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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

What one thing can make you a better prime?

So far, we’ve looked at the good and the bad of the prime-sub relationship, discovering that the values of honesty, transparency and communications shine through as top priorities, regardless of which side of the fence you are on.

When you feel you have a good relationship, those values represent the strong points of the relationship. At the same time, those values are lacking when you have a poor relationship with your prime.

Today, I want to look at another part of our study – available for download here – where we asked subcontractors what the single most important thing a prime can do to be a more effective partner.

The top of the list was communications and transparency, followed closely by work share, systems and processes, and managing expectations. Ethics, honesty and honoring commitments and teamwork and responsiveness followed closely.

All four of the top responses were within 2 percentage points, ranging from 21 percent to 19 percent.

“Communicate and encourage greater participation in capture, proposal and review team processes,” one commenter wrote.

Another asked that primes act as partners, and not primes. “Approach the work more as a team and have someone on site that has the knowledge and authority to make timely field decisions.”

“Foster the team, not ulterior selfish motives,” a third wrote.

What these comments and others in the same vein made me think is that there is a strong desire on the part of subs to feel valued and be part of the process. They want a seat at the table, and they want to make a contribution.

It seems to me that primes should be clamoring for these kinds of partners. They want to be in the game, and they will own their role on the team.

As with the other open-ended questions, the word "honest" was used a lot.

“Admit limitations – don’t promise the world if you cannot deliver,” a commenter said. Probably good advice for both the prime and the sub.

Communications also ranked high.

There also were many specific comments that read as advice for being a better partner:

  • Bring concerns to light as quickly as possible.
  • Build integrity with suppliers.
  • Clarify the need for proposal support.
  • Commit more fully to mentoring, including sales support, share best practices and help smalls to develop and enhance their capabilities.
  • Conclude the teaming agreement as soon as possible, and clearly define the work-share balance.

Of all the opened-ended questions in our study, the question about the single thing primes can do to improve the relationship garnered the most responses with 544 (Let me know if you want a copy, and I’ll send them to you – nwakeman@washingtontechnology.com).

It was the specificity of many of these comments that indicated to me that the prime-sub relationship might be troubled in today’s market, but there is a way forward. And the way forward is known and achievable.

But, it will take both primes and subs to make it happen.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 02, 2013 at 12:31 PM


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