No one can predict the future, but you can be ready for it!
The Challenge: Plan Federal Fiscal 2022
We were finishing up our weekly online Growth meeting with the Executive Management Team via Zoom when the CEO said, “It’s time to focus on our 2022 strategy. Let’s start to put something together for early next month to give us a sense of what we did this year and what we should focus on next year!” She loved to interpret Stephen Covey and I could almost hear her saying, “Begin with the end in mind!”
The Growth team looked at each other on the screen as we mentally made notes of what we wanted to start with. The Chief Growth Officer (CGO) asked the CFO to draft a financial forecast based on the current revenue model with some indications of the potential value of the proposals we had submitted over the last few months to base some of our predictions on. The revenue model based on our existing work and submitted proposals was a good start. Our CFO indicated she would do her best relative to the current and planned efforts but due to pandemic uncertainty and government spending delays nothing was in stone.
Meanwhile, the CGO asked each of the VP’s for Business Development to share their best estimate of sales forecasts and RFP release sequences based on submitted proposals, and upcoming bid opportunities, as we tried to give the CEO what we thought she wanted.
It was going to be a significant exercise, but we had really gelled as a Growth team over the last year as we were able to remain at home, restrict travel, and really polish our solicitation response efforts. Proposals seemed a LOT easier now that folks were not travelling to conferences, not getting tied up in meetings with future customers and Industry Days were virtual…but still we wondered the same thing our CEO had asked: “Were we getting the results we intended”?
Uncertainties To Factor In: What We Considered
We looked at existing programs, the PWin of our bids under consideration, and the bids we were capturing as we awaited RFP release. We wanted to give the CEO a solid level of confidence that we had a good handle on the revenue model for 2022 so she could brief the Board of Directors on what her Strategic Plan would be in the next year. We knew we had to figure in the changing challenges of the government contracting environment relative to the new administration, surging pandemic impacts and the global economic environment.
Our team had struggled this year with large-scale small business solicitations that dragged out way past the forecasted timeline. We were concerned by the many contract extensions that delayed proposals and increased the bid costs and teaming resources we had budgeted.
Our sense was that continuing pandemic waves had had a negative impact on the Federal acquisition workforce, creating further delays in RFP releases, and creating stress for us, too.
Our own Executive Leadership team was still working on the split between work from home or work from the office. Some of our employees with children in school were still awaiting the resolution of at home or in school learning, as that would impact their availability to contribute in the office on some of the larger bid efforts.
So we put together a “horror sheet” as the financial analyst called it that indicated a fairly bleak, financial-risk-informed, picture for 2022. We did not want to overpromise and underdeliver to the CEO based on our predictions, uncertainty about the Federal FY22 budget and concern about delays in solicitations and awards that were restricting our growth as a company.
As the briefing neared, based on the lack of certainty and inability to gather information we could build a pipeline on, none of us wanted to be the one presenting the numbers to the CEO.
The Chief Growth Officer and the Chief Financial Officer wrestled with who should be the one to deliver the news. Our CEO was a taskmaster with high expectations for new market growth and expansion of the base in the years ahead. Despite all that was going on, we needed a FY 2022 Strategic Plan to get the company there.
We prepped hard to anticipate every possible question she could ask us. Market trends, solicitation dates, opportunity values, budget forecasts in our government markets, resources to get to the next level… We had the details and were finally ready to face the scrutiny we thought was coming.
The highly anticipated day arrived, she gave us the thorough examination we expected, critically assessing our every assumption and examining every detail of our financial forecast and strategy for FY 2022.
Our basis for the FY2022 Strategic Plan was sound. Our rationale was solid and our research was significant. She asked us if we were comfortable with the plan we had developed. In turn we each said “yes” it was our plan and we were good with it.
What The CEO Said
Our CEO made clear that she did not think we were taking enough risk in some areas, and asked us to double down on the number of bids we were going to attempt.
“Do some additional homework on this customer, find out about incumbents and why they are successful or unsuccessful—use your imagination,” she said. “Why weren’t we going after opportunities in this technology area? What about this customer’s needs to expand technology and productivity capabilities under this budget cycle and work-from-home environment? Had we thought about parallel, adjacent and new markets created under the pandemic?”
We couldn’t treat pandemic episode as a really bad snow day, she continued. Work will never be the same again, she told us, and the ground rules and practices of government contracting have changed. We were going to have to bid more opportunities to keep up, and we had to get out in front, and stay out in front, of the problems created by the pandemic.
“Have we created a challenge in the customer’s mind that we could offer a solution to help them solve? Have we shared white papers and briefings?”
Did we have some stretch goals in the plan we could use to help her convince the Board of Directors the Growth Team was pulling every lever to ensure we could maintain our heretofore financial excellence and continue to grow?
She cited recent evidence of aggressive businesses responding to more RFPs: the number of bidders on small business opportunities was up. With the potential for turnover on contracts if we wanted to grow, we first had to stay revenue flat!
Then she stunned us by indicating that despite perceptions of government slowdown, there may be more RFPs out for bid than we thought. In her view, the Federal government was moving more opportunities into the small business space, which meant additional opportunities for us. But even with supposed efficiencies of streamlined electronic proposal submission processes, our writing skills were going to be more important than ever. We would need to get more efficient and effective, and become better at bidding, just to stay at the same level!
The Zoom room went quiet. She paused for a few seconds. We fully expected her to tell us, “Let’s take another run at the Strategic Plan”.
Suddenly she shifted her gaze and looked at all of us on the screens.
“I am very proud of you, your work and all that we have had to overcome in the last 18 months. While I very much appreciate your work on the FY2022 Strategic Plan with the details you brought forward here today, remember, no one can predict the future, we can only be ready for it.”
“Here is what I expect the future holds.
“Get more organized in your growth meetings.
Expand our view of the market and customers. Don’t get complacent because of a perceived Federal spending slowdown. The government has money to spend. Let’s find out where and how they are spending it! Look at every opportunity we can find that even comes close to our core capabilities and target markets.
“Really push to find out all the information you can about the opportunity online (dive into past Federal Contract Data — thank you to Judy Bradt, our Federal Data Diving Diva, and Eileen Kent, our Federal Sales Sherpa!). Consider bidding as a default position, not just after it is fully qualified. We’ll contract out for additional BD, capture and proposal support if we need it. But first we need to be as structured and productive as we can be for the opportunity identification and capture process relative to proposals so we can keep bidding to stay competitive. Remember—“A no-bid has a Pwin of zero!”
“Drive process efficiencies.
Tell me what we need to buy to enhance our collaborative capabilities.
“Treat RFI’s and RFPs as opportunities on multiple levels: to build relationships, keep our writing skills in fighting trim, and analyze the trends in our market while we start to develop a solution. Participating in and analyzing sources sought, and sharing white papers and marketing materials will help us stay top of mind (thanks to Will Randolph at Think Acquisition!). ”
She suggested we start to track and compare RFI’s across customers and markets to see what bid trends and opportunities we can identify now and into the future. She suggested we attend all the virtual industry days we can and hold scrub-the-briefs meetings afterward to share ideas and identify government buying trends.
Learn together, she told us. Get bids written and out the door. All gas, no brakes!
“Position, position, position…especially better virtually.
“I know we’re getting fewer face-to-face meetings with our customers and potential customers…but so is everyone else. This facet of the new normal has leveled the playing field. So we have to find the most effective possible ways to engage earlier and position our team with the right people via electronic and virtual contacts.
“Strengthen our digital strategy and social media engagement with buyers.
“How do we show up in online searches? Does our website tell the right stories? Is it up to date and forward thinking? (Thanks Ocean 5 Strategies!) Tell me what conferences we can attend in person or on-line. Where are the government speakers and how can we approach them? The customer is NOT going to call you. We have to go to them using all the tools available including web and search engine technology. Keep thinking of new ways to engage them. Write white papers on problem sets and develop solutions that we can take to customers via solicitations. Waiting for the RFP to come out is too late. Educate them on the challenges ahead and how we can help them solve them together, successfully!”
We looked at each other on the call. NOW we had our Strategic Plan for FY2022.
To build on Stephen Covey’s famous advice: the right plan must include HOW we will tackle the challenges in the future as well as forecasting what’s on the road ahead!
Meet the Author: Kevin Hoey, Former Senior Director, Programs and Business Development Executive for General Dynamics Information Technology where he planned and directed efforts to drive growth and business development operations focused on Space and Missile Defense community, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Marine Corps Requirements generation, Space and Missile Defense Command, Army Aviation and Missile Center, Army Materiel Command and Missile Defense Agency in a wide range of professional, IT and engineering services. Developed comprehensive business plans defining potential market share and opportunities for growth in Missile Defense, engineering services, IT and Energy markets. Influences the development of relationships with business partners, potential customers and prospects within assigned technical and business areas. Mentor and Business Coach for the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama. MS from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces as well as DOD CIO, IA, IO and EGov Certificates from National Defense University. MS from Florida Institute of Technology. Colonel, USMC (Ret.)