Answers to Questions About Teaming – Part 1

These questions were asked during a recent “Developing and Managing Contractor Teams” Workshop.


How long does it take the process to become a mentor/protégé?

8(a) firms should consult with their SBA District Office Business Opportunity Specialist BEFORE they apply for the 8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé program.

According to the Small Business Administration Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, it usually takes about 3 or 4 months for a new 8(a) Mentor Protégé Agreement to undergo full analysis and receive a decision from the SBA headquarters.

Protégé 8(a) firms should notify their prospective Mentors that 1.) SBA approval and acceptance of the Mentor Protégé Agreement is not guaranteed and involves a great deal of due diligence and 2.) The entire end-to-end Mentor Protégé Agreement review process will entail approximately one quarter to one half of a year to complete.


Can the three Protégé’s have the same NAICS Code?

Please reference 13 CFR124.520 (b)(2) for complete details as well as contacting your SBA District Office for an official answer.

Excerpts from the reference.

(2) Generally a mentor will have no more than one protégé at a time. However, the Assistant Administrator//Business Development (AA/BD)  may authorize a concern or non-profit entity to mentor more than one protégé at a time where it can demonstrate that the additional mentor/protégé relationship will not adversely affect the development of either protégé firm (e.g., the second firm may not be a competitor of the first firm). Under no circumstances will a mentor be permitted to have more than three protégés at one time.


When an 8(a) enters into a Mentor Protégé Joint Venture Agreement with a large business, is the new JV a small business?

Under the formal Mentor Protégé and Joint Venture Programs the answer is yes.


— Donna Gaillard/Phyllis Embree

Post-Award Debriefs

Congratulations!  You won the contract!  Win or lose, be sure to take part in the Post-Award Debrief.

We all know it’s important to follow-up after contract award and request a debrief so that we can learn about how our proposal stacked up against our competitors.  Even if you’ve won the contract, a debrief makes sense, so you can learn what you did right and then apply that knowledge to the next contract competition.  In order to gain the most from these debriefing opportunities, it’s also smart to review the FAR guidance that applies in FAR 15.506, Postaward Debriefing of Offerors, to fully comprehend what information the contracting officer can and cannot reveal.  First, be aware that debriefings of successful and unsuccessful offerors may be done orally, in writing, or by any other method acceptable to the contracting officer.  Secondly, be familiar with the FAR description of the minimum items to be included.  They are:

(1) The Government’s evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in the offeror’s proposal, if applicable;

(2) The overall evaluated cost or price (including unit prices), and technical rating, if applicable, of the successful offeror and the debriefed offeror, and past performance information on the debriefed offeror;

(3) The overall ranking of all offerors, when any ranking was developed by the agency during the source selection;

(4) A summary of the rationale for award;

(5) For acquisitions of commercial items, the make and model of the item to be delivered by the successful offeror; and

(6) Reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether source selection procedures contained in the solicitation, applicable regulations, and other applicable authorities were followed.

Finally, it’s important to understand what the CO will not discuss. That would include:

point-by-point comparisons of the debriefed offeror’s proposal with those of other offerors. Moreover, the debriefing shall not reveal any information prohibited from disclosure by 24.202 or exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) including —

(1) Trade secrets;

(2) Privileged or confidential manufacturing processes and techniques;

(3) Commercial and financial information that is privileged or confidential, including cost breakdowns, profit, indirect cost rates, and similar information; and

(4) The names of individuals providing reference information about an offeror’s past performance.

A bit of preparation leading up to the debrief is time well spent.  It’s prudent to jot down the pertinent questions and give some thought to the sequencing of questions.  Be persistent in your questioning and you may learn more useful information that can be applied to the next competition.

–Jim Dickensheets

Question: How to Find Opportunities


What is the best way to find federal contract for engineering product design? I’m doing FedBizOpps and MyBidmatch, but they don’t seem to key in on those contracts. Is there another avenue the military and other government agencies use for their product design procurement?


You’re right about not finding much in the way of opportunities on FedBiz or MyBidmatch for your industry group.  Many Federal clients will use IDIQ contracts, Task Order contracts or other contract vehicles to acquire services in your industry.  In addition, I suspect that the acquisition process is more dispersed to the local level, as opposed to a centralized acquisition process driven by the agency in DC.  What you may want to do is take your search local, looking at individual Federal facilities web sites in your state/region.  I would also suggest you get plugged into your nearest SBA office and PTAC to see if they can provide some additional advice on narrowing down your search.  Hope this helps!

–Jim Dickensheets

Words of Wisdom From A Small Business Leader

Our founder, Tom Stover, led his company with integrity, faith and skill. He passed away in 2013 after battling cancer.
Tom believed that small business success came through a combination of hard work, sound execution and fair play.  Tom was also an avid reader of Tom Clancy and on more than one occasion he shared “quips of Clancy” in conversation.
“The point of life is to press on, to do the best you can, to make the world a better place.”
Tom Clancy, Clear and Present Danger 
Tom would often remind his audience, in closing a training session, to “Remember your families.” — His take on making the world a better place.

How Can A Joint Venture Help My Business Grow?

A joint venture is defined as a business arrangement in which two or more parties agree to pool their resources for the purpose of accomplishing a specific task. This task can be a new project or any other business activity. In a joint venture (JV), each of the participants is responsible for profits, losses and costs associated with it. However, the venture is its own entity, separate and apart from the participants’ other business interests – Investopedia

The JV can be either informal, where a handshake seals the agreement to share a booth at an expo, or very formal with lawyers and complex agreements documenting two or more companies combining resources to develop new technologies.  Benefits:

  • Save money and reduce risk through capital and resource sharing
  • Smaller companies are able to work with larger companies to develop, manufacture and market new products/services
  • Research/Development underwritten by more than one company

The Joint Venture for the 8(a) company joining with a non- 8(a) company in the pursuit of federal business opportunities is executed in a Mentor- Protégé relationship.  The two companies, let’s assume a small 8(a) and a large non 8(a), work the JV through the SBA.  The companies form a new legal entity (JV-1 for example) for the mutual interest of both companies.

The purpose of the JV is to increase the number of contract wins however there are specific rules.  Highlights as follows:

  • The JV is limited to 3 contracts in a 2 year period.
  • The 8(a) firm in the JV must receive profits commensurate with the work performed by the 8(a) firm
  • The 8(a) must perform at least 40% of the work
  • Mentor firm is only allowed 3 protégés at one time
  • The mentor protégé agreement is required to specify the development assistance the  mentor will provide the 8(a) firm.

JVs offer opportunities that a small company may not experience when going it alone.  If this sounds like something you may be interested in contact your nearest SBA office and inquire about establishing a JV.

–Frank Lane

Questions Asked During “Developing the Technical and Past Performance Volumes” Workshop

A few questions from a recent workshop

If the RFP is a HubZone set-aside, is it required that 51% of work is done by the Prime that must be a HubZone or that 51% of the work be done by HubZones across the team?

      Answer:  51% or more of the work must be done by HubZones that can be cumulative effort of Prime and Subcontractors – for services contracts.  Guidance can be found in 13 CFR 125.6 (Limitations on Subcontracting).  The below is excerpted:

 (c) A qualified HUBZone SBC prime contractor can subcontract part of a HUBZone contract (as defined in § 126.600 of this chapter) provided:

(1) In the case of a contract for services (except construction), the qualified HUBZone SBC spends at least 50% of the cost of the contract performance incurred for personnel on the concern’s employees or on the employees of other qualified HUBZone SBCs;

By what date prior to proposal deadline can they make RFP changes?

      Answer:  Changes to the RFP can occur at any time prior to the proposal submission deadline.  If the change is substantial or the government believes it will drive changes to offeror’s proposals, they will extend the response date.

 On average how long to get a final answer?

      Answer:  After submission of proposals, the time required for the government’s evaluation varies based on a number of factors:  size, complexity, number of offers, urgency of the requirement, etc.  Many solicitations will indicate the date the government intends to make an award.  As a general rule, if you have not heard anything within 30 days of submission, you should query the Contracting Officer as to the status.

 We wish you success in your business endeavors and hope to see you at future classes.

A Small Business Quiz. How Well Do You Know the Basics?


Here’s a quick quiz regarding small business relationships with the Federal Government :

  1.  True/False?  Marketing business capabilities to a program/project manager is not allowable by the FAR.
  2.  True/False?  A great idea coupled with great execution is a formula for success.
  3.  True/False?  Who you know matters more than what you know.
  4.  True/False?  In government business financial models aren’t relevant
  5.  True/False?  I submitted a proposal response to an RFP.  I noticed some inconsistencies  with how the Governments procurement team was handling the Source Selection.  Am I allowed to protest before award?

Our response:

  1.  False.  A small business is allowed to market its capabilities to an agency prior to release of a solicitation.  The agencies purposely release RFI’s and Sources Sought Synopsis to identify qualified small businesses to address its requirements.  See FAR
  2. False.  You need more than a great idea to be successful.  You will want to consider the following during your journey to small business success.  A. Who is the customer and what does he/she need.  Addressing a potential clients needs may or may not be relevant to your great idea. B. What differentiates your product/service from the masses and why will the client buy it?  You sell a quality product or service at a fair/reasonable price and it meets the client’s needs.
  3. True.  In many ways conducting business with Uncle Sam is similar to commercial business.  Building a relationship with either the program office or contracts shop will help in developing trust and mitigating risk.  The relationships yield recommendations and follow on business.  Don’t sell yourself short in this.
  4. False.  Financial model s are tools that provide insight into “what if” scenarios that aid a business in determining what it takes to reduce risk, gain trust and  “make a buck”.
  5. True.  FAR 33.1 identifies scenarios where a Protest may be filed before contract award.

Hopefully you did well and scored “correctly” on all 5 questions.  The quiz is designed to aid the small business to recognize some of the things that often trip up small contractors on the way to becoming a better, smarter more profitable vendor.

Job Order Contracting and the Use of Pricing Coefficients

This Blog topic has been developed in response to a question about Coefficients in Cost Estimating.

What is Job Order Contracting? Job Order Contracting (JOC) is a tailored contract type used in construction for renovation, remodel and repair projects. Job Order Contracting is authorized by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (See AFARS 5152.237-9000 Economic Price Adjustment (Job Order Contracts)). It is often a multi year (Base +) contract using established and documented unit pricing at its base. It is similar to an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) scenario that allows for a contractor to be assigned tasks (work orders) IAW the negotiated book (IDIQ) price. Once a Job Order Contract is in place, individual work orders are issued that can be priced and executed in an efficient and timely manner. The negotiated book price is determined ( “marked up or down”) by the coefficient applied by the contractor to the base to achieve the contractor’s price.

Job Order Contracting is used broadly by the Federal Government, state governments, universities and community colleges, hospital systems, K-12 school districts, city, county and municipal governments and clients who have significant facilities infrastructure needs. A successful Job Order Contracting program exhibits a process to select qualified competitive contractors and the use of pre-agreed pricing that combines industry standard price information (e.g., a price book) and a contractor’s pricing coefficient.

What is a Coefficient? The coefficient, also referred to as the “multiplier “or “factor”, is the markup or markdown (discount) applied to the base IDIQ price to arrive at the contractor’s price. Examples: 1). A coefficient of 1.08 means the contractor will perform line items in the unit price book for an 8% markup. 2). A coefficient of .97 means the contractor will perform line items for a 3% discount. The coefficient is considered “fully loaded” and includes all costs including general conditions, overhead and profit.

Information excerpted from DAU, the AFARS, and Wikipedia.

–Frank Lane

Know the Language of Negotiating

The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs) explicitly define a series of terms that are relevant to your understanding of the Federal contracting and contract negotiation process.  Here’s a few that may be of value to you:

Clarifications –  The Government’s decision to award with or without discussions will dictate the type of communications that can take place.  If the solicitation states that the award will be made without discussions, the Government’s ability to communicate with offerors is limited, but not entirely precluded.  The Government may still request “clarifications” which FAR 15 describes as “limited exchanges “to clarify certain aspects of the proposal or to resolve minor or clerical errors.  Also, in the “without discussions” scenario, certain types of past performance inquiries are regarded as clarifications.  For instance, the Government will be able to ask offerors about relevant past performance information, or give the offeror the chance to explain adverse past performance information to which they have not had a previous opportunity to respond.  (See FAR 15.306)

Exchanges – These are communications that take place after receipt of proposals but before the establishment of the competitive range and allow the Government to engage in more substantive communications than clarifications.  In addition, FAR 15 limits these communications (before the competitive range determination) to certain parties and only for specific reasons primarily associated with resolution of ambiguities in the proposal or to address past performance information.  See FAR 15.306(b) for the details.

Discussions – These are negotiations in a competitive acquisition that begin after the competitive range determination and are typically associated with the offerors cost/price, technical approach, past performance, and terms and conditions.  Discussions are tailored to each proposal within the competitive range and allow the Government to assess individual proposal strengths and weaknesses.  See FAR 15.306(c) for more details.

Summary – Understand the language being used by the contracting officer in the negotiating process and understand the rules associated with each phase of the source selection process.

–Jim Dickensheets

Developing Your Elevator Speech

Small business owners understand that in order to put your business on the path to success, a comprehensive business plan and a marketing plan are critical.  “Winging it” doesn’t bring results, nor is it a productive use of your precious time.  Both of these plans, if done correctly, can establish a measured approach to growing your business as well as methods to assess how well your business decisions are achieving the desired results.

One element of the marketing plan is referred to as the elevator speech, a brief but hard-hitting verbal bulletin board that describes your company’s expertise in 30 seconds or so.  Why is it important?  Simply put, over the course of a normal business week, you will have many, many opportunities to describe your company and what it offers.  You may actually find yourself on an elevator with a contracting officer, an elected official or other government customer.  Being prepared for these opportunities may make the difference between a business deal and just another missed opportunity.  The elevator speech needs to be thoughtfully created, rehearsed, and skillfully modified on the fly to make the greatest impact on your listener.  Our friends at the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) have created an outline of the elevator speech that I believe is very effective.  Here’s the outline of items that need to be addressed:

  • Who and what you are
  • What you specialize in
  • What you do
  • Why you are the best at what you do
  • What you want (a call to action)
  • Keep it brief!  Talk solutions that your company brings to the table.

If you haven’t given much thought to your elevator speech, take a 3 x 5 card and jot down the elements that address the outline questions above, then rehearse it.  I know it sounds silly, but a few rehearsals will help you to polish the speech so that the first impressions are lasting.  Again, you will be surprised at the number of opportunities that will materialize in your normal business activity where you can put the elevator speech to use.  Be prepared!