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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

If you aren't ready for September, it's too late

I grew up in the restaurant business, and while we had a good steady business each month, we definitely had our business times and our slower times.

As the government market rushes into September and the end of the year, I’m always reminded of the days in the restaurant.

It always seemed that in April and May, business would start to build. Then July 4th would come, and the traffic would move up another notch, and you’d think that we were at capacity.

September, we’d see a dip as family vacations ended and kids went back to school.

But then October came, and the colors in the Shenandoah Valley would blaze up and down the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If you thought July and August were busy, you ain’t seen nothing like October.

Our restaurant was nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge just outside of the Shenandoah National Park and a few miles from the Luray Caverns back in town. We’d get traffic stopping in both directions, coming and going from the park or the cave.

We’d open for breakfast at 7 a.m., and often there would be early birds waiting for us. We’d close at 9 p.m., and would be turning people away. It wasn’t unusual for us to feed 800 or 900 people on a Saturday or Sunday. Not bad for a place with 100 seats.

Those were long days. You’d be able to find that energy to work the extra hour or smile and be polite -- even when that was the last thing you’d want to do -- because you knew there was an end in sight. November would come, and business would drop.

The government market probably doesn’t have the same dramatic drop off when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, but there is a definite change in the market. We see it as the number of announcements drop. Contract data also confirms that the number of transactions hits a peak in September and then drops off.

Kevin Plexico of Deltek presented data at our Defense Industry that showed that more than 25 percent of the yearly spend on IT equipment and software is spent in September. More than 20 percent of the yearly spend on communications and services also happen in September.

So obviously, you’re gearing up for a big month.

At the restaurant, October often made our year. You could project and predict, but there were always variables out of our control, usually weather-related, that dictated whether we made our numbers or not.

In the government market, there are many more variables: bid protests, budget delays, a slow procurement process, to name a few, that are out of your control.

But September is also where a lot of hard work pays off. The meetings, the networking, the relationship building.

Customers have money they need to spend, and they are going to spend it with people they trust. Now is when the listening and understanding pays off.

At the restaurant, my mother was a genius at understanding and anticipating. She also knew when to experiment and introduce new things. October usually wasn’t the time for new dishes. You do that in March and April when you can really talk to the customers and see if they liked it. You also knew that the kitchen could handle it.

By October, those new dishes were tried and true standards.

So as we close out the dog days of summer and gear up for September, remember the ground work you laid during the other 11 months and that the time is now to put those lessons to work.

Good luck and happy hunting.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Aug 18, 2015 at 9:31 AM

Reader Comments

Thu, Aug 20, 2015 Davud Claiborne Virginia

I have heard these comments before but they fail to really illuminate the marketplace. We need a better definition of the word "spent". If 25%is spent on September is that payment by the govt to contractors for goods and services, is it dollars awarded, or is it RFP dropped? Critical distinctions.

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