Good advice, Dan. Keeping your message relevant and fresh are certainly key components to marketing your business. While agility and innovation are hallmarks of the value that small business brings,however, this ceases to be a real discriminator when in competition with other smalls.
The major challenge to effectively compete in today's environment is to communicate the unique capability that you, and only you, bring to the table. Know yourself first, then find the customer for whom you deliver a unique solution.
Hi, Anonymous -
Thanks for the comment. Yes, I agree. Having a unique offering that reflects your company's true strength is the key to differentiating yourself. I have seen small companies that claim expertise in way too many areas. The message behind this lack of focus is, "we'll do just about anything". Would you agree that there is a balance between "a tight focus' and flexibility, "responsiveness to the larger trends' but commitment to sticking with your real area of expertise? Easy to say, yet challenging to accomplish. But a necessary balance in the IC and DoD markets.
Wholeheartedly agree, Dan. Many small businesses are so eager to be all things to all people that their individuality gets lost. Another factor to be considered in striving to strike the right balance between focus and flexibility is the idea of risk. While the government sees the value of innovative solutions, the very qualities that make small companies agile also enhance the perception of risk. Not knowing what you do exceptionally well (and what your limitations are), only adds to this perception. Small business must do everything they can to minimize the connotation of risk. Flexibility can certainly be displayed without compromising focus on your company's core competencies. Small business could exhibit flexibility more as a mindset or attitude. Demonstrate agility in the creativity of their solutions and their positive approach toward change.
Dan: I agree with your comments, but just wanted to add that the updated message needs to be prominently displayed on-line as well as being included in the company's presentations. One excellent venue for posting such information is AFCEA International's Source Book, published both hard copy and on-line by SIGNAL Magazine. The on-line version is keyword searchable and available to the public at-large.(http://www.afcea.org/sourcebook/) The Source Book lists the capabilities statements and contact information of over 1700 corporate members of AFCEA International. It is frequently used by both industry and government to produce a "short list" of companies with a particular capability. This is a very valuable benefit of AFCEA corporate membership. I recommend small businesses that are not members seriously consider joining AFCEA to take advantage of this benefit, and that AFCEA member companies follow your guidance in crafting and updating their existing Source Book entries.
We are finding several disturbing trends with respect to small business participation in intelligence, especially open source intl. First, the consolidation of contracts leaves SBs at the mercy of the large companies. The government intel folks are not enforcing SB participation requirements so even if you are on a team, it does not translate into work.
Second, the use of GWACs and TOs means that SBs suffer because they don't have the capability to keep a deep bench to respond to a 5 day TO request.
Third, super clearances are being required for non-classified work because of the desire to co-locate analyst and info finder.
These are very discouraging trends and are going to create another mind lock-step approach in the future, similar to what led to 9/11 intel failures. SB bring innnovation and new thinking to the game and we are being locked out.
Anon - Regarding being locked out, your comments get to the heart of "post-award" success for the small business services firm. The way I view is it this: the small business needs to out-think and out-maneuver the large business; here are my (admittedly, "easy to say, hard to accomplish') tips: A) don't enter a bid and teaming arrangement believing someone owes you something, at least until you've earned your seat on the team; B) add value to your prime without selling your corporate soul; C) when a prime prefers to control the team members, heavily target a related or tangential account/agency that allows full leverage of your skills & experience, but in a different organization; and D) train your delivery managers to hunt down or even think-up unique task orders or solutions that can only be fulfilled by your firm. These nuances require more intellect than just waiting around for the bluebird that may never come. What have I missed here? & I am sure there are others&
A very good discussion and absolutely correct - find a niche performance area, do it very well, get some good past performance and demonstrate how you can support the change that is transforming the Federal business landscape. The ability to integrate into the Net 2.0/SOA/Cloud Computing environment is a huge discriminators. Do the jobs no one else wants to do and do them well. Anyone can put buts in seats...