How to work with Contract Officers this time of year
There is no other way to say this…our government budgets system is nuts. Totally bonkers! And that is my professional opinion. Federal Busy Season is Upon Us!! When I speak to teams and business owners about our budget, i.e. fiscal system, I often begin with a chuckle. Something like, this is not going to make any sense to normal people. It will especially drive business owner’s crazy. That said, don’t fight the system. Understand it and play by the rules. How to work with Contract Officers this time of year?
There are some key terms to understand, so let’s break them down. Obligate, commit, fund, and award. https://www.fai.gov/sites/default/files/pdfss/glossary.pdf On the other hand, disregard. Let’s just jump in with normal language. We all pay our taxes. We give our money to the federal government through the IRS. Our elected officials decide what important and where they want to spend our money. That budget is submitted by the President and approved by Congress. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but for our purposes those are the critical points. Also, remember our government has a different calendar than the rest of us. They operate from October through September (Federal Fiscal Year).
Government agencies to include military units must spend (obligate) their funding they got for the year by midnight on September 30 each year. https://www.usa.gov/budget If they do not spend their money, they get hammered. Here’s an analogy. Your child asks for $50 for a school project. After all the bills are paid, it only cost $10. Next semester, you spend-thrift kiddo comes back to ask for another $50 for the next project. You hesitate and challenge the request. The government does much the same. If an organization goes under budget, they will likely see a reduction in their budget next year. Money (budget) is power in federal government, so losing budget is a bad thing.
The result is a recipe for spending frenzies every summer. So much money is spent in August, July and September every year….every year....that it has a name. Busy Season. Federal Busy Season is Upon Us!! Other sales and business development people call it hunting season. I have known companies to open offices in Hawaii simply to extend the daylight hours of September 30th.
What can you do?
Welcome to Busy Season! Now, what do you do about it? Now is not necessarily the time to introduce yourself to Contracting Officers. That ship has sailed. At this time of year, they don’t have time for new people. This is the time to follow up with those you know.
Good morning ma’am, just a reminder I am a certified small business and willing to take on new work. Here is my capability statement.
Good afternoon sir, just wanted to check in and see if there is anything I can do for you. Here is my capability statement.
Understand and have empathy. For example, Contract Officers and Contract Specialists are under the gun this time of year to complete actions. They must get their unit’s funding obligated or they may lose their job. As good practice, remind them you exist but also remember that you will have to eventually complete the work you accept. Federal Busy Season is Upon Us!! Good luck and happy hunting!