Government Contracting Trends: Fifty Years in Review

government contracts jay newkirk leadership how to win a government contractI have been in the government support services business for most of my career, going all the way back to the NASA Apollo Program. Now, some 50 years later, I’m still engaged in doing business with the federal government. I’m currently part owner of a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) leading marketing and new business development.

Working for this many years in the government contracting environment has provided me with rare insight into how the environment has both changed and, in some ways, stayed the same over time.

In my blogs I share my guidance on successful business growth in the current government contracting space by pulling from experiences I gained while growing a government technology support services company from three of us to over a thousand people in 12 years back in the 1990s.

I’m sharing this experience in the blogs and in a book overlaying the guidance with short truisms that I’ve coined “the pearls of business.” What I’ve been doing lately is assessing how my “pearls of business” guidance has had to change over the years as the government contracting environment has evolved.

The most prevalent and overarching changes include:

  1. A larger base of competitive contractors.
  2. Younger entrepreneurs launching companies.
  3. Tighter government contracting budgets.
  4. Government contract proposal evaluators focusing on price.
  5. Large companies teaming with small companies more frequently.
  6. Large businesses and small businesses forming joint ventures.  

I’ve adjusted my advice and guidance to take into account these environmental changes. I’ve noticed that the expanded competitive base leads to more focused “competitive analysis” on RFP responses. Given the emerging younger leadership teams, success requires understanding today’s work environment and flexibility expectations. While tighter budgets and pricing focus have been there all along, it’s even more important to perform diligent pre-RFP analysis of a client’s funding levels and their award history relative to pricing. And, finally, since there is more teaming and joint venturing, developing strong team assessment processes is critical.

So, what hasn’t changed? In my counseling over the years I’ve focused on overlaying everything you do as a business leader with what I’ve termed the “human element.” While the company’s operational and tactical activity is ongoing the one critical common denominator is that people are carrying it all out.

That means you don’t tell people what to do, you tell them what outcome you want and when you want it—and get out of their way. You create a positive work environment focused on helping the employees gain important experience that is moving them closer to their career goals which will lead to the company achieving its ultimate objective. 

How about you? What trends have you seen emerge in the government contracting environment? Feel free to share in the comments below.