Tribally Owned 8(a) Partnering is Worth a Hard Look

8aTribally Owned 8(a) Small Businesses offer savvy companies unique advantages in the Federal Defense Market Space

We live in an era of Federal procurement paralysis, with Procurement Action Lead Times (PALT) routinely extending from months to years on competitive procurements, while many Federal Contracts Shops contend with a continuing “brain drain” of expertise and increasing workload.  At the same time, Industry continues to file award-delaying protests ad nauseum on most all major competitive procurements, whether Small Business set-aside or Full and Open competition.

The result of this procurement paralysis is a tendency by the Government to solicit Firm Fixed Price (FFP) bids, whether they can precisely define their requirements or not (rarely can they).  Also, in a further effort to avoid Industry protests and save time, they over-employ a mindless source selection process called Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA).  LPTA may be appropriate for buying pencils and toilet paper, but is grossly inappropriate for most technical services bids.

None of the above is “new” news to those working in today’s Federal Defense space.  I use it to set the stage for the introduction to what I believe is a more attractive option:  The SBA’s Tribally Owned 8(a) Business Development Program.  This program offers the following attractive features:

  • The ability to sole source contracts without dollar value caps or thresholds
  • The ability to put high dollar contracts in place in a matter of weeks; not months or years
  • The ability to bid reasonable prices (without the “biggest liar takes all” competitive LPTA model)
  • The fact that Tribally Owned 8(a) sole source procurements are not protestable by small or large businesses.  That’s right; non-protestable.

Now, that is the “Cliffs Notes” version of the good news about Tribally Owned 8(a) contracting.  Having teased you with a little of the “What and Why”, I have not addressed any of the “Who, Where, When, and How” parts of puzzle, or the few downsides… like you can only get up to half of the work.  All of that would fill a good sized book.  I offer this post solely in an effort to motivate you to take a hard look at Tribally Owned 8(a) contracting.

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Does your company suffer from “Corporate Dyslexia”?

SOF Silhouette

Or does your company know who the customer is?

Far too many service companies suffer from an infrastructure disease I call “Corporate Dyslexia”; a serious internal cultural sickness in which the indirect corporate “service” and “support” organization comes to see itself as the “customer”, with its internal tasks and priorities being more important than those of the customer-facing parts of the company and, ultimately, those of the paying customers themselves.

“Corporate Dyslexia” deludes companies into losing sight of the fundamental fact that their very existence and continued success lie in supporting and satisfying their paying customers’ mission, needs, and expectations.  Infected companies act as if this reality were reversed; that their customers and customer-support organization exist to support the back office.

The causes of “Corporate Dyslexia” can be subtle and varied.  For example, many corporate back office infrastructures are out of touch with the realities of direct customer support because:

  • Physical and professional isolation from direct customer support functions insulates them from those operational realities.
  • The risk-averse nature of many of those attracted to corporate service and support functions causes them to avoid field assignments and direct customer interface and scrutiny.
  • Co-location with Corporate management provides the back office service and support staff with easy access to executives and informal exercise of “reflected power”; de facto assumption of authority without commensurate responsibility.

Because of these and other related factors, back office “service” and “support” can come to behave as though the customer-facing side of the company exists to serve their internal needs and requirements over those of the paying customer.  The back office starts to unconsciously think of themselves as the “customer”!

“Corporate Dyslexia” most often remains undiagnosed in infected companies.  In some cases, management may be too focused and invested in corporate staff functions and politics to recognize it or deal with it; or, in other cases, corporate management may have come up through the back office “service” and “support” infrastructure itself and have little or no customer-facing “real world” experience.  In the latter case, management simply cannot see the problem due to a narrow aperture and limited focus resulting from a lack of balanced experience.  This brings an old adage to mind: “You cannot see what you have not been taught to look for”.

Whether ignored or unrecognized, “Corporate Dyslexia” is seldom dealt with in any meaningful way and can easily become the dominant company culture.

Unchecked, “Corporate Dyslexia” poses a real threat to the long-term health of any afflicted company.  In the initial stages of the disease, emerging symptoms are often dismissed as “one off” problems.  As the disease progresses, problems continue to emerge with increasing frequency and severity.  Symptoms frequently include:

  • A growing internal “us” and “them” attitude emerging between the customer-facing parts of the company and the back office.
  • A rising resentment in the customer-facing infrastructure which, if not addressed, can eventually result in the loss of some of its best and brightest.  This can leave a less capable Operations and BD staff, beginning a spiral of decreased performance accompanied by a increased management and supervision workload.
  • Increasing ad hoc internal conflicts negatively impacting day-to-day business performance and overall morale within the company.

Eventually,  problems caused by “Corporate Dyslexia” become too frequent and too serious to ignore.  Yet, even when recognized as problems, they typically continue to be blamed on factors external to the back office; not uncommonly on the customer-facing parts of the company.  In the terminal stages of the pathology, internal back office problems may even be blamed on the customers themselves.

Ultimately, customers tire of “Corporate Dyslexia” and quietly stop being customers.

 

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