mission that made an impression. While our acquisition strategies were in place already for the end of FY run of award, I told them I'd keep them in mind new projects crossed my desk. Every month, without fail, I would get a call or a quick drop in chat from this 8(a) to say hello and briefly inquiry about any possible upcoming projects. During one of the in-person chats about a year after our first meeting, our chief estimator popped his head in my office quickly to apologize for a few late government estimates. He said he was going crazy with end of FY and lack of staff. The 8(a) took the opportunity and said, "We can help with that." While it wasn't ideally the work the 8(a) was looking for, that simple pivot and flexibility, along with the relationship building done to that point, led to a small 8(a) sole source contract for cost estimating support. It was their first federal contract. That small contract quickly turned into a much larger 8(a) sole source contract for the same work that reached its max capacity 18 months earlier than anticipated. That led to 8(a) contracts for environmental the work the company ideally wanted, then graduation from the 8(a) program, and successfully competing on SB set-asides throughout the region and getting their own (successful) GSA Multiple Award Schedule contract.

Ask for the meet and greet. Make the phone calls. This former CO is here to tell you that acquisition personnel and SB Specialists EXPECT to hear from businesses. Large businesses aren't shy about calling (trust me). They may not be able to tell you much, but the relationship building and continual reminder that you know what they are looking for and can fill a niche--even when it's not your first choice of work--is KEY.

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