COVID 19 Impacting Commercial Markets But Government Contracts Still Being Awarded

COVID 19 Impacting Commercial Markets But Government Contracts Still Being Awarded

COVID 19 is wreaking havoc in the commercial marketplace and negatively affecting everything from airlines to local restaurants, and everything in between. As a government contractor, I’ve been watching the government acquisition flow over the past couple of months and it appears that the government remains open for business and continuing to award contracts.

Most government contracting officers are now working from home but are able to continue doing their jobs. Obviously, some of their purchases have changed based on the changing priorities, but overall, the government continues to award contracts at the same pace they did two months ago.

If we see any slow down over the next month or two it will only add to the number of contracts that need to be awarded this summer since budgets must be spent before the September end-of-year.

Contractors should continue pursuing target opportunities and position themselves for the surge of new contract awards that will undoubtedly happen this summer.

If you’re new to government contracting or looking for ways to expand your government business, consider signing up for our Federal Market Acceleration Program (FedMAP™). Coley’s FedMAP™ Program is the first hands-on, peer-advisory cohort training program available to government contractors focused on accelerating a company’s entry or expansion into the Federal Market by leveraging the experience of a coach; knowledge and support of peers; and a proven online curriculum. Our program translates learning into action that results in accelerated contract wins.

Invest in your future now and learn more at coleylearning.us/fedmap.

VA Opens More Opportunities for SDVOSBs/VOSBs — Are you Ready?

VA Opens More Opportunities for SDVOSBs/VOSBs — Are you Ready?

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the largest procurement and supply agencies in the Federal government with needs in the following areas:

  • Program Management, Administrative, Janitorial, and other Non-IT Services
  • Information Technology services
  • Healthcare Staffing
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medical and surgical supplies
  • Equipment, supplies, and materials for facility operation
  • Maintenance and repair of medical and scientific equipment
  • Building construction, maintenance, and repair
  • Prosthetic and orthopedic aids
  • Architect/Engineer services

blog_giddensLast week, I attended the VA’s annual National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE).  It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with VA leaders, decision makers, and contracting officers. I’ve attended the NVSBE for 6 years straight and, without hesitation, I put VA’s efforts to connect with Veteran Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) as superior to any other agency’s matchmaking event I’ve attended in over 20 years as a government contractor.

This year a dominant theme at NVSBE was the Supreme Court’s Kingdomware decision that makes adherence to the “rule of two” mandatory. We’ve covered this momentous decision in a previous blog. But the bottom line is that the VA will first look to SDVOSBs/VOSBs to fill all their needs. This change will create enormous opportunity and a competitive edge for “Procurement Ready,” Veteran-owned small businesses.

During his keynote speech at NVSBE, Mr. Greg Giddens, VA Chief Acquisition Officer, outlined the 5 steps every SDVOSB/VOSB should take if they want to do business with VA.

1.      Be Procurement Ready

The Basics:

  1. Make sure you meet SBA Size Standards and your business is in compliance with current laws.
  2. Have a taxpayer or employer identification number with the IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.
  3. Register for a Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S) Number.
  4. Register with the federally mandated System for Award Management (SAM)

2.      Be VA-Verified and have a complete profile in VIP

The Vets First Contracting Program was created under Public Law, P.L. 109-461 and expanded the Service-Disabled Veteran contracting program for VA procurements.  The Public Law was implemented in two regulations published in the Federal Register:

38 CFR Parts 802, 804, 808, 809, 810, 813, 815, 817, 819, 828, and 852 implemented changes to the VA Acquisition Regulation that defines the acquisition rules for the program with VA.

38 CFR Part 74 Veterans Small Business Regulations was published on February 8, 2010, and clarified on January 19, 2011.  This regulation defines the requirements for verification as a VOSB or a SDVOSB.

To be eligible to compete for opportunities under the Vets First Contracting Program, firms must go through the VA’s verification process and be registered in the Vendor Information Pages (VIP) database. More information can be found at https://www.vip.vetbiz.va.gov/.

3.      Obtain Federal Supply Schedule, as appropriate

VA uses the Federal Supply Schedule program, (aka GSA Schedule) extensively to obtain the services, supplies, and equipment they need to fulfill their mission. If you want to do business with the VA, it is advisable to offer your products and services through the FSS/GSA Schedule program.

FSS/GSA Schedules take time to acquire. GSA/VA’s review process can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months. So, if a FSS/GSA Schedule is part of your strategy for doing business with the VA, you’ll need to get started sooner than later to position yourself for future SDVOSB/VOSB set-aside opportunities. More information can be found at coleygsa.com/vets-get-GSA-schedule/

4.      Register for FedBizOpps (FBO) Alerts

VA competes everything and publishes opportunities at FedBizOpps.gov and/or www.ebuy.gsa.gov. You can register at www.fbo.gov and setup Watchlists for VA opportunities. Find out more at https://www.fbo.gov/downloads/FBO_Vendor_Guide.pdf.  Opportunities posted to GSA eBuy are only visible to approved GSA Schedule vendors. Not on GSA Schedule? See item 3 above.

5.      Respond to RFI/Source Sought

To comply with the Vets First program and determine if two or more SDVOSB/VOSB firms are available and qualified to meet their needs, VA performs market research in the form of Requests for Information and/or Sources Sought for almost every opportunity. It’s important to respond to these requests to help shape VA’s acquisition strategy. If two or more verified, qualified SDVOSB/VOSB firms respond, then in accordance with Vets First, VA will set-aside the requirement for SDVOSB/VOSB firms.

Additional Resources:

Have questions or need to get on FSS/GSA Schedule? Give us a call at 210-402-6766 or by email at: [email protected].

10 Tips for Maximizing Your Attendance at the NVSBE

What you need to know about the National Veterans Small Business Engagement

nvsbeThe Department of Veterans Affairs does a superb job of bringing together government decision makers and small business owners. Therefore, the goal of attendance at the VA’s National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) is to learn about upcoming contract opportunities and to make as many connections with government contracting officers and decision makers as possible. Here are 10 tips to help you maximize your return on investment at this year’s NVSBE.

  1. Plan ahead and do your homework. Review the list of attendees and business opportunity sessions before you arrive and target the ones that offer the most opportunity for you. Use the MyBusinessMatches.com tool, LinkedIn, and Google to support your research.
  2. Complete your profile  and VA Business Intelligence Tool (VA BIT) profiles at https://nvsbe.mybusinessmatches.com/ to maximize your exposure to attendees.
  3. Schedule your meetings online using the scheduling tool before the conference. Then, have a back-up session planned in case a session lead is a no show.
  4. Focus most of your time and effort on the networking sessions and business opportunity sessions—this is where your greatest ROI will come from.
  5. Be prepared with a short, but meaningful overview of your value proposition and then make the most networking sessions and chance meetings in hallways.
  6. When meeting with prospects, don’t overwhelm them with folders full of printed materials that won’t make it back to work with them. Instead, include digital copies with your online profiles and provide a business card with meaningful information on it, such as what you do, certifications, and contact information.
  7. During lunch sessions, target Decision Makers that have a history of buying what you sell. Ask about upcoming opportunities and leave them with a favorable impression.
  8. Don’t forget to arrange private meetings with current customers to reinforce your commitment to delivering superior results and build the relationship.
  9. For every prospect that you meet, ask permission to follow up with them after the conference and then follow through with an email and call to remind them of your product and service offerings and to learn more about upcoming opportunities.
  10. Forget about trying to connect with Prime/Large contractors. They are available and easily accessed any time of year, so while you’re at the conference focus your time on connecting with government decision makers that you wouldn’t normally have easy access to.

GSA Schedules Give Agencies Authority to Limit Sources for Follow-On Contracts

Cut out the red tape and your competition using GSA Schedules. According to FAR clause 8.405-6, orders placed under Federal Supply Schedules are exempt from the requirements of FAR Part 6, Competition Requirements and may be direct awarded without competition in the following circumstances:

(A) An urgent and compelling need exists, and following the procedures would result in unacceptable delays;
(B) Only one source is capable of providing the supplies or services required at the level of quality required because the supplies or services are unique or highly specialized; or
(C) In the interest of economy and efficiency, the new work is a logical follow-on to an original Federal Supply Schedule order provided that the original order was placed in accordance with the applicable Federal Supply Schedule ordering procedures. The original order or BPA must not have been previously issued under sole-source or limited-sources procedures.

Of special interest is the authority granted in paragraph 8.405-6(a)(1)(i)(C) above. If you have an existing order that is about to expire, your customer’s contracting officer is authorized to award a follow-on order in the interest of “economy and efficiency.”

If you have a GSA Schedule Order about to expire, discuss the option of awarding a follow-on contract with your customer and his/her contracting officer. In most cases you’ll need to educate your customer and CO about FAR clause 8.405-6 as most probably aren’t aware of the authority it gives them.

Not on GSA Schedule? Why not? GSA Schedules give vendors additional ways to succeed in the government marketplace. Give us a call today for more information.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Veteran Owned Small Businesses

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Veteran Owned Small Businesses

Department of Veterans Affairs MUST use Rule of Two for Orders Placed Under FSS/GSA Schedules

In the case of veteran-owned business,  Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled on June 16, 2016 that the “Rule of Two” contracting procedures in 38 U.S.C. 8127(d) also applies to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) orders placed under the Federal Supply Schedule (aka GSA Schedule). (more…)

VA CVE Challenges Veteran’s Ownership in Community Property States

By Jack Coley
President/CEO
Coley & Associates, Inc.

SDVOSB Business Owner
[email protected]

www.coleysolutions.com
www.coleygsa.com

If you are a Veteran business owner and live in a community property state, then take heed: the VA Center for Veterans Entrepreneurship (CVE) is now enforcing the law that says your spouse owns 50% of your share in any business unless your business ownership has been established as separate property or the business was established before you were married.

I encourage all Veteran business owners located in a common property state to review their situation with their attorneys and take action as appropriate to ensure they can substantiate unconditional ownership.

Here’s my story. I am the 100% shareholder of my S Corporation that I founded in 2001, I am in the office every day intimately involved in every aspect of my business. As a small business developing learning and performance solutions for the government with a special focus on helping the VA better serve Veterans, my SDVOSB status is a critical component of my company’s growth strategy. So I worked hard to ensure my corporate documents were in order, that I was in control of the company, and that I didn’t have any affiliations or agreements that would disqualify me.

Over the past three years I’ve considered myself one of the fortunate companies that had sailed through the VA’s CVE SDVOSB verification and re-verification process with little to no delay. I had been verified by CVE in 2011 and again in 2012. I had even weathered an unannounced office visit by an examiner one morning who asked to see all of the paperwork I had previously submitted and went on to ask me a number of questions to confirm my status and involvement in the company. All three events had gone smoothly. I had been quick to defend CVE to others saying that if one had their paperwork in order that the verification process could go pretty smoothly. That had been my experience—until recently.

Given that I had been verified twice and gone through an onsite, unannounced site visit by a VA examiner, you can imagine my shock when I received a Notice of Proposed Cancellation of my verified status the CVE. The letter informed me that the CVE could not confirm that I had “unconditional ownership” of 51% of my company in accordance with 38 CFR 74 because I was incorporated in Texas, a community property state and “technically” my wife owned 50% of the company. They gave me 30 days to prove otherwise or I would lose my verified status.

The letter caught me by surprise—we were in the middle of competing for a VA-solicited SDVOSB set-aside and the loss of our verified status could have been significant. I immediately shifted my time and attention to researching what all of this meant and what I needed to do to prevent my verified status from being cancelled.

Through my research I found out that the CVE actually had a document on their website about community property challenges, but for some reason had not included this in their letter and I had to find it myself. I would have been less stressed and expended less time had they simply provided a link to the additional information on the subject that they had available on their website.

I also discovered that 38 CFR 74.3(4)(f) had always required CVE to consider a spouses legal claim to ownership of a company in common property states. So why had they approved me twice before without questioning my unconditional ownership?

To prove unconditional ownership and save my verified status I needed to retain an attorney specializing in Texas Community Property laws. My attorney constructed a legal agreement separating the minimum amount of property required to show me as having an unconditional ownership of 51%. My wife and I signed it, voided my stock, reissued the stock, and then she “gifted” her stock to me to make my ownership unconditional. I submitted the agreement and stock certificates to CVE who reviewed and accepted it as proof of unconditional ownership saving my verified status until my next re-verification.

Of course there are always unintended consequences and costs associated with the enforcement of laws. In my case not only did I pay attorney fees, I also lost several weeks of momentum in my business. But the real cost of this event to my estate will come if I were to die before my wife. Under those circumstances my wife would lose the benefit of stepping up the basis value of the business to fair-market value on that portion of the business that is now separated property and will owe the IRS taxes when she assumes ownership where otherwise no taxes would have been due.

The enforcement of 38 CFR 74.3(4)(f) also brings another unintended consequence in the form of potentially increased protests. There are nine community property States, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. If one were to lose a SDVOSB set-aside bid to a company in one of the common property States, it would be reasonable to protest the SDVOSB status of the winner based on them not having 51% “unconditional” ownership. My guess is that most Veterans are unaware of this requirement and haven’t put agreements in place according to their respective State’s laws that separate their and their spouse’s property to establish unconditional ownership and support majority ownership. The complexity of such a transaction would be compounded when there are multiple Veteran owners involved.

This appears to be another case where CVE is enforcing an extreme interpretation of the law rather than considering business realities. Until such time as my death, my wife has absolutely no involvement or interest in my business making this a ridiculous exercise to say the least.

I encourage all Veteran business owners located in a common property state to 1) review their situation with their attorneys and take action as appropriate to ensure unconditional ownership before you receive the dreaded “Notice of Intent to Cancel” letter from CVE or win an award to lose it in protest; and 2) to write their congressperson asking them to put a little common sense back into the verification process.

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