When I think of our clients we have supported over the years, I think of their ability to grow as being like either a racecar or a horse buggy; both might reach the finish line but one is going to get there a lot faster. Consistently, the most explosive growth in the federal market is achieved by companies who have mastered the ability to respond to time-limited, page-limited task order proposals.
Racecar companies are masters at winning business on multiple award Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts. They are nimble, make quick decisions, and direct resources to where they are most needed. However, they are disciplined and rigid with some aspects of business that are immovable. For example, they stay in touch with their customers and grow accounts once they win work; they always ensure their project personnel are available to brainstorm on the solutions; and they carefully review everything that goes out the door.
Just as the racecars are prepared and have a culture of speed, the buggies are unprepared and slow. They have no task order response manual or processes created for capture management and writing proposals; no single individual responsible for IDIQ business development and capture; and no tools to implement any consistent process. Horse buggies are always reacting to opportunities. They don’t keep a good task order pipeline and only learn about task order requests for proposal (RFP) when they are released, which means less time to develop a solution and a great proposal.
Horse buggy companies struggle every step of the way. They may be large or small, size doesn’t matter. They tend to trip over themselves because there are no processes in place for quick action. For example, every decision must be reached by committee or authority to assign resources isn’t delegated. If some members of a committee aren’t available then important decisions are delayed, such as: Are we going to bid on this opportunity? Who will be the people who will help with brainstorming and developing the solution? Who will review this proposal? Will we bring in consultants? Will we pay a recruiter to hire a program manager or other key personnel? And so on.
Horse buggy companies are generally reluctant to dedicate billable project personnel to capture planning and proposal writing. The reasons are many, usually ranging from being too tight with investing into business development to not simply realizing how project staff could be useful with proposals. The slow reaction time starts affecting other aspects of the task order proposal management because they don’t have good proposal management checklists or time targets. For example, they may fail to immediately send the task order RFP to key people (such as subcontractors), or they take too long to develop a compliant proposal outline, which means there aren’t clear writing assignments for the proposal kickoff.
As time goes on, the task order proposal manager and team start skipping steps and sacrificing quality. Instead of brainstorming, the team jumps to writing and/or recycling old materials. By the time they get to the Pink Team review, they have a non-compliant proposal that doesn’t communicate value and they must start over (i.e. do the solution brainstorming). Their Red Team review is what their Pink Team review should have looked like. This all results in burning the midnight oil to throw a hastily written proposal document “over the wall” and hope to prevail on price (and “hope-to-win” is not a strategy).
You must honestly ask yourself – is my company more of a racecar, or do we act like a horse buggy and therefore lose IDIQ task order competitions often?
And then, the real question comes. Are you prepared to do what it takes to change the situation and become a number one contractor on each IDIQ you hold? If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t spend the time and money to win an IDIQ contract.