Guest Blog

Strategy Before Structure: A Smart Growth Plan for GovCons

What’s the best strategy to grow your GovCon business?

Answering this question starts with identifying the segment of the federal government contracting market you wish to target based upon your analysis of the addressable market and funding forecasts (or pipeline of contract solicitations/opportunities). After you’ve analyzed to determine which of your services and solutions are in demand in your target market, then you are ready to develop a growth strategy.

Setting an Overarching Goal 

The first step in developing a growth strategy is setting an overarching goal. Typically, that takes the form of a revenue goal over a specific time horizon. For instance, “Achieve an annual revenue of $5M in the Army Training and Simulation Services market.” 

It could also be expressed as a percentage increase in revenue in a specific market or with a specific customer, but whatever your overarching growth goal is it needs to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound (SMART). 

You could create a couple, or several, of these SMART goals to build a company growth strategy. Focus on identifying markets and customers where your analysis concluded your company could achieve the desired revenue and operating margin growth goals, or where your service offerings across multiple customers could contribute in a similar manner. In the aggregate, these sub-goals could add up to create your company growth strategy.  

Either approach works; the key is to do the analysis up front on the addressable market and funding forecast — meaning the dollars are actually accessible to be won or awarded, and you are not just basing your strategy on the overall budget of a customer or dollars spent by the federal government in a specific market segment of federal contracting. 

You must do your homework by studying agency budgets, creating and reviewing contract opportunity pipelines, and gathering intelligence by reading articles from trusted GovCon news services. It’s also helpful to attend conferences and webinars, and network with your GovCon “competimates.” 

Identifying the People, Processes, and Tools Needed To Realize Your Strategy

The next step in the process of building a growth strategy is to identify the people, processes, and tools needed to realize your strategy. These components provide the structure and capabilities needed to carry out your strategy. Planning and thinking about the skill sets and talent you will need (people), developing the way you will execute GovCon growth activities (processes), and selecting the technologies and capabilities (tools) you provide your team to plan, manage, and leverage information to enable critical resource decisions and gain the market/customer insights needed to win contracts are critical and necessary actions in developing your growth strategy. This is the up-front work required before hiring talent, codifying process, or spending money on new tools.

The thought process should be:

What talent (and leaders of that talent) do I need to achieve that $5M in annual revenue target?

What process should I follow? (document your BD, capture and proposal process steps, flow, and milestones)

What tools does my team need to be competitive, or better yet, have a competitive advantage, in executing the growth strategy?  And what does that look like?

Here are some further questions that may help with each category:

People: Do I need business development talent or capture talent, or both? Do I have the volume of pending proposals to justify hiring a proposal manager? Do I need business development operations talent to run the opportunity ID and BD maturity process machine?

The answers to your growth staff planning will result from an analysis of the following:

  • The capabilities of your existing talent
  • Whether or not you have a pipeline of mature opportunities (sales opportunities or “captures” where the growth team is ready for the Request for Proposal release and your company is positioned to win the award) identified
  • If you need to build out a more robust sales/opportunity pipeline, and/or if you need help managing the administration of your BD/Capture process and existing sales opportunity pipeline

You need talent with the right skillsets to address your growth team gaps. Typically, you will need Business Development (BD) talent if your opportunity/sales pipeline is immature or not adequate in volume to meet your revenue goals. If the pipeline is robust and mature, you will typically need Capture and Proposal Management Talent. You could need BD Operations staff if the administration of the process prevents your BD and Capture talent from prosecuting the pipeline and meeting with customers/industry. You could also have a need for all of the above. Your analysis and budget will drive these critical hiring decisions.

Processes: Following the Shipley process, or a slimmed-down version of the Shipley process, to drive your business development, capture and proposal development, and proposal submission actions is a must. One of the most widely used and recognized federal government contracting proposal development and submission processes was created by Shipley Associates. You can read more about this six-phase process, consisting of 5 major gate reviews/milestones here. As with any process, it’s important that you tailor it to suit your own business – simplifying it as much as possible and ensuring that it is helpful and practical. Some questions you should pose to your team in tailoring the Shipley Process to fit your company’s needs should be:

  • Are we going to formally execute every step of the Shipley process? 
  • Which Shipley process steps have to happen for every opportunity (non-negotiables)? 
  • Who does what?
  • Who has the lead in each step?
  • How are we going to document our BD/Capture/Proposal process and then communicate it to the members of the growth team and the company?

Tools: What opportunity identification tool are we going to use, or do we only have the budget to use What Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool are we going to use, if any? How are we going to manage the gate reviews and capture maturity process? A project management software or some other tool? Excel spreadsheets? What tool are we going to use to manage growth meetings, gate reviews, color team reviews, etc.? Are we a mature enough organization to find a tool or technology where all of these processes and mediums for communication can be provided through one product? A deeper dive into the different types of GovCon growth tools and technologies will be a future blog topic.

Start Developing Your Successful Growth Strategy
Developing a growth strategy that will work for your firm requires meaningful thought, sound decisions, documentation, communication, advocacy by the executive team, and buy-in from your growth team.

These steps and questions discussed here should help launch the development of your growth strategy, and you must certainly go through this type of exercise before you add any structure to your company to realize success in growing your GovCon

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