Many of the challenges facing the federal government and private industry require comprehensive, wide-ranging solutions. Contractors must provide a broad portfolio of capabilities and relevant past performance to successfully deliver solutions to complex business and technology initiatives.
However, for small and mid-sized contractors, large-scale projects cannot be undertaken alone. Lack of relevant past performance, capability gaps, or an inability to adequately staff large engagements make it impossible to compete for high-value opportunities with broad scopes. These contractors must look to partners to create a team capable of delivering value to customers.
What qualities should contractors look for in a partner?
Past Performance, Relevant Performance, and Company Culture
On any engagement, contractors should emphasize three qualities in any potential partner: past performance, relevant performance, and company culture.
Regardless of the size, scope, and type of work being pursued, these criteria can help contractors find partners that are capable of effectively delivering a specific capability, have the industry-and-customer-specific knowledge needed to craft an engaging proposal and solution, and possess a company culture that aligns with the contractor’s values, goals, attitudes, and practices to ensure a synergistic relationship exists throughout the lifecycle of an engagement.
Satisfy key evaluation criteria
Past performance serves as one of the key evaluation criteria customers look for in a contractor. Virtually every competitive solicitation requires interested vendors to provide past performance data to ensure that companies have the experience and wherewithal to provide a solution.
For contractors lacking the necessary past performance to competitively bid on an opportunity, partnering can be an effective tool for creating a team that satisfies past performance requirements and demonstrates to the customer that the team has proven experience delivering qualities solutions.
Effectively deliver a specific capability
While evaluating potential partners’ past performance is essential to creating a competitive team, it also serves as a key indicator to contractors that the partner has successfully delivered tangible value and specific capabilities. Contractors should avoid partners that tout specific capabilities but have no clear evidence of effective delivery.
While past performance serves to demonstrate a company’s ability to deliver effective solutions to customers, relevant performance focuses on industry-and-customer-specific knowledge that can give teams a competitive edge when bidding work. From strategic capture to solution design, relevant experience with a customer allows teams to leverage insight and connections to craft a proposal and solution that resonates with the customer.
This is an essential criterion for contractors to consider specifically when they do not possess existing relationships with or insights into a customer or opportunity – the likelihood of winning work without either of these is very low. It is safe to assume that in one way or another, opportunities are being shaped by interested vendors.
Align values, goals, attitudes, and practices
Even if a potential partner possesses adequate past performance and relevant experience, company culture will ultimately determine the success or failure of a partnership. It is critical to look for partners that hold similar values, goals, attitudes, and practices in order to establish a team with a single approach and vision for an engagement. Some companies are unwilling to adapt their practices and approaches for the benefit of the team, choosing instead to stick to rigid business practices and attitudes that don’t align to the team.
Some core elements of a company’s culture to look for include:
In any partnership, companies will have to consistently work together in order to deliver value to a customer – without agreement on core principles and practices, progress can be derailed and could lead to failure, posing a massive risk to the reputation and livelihood of a company. Divergent company cultures may not become apparent until an engagement is underway, making it essential to evaluate before entering into a partnership.
Create a synergistic relationship between contractor and partner(s)
Companies that share core values, goals, attitudes, and practices are typically effective partners. Without existential disagreements on core practices and principles, teams can focus on creating and delivering effective solutions. Challenges can be addressed with a singular approach and attitude, and the team can seamlessly adapt to changing customer requirements with innovative solutions.
For small and mid-sized contractors, partnering can alleviate the lack of relevant past performance, capability gaps, and resources needed to pursue large-scale engagements. Regardless of the size, scope, and type of work being pursued, contractors should use three criteria to evaluate any potential partner: past performance, relevant performance, and company culture. These criteria can help contractors find partners that are capable of effectively delivering a specific capability, have the industry-and-customer-specific knowledge needed to craft an engaging proposal and solution, and possess a company culture that aligns with the contractor’s values, goals, attitudes, and practices to ensure a synergistic relationship exists throughout the lifecycle of an engagement.