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No, you can’t just “Apply” to the Mentor Protege Program

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The long-anticipated, much applauded, expanded SBA All Small Mentor Protege Program is here…not to be confused with the SBA 8(a) Mentor Protege Program … or the Department of Defense Mentor Protege Program*

So what?  What does it mean to your small business?   How do you take advantage of it?

The mechanics:  Mentor Protégé Program (MPP) is an agreement between typically a large business (mentor) and a smaller business (protégé) whereby the mentor provides:

  • Management and Technical Assistance
  • Financial Assistance
  • Contracting Assistance
  • Trade Education
  • Business Development Assistance
  • General and/or Administrative Assistance

(source: SBA)

to the protégé, essentially investing resources into the company’s growth and infrastructure.  It’s not a direct government-to-small-biz program: there’s no application that small businesses fill out to ‘get in’ – but there is a checklist.  It’s an agreement between two businesses that is regulated and approved by either the SBA (for civilian agencies) or the DOD.

A few reasons large businesses are incentivized to become mentors:

  1. Agencies will apply subcontracting “Credit” to mentors when under consideration for awards.  This can also help mitigate gaps in subcontracting requirements Mentors can get credit for their protege’s accomplishments because the implication is that the mentor’s help was instrumental in getting the company ready. For example, the protege’s wins as a prime at the same or different agency, the protege’s win as a subcontractor for other prime contracts at the same or different agencies – if the mentor protege agreement was instrumental in building capacity / ability of the protege company to win the additional work.
  2. Dept of Defense also administers reimbursement agreements (as well as credit agreements) but some DOD agencies will award dollars directly to the mentor to invest in the protégé.  The financial benefit is obvious to both – the mentor isn’t spending internal resources helping the protégé, but rather the DOD’s money.
  3. Ability to form Mentor Protege Joint Ventures that enable access to set-aside contracts without triggering affiliation rule. Win-win:
    1. Protege can pursue set-aside contracts that would’ve been otherwise out of reach of the protege due to capacity, past performance, clearances, or other requirements that they don’t have
    2. Mentor is able to participate in set-aside awards – and retain 60% of at least 50% of total contract amount.  Here’s the math: the “prime” contractor in a set-aside award has to do 50%+ of the work… the joint venture is the prime contractor.  The mentor company can do 60% of the work because it’s a mentor.
  4. Investment / Merger & Acquisition strategy (great explanation here with many more finance details, thanks Elvis Oxley!) – mentors can take up to a 40% stake in the protege company — and the ability to reap the benefits of that investment as they develop that protege’s capabilities.  In the event of a future M&A, that 40% stake of a much more substantial business makes for a decent profit margin.

There are risks and considerations, to be sure.  A meeting of the minds is essential – to ensure both parties set expectations and have a plan to meet them. Proteges are limited to 3 MPP agreements per program in their lifetime (that’s 3 SBA AllSmall and also 3 DOD); Mentors can only have 3 Mentor Protege Agreements per program concurrently. A MPP agreement is thus never formed by strangers – the companies have to have solid business reasons for entering into the arrangement; most often, there’s a prior relationship of subcontracting or other business relationships that forms the baseline of mutual interest and sets the ground for pursuing a more strategic joining of forces.

For small businesses seeking to become proteges, the essential question is: What do you bring to the table? What would be an incentive for another entity to invest their time, resources, and dollars into developing your company’s capabilities?  If you can answer those questions, you probably have a good idea of who to approach for mentorship.

 

*Changes coming to the DOD Mentor Protege Program – thank you Steven Koprince of SmallGovCon.com

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Do Your Homework!

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Tell me if you’ve heard this one before – from contracting officers, OSDBUs, SBLOs, your well-meaning networking acquaintances and teaming partners and Chamber of Commerce #govcon speakers…And you have no idea what they are talking about.

What homework? How much do I have to do? where do I start? What’s the point? Are you just letting me down easy to wiggle out of a conversation? (Well, I can’t answer that last one – but I can certainly help guide you in the homework-doing department).

What the industry experts mean by ‘homework’ is to be prepared for a conversation with a potential customer – whether it’s a government agency, a large prime, or a similarly small business who you want as a partner.  Prepared to not just to recite to them how great you are, but to speak to your value proposition. What can you do for them?

Well, what can you do for them?

If you are even thinking about responding with something along the lines of “well, I can sell them my…” – STOP.

Federal agencies, and the food chain of contractors that you want to be a part of aren’t just buying products and services, no matter how shiny and cool. They aren’t “giving out” contracts, there are no magic words that would enable a government agency to suddenly bypass decades of processes and volumes of rules just to do you a favor.[1]

So how do you figure out what your customer wants to hear?

  1. Get to know your customer

How do you even know where to start, who would be a good customer for you? You may know from experience, which puts you a step ahead. But if it’s just a hunch – test that hypothesis through solid research before venturing out – you’ll save a lot of frustration and parking dollars.

  • What have they bought before? From whom? Where? How much did they spend? What kind competition do they usually have for your products/services? What NAICS do they use to buy your gadget?  Tools like USASpending and Schedule Sales Query are a good start. If you’re in IT, familiarize yourself with the IT Dashboard.
  • What are they on the market for currently? Opportunities in FBO, Procurement Forecasts.
  • Want more? Look at GAO reports, Inspector General’s office findings. What are your customers posting on Twitter? Are the decision makers speaking at conferences on topics of interest?
  • If you’re meeting with primes, find out in advance what they do. Their websites are a great start.
  1. Present yourself

Elevator Pitch, Business Card, Capabilities Statement, and a website. Know them, have them, invest in them. You want to present yourself as an established business that isn’t risky in any way. You want to appear polished and professional, memorable and knowledgeable.  If you are even thinking about sending an email to a government customer from a yahoo or gmail account, don’t do it. Get a company website with an email @your own domain. There are tools out there that make it really easy to put together a presentable website even for non-IT folks, for not a lot of money. Wix, SquareSpace are so easy, even I can do it.

They’ll be much more likely to invest time and answer questions from someone they see potential in.  They’ll be much more likely to send a complete newbie to their local PTAP office for the basic skills.

  1. Engage and ask the right questions

Forget asking your customer “what do you do.” If you haven’t figured it out, you’re wasting your time and theirs.   Now, if you are meeting a company you haven’t heard of at a networking event, that’s a fine question.  At a planned appointment, when you’ve had a chance to pull up their website at the least, it’s a taboo question.  If you’ve done the reading, you know what they do, you know what they buy, you know who they buy it from and how much they spend annually.   The questions you ask should showcase your knowledge of their environment and challenges, a subtle indication that you know exactly how to fix things – and a desire to understand their ideal state.

There are a number of opportunities to meet your customers – yes, at their office. Also at industry days, conferences, in LinkedIn groups, in local AFCEA, NCMA chapters, industry-specific organizations, and even on social media. Where are they going to learn? Where are they going to share information?  Don’t forget that your customers are people too – and can be found at dog parks and PTA meetings and home improvement stores. I’m not advocating stalking, but there’s a lot you can learn in a casual, no pressure, non-sales interaction that can enlighten your business development / teaming / proposal strategy.

This is plenty of homework to get started. If you need help, we’re here to help you work on your pitch, review your capabilities statement, assist with market research.

 

[1] Yes, there are instances where companies get work faster than the usual contracting timeline. That is the stuff of legends in our field. Usually, such miracles are the result of a lot of hard groundwork and persistence.

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BUCHANAN & EDWARDS to be GOLD Sponsor of the Department of State / Virginia PTAP Government Contracting Conference

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May 23, 2016 – For Immediate Release: BUCHANAN & EDWARDS, INC. to be Gold Sponsor of the US Department of State / Virginia PTAP Government Contracting Conference

Fairfax, Virginia: The U.S. Department of State is partnering with the Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) at George Mason University (GMU) to host the inaugural, 1st Annual Small Business Overseas Government Contracting Conference.  The goal of the conference is to enable small businesses to help the U.S. Department of State meet its overseas missions.

“We appreciate Buchanan & Edwards, Inc. (BE) for giving back to the small business community by supporting the mission of the U.S. Department of State and Virginia PTAP.  As a successful State Department small business contractor and PTAP client, BE’s participation in the event is a wonderful example of the mutually beneficial, collaborative environment between industry and government.” Said Virginia PTAP Director, Anna Urman.

BE’s State Department work dates back to the founding of the company: “From our beginning supporting one Department of State Bureau in 1998, BE’s customer base has growth to 26 Bureaus, including all regional bureaus. Within the U.S., we provided system architecture design and modernization for the Bureau of Human Resources’ Foreign Service Bidding Application (FSBid) to improve system functionality and enhance the overall user experience. For the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) Systems Integration Office (SIO), we support the world’s largest Government SharePoint implementation.  We have developed automated scripts that enable us to create a new SharePoint server farm within hours. Globally, we developed a solution for the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa that streamlines the invoice approval process, improves management visibility and reporting, and minimizes the risk of lost invoices and late payments.  Our leading edge solutions include implementations that have been deployed on-premises as well as to the cloud.  These solutions were for R/PPR and ECA.  For R/PPR, we were trailblazers in regards to deploying secure solutions to the cloud as policies regarding cloud were and continue to be crafted by the Department. We also provide SharePoint support for the US Consulate in Frankfurt, Germany. Through our support of other DoS programs, such as the Human Resources Knowledge Center, we touch the daily work of DoS employees around the world.”

The inaugural conference is currently SOLD OUT at over 300 participants, including small businesses, large primes, and several government agencies that operate in the international space, including USIAD, Department of State, and the Department of Commerce.

For more information about the event, please visit http://vaptap.ecenterdirect.com/events/1661.

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SAHOURI Insurance & Financial GOLD Sponsor of State Dept / PTAP Government Contracting Conference

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May 23, 2016 – For Immediate Release: SAHOURI INSURANCE &FINANCIAL to be Gold Sponsor of the US Department of State / Virginia PTAP Government Contracting Conference

Fairfax, Virginia: The U.S. Department of State is partnering with the Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) at George Mason University (GMU) to host the inaugural, 1st Annual Small Business Overseas Government Contracting Conference.  The goal of the conference is to enable small businesses to help the U.S. Department of State meet its overseas missions.

“Thank you Sahouri for supporting the mission of the U.S. State Department and Virginia PTAP by signing on as Gold Sponsor. We appreciate your commitment to the small business community; your contribution will enable us to share much needed resources and information with the government contracting community.” Said Virginia PTAP Director, Anna Urman.

Since 1970, SAHOURI INSURANCE has been dedicated to helping government contractors and overseas operations succeed with cost-effective insurance, risk management, and employee benefit solutions. SAHOURI created BASE, an exclusive Defense Base Act Insurance program designed to provide the cost effective coverage that overseas government contractors need.

The inaugural conference is currently SOLD OUT at over 300 participants, including small businesses, large primes, and several government agencies that operate in the international space, including USIAD, Department of State, and the Department of Commerce.

For more information about the event, please visit http://vaptap.ecenterdirect.com/events/1661.

 

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Virginia PTAP Announces RTI International as Gold Sponsor of Veterans International Small Business Conference

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November 6, 2015

Fairfax, Virginia: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with the Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) at George Mason University (GMU) this year to host the 2nd Annual Veterans International Small Business Opportunities Conference (VISBOC).  The VISBOC conference is specifically designed to benefit Veteran owned small businesses.  This conference will take place on November 10, 2015 in Arlington, VA.

“We are proud to announce that RTI International is partnering with us to be a Gold Sponsor for the VISBOC Conference. We appreciate their commitment to supporting veteran-owned small businesses,” said Virginia PTAP Director, Anna Urman.

RTI International is one of the world’s leading research institutes, dedicated to improving the human condition by turning knowledge into practice. RTI’s supplier diversity initiative fosters economic growth and is designed to engage the suppliers that provide the needed expertise and best value solutions. RTI engages and empowers staff members to embrace and expand utilization of veteran owned-, service disabled veteran owned-small businesses. “The viability of small business concerns is an integral element of domestic and international economic development, and we hope to expand our utilization of Veteran Owned-, Service Disabled Veteran Owned-Small Businesses,” said Hudson Oliveira, Director – Supplier Intelligence and Monitoring, RTI International.

This year, VISBOC will draw over 200 participants, including small businesses, large primes, and several government agencies that operate in the international space, including USAID, Department of State, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

To register for the conference, please visit http://vaptap.ecenterdirect.com/ConferenceDetail.action?ID=1464

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Virginia PTAP Announces Tetra Tech as Gold Sponsor of Veterans International Small Business Conference

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November 3, 2015

Fairfax, Virginia: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with the Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) at George Mason University (GMU) this year to host the 2nd Annual Veterans International Small Business Opportunities Conference (VISBOC).  The VISBOC conference is specifically designed to benefit Veteran owned small businesses.  This conference will take place on November 10, 2015 in Arlington, VA.

We are proud to announce that Tetra Tech signed on as Gold Sponsor for the VISBOC Conference. We appreciate their commitment to supporting veteran-owned small businesses,” said Virginia PTAP Director, Anna Urman.

Tetra Tech has been a leading provider of consulting, technical assistance, engineering, program management, staff support, and capacity-building services to the U.S. government since its founding in 1966. They operate in more than 100 countries and territories, with approximately 13,000 employees, over 300 offices worldwide (including several in the National Capital Area), and an annual revenue of over $2.5 billion.  Tetra Tech has a strong record of supporting USAID’s mission in steady-state, austere, contingency, post conflict, and high threat environments for nearly 40 years.  For more information on their international development assistance, please visit http://www.tetratech.com/en/international-development, and this link will provide information on becoming a partner or vendor http://www.tetratech.com/en/suppliers-and-partners.

Tetra Tech also has a strong history of assisting small business and veteran-owned small businesses. As Jan Auman, President of Tetra Tech’s International Services Division, notes, “We are proud of our relationships with small business and veteran-owned small businesses.  Over the past five years, we have subcontracted roughly $1.25 billion to small businesses, with more than 10 percent going to veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. We are also increasingly subcontracting to many of the same small businesses who are more frequently serving as a prime contractor. Sponsoring events like VISBOC is another way we are able to help give back to veterans, support the growth of small business, and support USAID’s efforts to facilitate the development of more veteran-owned small business implementing partners.”

This year, VISBOC will draw over 200 participants, including small businesses, large primes, and several government agencies that operate in the international space, including USAID, Department of State, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

To register for the conference, please visit http://vaptap.ecenterdirect.com/ConferenceDetail.action?ID=1464

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Virginia PTAP Announces Chemonics as Gold Sponsor of Veterans International Small Business Conference

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November 2, 2015

Fairfax, Virginia: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with the Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) at George Mason University (GMU) this year to host the 2nd Annual Veterans International Small Business Opportunities Conference (VISBOC).  The VISBOC conference is specifically designed to benefit Veteran owned small businesses.  This conference will take place on November 10, 2015 in Arlington, VA.

“We are proud to announce that Chemonics International signed on as Gold Sponsor for the VISBOC Conference. We appreciate their commitment to supporting veteran-owned small business.” Said Virginia PTAP Director, Anna Urman.

Owned entirely by employees, Chemonics is an ISO-9001 certified international development company. For nearly 40 years, they have partnered with local and international organizations to promote social and economic change around the world.  Chemonics’ experience in more than 150 countries implementing successful projects that range from agriculture and private sector development to health and education will be a welcome and valuable addition to the VISBOC Conference.

Chemonics President and CEO Susanna Mudge said, “We are honored to be gold sponsors at the Veterans International Small Business Opportunities Conference and meet with veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. Chemonics is committed to providing meaningful partnership opportunities to small businesses and working together to build lasting relationships.”

This year, VISBOC will draw nearly 200 participants, including small businesses, large primes, and several government agencies that operate in the international space, including USIAD, Department of State, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

To register for the conference, please visit http://vaptap.ecenterdirect.com/ConferenceDetail.action?ID=1464

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Common Federal Procurement Acronyms

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Download: Common Federal Procurement Acronyms

ATO – Authority to Operate
B&P – Bid and Proposal
BAA – Broad Agency Announcement
BAFO – Best and Final Offer
BD – Business Development
BDO – Blanket Delivery Order
BOA – Basic Ordering Agreement
BPA – Blanket Purchase Agreement
CA – Cooperative Agreement
CAC – Common Access Card
CAS – Cost Accounting Standards
CDRL – Contract Data Requirements List
CFR – Code of Federal Regulations
CLIN – Contract Line Item Number
CO – Contracting Officer
CONUS – Continental United States
COR – Contracting Officer Representative
COTR – Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative
COTS – Commercial Off-the-Shelf
CPAF – Cost Plus Award Fee
CPFF – Cost Plus Fixed Fee
CPIF – Cost Plus Incentive Fee
CRADA – Co-operative Research & Dev’t Agreement
DFARS – Defense FAR Supplement
DLH – Direct Labor Hour
EDI – Electronic Data Interchange
EDWOSB – Economically Disadv. Women Owned Small Biz
FAR – Federal Acquisition Regulation
FAS – Federal Acquisition Service
FFP – Firm Fixed Price
FOIA – Freedom of Information Act
FOUO – For Official Use Only
GFE – Government Furnished Equipment
GFM – Government Furnished Materials
FFP – Firm Fixed Price
GFP – Government-Furnished Property
GOCO – Government Owned, Contractor Operated
GWAC – Government-wide Acquisition Contract
IDIQ – Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity
IFB – Invitation for Bids
IG – Inspector General
LOE – Level of Effort
LPTA – Lowest Price, Technically Acceptable
MATOC – Multiple Award Task Order Contract
MILSPEC – Military Specification
MOA – Memorandum of Agreement
MOU – Memorandum of Understanding
OCONUS – Outside the Continental US
ODC – Other Direct Costs
OIG – Office of Inspector General
OSDBU – Office of Small & Disadv. Business Utilization
PCO – Procuring Contracting Officer
PEO – Program Executive Officer
PII – Personally Identifiable Information
POAM – Plan of Action and Milestones
RFI – Request for Information
RFP – Request for Proposal
RFQ – Request for Quotation
SAP – Simplified Acquisition Process
SBLO – Small Business Liaison Officer
SBU – Sensitive but Unclassified
SCIF – Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility
SDLC – Software Development Lifecycle
SDVOSB – Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Business
SIC – Standard Industrial Classification Codes
SIN – Special Item Number
SOW – Statement of Work
SSN – Sources Sought Notice
TS – Top Secret
TS/SCI – Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmented Information
T&M – Time and Materials
WOSB – Women Owned Small Business

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Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program

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Visionary Consulting Partners, LLC

Virginia Procurement Technical Assistance Program

Founded in 2008, Visionary Consulting Partners, LLC provides a diverse range of consultative services designed to enhance and support health care providers, community based organizations, and public health agencies through its talented team of 52 employees. Visionary also provides innovative staffing support and personnel augmentation services for its diverse client base by utilizing its national and international network of resources. Visionary prides itself on its ability to take inventory on a company’s current employee capacity, assessing the needs of a specific contract, and filling the required positions with experienced, knowledgeable and capable bodies.  In short, by applying industry best practices, proven business methodologies, and real world experience, Visionary excels at crafting custom solutions that meet the individual needs of each and every one of its clients.

Through Visionary’s consistent self-evaluation to achieve greater and learn constantly, they realized an obstacle or problem was improving its win rate. After speaking with the Virginia PTAP about its desire to improve its overall proposal response process, Visionary sent its Business Development Executive – Derek Hall – and also its Lead Proposal Writer – Paolo Bocao – to the PTAP sponsored course, “Responding to RFPs” taught by Robert Gahagan.

The course provided Visionary with a better understanding on how to improve its business processes in order to enhance their ability to respond to RFP’s (Request For Proposals).  The course also informed Visionary on the sources of where RFP’s are publicized, improved Visionary’s RFP analysis process, and made Visionary more knowledgeable about Government specifications and the federal market.

The lessons learned in the Virginia PTAP course improved Visionary’s RFP production process, and also the quality of their submitted proposals. This resulted in Visionary being awarded three (3) defense contracts within the Defense Health Agency (DHA) in 2014 that totaled to approximately $12M in revenue.

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