“Small businesses that are looking to be subcontractors to larger prime contractors should ‘focus on the need of the customer, and then the relationship with the prime contractor will fall into place,’ said Frank Backes, CEO of Colorado Springs-based Braxton Technologies.”
Relationships key when forming a team to land military contracts, forum says
November 04, 2010 3:58 PM
Forming a team to bid on a military contract is a lot like dating — the partners must be compatible, according to members of a panel of small businesses and prime contractors at Thursday’s Southern Colorado Government Contracting Forum.
Small businesses that are looking to be subcontractors to larger prime contractors should “focus on the need of the customer, and then the relationship with the prime contractor will fall into place,” said Frank Backes, CEO of Colorado Springs-based Braxton Technologies.
Backes was among four panelists at the forum, hosted at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort by Vectra Bank Colorado, Holland & Hart and Stockman Kast Ryan & Co.
“It is like a dating relationship, but it can last for three to five years or even longer,” Backes said. “The small business has to differentiate what it brings to the table. You need to look for weaknesses in the prime contractor and see where you fit best, so you can deal from a position of power.
“Start your marketing effort with the customer, so when you talk to a prime contractor you can tell them you have already met with the customer and they know your capability.”
Colorado Springs is a small enough city that contractors should never burn bridges, because you might end up later joining a team that includes a company with which you had a previous bad experience, said Dan Simek, executive managing partner of Tactical Networks Integration. Subcontractors should exercise caution when picking potential partners, investigating proposed payment provisions to ensure fairness for both partners, he said.
Prime contractors generally look for subcontractors to provide specialized expertise or products that they could not offer themselves, said Gary Henry, vice president of operations and strategy for McNew & Associates and a former executive for defense giant ITT. Prime contractors also are putting more emphasis on pricing and checking out the finances of their subcontractors, he said.
The roles of all team members should be spelled out in an agreement or memorandum of understanding before any bid is made, said Gayle White, engineering and technologies director for information technology giant Computer Sciences. Potential subcontractors also should make sure that prime contractors know their capabilities so they will be considered when teams are being formed for a potential contract bid, he said.