5 must-do's for a successful 2013
Repeat after me: concentrate, collaborate, educate, associate and differentiate
- By Mark Amtower
- Oct 30, 2012
Neither the Aztec calendar nor Nostradamus may have had the U.S. budget in mind, but prophesies of doom and gloom abound within our market nonetheless. Sequestration or not, the federal government will be spending less money in the coming years and we all have to deal with it.
However, all is not lost. During my thirty years in this market we have had some serious downs before, although I have to say none as bad as this. Worse, it is exacerbated by the most contentious Congress since 1859.
Even so, there are some things that any contractor, regardless of size, should be doing to prepare for that which approaches the fan.
Here are five interrelated areas to act on.
Unless you are in the very top tier of systems integrators, you really can’t focus on the “government.” For over twenty years my mantra for small and medium size businesses has been to focus on one or two agencies, and grow the business within those agencies.
In the 1990s I was advising a small, woman-owned business that had some contracts at the Agriculture Department. They wanted to migrate to other agencies. I asked how well they knew the information resources manager (what we now call the chief information officer). They said very well.
I asked how many operating units they served with USDA. They said two. I asked how many other operating units there were. They answered “about 40” and suddenly got my point. They doubled their business within 36 months, all with USDA.
If you have more business in one agency than others, start looking deeper into the Exhibit 300s and 53s from the Office of Management and Budget to see what other areas you may be able to work in. The agency already knows you, and it is always easier to find work where you are known.
The best time to break this rule is when one of your clients moves to a new agency and gives you a call. Post-election and for the first several months of 2013, this migration will occur more frequently, so be prepared.
Look for companies where you can develop long-term teaming and sub-contracting relationships. Strong teams will continue to be a major key to success. While this is no surprise, teaming will play a bigger role going forward, and selecting companies that you are compatible and comfortable with will go a long way to ensuring the stability of your firm.
You may also be able to find ways to collaborate directly with the government customer.
Make certain your team is the best they can be. Develop internal educational programs and/or find those venues where you can send you people to hone their skills.
There are numerous venues for educating your employees: professional associations like APMP, various continuing education programs at colleges, and through companies like mine, Amtower & Company, which has been providing marketing and sales programs to the GovCon community since 1991.
Be visible- network. This will become somewhat more difficult as feds find themselves sequestered by the paranoia surrounding some events, particularly those involving travel. I heard that the AUSA conference was much smaller this year.
Look for smaller, local events and in-agency events, but seek venues to network with customers and partners. Associations are good places for this (AFCEA, AFFIRM, PSC, ACT-IAC, TechAmerica, ASBC, etc), but they are not the only places.
Define the skill or skills you bring to the market narrowly, not broadly. Defining your skills in this manner allows larger contractors to see the value you bring to specific programs. If you have read my articles here over the past four years, or if you read my blog, you know that this is the major success factor for any small company seeking to grow in this market.
Narrow the niche, and then develop a thought leadership platform. Develop and share niche information that adds value to the customers you serve. Publicly demonstrate your expertise in ways that raises your visibility. Some of the tools here are speaking, blogging, webinars, and participating in social networks like LinkedIn.
As I indicated above, each of these is interrelated and should be woven into the overall go-to-market strategy. If you execute well on each of these, you will be in much better shape than many of your competitors.