Use EXTREME CAUTION When Giving Gifts to Government Contract Officials and Clients

IMG_1104Here are some important words that bears repeating about gifts to government clients.  Business owners, especially new ones who have not dealt with government clients before but now want to express their honest gratitude for that first or second government contract award, should pay close attention to this warning from William Curry, a government contracting expert, trainer and author of the book- Contracting for Services in State and Local Government Agencies, Second Edition.


 

Small businesses may have established a practice of sending thank you presents to their private sector customers. They should, however, reconsider this tradition when dealing with government agencies.

While researching contracting fraud cases for my book, I came across a newspaper article with a dateline naming a city where I previously lived. Upon reading the story, I was stunned to learn that my friend’s small business owner son was going to prison for giving gifts to government officials.

Did you know that the value of gifts that can be given to federal officials is surprisingly low at $20 per gift and no more than $50 per year from the same source? The limits vary greatly between the various state and local government agencies.

You may also be surprised to learn that the FBI traditionally has jurisdiction over procurement fraud cases for state and local governments as well as for federal agencies. When it comes to investigating contracting corruption, the FBI is a formidable institution. My recommendation: Don’t give gifts of any value to your government customers.

 

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Once Upon A Time, There Was This RFP and . . .

Before you respond to a RFP/RFQ solicitation you should first know its complete story. Only then will you be able to answer the question- do you have a good chance of being selected?  OK, that’s obvious.

But what’s not so clear is knowing what goes into qualifying a RFP/RFQ opportunity as something worthy to bet your resources.

Last year, a small business owner put in a lot of time and effort to respond to thirty RFP/RFQ vendor solicitations- and won zero.  Turns out she responded to the wrong opportunities.  Even though her business could satisfy the requirements, she didn’t know the “story” behind those thirty RFPs.  If she had, she would never have responded.  Instead, she would have found other RFP/RFQ opportunities whose complete story is more compatible to her organization.

More importantly, she must realize that the real story often times has nothing to do with the RFP/RFQ’s scope of work requirements.  The story usually includes hidden themes that can outweigh scope of work requirements.

telling-a-story-1024x790So, gather your team and explore the theme(s) behind the RFP/RFQ solicitation’s story when it comes your way.  Your assessment should go way beyond the obvious question of whether you can satisfy the scope of work.  For example, consider how compatible these potential story themes are to your organization in terms of: goals/objectives, culture, size, industry, etc.

  1. What is the real purpose of the solicitation? Does the contractor really want your business or is s/he just price checking to ensure that a preferred vendor’s offer is competitively priced?
  2. How important is relative experience in the industry represented by the RFP/RFQ contractor? I’m not talking about the industry inferred by the scope of work requirements but rather the organization that issued the solicitation.
  3. Can the “size” of the project be perceived to outweigh the “size” of your organization in the eyes of the RFP/RFQ contractor’s vendor response evaluation person or committee?
  4. Given the apparent complexity of the RFP/RFQ opportunity, do you even want to deal with the organization that issued the solicitation?
  5. Does the overall scope of work seem like an uncoordinated/impractical wish list that is better off divided into more reasonable parcels?
  6. How does the projected timing of the work to be done compare to the contractor’s organizational budget cycle?

I can go on and on and on, but you get the idea.

So, what RFP/RFQ solicitation story themes can you think of?  Send your themes to me and I will share with everyone.

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Do You Keep Missing The RFP Target?

Does This Sound Familiar?

The owner of a small services firm told me about how her business responded to thirty or so RFP solicitations. She spent time and effort carefully filling out the forms, crafting out a recommended approach and pricing to satisfy the requirements of those opportunities that were “right up her alley.”

And this is what she got for all that effort . . . zilch, nada (thing), diddly-squat! She was, however, invited to explain to her partners and investors why she wasted their time and money.

So What Happened?
Hearing more about her approach, it turns out that she should not have responded to any of those thirty RFP opportunities. Why? Even though those opportunities were in her firm’s areas of expertise, they were not a good fit for reasons that had nothing to do with the scope of work defined in those RFPs.

Just because you find out about an RFP or RFQ opportunity, that doesn’t mean it is an opportunity for you.  But make no mistake about it. Winning competitive RFP/RFQs is a game of large numbers. You’ve got to be in as many of these opportunity bubbles as possible. The question is, which ones won’t pop on you?

So, consider my 10% theory. No matter how good your organization is, even if your product or service is the best thing since sliced bread, you still must have at least ten RFP/RFQ responses going just to win one. Question is . . . which ten? Obviously the business owner described above responded to the wrong RFP/RFQ opportunities.

Bottom Line: Think Twice Before You Respond To Any RFP Solicitation!

In my next blog, I’ll talk about how and why you need to understand the true story behind a RFP solicitation before you respond to it.

It’s A Juicy Opportunity! But Should You Agree To All Government Contract Terms and Conditions?

Mmm boy! You’ve come across a great state or federal contract opportunity. But the RFP solicitation requires that you agree to ALL of the government’s terms and conditions as part of your RFP response.  A yellow flag pops up in your head.  But the opportunity sizzles before you-  like a Ruth Chris Cowboy Ribeye.  And you want it!

Sometimes small businesses are so eager to receive a contract from a government agency, or a prime contractor, that they are willing to agree to the offered terms and conditions. This attitude, however, may lead to unreasonable risks for your business.

William Curry, author of “Contracting for Services in State and Local Government Agencies,”(click here for more information about the book) cautions us to not give in so quickly.  Consider indemnification clauses.  Government agencies oftentimes have two versions of indemnification clauses. But they only present the indemnification clause version that requires you to indemnify the government, but does not require the government to indemnify your business.

Businesses with good legal representation are likely to balk at such one-sided clauses wherein they assume considerable risk while the government avoids that particular risk. Curry tells us that it is not unusual, however, for a government agency to have a back-up provision that does provide for mutual indemnification and they are usually willing to use that version if challenged.

Bottom line is this- when faced with contract terms and conditions with such one-sided indemnification provisions, small businesses should consider asking the government to substitute an indemnification clause that pertains equally to both parties in the contract.  There is a caveat. Not all government agencies have multiple indemnification clause versions and there is no guarantee they will agree to your request.  But it doesn’t hurt to ask.  Above all, it is best to secure legal advice on these matters because we are not lawyers.

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WANTED!!! A Finance & Insurance Regulatory Expert

Join our virtual team!

I’m looking for a regulatory finance & insurance subject matter expert img_1035to join our data analytics team. This person should have in-depth experience with state and/or federal agencies and be able to work with our team to: dig through various data sources, discover/explain actionable insights and uncover hidden systemic risks and/or fraud. Background in federal/state regulatory issues is a must. Experience working with these agencies desired.

Please contact me if interested or feel free to forward this opportunity to your network. This is a quick response contract opportunity, so we need to hear from you now!

Hit The Right Target! It’s Time to Reread The RFP Requirements.

Happy Holidays & Winter Solstice All!

I’ve neglected my blogging chores recently, having been busy helping a few clients respond to some state government bidding opportunities before the end of the year.  But, now I’m back and want to share with you a funny experience I had the other day while scanning through a bunch of new opportunities.  It’s literally an eye opening experience that we all should keep in mind!

Now, we all understand that knowing the Request for Proposal (RFP) stated requirements is critical to being selected.  But literally hundreds of state/federal solicitations fly across my iPad screen . . . each one begging my eyes to scan through and assess their need.  But, I don’t have time to read these requests word-for-bloody-word!

So, while speed reading through the requirements, I noted that a potential RFP opportunity is looking for a vendor to conduct SWAT training.  Now, in my head and from a halcyonic prespective, that acronym sounded like Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threats, an area where my client excels.  Ding, ding, ding, this is a slam dunk!  I can writeup a proposal for my client quickly and get ready for Christmas. Yea, buddy!

But, fortunately, the analytic geek inside of me decided to look into this further . . . slower . . . more intently.  After rereading the solicitation, and this time going all the way down the bottom of the page, it turns out the RFP solicitation actually wants someone to conduct Special Weapons & Tactics training . . . a totally different target (and client).

Lesson learned: read, re-read, then read it again!

Did you have a similar experience?

Wanted! A University Enrollment Management Subject Matter Expert

img_0867Join our virtual team!

I’m looking for a subject matter expert to join our data analytics team to help a university client understand what their student enrollment numbers are saying. You will leverage your knowledge, lessons learned and experience to help our team make ‘call to action’ projections and clear recommendations to the university. The end goal- to enable our client to meet their University Student Lifecycle/Support goals and objectives (student: admissions, course enrollment, workload, retention, financial assistance, productivity, grades, etc.).

Background in (and strong references from) a university/college admissions organization where you helped to optimize conditions to attract and retain students in a positive learning environment for their success is a must.

Please contact me if interested or feel free to forward this opportunity to your network. This is a quick response contract opportunity, so we need to hear from you now!