Dealing with Consultancy Work with the Government

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The government freely admits that it likes to do business with consultants of apparent substance. Your company must exude an image of size and importance. You must also be an "expert." FCAA, the official government acronym for consultants stands for "expert consultant;" the government will deal with no other kind. To insure this for itself, that's what it calls you. The best symbol for all this, says Uncle Sam, is a well-produced, graphically exquisite brochure. In color. Two colors are better than one. Four-color work bespeaks total success. All the government literature on government contracts says so.

The first rule in winning government contracts is to give the government exactly what it wants, or thinks it wants; and it is very explicit with regard to a brochure. This will be your only big financial investment (the others are in time and effort) so be sure that your brochure is professional looking. The way to do this is to retain a fine advertising copywriter and graphics designer. Printers are usually ill-equipped to produce good, original, artistic "make-readies." The government then requests that you brag a lot in your brochure. Tell of your accomplishments in a most immodest tone. If you have staff, give them high billing too. Substance is what they're looking for. But what they call substance, you may call image. You may be the recognized genius in your field, but if you tell them that you work alone out of your apartment, you won't get that $100,000 contract. Do it with pizzazz. You won't regret it. Print several thousand of these brochures. The main costs are in the artwork, typesetting, and color, so there is very little difference in price between 500 copies and 1500 copies. As you will see later, you will make very good use of them. Your brochure is your basic introductory tool.

Whenever you contact a government procurement office, you should make available to contracting and technical personnel at the office a copy of your brochure. Be certain that it has lots of illustrative artwork and that it contains the following:

  1. Your company name and address.
  2. Work now in progress.
  3. Major work completed.
  4. Type of work for which your company is primarily qualified.
  5. Previous government work done, if any.
  6. Your name and your qualifications as well as those of your staff, if any. Include education, professional experience, and papers and/or books published.
  7. Names and addresses of colleagues whose services are available to your company -particularly those whose qualifications would benefit the project in question. State their curricula vitae.
  8. Your security clearance, if you have one. If you are not seeking work with the military, this is not essential.
Unlike private business offices or you, government employees in procurement offices do not regard mailed brochures as junk. Brochures are their stock in trade, so they carefully file and keep them. Your brochure will be around these offices for a long time advertising you. That's why it is so important to make your brochure an outstanding one. It is your best and first foot forward.

One more thing. We have an effective Freedom of Information Act. You may use it to gather evidence and blow the whistle on any agency that has wired a bid to your competitor. And you may win your case-but you probably won't get the job. Agencies don't like to deal with troublemakers and people who make waves in general. Nor will you ever hear from many other agencies again. So you have accomplished nothing.

As Kurt Vonnegut wrote, "And so it goes."

Getting an Edge

There are several ways to gain a competitive edge and your competition will usually be enormous, since many want to feed from this trough.

First, do your homework. In an unwired situation, the government will rarely play poker with you. Indeed, as previously stated, it is quite explicit in what it wants, even though it may use a roundabout way of stating it. In the private sector, a good consultant will study all the literature available on the other side of the fence, that is, those books and articles that take the client's part and teach him how to select a good consultant. Once you have determined what the client wants in a good consultant, it behooves you to become that for him provided his needs are reasonable. Well, the government is a client, even though we never hear it referred to that way. Any consultant's customer is a client. And the government has issued guidelines for its executives on how to choose a consultant, what constitutes a good contract, how to purchase services, etc. Read as many of those documents and books as you can before submitting bids. Learn the government state of mind. You will be far ahead of that major portion of your competition that doesn't take the time. Here are a few examples of such published documents:

This is only a sampling of what is available at very low prices from the Government Printing Office, but you get the idea. Many publications are on a subscription basis, keeping you up to date as regulations change. Knowledge of how the government makes its purchases of consulting services is not an elective if you want to win contracts. The second way to gain an edge over your competition is by hiring other experts to aid in your quest. This can cost you money, but it puts you into the league of the hardball players. There are a goodly number of experienced, professional proposal writers, for example, who will sell their talents for a fee. They specialize in answering government bidding invitations. Knowing exactly what the government is looking for and what makes it positively disposed toward a particular proposal, these people can be invaluable to you. Their services include everything from giving advice to actually writing the proposal for you to filling out the bid invitation for you, complete with budgets and all pertinent attachments. One such top-notch expert is Herman Holtz. I can recommend him unequivocally as a true professional with integrity. He can be reached at P.O. Box 6067, Silver Spring, Maryland 20906. (301) 460-1506. Don't look askance at this; it isn't the same as cheating at school by having a ringer write your term paper for you. These professional proposal writers are in a legitimate business. After all, if they do help you to get the contract, you still have to fulfill all of its requirements.
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