Not all businesses are funded by venture capitalists and investors throwing money at you to grow. Most small businesses grow organically, with owners investing their own income, but mostly their own time, until they can grow enough to generate momentum towards meaningful growth. In the Government Contracting Industry, getting all your ducks in a row with the right facility clearances, certifications, etc, is a daunting and long term effort, before you even can start playing ball as a company. Once that hurdle is accomplished, you are hoping to get hired under your business on a contract, because you still have to earn money while you grow your business. 

Some common mistakes I see as companies get to this stage is a fear of investing money into overhead needs. If you are a services-based company, your biggest need is to hire employees in revenue generating positions. But to do that is not easy, and getting the right help to set up the best benefits, leave, and perks programs you can is critical to attracting the best talent. Recruiting itself is daunting in certain industries with highly cleared, highly skilled roles, and takes a lot of pounding pavement.  This can be hard to do for an owner working for a government customer Monday-Friday. 

The first goal is to get on contracts as a subcontractor. It’s the quickest and easiest way to gain openings that you can recruit for. The only way to get on more contracts is to have something to offer, whether it be yourself or a qualified candidate – the Prime Contractors needing staff urgently will bring in subs who have people to fill the openings. But to find the right contracts you need to be very clear about your organization’s current expertise, past performance and differentiators. A strong Capabilities statement clarifies that for you and others. Then you need to pinpoint existing and upcoming contracts that fit with your expertise. If you go a step further and find out which ones have more openings, then you know who to target first. A Business Development/Capture professional will do that for you if you’re willing to pay the price, a clear vision forward and known targets is the most important thing you can have at this stage.

Straight from the mouths of leaders of Prime Organizations – “I want to know the company’s past performance, specific Agencies, NAICS codes, etc, and then I want to see they have qualified people immediately ready to support the mission of the contract.” It’s that simple. And yet, that isn’t simple at all. Come in with resumes and come in knowing what you can contribute as an organization. You need to be able to prove that you have what it takes to fill openings in the areas of expertise needed, not just that day, but continuously over time. 

If you are lucky enough to get on an existing contract and suddenly you have 20 positions you can fill, you must immediately humble yourself to the reality that you are competing with 30+ companies all trying to fill those same roles, including the prime, and most of those companies are going to have more resources available to fulfill that goal. As you grow, you will too, but being willing to take a hit early on will lead to quicker success, and greater success.

If you do not place employees in those positions, your days on that contract or on re-competes will eventually be numbered. If you are not growing, you are dying, and the reality of being a business owner is that successful companies invest in growth. This may include Business Development, HR/Recruiting,  and/or Proposal Development.