“When you get into prime contracts, building a team is first about performance, then your network. It’s not just who you know, but who knows what.” Mike McDonough, VP Sales and Customer Success at Capture2
Personnel planning is the most common stumbling block for new government prime contractors. It’s no easy task—from determining which kinds of subcontractors you need for responding to the RFP, finding the best people for the job, putting solid agreements in place, to maintaining an atmosphere of open communication—it’s all about delivering when it comes to government contracting. The most productive, effective subcontractor team strategy is one that is well planned. Read below for answers to the most frequently asked questions about putting a winning subcontractor team strategy in place.
Why do I need subcontractors?
When putting together a team for your first prime contract, don’t let your ego get in the way of providing a great product or service. You want to partner with subcontractors not only to fill in your knowledge or skill gaps, but also to round out and exceed the performance requirements. The following are the most common reasons for hiring subs:
- We all have weaknesses. Can you provide or perform to satisfy 100 percent of the customer’s needs? Take a hard look at the contract and estimate the percentage of the contract (ideally less than 50 percent or it’s not for you) that you need help with. Even if it’s a small percentage of the work, you’ll need to reach out to a sub.
- The contract requires it. Often an RFP will specify that a certain percentage of the work should come from another subcontractor, such as a small business. If that’s not you, then you need subs.
- They can make you better. Even if your company provides a certain service or product component, if a talented partner will enhance the quality of the work, go for results and bring them on your team.
Which kinds of subcontractors do I need?
- Know the customer. The type of job determines what kind of help you hire. Everything you do depends entirely on your customer and their needs. Get to know the customer’s needs, mission, history and technology. Once you have the goal in sight you can work backwards.
- Dig deeper. Hire subject matter experts who are familiar with the customer and the service or product to give you the inside edge. They can help you put together a well-rounded team. Use your internal knowledge base as well, such as a board of directors or advisors, as they bring a wealth of experience.
- Narrow it down. Remember the expression about too many cooks in the kitchen? Keep things simple. Ideally you will want to work with one subcontractor, but if that’s not possible narrow it down to as few as possible.
What do I do once I’ve found the subcontractors I need?
- Vet the subs. You need to have a high level of trust or comfort with one other, as you will depend on each other throughout a very long and involved process. Make sure you seek out subcontractors that have a history of performance and identify a sub that you’d be proud to call a partner.
- Verify your subs. Commit them to a contract that substantiates your relationship from a legal standpoint. You don’t want to lose any key resources, as this puts the job at risk, but try to avoid exclusivity agreements, especially beyond the scope of that particular contract.
- Communicate. Keep the relationship alive. Everyone must be engaged, open and transparent throughout the entire process.
Once you get a phenomenal team in place for your government prime contract, everyone should be ready to go the moment you submit your proposal. By building a solid, trusted team, you’ll get the support you need to deliver quality work. Performance breeds performance.