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Your government contract is a work agreement to serve the people of the United States – paid with tax payer money and accountable to the United States citizenry.

Adam Ishaeik, CEO of Hunter Wellman, is an experienced public sector business development professional that has landed over 225 million dollars in government contracts for their client base in the last 2 years.

Hunter Wellman expands public sector market share for their clients through targeted contract acquisition. An integrated solutions team (market analysts, capture managers, proposal writers, financial auditors, and legal support staff) plan, support, and close government contracts.

BusinessInterviews.com:  What are some common mistakes you see businesses make when it comes to securing government contracts and grants?

Adam:  The biggest mistake we see would be underestimating the importance of managing the contracting aspect of the sale.  Every Federal Procurement has two authorities: 1) Program Management Office and 2) Contracting Office.  The Program Management Office develops the contract requirements and statements of work, requests funding, manages the contract, and is accountable to the government (and the people) for the performance of the overarching program that houses the contract.  This is where vendors sell their solutions, gather intelligence about all aspects of the contract and associated program, and offer contributions to the technical specifications of the solicitation.  When pursuing a contract, it is critical to engage the associated program management office in order to gain a strong understanding of the requirement, build familiarity within the sourcing agency, detect any wired or incumbent contractors, contribute ideas/concepts/approaches to the statement of work, and have visibility as to the progression of the requirement definitions.

Just as important as selling the program management office on a company’s solution is working with the associated contracting office to encourage a sourcing option most advantageous to the vendor.  This involves working with the Contracting Officer and/or Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative to structure their purchase that will meet the procurement standards detailed in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).  This is why it is absolutely essential for companies to acquire procurement vehicles (i.e. GSA Schedules, SBA set aside certification, BAAs, IDIQ contracts, etc…) and provide options to the sourcing agency to make the expedited purchase.  The biggest difference in the sales cycle of the government and private sector is the litany of rules and regulations a government agency must follow in order to make purchases.  If a company does not take the necessary steps to most efficiently navigate through these rules, they will be looking at a very arduous experience selling to the government including 18-month sales cycles, loosing contracts to better prepared vendors, and outright rejections by agencies avoiding public posting of their requirements on Fedbizopps.

BusinessInterviews.com:  What are some lessons or insights you’ve gained during years of negotiating government contracts for small businesses?

Adam:  There are several:  Government contracting officers and program managers are extremely risk averse, relationships matter, have reasonable profit expectations, there are always competitors seeking to steal your talent, reputation is everything, make sure your subcontracts and teaming agreements are iron clad to avoid work share issues as the contract progresses, and most importantly – your government contract is a work agreement to serve the people of the United States – paid with tax payer money and accountable to the United States citizenry. 

BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the art of seamlessly integrating with your clients’ business development operations?

Adam: Every enterprise has their own sales system, and while there is some conformity in these systems, they are in most cases distinct and unique.  We do not have a stove piped approach to client engagement – rather we integrate into the existing operation using their reporting formats, communications standard operating procedures, performance evaluations, organization structures, etc…  In effect, we operate as a part of the sales organization rather than an outside entity.

BusinessInterviews.com:  What advice would you give to a firm that solely works in the private sector and is contemplating establishing a government practice?

Adam:  Understand the bureaucracy/laws/systems of government contracting.  Prepare yourself for the personalities you will most likely encounter as you navigate your targeted program and contracting offices.  Develop a niche product/service as well as a competitive pricing strategy.  Hire sales professionals that are connected to agencies you are targeting (i.e. former employees of the agency).  At Hunter Wellman, a primary hiring evaluation criteria is demonstrated relationships within the government and the ability to reach out and get critical intelligence on upcoming procurements before they hit the street.

BusinessInterviews.com: Can you provide an example of developing a cutting edge solution as part of the business development process for a client?

Adam:  One of our clients specializes in all facets of IT planning, deployment, operations, and maintenance support. Their primary client is the Washington DC Joint Operations Command Center (JOCC). The JOCC is the primary command and control facility in Washington DC and consists of a network of over 300 cameras that survey and protect the nation’s capitol. The client’s contract with the JOCC was the build, maintenance, and management of all IT components of the facility.

Our approach was to combine this impressive past performance with a visionary technology transfer approach – and find partners that could expand the scope of services our client could provide.

​We discovered C4ISR requirements coming out of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and worked to leverage the client’s expertise in building C2 centers for the JOCC into Department of Defense applications.  Hunter Wellman developed a teaming agreement with Vanderbilt University to strengthen the client’s capability, resources, and funding availability. 

The result of these efforts was a series of contract awards to our client from DARPA (followed by continuation funding from Office of Naval Research) to develop Modeling and Simulation systems to support information flows in remote C2 centers both on-ship and mobile land based.  We also leveraged our client’s past performance to land contracts with many state and local command centers including Miami, New York, Minneapolis, Newport News (VA), as well as perimeter security projects for Defense facilities and bases.

BusinessInterviews.com:  How often do your clients require teaming partners to close up gaps in the targeted contract’s performance requirements?

Adam: It depends on the client and the nature of their offerings.  In some cases, our client will have capabilities that are usually bundled into larger contracts.  For example, video production services are often wrapped into larger communication or training contracts.  In these cases, it is critical to get partners that can manage the aspects of the contract not familiar to our client. 

Another example of business development efforts that require teaming partners would be contracts that require small business designations (i.e. 8a/HUBZONE/SDVOB/WOSB) to prime.  If our client is not qualified under these Small Business Administration certifications, we find partners that have these designations to prime the contract, and fit our client into the contract as a subcontractor.

There are also situations where the government requires small business participation plans as part of the contract.  For our clients that do not qualify as a small business under their NAICS codes – we develop teaming agreements with small businesses that have relevant past performance and ideally, a relationship with the targeted customer.

A popular approach the government takes to their larger procurements is to award Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Contracts.  These can be either single or multiple awards.  Teaming is essential here, especially for small businesses, because the scope of these contracts can be so large it is nearly impossible to cover all the task areas.  Just yesterday we won on of these IDIQ contracts (the Department of Health and Human Services PSC TO Contract) for a small business by partnering with other complimentary businesses as well as George Mason University to ensure the team could cover all areas of the contract.

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