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Ever feel like the chicken and the egg?  You need past performance but how do you get it if the government will not give you a try?  Like any other business, the government requires contractors to have past performance.  So how is a small business supposed to get experience to overcome this stumbling block?

6 Ways to Gain Past Performance

Today, we are going to discuss 6 ways to gain past performance experience. By following the six techniques below you will be able to build your government past performance.

1.     Use relevant commercial experience in your proposal.

The problem with past performance is the Government picks winners based on their track records and not necessarily the promises in the proposal.  This does make a lot of sense and is like the way the commercial arena selects their vendors.  This results in companies paying more attention to successful performance and customer satisfaction because they understand that their past performance evaluations will make or break a company.

The problem with past performance evaluations is that it is extremely difficult for new small businesses to do business with the Government.  New businesses will have no record for the Government to evaluate.  The Government is not supposed to penalize a company and are to give the company a “neutral” past performance rating.  In truth, this is the kiss of death.

So, what is a small business that wants to get into government contracting to do? The majority of past performance evaluations follow the process recommend by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), which has a best practices manual for conducting past performance reviews.

Government Wants Contractors Who Submit deliverables on Time and within Budget.

Most of the time the past performance evaluation will include a survey of customer projects that are similar to the work the government is asking for.  The focal points of the survey include whether you submitted the deliverables on time, and did you complete the project within budget.    You can complete your own past performance evaluation by evaluating previous completed projects that are like the work that Government is asking for.

The Government tends to have a language that is different from the commercial world.  Your job is to write your performance evaluation in the Government language.  Present your commercial projects using the terminology used on the past performance survey form.  Make sure to describe your project’s scope, processes, and requirements using the terminology of the RFP.  Don’t forget to align the project’s attributes with the evaluation criteria in the RFP.

Remember your project description should read like it was a Government project. We all know it was a commercial project, but the goal is to take your past performance and translate it into the Government language.

Government projects tend to have more structure than commercial projects.  Government projects processes are usually formal and documented, along with milestones and deliverables.

The last step on the past performance evaluation is for the Government to reach out and contact the customer.  Let your customer know that the Government may call them and ensure that you provide a valid customer phone number.  Also, it is good to have an idea of what the customer may say about you.  Remember that a successful past performance evaluation requires the participation of your customers.  This is an imposition commercial companies may be reluctant to make.  Send a copy of the survey form to the customer so they know it is coming.

2.      Consider Micro-purchases.

Micro-purchases as the name implies, are small purchases generally under $10,000 that do not requirement competitive bids.  Seventy percent (70%) of the government procurement transactions are micro-purchases and are processed on credit cards. Once you win a micro purchase you now have Government past performance and can put this on your Capability Statement.

To get started, contact your local Small Business Specialist.  Each Agency will have someone assigned to help small businesses and that is the person you want to talk too.  The Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is where you will find the Small Business Specialist.  Small Business Specials support small businesses by helping them market their products and services to their Agency.

3.      Obtain Subcontracts

Subcontracting is the most used method for obtaining past performance.  As a subcontractor you not only get to perform the work, but you come familiar with the government’s processes without the risk.  To find subcontracting opportunities visit https://eweb1.sba.gov/subnet/client/dsp_Landing.cfm.  For more information see the video on Subcontracting.

4.  Team With a More Experienced Contractor

Teaming with an experienced contractor is a great way to win a contract.  However, be careful who you team with.  You need to be diligent and do your homework on your proposed teaming partner.  Does your teaming partner have a good reputation with the federal government?  Do they have any current teaming relationships?  Do they have working capital?  How is their past performance?

Make sure that you do your homework and check out the business that you want to team with.  The best way to test a relationship is do a small contract together.

5. Find awarded contracts on FedBizOps.

You never know when a small business that has recently won a contract may be needing help.  Establish a relationship with the company.  This may lead into a teaming relationship in the future.  Make sure that you do your homework on the company.

6.         Set-aside Certifications

Are you claiming all the certifications that your business is eligible for?  Can you qualify for any Small Business Certifications such as 8(a) and HUBZOne Programs?  Both programs help small business stand out from competitors.   For more information see our 8(a) and HUBZone videos.

By implementing any of the above strategies is a great way for a small business to get started in government contracting and build their past performance.  It is not impossible to get started in Government contracting but it does require you to think outside the box sometimes.

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