How to Vet Potential Teammates to Prevent Teaming Pitfalls

Most of the government contracts are accomplished through teaming and in the world of bundling contracts into larger vehicles, IDIQs, and integrated multi-faceted solutions, the government encourages teaming. Rarely does someone in the world of services and solutions self-perform. Any time the company is new to the market or customer, teaming is the way to go.

The government also likes teaming because teaming consolidates the requirements with a single company that becomes one responsible party for the whole contract one throat to choke. It makes it easier on the government to manage this contract, and reduces most risks. It also supports small business contractor growth. Services and solutions providers seldom go it alone. This is because teams offer beneficial combinations of capabilities, cost, and performance for each job.

The only thing is, teaming can get you in a lot of trouble if you don’t do it right. If your selection boils down to choosing Bob because you know Bob and play golf with him on Sundays, and he happens to have a company in the right area of expertise that also wants to go after the contract, it may not be the best decision. Or, if you just google a company on the Web, call them up, and offer to partner, you may be doing yourself a serious disservice.

When selecting teammates, you have to make sure that you are thinking not just any company with complementary capabilities, but an all-star team member. You have to make sure that your teammates have the PERFECT capabilities for this customer rather than taking place on your team; they want to team with you because they are convinced they are part of a winning team; they have great past performance; and they are bringing the knowledge and relationships with the customer. Try to avoid adding members of the team just because you have a great relationship with them, but they are less than a perfect fit. Remember, you have to win the proposal by convincing the government that your team is superior and you cannot do so if you cut people in just because. Everyone has to be a superstar that has a major contribution this is how you win. Go for the perfect fit or as close to perfect fit as possible; do not settle.

So, how do you select and vet Your Teammate?

As you are nearing finalizing your teaming decisions, you need to do some careful due diligence on your candidate teammates to decide whether you want to partner with this company, and what issues should be addressed in your teaming agreement.

Here are some of the questions you have to answer as you evaluate your teammate:

  • Does the customer know, like, and prefer this company what is this company’s reputation with the customer?
  • What is the company’s past performance with this customer, and other customers?
  • What are the company’s capabilities as related to the identified gap in the scope of work coverage? How good of a fit is it?
  • Does the company have the right expertise, personnel, facilities, equipment, and other necessary components to address this area of experience?
  • What is the company’s reputation in the industry?
  • What is the company’s small business status and how did they certify it (check the documentation if in doubt)?
  • Specifically, does this contractor have a reputation of finishing quality work on schedule and within budget?
  • Have you teamed with this company before, and how successful was your teaming arrangement?
  • Does the company have any known Organizational Conflicts of Interest (OCI) or appearance of OCI for this procurement? The rules have changed and most OCI issues cannot be mitigated as they were in the past.
  • Do they have any black eyes, such as cure letters or terminations for default?
  • Can we get good information on company’s financial state, assets, and liabilities that would assure us that this is a solvent and responsible partner? What does the Dun & Bradstreet show, and the company’s annual reports show?
  • Does the company have solid accounting and administrative mechanisms to be part of this contract? In other words, some primes may not be DCAA-approved, and if the procurements requires it, you may have bet on the wrong horse. Conversely, some contracts may require you and even your subcontractors to do Earned Value Management reporting and you have to make sure that your subcontractors have the ability to track and deliver the right data.
  • Does the company have any past or pending lawsuits against them?
  • Is the company on the list of contractors excluded from federal procurement programs (you can check at the following website: http://epls.arnet.gov)?
  • What kind of press is there about the company per your internet search?
  • Check all the required licenses, bonding and insurance documentation, and other necessary certifications.
  • Can you work with this company’s corporate culture?
  • Can you live with this company’s management style?
  • Can you deal effectively with this company’s designated personnel for this pursuit?
  • Does this company play well with others, or does it prefer to do everything their own way?
  • Does this company treat teammates well or are they notorious for dirty tricks such as garnishing or eroding scope or reneging on the terms?
  • What resources is this company willing to dedicate to positioning for and preparing the proposal?
  • Would this be a competitor if you didn’t take them off the street now how dangerous could they be on their own or as part of another team?
  • Would they be a competitor who would use the knowledge gained on this pursuit with you, against you in the future?

Carefully weigh all the answers the more work you do upfront, the better off you will be during the proposal and the more chances you have to win. The earlier you start this process, the better. If you do it early enough, you may even be able to run your teammate choice by the customer vetting the companies, and making changes if necessary.

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