President of Skyway Acquisition Solutions, Kevin Jans, U.S. Air Force Veteran and former Contracting Officer, took his valuable time to share his Government contracting knowledge with the Opps4Vets community. Kevin is also co-host of Contracting Officer Podcast, a library of more than 130 podcasts episodes. Kevin and his co-host, Paul Schauer, discovered that the podcast venue was compatible with their audience’s needs since listeners can listen on demand at their convenience, for instance, during a commute. So on to the interview and Kevin's tips.
Q (Val/Opps4Vets): As a Veteran and former Contracting Officer (CO), what is the number one piece of advice you have for Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs) seeking to do work with the Government?
A (Kevin/Skyway Acquisition Solutions): I recommend people start by listening to our first podcast Episode 1, Why We Created the CO Podcast to understand why we created the show and how much there is to learn about the Government market.
But here is a boxing analogy I like to use: subtract and multiply in your weight class. My definition for your weight class is the right size of an opportunity you can afford to win or lose without derailing your company. Don’t think about what the opportunity will get you, think about what it may cost you.
Start small and niched, and when you get the work, then add and multiply. Episode 102 – Targeting 301 describes this theory in greater detail.
Also, remember the Government is like the stock market, and you have to know what market you are in. Is your part up or down? If someone generally says the Government market is down, it may be down, but it may not be down in your industry.
Q: How do Government Contracting Officers view civilian contract Past Performance?
A: It depends on the evaluation criteria. For example, cyber security for a Fortune 500 company may be similar to performing cyber security for DoD, but not same. However, civilian ground security services could be the same, and if you make a vehicle, it’s the same.
Consider how well your customer understands how close that commercial experience is to what they are buying.
Remember that the Government is requirements-driven. When thinking about potential business, ask yourself: “Is there a requirement out there that is similar to what I do?” And then try to influence your target market of what you can do. I recommend Episode 16 – The Importance of Targeting, because targeting is so key to finding the right Government work for your business rather than wasting your time.
Q: What are some “don’t do” tips?
A: 1. Do not email the CO who does not buy what you sell. If you do, you are now spamming him or her and have shown zero interest in becoming a lead.
2. Don’t use mass emails as a tool. On the unlikely event you get through, a personalized email is much better saying: “I think I sell what you buy.”
3. Don’t assume Government contracting personnel don’t know what they are doing. It comes across in your tone. They may be young or new, for instance, 40% of our listeners are Government employees. They may never had needed to know what you are asking. For example, some agencies only use GSA contracts, and some never use GSA contracts. For additional insight into knowing your customer, I recommend you listen to Episode 7 – What is a Contracting Officer?
4. Make sure you want to do this. I remember one business that did not like dealing with the Government, so my question was: "Then why do it?"
A former CO once said, “Government contractors don’t treat us like we are a company.” Remember, Government workers are still people.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: 1. Listen to the podcasts, if you learn something you didn’t know, then we have done our job. We want to help you win stuff. The CO’s perspective matters, and if you want to win more contracts, contact me.
2. I know it’s a lofty goal, but when I started my business, I wanted to try and make Government contracting better, one contract at a time. I want to help people make fewer mistakes, target the right opportunities, and not chase the wrong markets.
3. Figure out what is working exceptionally well for you. If you become a subcontractor, you get in front of users; they see what you can do. And it builds your clientele.
4. Understand your risks, and your weight class.
5. Look us up on LinkedIn and schedule time to talk to us.
Thank you, Kevin, for sharing your time and thoughts with Opps4Vets!
About Skyway Acquisition Solutions:
Skyway Acquisition Solutions helps companies focus their efforts in the federal market. Their former contracting officers help people find, compete for, and win federal contracts.
P.O. Box 49294, St. Petersburg, FL 33743
By Valerie Ormond
Veteran Writing Services, LLC