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Contracting Horror Stories

Contracting Horror Stories

Halloween is just around the corner and I’m sure you’ve already had your fill of scary movies and ghost stories, but have any of them taught you a lesson? Eastern Foundry’s community has experienced a whole heap of nightmares over the years and we wanted to share them so the same mistakes don’t come back to haunt you in the future!  So gather round the campfire and try not to get spooked, it’s time for some contracting horror stories.

First up is June Marshall, CEO of Reppiro

“I worked for an 8a/HUBZone contractor and brought a large system integrator into a teaming arrangement to go after a 5 year Computer Facilities Operations contract at Fort Hood.  We were collectively more than 50 hours into the proposal effort (business development, estimating, proposal teams of both companies) before discovering through competitive analysis that the incumbent contractor was teamed with an Alaskan Native Tribe company with 10 years of past performance in that scope of work and an office on base, meaning that our planned margin was guaranteed to be a negligible P(Win).  Lesson learned: the federal competitive landscape is a very significant factor in win rate and competitive analysis should be in every contractors Go-No-Go workflow. I had already started on the process to develop Repperio www.repper.io and this experience among others crystallized it once again for me how much it was needed.”

See! Not all mistakes lead to disaster. Luckily for June, her experiences lead to the creation of her startup. Was that scary enough for you? This next one is something that sends a shiver down everyone's spine.

This frightening tale comes from Chris Harris, project manager at KaiHonua  

“One of my team members had to build a Performance Work Statement (PWS) and deliver to the client.  There was a Project Manager from the client side and my team member was a Business Analyst. So instead of reinventing the wheel the BA took an old PWS and proceeded to format it for his project.  Well, this guy did Find/Replace for the system name and did not review the document after the changes.  Who could blame him. It was a 75-page document.  Needless to say, this "shortcut" was not known to the PM and he also didn't bother to fully review the document.  The client received the document and raised the dead with his anger and to this day the BA shutters every time he hears the words Find/Replace.”

Do you have goosebumps yet, are you shaking with fear? Well, this one will surely send you screaming.

Greg Llinas, President of GL Solutions learned a great lesson after the feds gave him a fright back in the day.

“In our second year, we were the acting Finance and Accounting office for one of our clients that was very large in revenue.  We devised a strategy to defer taxes by withholding issuance of invoices.  We withheld as long as we could since we knew the average payment time was about 30 to 35 days. We were dead wrong, it was paid in less than 24 hours.  So, at the worst time, the government decided to be super-efficient and created a huge problem for us.  It was a real nightmare as we had to change our strategy completely.  In the end, we were able to succeed, but it took us several days of additional consulting and work to cover for that problem.  Lesson learned: don’t think the government is always inefficient, as that can come back to bite you.”

Time for a bonus tale, did you know Eastern Foundry was created as a result of a horror story?  Here’s Geoff’s account of his first contracting experience.

“I was lucky enough to get an offer at McKinsey here in D.C. after spending time overseas in Iraq. During my three year period there I got to see public sector work from the practitioner's eye, and saw the struggles that contractors went through. I then set off on my own to East Africa to try and start my own contracting business and it was a disaster. I realized that I was spending all my time thinking about how to make the procurement process better, and not thinking about getting my own company off the ground. So my nightmare of a contracting start turned into the beginnings of our great community we have here, I wanted to create a place where folks didn’t have to experience the same troubles I went through.”

Humans tend to learn the most after they have made a mistake, so take these lessons with you as you continue to strive in the contracting market. If you can relate to any of these, or have a horror story of your own, leave a comment below and share with the community.  Happy Halloween!