Articles in Category: Teaming


Teaming, Prime, and Subcontracting Articles
Articles outlining techniques, strategies, and lesson's learned about how to prime, subcontract and team on federal opportunities. The articles in this category provide background, discussion, and recommendations for entrpreneurs and small business owners. 

RSS-OffSubscribe To The RSM Federal Blog Feed
To add RSM Federal's blog to your current list of feeds, please click the feed button on the left for up to date feed content.

How Important Is Your Website To Teaming Partners?

on Thursday, 04 June 2015. Posted in Teaming

Many companies don't realize that their first government contract win will more than likely come from teaming. In fact, after speaking to literally thousands of government contracts, we estimate that nearly 90% of companies get their first contract as a subcontractor on a team. But that it just the beginning. A solid Programmatic Teaming Strategy (PTS) will easily increase your qualified opportunities by 400% or greater. The challenge for many companies is that they underestimate how teaming partners evaluate their capabilities, competencies, and value to the team.

For this piece, I want to focus on one of the more overlooked areas when it comes to teaming; your WEBSITE! How important do you think your website is when potential partners are evaluating your company? My guess is that you underestimate your website value to teaming. The first thing that you need to understand is that large companies evaluate dozens if not hundreds of companies each year. That's right, hundreds... And one of the fastest ways to scratch a company off their list and reduce their workload is by spotting an unprofessional website.

I recently conducted a test of government contractors in SAM (System for Award Management) and found that over 50% of the companies I reviewed had less than professional websites. So what does an unprofessional website look like? They typically wreak of the 90's. You know what I'm talking about. A frames based website with simple text links or worse, a great big image or flash video that takes forever to load and covers-up the entire page. But the real sign of a bad website is something that hasn't been updated in months or even years. I found one website that was last updated in 2009. That gives a bad impression to any company that visits. The ultimate "fail" is when you try to visit a company website and it doesn't exist anymore or it's been moved.

If you happen to make the cut past their initial review, here are the following things that MUST be on your site in order to be considered for the next step in the teaming process.

1.  Are your core competencies listed and easy to find? I heard a great quote at a recent conference. The quote was, "If it doesn't say it, it doesn't say it". What do I mean by that? You can't assume that your website says stuff that it doesn't. You can't simply imply that you provide a service or elude to what your competencies are. You have to SPELL IT OUT and make it crystal clear. As my dad used to say, "it has to be clear enough for a blind man to see it."

2.  Do your core competencies match what you have told them? I can't tell you how many times we speak to a partner and they say something is their competency, but it's not listed anywhere on their website. In fact, a lot of times, there's nothing even close to what they told us on their website. It's great to be able to talk a good game, but 1. NEVER embellish on what your capabilities are if you can't back it up and 2. You MUST be great at capturing your competencies and past performance through a process we call competency-mapping. This is the only way to make sure you clearly communicate your value to the team.

3.  Do you appear as a jack-of-all-trades or a Subject Matter Expert? The only thing worse than not capturing your core competencies is capturing everything you have ever done. Appearing to be a jack-of-all-trades is often a quick way to get booted from a potential team. It communicates that you only MAYBE have the skills to perform on a contract and MAYBE is not the name of the game. What you want in this situation is to appear as a Subject Matter Expert or SME. An SME understands the client, the market, and product or service that the client is looking for. Think of it this way, if you need a brain surgeon, you don't want a general practitioner cutting you open do you? I know that's a crude example, but it's a simple one. Also, if I'm in need of a brain surgeon and I do my research on them and their website doesn't say BRAIN SURGEON, I'm probably going to move on to the next guy on my list. As an SME, your website should be full of content and screams you are an SME in your field, industry, and core competencies. In fact, one of the best ways to demonstrate this is to approach this as a thought leader. Thought leaders are experts who continually create articles, books, materials, and other evidence that they are experts in their field.

4.  Do you have a government landing page? I know this one seems obvious, but I run across a lot of companies that are government contractors that don't have a government landing page. Remember that website study I referenced above that I conducted through SAM? During that study I found that only 20% of the companies I researched had a government landing page. Make it easy for potential partners and clients to understand that you work with the government by having a simple government landing page (I suggest one of your main tabs). The key pieces that should be on your government landing page are: Your Capabilities Statement, an overview / narrative of what you do and who you serve, a detailed listing of your core competencies, your NAICS codes, PSC codes, CAGE code, DUNS Number, a listing of your contract vehicles, and contact information.

5.  Capabilities Statement - Many companies have this information listed as text on the page and while that is great, I highly suggest you put a PDF of your Capabilities Statement on your government landing page. The reason is that it just makes it easy for teaming partners and contracting officers to download, printout, or email.

These key items will make a massive difference next time your company is being evaluated as a teaming partner. If you have any questions about the quality, professionalism, and effectiveness of your website or government landing page, please reach out to me directly and schedule a website review. I'll give you honest and objective feedback that will help you make a better impression on the web. Just email me at

Also, if you are a Federal Access Member, please check out the video on Government Landing Pages in the Video Library.


Michael LeJeune is a Senior Consultant and the Federal Access Program Manager at RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that helps businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to winning government contracts. For more information, videos, and contact information, please visit

14 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Teaming on Government Contracts

on Tuesday, 24 June 2014. Posted in Techniques & Strategies, Teaming

One of the first lessons you will learn in government contracting is that most companies win their first contract as a subcontractor to a larger "Prime" contractor. The initial reasoning behind this is that the larger Prime has a track record of past performance, more resources than you, and occasionally has a foot in the door of the client you want to work with. That said, at some point, you will want to be the Prime and you will need to research teaming partners. While this article focuses mainly on you as the Prime, all of these questions are relevant to ask anytime you are approached about teaming in any capacity.

Companies "team" and subcontract with other companies for several reasons. They team to be more competitive. They team to gain access to a specific market, agency, or armed service that they don't have the bandwidth to engage on their own or the business intelligence necessary to be competitive. When looking for a teaming partner, the larger Prime is looking for a company(s) that brings a competitive edge that is not organic to their company. The ideal programmatic teaming strategy helps both companies increase the number of pipeline opportunities and on occasion, enlists their teaming partners to do the lion's-share of the work on a given proposal.

The simple fact is that teaming is a great way to boost your companies opportunities and competitive edge in the marketplace. However, in its simplest form, you're building a relationship. And every relationship deserves some research and due diligence to make sure you are getting as much value from the relationship as possible as well as providing value to your partner.

The following are questions you should ask yourself before teaming on a government contract with a potential partner. Not asking these questions can lead to choosing the wrong partner, wasting valuable time, energy, and resources, as well as ultimately not winning contracts. So take our advice and ask these questions upfront to make sure you have the best teaming strategy possible.

1. Is their website professional? (if not. . . or no website. . . I wouldn't subcontract with them) Their website doesn't have to be the best one you've ever seen. It just needs to be professionally put together and something that you are going to be comfortable sharing with your potential clients. After all, this company is going to be your partner and your clients are going to Google them and look for a website. If their website is not up to your specifications, ask them if they are willing to make some changes. If they say yes and they are willing to make the changes quickly, you may still want to consider them as a partner.

2. Do they have a professional email? (no Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) One of the quickest ways to discover that someone is not serious about their business is to exchange email addresses with them. In this day and age, a domain and email support will cost the average company less than $100 per year, per employee. This is a minor investment that any worthy partner should be making.

3. Size of company? Judgment call - but ensure they have the necessary resources. The last thing you want is to win a contract and not be able to perform the work due to your partner's lack of resources. So make sure they have the staff to do the job you are asking them to do in order to win the contract. This applies to small and large companies. If you are dealing with a small division of a large company, they may not have the resources you need to do the work, but should be able to get the proper resources. In any case, ensure that your partner is able to meet the demand of your contract or easily scale up to meet the requirements.

4. Better Business Bureau? The first thing you do is check to see if they have a rating. If they have a rating, what is it? If they have complaints, were they resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant? They may have several complaints, but this could be normal for their industry. For example, construction companies and auto mechanics often have several complaints. It's the nature of their business. You want to know if the issues are being resolved and if they are in good standing with the BBB. Go to for more information.

5. Google the company for legal and other financial actions. When you search, use the company's name and the name of the CEO or top leader in conjunction with keywords including "rip-off report" "scams" and "complaints." The reason you search by CEO or the name of the top leader is because scam artists and unethical business folks will often spin-up new companies to create a company with no complaints.

6. LinkedIn Profile? Does the company owner or your point of contact have a profile? Review it. When reviewing a profile, look at their job history, any attachments, publications, and recommendations. This information will not only give you some insights into the company and individual you are speaking with, it will also allow you to get to know them and build your relationship. Last but not least, send a custom invite to connect.

7. Are they responsive? One example, you've contacted them to discuss an opportunity that you've qualified and you've communicated strong differentiation providing competitive advantage. Do they respond to your email and calls the same day or does it take them 48 to 72 hours to respond? Is their response professional? There's an old saying that I like to think of here, "How it begins, is how it ends". If your potential teaming partner isn't responsive in the beginning, you can count on them acting this way at some point during the proposal phase and on award, during contract execution. A lack of responsiveness is a recipe for disaster.

8. Have they provided this service before? (i.e. do they have past performance and expertise?) Specifically ask them for details on similar contracts they've supported during the last three years. When looking at past performance, you want to review case studies or information that relates directly to the potential contract you are looking to bid on. It's not good enough if they did something similar that "should" translate to the work on this new contract. You are looking for relevant and specific information that is a match to your opportunity.

9. Professionalism, Licenses, and Certifications? If the level of support you need them to provide is commonly performed by individuals with specific certifications, how many of their employees that will be subcontracting to you have those certifications or licenses? If just one. . . you'll want to be very detailed when you ask about self-performing in question 10. Make sure that your potential partner can produce the necessary documentation for their licenses or certifications. You typically don't need these upfront, but simply need to ask if they are able to produce documentation upon request for your client.

10. Do they have the personnel and will they self-perform? This is an important question! Many companies don't keep employees "on the bench" where they are non-billable, waiting for the next contract to come in. Are you okay with them signing your subcontracting agreement and then going to Monster or a recruiter to find the labor they need to fulfill the contract? Depending on your products, services, and the market, this may not be something you're willing to risk. So, if you subcontract work to another company because of they have the expertise, then you are assuming they will be using in-house employees to fulfill the contract. If not, you're running a serious risk. No right answer but you want to take this into account.

11. Business insurance and do they need to be bonded? They should have basic business insurance and if you need them to be bonded, double-check and ask them. You don't want a claim from the client and since your subcontractor isn't bonded, your insurance ends up having to pay for it. In this case, your subcontractor is not "sharing the risk" and you will be paying for their mistake or accident when your company has to pay higher rates. In many cases, a simple umbrella policy can cover all the insurance needs on your contract. If your teaming partner does not have this, ask them to purchase it and provide you with the documentation.

12. Would you trust this company to abide by your subcontractor agreement? (e.g. if you told them not to speak with the client other than to perform what you've asked them to. . . can you trust them not to attempt to steal future business?) This is often a gut feeling and will be based on your first few conversations with your partner. You've probably heard the old saying, "Loose lips sink ships". Be aware of the type of information that your partner shares with you in those first few meetings. If they only share relevant information or ask for an NDA to disclose business practices, the odds are that they are trustworthy. However, if they are very open to sharing "confidential" information with you or share too much information (TMI) about projects, you had better beware.

13. Is this Company the best fit for you? When you team with another company, one of the worst things you can do is change your teaming partners after an agreement is signed – so make sure this is the company you want to work with. For subcontracting, once they're onsite, you're stuck with them absent changing your subcontractor(s) in the middle of a project. So when you are evaluating potential teaming partners, it's best to do your research and interview multiple companies. Your mindset should be a long-term relationship and not just your next project. This leads into question 14.

14. What does your gut tell you? Really. I can ask all of these questions, receive solid and positive responses to all of them, and still sense something is wrong. This comes with experience. If you hear alarm bells - don't discount them. At the end of the day, this potential partner has the ability to add to or subtract from your income based on their performance. They also have the ability to help you sleep at night or cause many sleepless nights worrying about them. Take your time and weigh their answers appropriately. And last but not least, if there's something bothering you about the company that you can't put your finger on, why take the risk? Walk away.

If you like this article or have additional feedback or strategies that you would like to share with us and our network, we invite you to leave a comment below. Also check out our Digital Library where you will find additional information on teaming, teaming agreements, and other valuable templates that you can customize and use right away for your business.


Joshua Frank is a Principal of RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that helps businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to winning government contracts. For more information, videos, and contact information on RSM Federal, please visit   

5 Key Lessons - Teaming on Contracts

on Monday, 13 May 2013. Posted in Teaming

One of the more difficult challenges for entrepreneurs and small businesses is understanding what is or is not acceptable when teaming with other companies. Both startups and mature small businesses fall into some these traps. If you any questions, just let me know.

1. Never back out. Once you commit to teaming with another company, you have an ethical and professional obligation to support the team. We've worked with hundreds of companies and there are always several that say, "I'm so sorry, but I have to put out a fire on an existing contract," or "Something came up and I hate to do this, but we're going to have to drop off the team," or "We just won't be able to support like you need us to so this will protect the interests of the team." No - it won't protect the interests of the team. The team is already in proposal mode and the other companies they could bring on the team are already on another team. The company priming the effort will tell other companies that your company can't be trusted or relied upon. There is no faster way to destroy the reputation of your company and be black-balled across your entire industry. I'm not kidding. Backing out of a team after it hits the proposal phase will harm your company for years to come. Decide carefully if you want to join a team and after you join - support it! 

2. Actively support the strategy and proposal process. If the prime (company leading the team) doesn't seek your support, provide it anyway! Actively support the strategy sessions and if the meetings are face to face, whenever possible, attend them. It's basic human perception. The more you participate, the more likely the prime will appreciate your help and this is what drives revenue for your company. How so? There are many teams that win a contract where several companies on the team fail to make a single penny! Really. These companies helped the team win with past performance and expertise, but the prime makes the final decision on which companies get work on the contract. Most of the time, if you are on a team and fail to proactively support, you may find yourself on a winning team. . . and no revenue. 

3. Sign a Teaming Agreement. We're still amazed at how many companies agree to join a team, spend countless hours supporting the team, the strategy discussions, and the proposal process, yet have no formal agreement. A teaming agreement protects your company. It protects your time, resources, and money. For example, you've joined a team because a colleague recommended you to the prime. The prime is very excited to have you on board and tells you, "You will be responsible for these products or services when we win the contract." What you don't realize is that one of your competitors approached the prime and will provide the same products you sell for 25% less. The prime has already submitted the proposal to the government. If your team wins the contract, the prime has no legal requirement to provide you work and you have no legal recourse if they bring on your competitor. So the prime leaves you on the team, you receive no work or revenue, your competitor get's all the work and the prime increased their margins by 25%. The prime will consider that an excellent trade-off. No, it's not ethical but it's your fault. We don't condone this situation but being forewarned is forearmed. 

4. Understand how teams manage pricing and bids. In a nutshell, if you join a team in order to provide specific products or services, remember that you are a subcontractor and that the prime will add a margin to your products or services. In many situations, you will find that if you normally bid $100 for a product or service, the prime recognizes this is a competitive price and if they tack on margin, the team may no longer be competitive on price. So what happens? The prime says to you, "I understand you normally charge $100 but to be competitive, you have to give us $95." The prime will still bid $100 to the government but take that $5 margin. While this happens on a regular basis with product, it's even more prevalent with services. The prime knows what bill rate will create competitive advantage and often times simply identifies what they want their margins to be. Before even talking to you, they may decide that they want to bid $100 and take $20 on every hour. So they'll say to you, "If you want to be on our team, we can afford to pay you $80 an hour. You will never know what they will bid to the government. As a subcontractor, the prime won't show it to you. This is why you always negotiate your product costs and bill rates. Remember, as the subcontractor, you have little leverage so you negotiate and either take it or find another team. Don't forget to get a teaming agreement signed after you finish negotiating. Many primes will tell you not to worry about it. Really? See number 3 above. 

5. Understand what companies look for when they evaluate your company. There are five functional areas which most companies use to evaluate small business. These five are market acumen, back office maturity, your competencies, quid-pro-quo, and acquisition differentiators. All of these are outlined in detail in The Government Sales Manual. For this article, we'll touch on several of the evaluators for back-office maturity. One of the most important is whether you have investment potential - do you have the time and will you spend the time supporting the team. See number 2 above. They will look at your website and see if it's professional. Does your website list your NAICS codes? Does your company have a good reputation? Do you have competitive pricing? What is your teaming maturity? These are just a few of the questions they will seek to answer. What if you don't have a website? Get one. You can get a website for just a couple hundred dollars for an entire year. Finally, and this is not just for teaming - you need a professional email domain. We're still shocked when companies reach out to RSM Federal to team on various government acquisitions. We've actually been contacted by these email addresses: HotPanties115@, DirectTechnology@; and DataDigitalSolutions@ As you guessed, we deleted the email from HotPanties and never teamed with the other two companies. If you can't make the effort to get a professional email, you have failed to convince us that you are mature enough to be a member of the team. Make the effort. Spend a couple bucks. Look professional. This is part of what primes look for when deciding to bring other companies onto the team.


Joshua P. Frank is Principal and owner of RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that represents small and large businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to win government contracts. For more information and videos about RSM Federal, please visit

Proposal Screening and Pricing

on Thursday, 11 April 2013. Posted in Teaming

Are You Talking To A Potential Competitor?

Most businesses understand the basics of being a Prime or a Subcontractor when responding to a government Request For Proposal (RFP) or Request For Quote (RFQ).  As prime, you submit the proposal and if awarded, your company receives the award.  You may have one or more companies (subcontractors) who work for you on the project.  As a subcontractor, you are a member of a team and work for the prime who is awarded the contract.  Most companies understand the basics.

Two weeks ago, I was on a conference call with a media organization that provides federal radio advertising on government radio stations.  What transpired was troubling and while it was legal, it was highly unethical. More important, the situation discussed below educated the prime on what questions you must ask other companies when you obtain pricing.

RSM Federal is on a team responding to a federal agency RFP. Because the RFP requires purchase of radio ads on specific radio stations, every company responding to the RFP had to call the radio station to get pricing. To broaden this concept, if it were a technology RFP, you might call Oracle to get pricing on a database license; or if the RFP asks for kitchen exhaust hoods in addition to cleaning services, you may provide the hoods, but you may need to subcontract to a cleaning company and obtain pricing for their cleaning detergents.  In this case, it's obtaining pricing for on-air time slots.  Our team is a strategic marketing  and advertising team - not a radio station. Every company that wants to respond to the RFP has to call the station for pricing.

This led to a conference call. Throughout the call, the employee for the radio station was answering questions but didn't seem to be providing complete answers. It felt as if she were holding back information. So I asked the following questions:

  1. Are you providing the same pricing to every company that calls you and if not, how do we obtain preferred pricing?
  2. Are you, as a radio station planning to subcontract or prime this opportunity?
  3. If you are planning to prime, is our team obtaining the same or better pricing?
  4. If you are planning to prime, are you running a screen?

She would not confirm that they were providing the same pricing to all companies or if there was preferred pricing. When asked directly, she confirmed that the radio station was in fact planning to respond to the RFP as a prime.  Finally, she would not verify if the pricing given to our team was competitive (the same) as what the radio station was going to quote themselves. In other words, the radio station was providing pricing to various teams but it was likely that the pricing in their own proposal would be less expensive than what they were giving to us. Furthermore, now that we knew they were responding to the proposal AND providing pricing to other teams, we asked if they were running a screen.  They refused to answer the question.

What is a screen? When a company plans on responding to an RFP as the prime (submitting a proposal directly to the government) and as a subcontractor (supporting pricing, requirements, manpower, etc.) to another company, ethics require that the company employ a screen. In the case of this radio station, they should have two teams that do NOT communicate between themselves on the specifics of the RFP. This ensures that the services being provided and the costs of those services are not being communicated between the internal teams.  Again, not illegal - but full of unethical possibilities.  Here's what can happen: Let's assume you are the prime and you ask for pricing on a ten second radio slot and get $85.  Now you have to add a margin so let's assume your bid to the government is $90. Without a screen, the radio station that just gave you a price of $85 recognizes that you are going to add a margin.  Then they bid $75 directly to the government.  You're at $90 and they are at $75. This is legal.  But it's highly unethical and this situation can be prevented by asking the questions above before pricing is discussed.

And here is what we left out - during the call, our team discussed proposal strategy, assuming that the radio station was not a prime. The alarm bells didn't start going off until after we had discussed our strategy. So we had given another company, our competition, a competitive advantage without realizing it. The team had assumed that since the opportunity was a 100% small business set-aside, that the radio station would not desire and could not respond as a prime.  Bad assumption.

While not legally a subcontractor, by obtaining pricing from the radio station, they are a de-facto subcontractor because those parts of the RFP are being subcontracted to another company. . . the radio station. There are no none disclosures or teaming agreements - just pricing.

Our team identified ways to compensate for this and updated our pricing accordingly.  We're currently in source selection.  Whether our team wins or loses, we'll provide an update to this article.

Every government acquisition is different.  For many companies, responding to an RFP may not require products, services, and pricing from another company. This situation is a bit more unusual because the government specifically identified a radio station by name in the RFP. We had to get pricing from them.

To recap the lessons learned: If you have to get pricing for products or services from another company, before you discuss the opportunity, you must first verify their intent. Are they providing pricing to other teams? Are they a sub-contractor on another team? Are they intending to prime? Also, depending on the answers, are they running a screen? This provides your company or team with confidence that all parties are being ethical.  Regardless of running a screen, are they being consistent with their pricing and if not, to what extent? In certain situations, you may decide not to bid because it may be too difficult to achieve competitive pricing.

RSM Federal specializes in these and other small business government teaming and sales strategies.  For more information, please visit or call us at (703) 677-1700.


Joshua P. Frank is Principal and owner of RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that represents small and large businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to win government contracts. For more information and videos about RSM Federal, please visit 

  • Joshua Frank is a Master Strategist Who Delivers

    [...] We were referred to RSM Federal and purchased The Government Sales Manual and immediately started to connect the dots. We've had RSM Federal on retainer for almost two years - they are that good! Phenomenal support!

    Claye Greene, Managing Director
    Technology Blue
    Pittsburgh, PA

  • Brilliant. Highly Effective. A Trusted Partner.

    Working with RSM Federal has made the difference between succeeding and failing in the government market.. As a result of our work with RSM, we have a step-by-step roadmap. How strong are RSM Federal's techniques and strategies? We already have more than half a dozen state and government contracts.

    Morgan Clayton, President
    Tel-Tec Security Systems
    Bakersfield, CA

  • Comprehensive Strategy and Solid Growth

    [...]It wasn't until we purchased RSM Federal's The Government Sales Manual that we realized how to tie all of our efforts into a cohesive and comprehensive offering and corporate strategy. Since integrating these strategies, we have experienced solid growth.

    Romain Nowakowski, President
    Titan Solutions & Consulting, Inc.
    Ashburn, VA

  • Nine (9) Government Contracts and Counting!

    [...]RSM Federal consistently goes above and beyond to make sure that we receive everything we need to be successful and that includes designing the strategy that helped us win nine (9) GSA / CMAS Contracts since the first of the year!

    Leslie Kirkindoll, GSA Project Coordinator
    Tel-Tec Security Systems
    Bakersfield, CA

  • $2 Million Contract

    [...] The Government Sales Manual is the perfect tool for the seasoned business developer as well as those new to the game. Using these techniques, we positioned our company for a $2 Million contract. We laughed at the idea that RSM Federal spent years designing the manual – not anymore.

    Patricia Smith, Owner
    Professional Services Consultants
    Washington, D.C.

  • Three (3) Government Contracts in Just Eight Months

    When I started my business in 2010, I was an expert in strategic marketing, with more than 35 years in the media industry. In just eight months, RSM Federal's techniques, strategies, and expert understanding of the market helped my company close its first three contracts!

    Connie Risby, Owner and CEO
    Marstrats Marketing Strategy Solutions
    Saint Louis, MO

  • From Hundreds of Consultants - Second To None!

    [...]We have operated our management consulting firm for 10 years. As such, we know and have worked with well over a hundred consultants. As with any profession, most consultants are good, many are poor, and a few are excellent. Mr. Frank is among the excellent consultants!

    Matt and Kirsten Dhillon, Owners
    Dhillon Management Services
    Los Angeles, CA

Contact Us