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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Don't abandon your old customers

The contracts directorate of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command found itself in a bit of a jam recently.

The Navy had been working with Enterprise Solutions & Management Inc. on a support contract for its Acquisition and Contracts E-Commerce system, known as ACE-C. The company had been providing technical services to help with Standard Procurement System installations, upgrading services and continuity of operations planning.

But when the Navy went to award Enterprise Solutions & Management a contract extension to fill the gap before a follow-on contract could be awarded, the company turned it down. That move sparked my interest, just because of how unusual it seemed in today’s market.

But as Tom Nugen, company president, explained to me, the Navy was wanted one particular person. He’s supported SPAWAR at that San Diego office for 15 years. He knows the ACE-C system very well. But he’s just kind of tired of it, Nugen said.

That person still works for Enterprise Solutions & Management, but “he didn’t want to continue” at SPAWAR, Nugen said.

SPAWAR was now in a bind and issued a sole-source justification to give the work to Vector Planning & Services Inc.

The dollar value of the work hasn’t been released, but the Navy said it needs 320 hours of labor over a two month period, by which time they should have a new contract in place.

Vector was the only company that the Navy could find that the skills and security clearances in place to do the work, according to the Navy justification and authorization document.

The pressure was on the Navy to find someone because the work on the project includes data base administration and support for the ACE-C system as it prepared to renew its Authorization to Operate certification.

Without the ATO renewal, the ACE-C system would not be able to fulfill its mission, “including but not limited to soliciting, awarding and documenting contractual actions.”

Nugen said that his company still wanted the work, but the employee was ready for something else. Hiring and training a new person would have taken a year, he said.

Now the work goes to Vector, which had worked on the ACE-C system for 13 years before Enterprise Solutions & Management.

“Utilizing the current expertise within [Vector] will prevent an interruption in critical SPS support and ensure a seamless transition to a follow on,” the Navy wrote.

So, what’s the lesson here?

Well, you need to communicate with your employees, particularly the ones who work so intimately with your customers. That their subject matter expert had grown weary of the customer should not have been a surprise.

It also seems to me that the customer should have had some inkling as well.

It also says something about Vector. At some point they lost the contract for the work Enterprise Solutions was providing, but they didn’t lose touch with the customer. When the Navy was in a bind, they were able to quickly re-establish ties with Vector.

That’s probably the biggest lesson. It’s always good to keep your old customers happy.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 14, 2015 at 9:30 AM

Reader Comments

Tue, Sep 15, 2015 Mel

Good points, but let us not push it too far. Some Federal clients are, in fact, so undesirable that smart companies should walk away from them. For example, they try to get extra work without paying for it. They poach staff. They rig tasks. They try to get u to hire their daughters in law. They pay slowly. They give poor references, even though they tell you they loved the product. They blame you for their errors. You can't make moolah from these guys.

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