Growing Your GovCon – Key Principles to Set the Conditions for Success
A framework for growing your small business GovCon in the federal marketplace
by guest author Frank Sturek
3 minute read
Whether you are moving on from bootstrapping for your start-up (billing your own time to generate revenue critical to keep the business afloat), leading an established small business as CEO, president, or chief growth officer, or struggling with stalled growth, there are five key principles to follow to realize growth success in federal government contracting (GovCon):
- Dedicate the majority of your (executive leadership) time each day to working “on the business” rather than “in the business”
- Have/gain access to capital/funding to make investments
- Focus on a discrete set of offerings (services or products)
- Concentrate your growth activities on a narrow market or customer set
- Develop SMART goals that will drive you and the company forward to success
- Working on the business vs. in the business
The first and critical step as the executive leader for growing a GovCon is to start dedicating the majority of your available time to working on the business — which entails everything from strategy development and vision to raising capital, identifying talent for the executive team, creating industry partnerships and developing revenue streams, to name a few. The executive must have the capacity and capability to pull themselves out of the day-to-day minutia of managing project work assignments, product development sprints, accounts payable, accounts receivable, government contract and subcontract actions, and the first-line management tasks. Working in the business is transactional and meets the demands of your customers; working on the business establishes your ability to scale and increases your growth potential.
- Gaining access to capital to invest in growth
The old adage, “You have to spend money to make money” is never truer than when enabling small business (or any sized business for that matter) GovCon growth. You will likely need to invest in marketing and branding, technical talent, travel, technology tools, business development, and capture process development/improvement, certifications (ISO 9001, CMMI, CMMC, etc), and resources to write, manage, and submit proposals. You need to determine if you have the ability to invest in the business through your profits or find affordable capital in the form of business loans, private equity, etc.
- Choose a compelling offering (service or product) or small set of offerings that will be the principal driver to enable business growth
If a GovCon small business advertises itself as having numerous capabilities, it communicates that they don’t do any of the services proficiently. Most large companies seeking teaming partners are looking for niche service providers or those with knowledge and experience in a specific federal agency, technology, or domain area. Any small business desiring to grow should start with a specific area (or at most three capability areas) of expertise or focus – that has been determined through research (or a consultant’s research) and is currently in demand of primes or government buyers. The key strategy for companies at this stage is to first identify the key capabilities that will cultivate revenue growth and operating margin, and then find the contract opportunities and customers to focus your marketing, service delivery, and talent acquisition on to drive success.
- Limit your market and customer focus
Hone in on the federal market sectors/subsectors (including target agencies) you want to target, the teaming partners to initially contact, and the key events and associations to patronize that have funding and will enable growth. Too often, small business GovCons start their growth strategy too broadly or don’t have a particular focus area. Most initial contract awards are done through an existing relationship or building a relationship with either a government customer or prime contractor. Remember that despite the contracting hurdles that exist with winning larger contract vehicles, if the government customer or prime contractor knows, trusts, and likes you, your chance of winning initial work is much greater.
- Develop SMART goals for your initial growth strategy
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll never know if you got there.” Now that you are working on the business, have identified capital resources, and selected the offerings and market/customer(s) to target for growth, you need to develop a set of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals to drive the development of actions plans, tasks, and milestones. It is critical you develop goals that are measurable and achievable. Metrics-driven and realistic growth targets are the keys to success. These SMART goals must be written down, communicated to the team, and evaluated at least monthly.
While there are many different action plans, methods, and initiatives that will help you pursue small business GovCon growth success, the principles above provide a framework that has proven successful over time.
Frank Sturek is a proven leader and executive who understands how to build high-performing teams to deliver value. He is highly knowledgeable and experienced in Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), Business Development, New Business Capture, and growing Government Contracting (GovCon) businesses.
Frank has had a successful Business Development and Capture career that includes positions with three multi-billion dollar Defense Companies; Northrop Grumman, Engility and Alion Science and Technology, and more recently successfully growing small business GovCons. He is a retired US Army Infantry Officer with two combat tours, one each in Iraq and Afghanistan. Frank currently is the CEO of Compendium Federal Technology , an Engineering Services GovCon small business located in Lexington Park, MD