You have carried out a superb capture management effort and in a perfect universe, there would be a tidy step-by-step process for what to do from the time you receive the contract award to thirty days later when you start the work. But, in the imperfect universe of government contracting, everything happens at once. This blog will tell you what to do you when you suddenly find yourself juggling five hundred tasks, and you can’t drop a single ball.

What the Government Really Wants from a Prime Contractor

You will determine your course of action by assessing your government customer, so you can find out what makes them happy. Here’s what you need to do (all at once, of course):

  1. Request a debrief. This will help you understand your strengths and weakness for future proposals for this customer. It is also important in the event a protest is filed against the award.
  2. Go back over the RFP and proposal very carefully so that you understand your obligations (more on that below.)
  3. Schedule the kick-off meeting with the government

We Promised What?! Reviewing the RFP and the Proposal 

A man stands on the edge of a cliff, looking down.

It may be daunting to receive your contract award, but there’s a way to tackle it all without looking down.

Your program manager and contracts manager should go back and review the solicitation and the proposal, because both, in tandem, are your new contract with the government. For instance, your proposal may have stated that you would procure a new facility upon contract award. If you promised, then you have to start making it happen. You’ll need to acquire the facilities, equipment, and staff for those facilities.

Let’s say the solicitation read, “You shall provide five people with three years’ minimum experience.” And in your proposal, you outmaneuvered the competition by writing, “We shall provide five people with seven years’ experience.” You are now contractually obligated to do just that. The program manager will need to do some personnel inventory, finding out who you have and whom you need.

It Takes Team Work to Deliver on a Government Contract

You’ll need to take inventory of your key personnel, your subcontractors and your non-key personnel. This is where you get your human resources and contracts departments involved in the mission to acquire human capital.

Let’s start with key personnel.

If they weren’t your employees or the employees of a subcontractor, they’ve likely signed contingency agreements stating they’d come work for you at a certain rate if you won. During the lengthy source selection process, they might have started working for someone else, possibly at a higher rate. Now you’re scrambling. If you don’t have those key personnel, you’ve got to give the government a good reason why. You’re contractually bound to provide those people because the government awarded you at least partly based on the strength of your key personnel.

The good news is, this happens all the time. The customer realizes that key personnel leave the company or get assigned to other contracts. That being said, the government also knows that many companies intentionally propose key personnel that they absolutely know will not be available. While the government gives leeway, they will enforce that Section H clause about key personnel substitution. They may also ask for documentation as to why the proposed key personnel are not available. Plan on providing your named key personnel or be prepared to offer personnel equally or better qualified for the same rate proposed.

Now we’ll talk about subcontractors.

Most likely, as the prime contractor, you’ve got team members who signed teaming agreements and were promised a work share. You have to make sure that all of these subcontractors are well informed of the fact that you’ve won the contract and that you’re getting ready to meet with the government at the kickoff meeting.

Now that you’ve won the work, the terms of the teaming agreements are the basis for subcontracts. Your contracts department will start establishing all of these subcontracting agreements. Your subcontractors won’t give you people until they have a contract in place with you.

As for non-key personnel, we’ll talk about that below.

If you have to onboard new personnel, you’ll need to inform your Human Resources (HR) Manager prior to the contract award, but ideally, you kept that person in the loop during the proposal process. For every person you onboard, you’ll need to make sure that they meet the position requirements stated in the RFP and your proposal. Also, you’ll need to make sure that you are compliant with any applicable security clearance and badging requirements. This is where your Facility Security Officer (FSO) comes in. The FSO will make sure that they understand the security requirements and that everybody has training and background checks.

If you’ve entered into a wage determined contract, you have to take in consideration the potential hiring requirements of incumbent employees, meaning that you must offer them a position on the new contract with you as the prime. What that means is that you will coordinate with the government at the kickoff meeting to set up a venue to interview and hire qualified incumbent employees.

You may also need your IT department to submit documentation that you meet all applicable cyber-security requirements for your networks and personnel.

The Kickoff Meeting with the Government

When you have your kickoff meeting with the government you’ll learn their expectations for contract reporting and performance.

At the kickoff meeting, you’ll meet you Contracting Officer Representative (COR). It could be somebody who likes you, or it could be somebody who really liked the incumbent and isn’t happy about you. That’s going to set the tempo and the tone for the entire contract. The only thing you can do is make sure you have good communication with the government, and you really understand and live up to their expectations.

Those expectations are explicitly stated in the Contract Delivery Requirements List (CDRL). You need to make sure that your contracts manager and your program manager really understand what those CDRL’s require—in the sense of what they mean to your government customer, not your team. This is an important distinction that can impact your Contract Performance Assessment Reports (CPARS).  An unsatisfactory CPAR for not understanding your customer’s reporting requirements will haunt you for years to come.

Now that you know what to expect when that award comes on your first prime contract, you’ll be able to make a plan and prepare well advance to be ready to work. Remember to have backup plans in place, because as we’ve shown you in this blog, many things can go wrong, and you don’t want to drop the ball.