Do you have critical mass to bid or win? It makes a difference

Many companies in our industry began their business primarily as staff augmentation companies, which served a useful market function in past years.

They would bid proposals and once a contract was awarded, they would fire-up their recruiting team and find people as fast as they could. This basic business model worked for many years. Win and staff enough work, and the revenue and profits flowed … without other concomitant investments.

But a number of well-publicized phenomena, in recent years, have changed the dynamics of our industry and market:

  • Budget pressure has increased greatly
  • Increased pressure from LPTA, real or perceived
  • Intense competition from all quarters
  • Acute shortage of qualified subject matter experts
  • Acute shortage of experienced government procurement staff
  • Few companies have real discriminators
  • Commoditization of IT services which continues to reduce margins
  • Technology itself is evolving at an accelerating pace

What’s a company to do? And now we hear that we must invest much more into marketing functions.  “Hmmm, I bid and won new work for years without having much more than a web site, corporate presentation, brochure and a handshake.  What’s the big deal?” 

The number one reason companies fail is that they are unable to perceive and adapt to a changing market environment.

The company’s past business model had a structure, culture and management system designed from Day 1 to be a bidding factory. In other words, they had critical mass to bid.

But this business model no longer works.

The only real asset a services company has is its people, its subject matter experts.  Their engagement with customers, visibility beyond current customers, up-to-date certifications, conference presentations, current knowledge and more are what gives a company the critical mass to win.

Critical mass to win requires that a company invest in their subject matter experts. This investment may include paying for certifications, helping them write white papers, participation in select technical conferences with specific objectives in mind, not just to network, development of abbreviated technical presentations, development of sophisticated demonstrations, creating customer success stories that present expertise and high-impact outcomes, weekly blog engagement and more.

As these investments are made, marketing can frame them for presentation to the market with the goal of generating quality leads and strengthening brand identity.

Companies that have critical mass to win will tell a customer, in their proposal response, exactly how they will perform the work to be done, strategic measurements that apply, the exact basis of their staffing projection and the outcomes that will be experienced by all stakeholders.  Companies that have critical mass to bid will tell a customer what they have done in the past and why it is relevant to the customer’s needs. 

Customers are perceptive and can tell when a company has critical mass to win.  They know when a company is investing in its people, otherwise known as its future.  How do customers perceive your company’s critical mass?

About the Author

Bob Davis has over 35-years’ experience in the federal information technology industry. He has held senior positions with products- and services-oriented, high-tech IT companies during his career. Bob has successfully worked for large- and medium–sized companies, and small businesses. Leadership positions have been held in business development, marketing, and program management. Bob has a doctor of management from the University of Maryland University College. He works for a medium-size company in our industry.

Reader Comments

Tue, Feb 24, 2015

Reb Feb 12 reply comment: good point, but we need to recognize that while supply and demand for contractor services "equalizes," the customers will be subjected to and saddled with some utterly deficient contractor performances, over and over again. We can't just let nature take its course. The bad ones should not be competing, getting contracts, or delivering unworkable results--and getting paid for it.

Thu, Feb 12, 2015

I have had a 20 year contracting career working capture for more than 10 years. Our current situation is a simple case of over supply (growth of contractors focused on gov dollars) and under demand (reduced budgets) this situation will not change until the supply/demand equalizes

Thu, Feb 12, 2015

This is a fine and accurate characterization of two sets of companies in the gov con biz. But the author has not noted that many companies transitioned The Other Way. In other words, they were substantive and differentiated rather successful, but decided to shed those distinctions in order to become a commoditized, butts-in-seats contractor. Private equity firms still flocked and a few made many dinero from this transition from esteemed to cored-out and common. Far less fuss and muss and risk than trying to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Most of our largest companies in services for the government have made this transition. In some cases, the moolah has still flowed to owners/investors. In others, the brand has gone to seed, the "good people" bailed, and the names ring hollow, the pay is meh, regardless of the stock value if the company is public. Tysons is full of such big companies that now play the butts game for much, much smaller margins, bonuses, etc. The government slowly notices such transformations from upmarket to downmarket and buys accordingly, or so it seems.

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