June 13, 2006
Although the last step in the bidding process is to submit your bid, your final step in working with the government is never to give up and to apply what you learned throughout the process to every government job opportunity.
Let's review what this series has covered. You should follow 10 basic steps when doing business with the federal government:
Several steps are combined because you can do them simultaneously. And, actually, the last step is to review what you learned and apply it in the future.
Let's break down each step:
This is a sample bid opportunity, with important information in bold face.
Usually you can get a list of government specifications from your local PTAC; typically, they're free. But commercial specifications aren't free; how much they cost depends on where you buy them. Read the specifications carefully. If you have a question, call or write the buyer and ask.
Also, check to see if radio frequency identification (RFID) is required and know what RFID is—if you plan to work with the government, RFID is important.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) RFID Policy was issued July 30, 2004, and was executed in two phases. The first phase, effective Jan. 1, 2005, required all DOD suppliers who supply the following goods to start using passive, ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags on cases and palletized unit loads:
These first-phase suppliers are expected to ship supplies to the Defense Distribution Depot in Susquehanna (New Cumberland), Pa. (DDSP), and the Defense Distribution Depot in San Joaquin, Calif. (DDJC). Symbol multiprotocol AR400 readers currently are the only readers being used at the depots for RFID tag reading.
The second phase required the use of passive RFID tags by Jan. 1, 2006. This affects DOD suppliers for the previously mandated and following classes:
The DOD will accept Class 0 (read-only) and Class 1 tags for approximately two years from the first mandate. The DOD will migrate to the EPC™ UHF Generation 2 (Gen2) tag specification as the specification is ratified and finalized.
Your local PTAC can provide assistance and clarification of this mandate.
8. Price it out. This is your job, but some general guidelines apply. First, forget the toilet seat and hammer stories; they are 30 years old and didn't apply anyway. Second, bidding with the government is very competitive. You aren't going to make double-digit-percentage profits. Third, don't try to pad the price; consider all your costs and all the manufacturing costs.
9. Write your proposal. For the most part, if you're bidding on a regular invitation for bid (IFB), you won't write a proposal. If you find something that requires a written Request for Proposal, read it carefully and follow all the previously mentioned suggestions. Then read it again and see what you missed. Have another person go over it without you there and see what he finds.
10. Submit your bid. Use a final bid checklist before you mail in your bid (see "10 steps to winning a government contract: Step 9: Getting paid," May 2006). With many bids you won't talk to a person—everything is done over the Internet. That good ol' boy evaluating your bid is a PC server with lots of special software.
Although submitting your bid technically is the last step, the real final step in the process is not to give up if you don't win the first time. Companies may bid unsuccessfully once or twice and just give up. Remember that doing business with the federal government is no different than working with any other customer. You have to bid a lot to be successful. It's a learning process, and as you learn, your success ratio will improve. You'll know the ropes, how to bid, what to bid on, and when not to bid.
As always, use your local PTAC as a resource when doing business with the federal government.
John DiGiacomo is the director of the Rock Valley College Procurement Technical Assistance Center, 605 Fulton, Rockford, IL 61103, 815-921-2091, email@example.com, www.wingov.com. Jim Kleckner is a retired acquisition specialist from the Department of Defense and owner of Government Contracting Assistance, 2168 Spaulding Ave., West Dundee, IL 60118-3521, 847-426-7003, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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