In the last week of the fiscal year, agencies spend about the same amount that they spent during the previous 5 weeks combined. This presents a tremendous opportunity for well positioned government contractors to make large sums and expand into new programs.
The means to winning a piece of this money is a lot like winning money from the Federal Government under ordinary circumstances, except that you have to be the contracting officer, the program officer, and the vendor.
The reason is simple. During the last week of the Fiscal Year agency, procurement officials are pushing out five weeks of work in only one week. They don’t have time to do much beyond verifying procedural adherence and eligibility of the prospective vendor. They don’t have time to shape requirements with you, write a Statement of Work (SOW), or find contract vehicles. You have to do all of that for them.
The most common way to do this is through the unsolicited proposal (or white paper) process:
- Identify agency needs (whether they have been articulated in an official document or just in conversations with you): Starting in June and July, begin reaching out to program officers or other agency leaders to see what sort of pet projects or nice-to-have requirements they have been noodling on. Similarly, consider the conversations you’ve had or papers you’ve read that year to look for indicators of things that someone wants.
- Write a discussion document about that topic: There are plenty of examples of white papers online, but they all follow a pretty basic format: Identify the problem/need that should resolved/fulfilled, present a the general means one could resolve/fulfill it, and discuss the resources in the process. A couple notes here. First, do not pitch yourself. You cannot say how you would do it, but instead,
how someone in general would do it. Second, pitch yourself — subtly. As you lay out the solution and resources needed for the process, be sure to align them with what your business does and the resources you have.
- Submit the document and set up time to discuss it: This step can be time consuming. The procurement offices are bombarded with white papers during summer’s end. Be persistent and give
plenty of lead time.
- Wait: Remember, the money is released in the last week of September, so don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard anything until late in the game.
- Be ready to write: If all goes well, your white paper will be tweaked and turned into an RFP. Be ready to respond. Have key persons’ resumes ready and ideally, have a draft proposal written well before the RFP is released. End of year RFP’s typically receive fewer bid than earlier dated RFP’s. Position your company to be the only one that can win.
- Be ready to work: Work on end-of-year awards often starts quickly. Have your people, space, and financing prepared ahead of time.
Don’t be mistaken, there is a perception that end of year money is easy to win. That is a lax oversight. While those funds are awarded more quickly than a traditional RFP, the total number of hours you must work to get them is roughly the same. The same skills and processes that make you effective during the beginning of the year will help you succeed at the end of year. Additionally, it bears mentioning that these contracts undergo the same scrutiny and carry the same penalties in cases of fraud and other FAR violations. Take care that your rates are in line and you have followed all procedures.
For teams that have been preparing for this end-of-year rush, this can be a great time to win work, grow their company, and work on project that are slightly more interesting and unique than usual.
Now that we have talked about what the end-of-year means and how to capture some of that money, next week we will talk about how this affects small businesses and whether it is good for agencies and the US Government.