Maximizing Your MAC, or How to Get Paid: Go-To-Guy Timberlake

Winning anything in federal contracting is a legitimate cause for celebration. For quite a few companies, however, securing a spot in the pool of successful vendors on a multiple-award contract doesn’t always convey to revenues. Go-To-Guy Timberlake explains why.

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I am a huge fan of celebrating victories. I recently celebrated becoming a dri-athlete, a term used by my gym to describe competitors in the indoor triathlons they host. It was awesome and grueling, and my victory was in completing it.

There’s a lot involved in achieving victory in federal contracting. The size of the potential win is in direct correlation to the level of effort required to make it happen. For some contracts, the levels of effort and resulting spend aren’t proportional to the initial victory.

I’m talking about multiple award contracts, or MACs. These are the agency-specific or governmentwide contract vehicles where you work and work and spend and spend, all to get the glorious zero entry in the Federal Procurement Data System. Okay, sometimes it’s $250 or $2,500, but those dollars aren’t associated with any work and don’t begin to make you whole.

The good news is that you’re now part of a limited field of contestants. The less good news is you now get to repeat that process over and over (and over and over) again.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of other companies looking in from the outside who would give a lot to be in your spot. After all, these are now real opportunities with real dollars attached. Well, for some of you.

Alphabet Soup

The General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule (today, called the Multiple Award Schedule or MAS) is the most well-known version of a MAC. GSA schedules aren’t competitive awards. This means you don’t have to be concerned about competition to earn a spot.

Competitive GSA schedule counterparts are things like Government Wide Acquisition Contracts, or GWACs (think NASA SEWP, NITAAC CIO-SP3, GSA STARS III, and GSA Alliant 2); Governmentwide Multiple Award Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contracts or MA-IDIQs (e.g., GSA OASIS and GSA HCaTS); and multi-agency or agency-specific MACs like Navy Seaport, Army ITES, DISA ENCORE, and others.

A common factor among these contract vehicles is their intended use—something companies of all sizes tend to overlook.

Immediate Value? Not So Much

Before I dive into that, let’s talk about the value of these initial awards. Winning one of these contract vehicles provides tremendous value for the team’s psyche and market presence. By virtue of being an awardee, you also have reduced the competitive field. It doesn’t mean competition will be easier, just lesser.

Something many consider to be of value (not me) is the contract ceiling. Just because the (recently increased) dollar ceiling for GSA Alliant 2 Small Business is $75 billion doesn’t mean the government intends to spend that much against the contract.

If you have a spot on Alliant 2 (or another MAC), you should develop a forecast of opportunities based on your knowledge of buyers, customers, priorities, and requirements.

Don’t wait to see what’s tossed over the transom. That’s the equivalent to scouring Contract Opportunities every day. It’s a strategy, but by no means the best one.

Make It Count

There are disciplines more companies should undertake when it comes to pursuing and competing on MACs as successful offerors. To make the most of the time, money, and emotion inevitably expended during MAC pursuits, companies should develop these strategies:

  • Validate the Scope. What is the point of the MAC and how do your offerings fit? Each one is created to fulfill certain types of requirements. Do your due diligence before committing too much energy.
  • Verify the Customers. On many of today’s MACs, especially the governmentwide ones, there are many, many customers involved. They’re the organizations that own or manage the requirement, use the goods and services provided, submit the requisitions, and have the dollars to be obligated. They are most often NOT the organization writing, issuing, or managing the contracts. Do you know them? Do they know you? By the way, does your customer even care about the vehicle you just won?
  • Confirm the Buyers. Buyers are #FederalHumans responsible for the procurements. On some MACs, there are multiple buying organizations involved, and on others just one. The goal is to be visible to the Buyers that matter to you and your Customers. For MACs where multiple contracting offices are involved, do you know the code for isolating their contract actions? Did you know that on a certain type of MAC, the contracting office issues the award but Customers place the orders? As is the case for Customers, do you know if your Buyers even care about the MAC you just won?
  • Know the Programs and Requirements. The basis for any agency need is rooted in specific objectives and capabilities they seek to achieve. This is where programs come into play. These are the well documented investments agencies make driven by their missions. By reviewing Agency Priority Goals (APGs), Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) goals, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA), and Annual Performance Plans and Budget Requests, you can garner significant insights into organizational needs, dollars, champions, and much more.
  • Understand How to Use the Contract. There is an abbreviation—more specifically an initialism—that comes to mind: RTFM, short for Read The Frickin’ Manual. This colorful inclusion is of interest because many companies don’t read the contract. There’s information in contracts pertaining to Customers, Buyers and associated programs and requirements. If you didn’t know this before you bid on and won this contract, you can now use the contract language to inform your strategy to include marketing, business development, and capture activities.

Bypassing any of these elements will result in you being your own worst obstacle as a MAC awardee.

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Author Information

Go-To-Guy Timberlake™ brings over 30 years of federal sector experience, knowledge and relationships to every client, cohort, and community engagement. He’s developed his acumen while supporting civilian, defense, and intelligence agency programs, starting with Operation Desert Shield. He is chief executive visionary and co-founder of the community known as The American Small Business Coalition , and he’s referred to as “Professor” and ‘Edutainer’ for his ability to make mundane discussions about business essential topics interesting and practical. Guy is also the creator of Ethical Stalking for Government Contractors®, the curriculum and philosophy that has guided hundreds of small and large companies to successfully find and win federal contracts and subcontracts valued at more than $5 billion in realized revenues since 2010. Guy was recently honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excllence in Government Marketing at the 2022 GAIN Conference.

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