TAA refers to the Trade Agreements Act of 1979, which impacts how the United States government does business with other countries–in effect, it actually implements provisions previously negotiated in the Trade Act of 1974.
What is the purpose of TAA?
Besides its most obvious purpose (implementation of the Trade Act) TAA is also intended to nurture free and open international trade, maintain a healthy balance of payments, ensure a substantial amount of US tax payers’ money goes back into the US economy thus providing the maximum benefit to US business owners, and stimulate economic development in underdeveloped countries, all while enforcing the standards that make it possible to do business with the federal government.
Which countries are TAA compliant?
Broadly, there are four types of countries on the TAA compliance list:
Countries with a free trade agreement with the United States (this includes Canada, Mexico, and Australia)
World Trade Organization Government Procurement Agreement (WTO GPA) participants, such as Japan
As of 2014, there are 119 TAA compliant countries:
TAA Compliance Country Chart (2014)
Why should I bother with TAA compliance?
A GSA schedule is the government’s preferred procurement vehicle, and being TAA compliant means you can focus on growing your business at home and abroad without worrying about losing that. It’s also a good way to ensure you still give back to country even as you explore new horizons!
Positioning for an opportunity starts months, sometimes years before an opportunity reaches the RFP stage. By the time something hits Fed Biz Ops, it is too late. You need to be in front of the right people with the right message early so they know you are serious about competing for the business. There are a few rules to follow when deciding to chase an opportunity:
Rule#1- If you didn’t influence the RFP, someone else did.
Rule#2- The larger the opportunity, the more influence you need. Be realistic about what you can win right now. Plan for competing for the larger contracts as you gain traction in an agency and have the connetivilty to affect the scope, requirements and certifications.
Rule#3- Cover as many of the decision makers as you can. Unlike commercial procurement, in most instances there are 3 key decision makers in each opportunity.
Contracting Officer– Job is to procure
Project Manager– Responsible for assembling requirements
Technical Representative– Responsible for bridging the gap with requirements and contracting. Every one of these people have different roles and different buying motives . Make sure your message is tailored appropriately.
So, you are monitoring NAICS for your company right? Well, it is a virtual certainty that you are missing some really lucrative opportunities. Let’s look at the top NAICS codes for tactical gear and see where it shows up…
336992 MILITARY ARMORED VEHICLE, TANK, AND TANK COMPONENT MANUFACTURING
315999 OTHER APPAREL ACCESSORIES AND OTHER APPAREL MANUFACTURING
922120 POLICE PROTECTION
Most tactical gear folks don’t even look at 336992 because they are not thinking of where the gear is being used. Also, take a look at 315999- this is an “other” category and there are several that are important in the tactical gear space. Take a look at the Excel file and click the “NAICS” tab. You will see that all three of these NAICS account for about 51% of the total spend ($5 Billion) but only 25% of the number of contracts.
This means that the other $5 Billion is split between 453 other NAICS codes like $58 Million in 561210 FACILITIES SUPPORT SERVICES and $27 Million in 315211 MEN’S AND BOYS’ CUT AND SEW APPAREL CONTRACTORS and most of these are less than $150k per contract. Now that is a sweet spot! How and why does this happen? It happens either because the contracting officer doesn’t know what to do with the opportunity or he/she has a preferred vendor and doesn’t want 25 responses (especially for smaller projects). Either way, it is benefitting a select few federal vendors and you are not one of them. NAICS anomalies happen in every area of the federal government in every industry because it helps minimize the competition. Your best customer doesn’t want 25 responses any more than you want 25 competitors. Take a look at your competition (see pages 56, 60, 67 for their NAICS wins) and then you can understand how you can do it too! NAICS Myth: BUSTED
Take a look at page 5 of the PDF file above. You will see that 78% of all of the contracts were competed between 5 companies. That means nearly $8.5 Billion of tactical sales only had 4 competitors. In fact, nearly half – 47% had no competition at all (see page 28) and $6.5 Billion went to companies who enjoyed NO competition at all. Take a look at this intelligence sample for tactical gear. Nearly 15,000 contracts in that specific market alone. Over $10 Billion in total sales. How does this happen? Who is responsible for these 15,000 contracts? That is the real question. Take a look at the sample intelligence surrounding these contracts and the 700 contacts responsible for executing most of the $10 Billion in tactical gear sales. This is typical throughout the federal marketplace. With the exception of certain types of construction, competition for most opportunities is less than 5 companies.
If you go to www.fedbizopps.gov you will find around 19,000 opportunities. Huge, right? Look closer… those 19,000 are categorized in one of the following: Presolicitation, Combines Synopsis Solicitation, Sources Sought, Modification, Sale of Surplus Property, Special Notice, Foreign Government Standard, Award Notice, Justification and Approval, Intent to Bundle Requirements.
If you search all opportunities in the past 365 days, you will see that only 196,564 actually were posted. Let’s look closer… 74,426 were not even real opportunities (Presolicitaions, Sources Sought, Canceled etc.). That isn’t all… When you consider some were not awarded at all and about 80% of RFP’s are so heavily influenced by industry (winnable only by the contractor who assisted in writing the scope), that leaves about 3,000 opportunities per month – Nationwide across all industries. That is why most companies think there is too much competition – and they are right if FBO is your source.
Last year according to isiFederal Intelligence research, 2,623,071 contracts were awarded last year with 218,589 contracts being executed every single month (now that is more like it). That means only about 4.5% of opportunities actually hit the street on FedBizOpps and most of them are already baked for the competition.
We are all looking for ways to get ahead of the RFP and not be reactive to bids and opportunity databases can help us know what contracts are expiring and give us enough time to get in front of the key decision makers often a year or two in advance of the recompete. Recently I have been having a lot of discussions with folks who are looking into the opportunity databases like Deltek (now GovWin), Centurion and Bloomberg.
This is important because without some pre-proposal insight, it is often too late to have any influence or really understand the requirement fully once the opportunity hits the street. We have a rule around here, if we didn’t influence the scope, somebody else did. Sometimes that is the incumbent, sometimes it is a new player and if you have some connectivity beforehand, you can be that new player. The key is to focus on the people with decision making authority and influence.
Several of our clients have databases and monitor for opportunities. Here is the main issue they find… all of the databases concentrate on opportunities that are $500k and above AND once it hits the database radar, they let everyone know and because of the threshold. Now the big boys are paying attention and those big boys are well entrenched and have a lot more resources than most of my clients. This does not excite me.
Whenever I use any kind of analysis tool I like to look at what I call “feeders”. Using construction as an example, look at the food chain of a construction project. It starts with planning, surveying and permitting – then architects and environmental engineers – then GC’s and specialty trades – then maintenance and grounds keeping. The person responsible for the build is often the same person who starts the planning and permitting. Get to them and you not only know of an opportunity way before everyone else, you can often influence the next phase of the process.
This works in almost all industries. A few years ago we began doing market research for clients to find the “under the radar” contracts and contacts associated with those contracts. It was a pretty cool expedition and we learned a whole lot in the process. We did research for industrial battery company and used pallets as a feeder because if a customer has pallets, they need a fork lift and half of the forklifts use batteries. This gave us hundreds of buyers that would never show up on FBO or even the individual agency monitoring sites.
If you want to see how it works, you can find samples here:
Now, this is a different approach than a bid database because it revolves around people instead of opportunities. If you know who the people are, then you proactively go after those buyers and PMs as you would any strategic account. A byproduct of this approach is identifying the firms/primes that are winning. Who could possibly be a better referral source than the federal buyer or PM who refers you to the company PM? It is a beautiful thing when you bypass all the vendor databases and get to the PM of the prime for the project. At least you have the chance to be on the short list…
What I like most is identifying the key contacts of the competitors so I can target them directly. Since most of the accounts are at risk at some point, being in front of the right people makes all the difference.
I was looking through a recent construction association magazine about how bidding competition is off the charts in just about every construction field. Construction companies that were up against 4 or 5 bidders two years ago are now bidding against 25, 30 even 50 competitors today. Some of the construction folks I met with last week are seeing larger competitors try to make up for lost revenues by competing in new or smaller markets.
85% of federal opportunities have less than 4 competitors…
We recently compiled a federal intelligence report for our utility construction client located on the east coast… Over the past two years $3.9 Billion was spent with contractors on various forms of utility construction for the federal government and ¼ of the opportunities had only ONE response. 85% of the 11657 of the contracts awarded had less than 4 responses. That’s $2.7 B in awards that had less than 4 competitors.
Big successes for Small Businesses…
The largest “Small Business” contract discovered through intelligence was awarded in November of 2009 for a water and sewer project in New Orleans. The contract was won by Pennsylvania’s DV & Associates $31,186,659.20 and – get this – they are being paid in progress payments for percentage of completion. This helps offset bonding requirements and keep cash flow high. Even in this opportunity – only 9 offers were received.
Road and Roof Construction from Virginia landed over $25M in bite size chunks averaging $46k per job. TP Enterprises, Inc from Oklahoma won $14.5M, Sabre Communications Corp out of Iowa banked over $4.2M and has seven more zero dollar contracts that will help them minimize their competition over the next several years. This is great work at a great time and with minimal competition, is absolutely winnable.
More information from this Construction Intelligence:
Federal spending spikes 350% in September
Average contract size for utility work $413k
395 contracts for $321M were solicited to Small Businesses and No Responses were received
1569 contracts for $228M were solicited to Disadvantaged Businesses and No responses
1308 contracts for $556M were not solicited to Small Disadvantaged Business because the contracting officer didn’t know of one.
Dispelling the Federal Myth…
True, the federal space is confusing and time consuming. That is no different than when you got into business in the first place. There are three things you need to make your federal strategy successful:
1) If you rethink your timetable for return on investment. Turn your 1 year goal into a 3 year goal.
2) Find out what works. If other companies in your space are doing it, you can too. Learn how they are doing it and do what they do.
3) Build relationships with the right people. People buy from people, even in the government, and relationships trump check boxes every single time. That is how the big boys win and how the small businesses explode. Triple Canopy started in 2003 and have since sold over $1B to the government.
4) Understand the procurement process. Every agency is different, every sub agency has its nuances, and every person has their own buying motives.
5) Dedicate resources. You need to be face to face with decision makers.
Want to get smart about your federal market?
“Last year I was looking for ways to find high probability targets. isiFederal provided exactly what we needed and now we are gaining access to opportunities that we would never have seen. The fact that they are in DC every day make all the difference in building relationships at the right level.”
Brendan Skelly, President LINQ Services, Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Initial Intelligence $299
This is our most introductory report. It will answer the underlying question of most business owners… Is there my kind of work out there? We can tell you for sure if there is enough activity for your offerings before you spend thousands trying to find it.
Find out where the federal market is for your services
Competition and Award report for your product or service offering
Identify Top Purchasing Agencies that are spending money now
Contact and Competitive Intelligence $3,000.00 Click here for Sample Excel.
This is our most popular report because it gives you competitive information and contact information –including e-mails – for who is responsible for spending the money. If you want to be considered for business in September, you need to be in front of federal decision makers by the end of July.
Identify Purchasing Agencies currently using your products and services
Identify and Verify Contracting Officers (with contact information)
Complete list of all competitors, who bought from them and how much they got paid
Identify Top Purchasing Agencies
Identify Top Contracting Offices
Identify Top NAICS
Breakdown by PSC
Action plan for pursuit
*This report takes 12 business days to complete.
Get your Federal Strategy started. Call 888-9-GET-isi.
The recently approved WOSB (Women-Owned Small Business) or as it is commonly being referred to 8m (gotta love the irony with that one huh?) is presenting some opportunities – but not the way you think. If you are expecting a real initiative with teeth, like the 8(a) program, chances are you will be waiting for a while. It will take years for the program to get up to speed, gain momentum and start carrying the political clout needed for real change.
So Should You Just Ignore It?
No way. Now is the time of real opportunity, to get in front of the line, to help mold the program and benefit from it TODAY. Don’t wait for the Contracting Officer (CO) to do it –- take it to them. This program can be VERY effective for you and a couple of your competitors.
Why in the World Would You Help Your Competitors?
Because it makes perfect sense.
If you can play nice in the sandbox with 2 or 3 competitors, you can request that the CO set opportunities of up to $5 Million in Manufacturing or $3 Million for other contracts where they will have at least two qualified submittals. Is this good for you? You bet- because it never sees the light of day for full and open competition. So why should the CO care? Do you think he or she wants 20-30 submittals any more than you want 20-30 competitors? No way. What’s in it for them is their job is done easier, faster and, oh by the way, that might even feel good about being the first to write a WOSB contract.
Now couldn’t be a better time.
Why? Because you can self register as a WOSB.
The 8m program is limited in its application for set-asides. We have identified the 83 industry areas wither the federal government has issued either underrepresented or substantially underrepresented by WOSB.