Mark Amtower

COMMENTARY

How to crack the WT Top 100

AUTHOR's NOTE: Ten years ago I wrote my first column for Washington Technology on how to break into the Washington Technology Top 100 - now it’s time to revisit

So, you want to be in the Washington Technology Top 100. But how do you migrate up the food chain?

Every year when Washington Technology publishes the Top 100, I get calls and emails asking how some companies, especially the new ones, broke into the Top 100.

There are only two sure ways to get into the WashTech Top 100: buy one of them, or sell to one of them.

Other than that, you’ll need to work your way up the ladder.

Here are a few thoughts for upward migration.

Market Commitment

GovCon is not a part time gig, and those approaching it as an adjunct to their B2B business really need to understand the differences.

This is exacerbated if you are a public company and your Board and shareholders have expectations beyond what is attainable. Public companies do succeed in this market but only when the Board, investors and Wall Street understand that B2G is not a business based on quarterly reports.

The commitment involves bringing in the right talent, dedicating the right resources, and adequately funding each.

The commitment must be company-wide and the acceptance of the glacial nature of GovCon must be a given.

Focus

Focus can take many forms here: the focus on a particular technology or agency, focus on a special problem facing those in certain jobs, a regional focus, and more. Or possibly a combination of two or more of these. Fraud, waste and abuse (FWA), for example, is a pervasive and persistent problem, but it does not seem to be on the front burner…unless it is your job in your agency.

Focus on what you do best, then become among the best at what you do. This is not lost on the community where you work.

Focus on a beachhead in an agency and grow that business before thinking about migrating to other agencies. Develop a significant presence and understand that you earn this position on a daily basis, not simply when you win the contract.

Time

Government time can seem like geologic ages. Things don’t usually happen quickly.

Those seeking rapid migration to the top tiers contracting, to be on par with GDIT, Northrop and others, are in the wrong business unless they have really deep pockets and buy their way in.

Time and a seriously thought out long-term plan are required. I have several anecdotes of those who were beginning to succeed, then made an alteration to their plan which short-circuited their growth. I have other anecdotes for the flip side: companies that made alterations that were well thought out and led to winning more business.

Relationships

Those who read my articles and other posts know that I believe relationships are the key to success. These relationships include the client relationship, partner (prime/sub) relationship, management to employee, company to the channel, press relations and more.

Each must be handled properly and professionally. Snafus in any of these will impact your brand in the market as word of said snafu will invariably get out somehow (think White House leaks).

Education

This market continues to evolve, and the evolution requires perpetual education for each discipline in your company, including sales, marketing, BD, proposals, accounting, and legal.

There are many venues for education, including associations, conferences, seminars, webinars, briefings, in-house training, continuing professional education, advanced degrees (I am an adjunct professor in the GWU graduate school for Government Contracting where I learn as much from my students as they do from me), and more.

There is education by osmosis, hanging out with market experts (in and outside of your company), education by continual scanning of market information (trade publications, blogs and other sources of market intel).

But the education has to be constant. Take a break for a few months and you are behind the curve.

Rinse and repeat (re-commit)

Your commitment to the market must be renewed regularly, formally or informally. This is a requirement for those seeking to move up in the pecking order, from third tier to second, from second tier to first.

There are no guarantees that you will migrate to the top even if you do all these things. But I can guarantee that you will fail if you don’t do them.

“Do or do not, there is no try.”

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

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