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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ROSE COVERED GLASSES























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Monday, September 21, 2015

A Thank You and 4 Gifts from Ken Larson

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Approaching 10 years in volunteer small business consulting, I appreciate the nearly 8,000 individuals who have contacted me for advice. 

You have come from many venues through the Micro Mentor and SCORE Foundations, Linked In and other social media sites.  It has been a pleasure serving small business. 

My work with you has kept me active in retirement, in touch with my profession and engaged in a continuous learning mode as we have followed the world's largest consumer - The US Federal Government. 

Please feel free to download any of the 4 free books available here. 

I plan a 5th Edition of "Small Business Federal Government Contracting" in 2016. 

My best wishes for success to you all. 

Ken Larson




Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Seizing the Moment in Small Business Federal Government Contracting

Image: Zett.com
THE MOMENT

Trends on the horizon point to a bright future for small business in federal government contracting.

The federal government is meeting small business contracting goals. 

In 2014, for the first time, the feds exceeded the legal requirement of 23% with a 24.9% achievement or $91.7B in contracts to small business.   The 23% goal mandated by Congress had not been met at the total government level for years. 

Times are Good for Small Business Contractors

The feds are also moving to lowest priced, technically acceptable contracting, driven by budgetary pressures

Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA)

Small business is uniquely qualified for this type of work, particularly in  the services sector, due to lower overhead and G&A rates, as well as agility in work force development.

New industries like Robotics, 3D Printing, Energy, Environmental Protection, Security IT and Geo-spatial IT are creating fields for small enterprises to compete against bigger firms or lead teams involving larger businesses on large scale projects. 

Government small business set-aside procurement is on the rise and becoming recognized by many agencies as a way to remove stodgy, entrenched companies when long term contracts come up for renewal.  These agencies look to smaller firms for cost effective, vibrant management, while inheriting an existing, trained, incumbent work force available to the winner. The process can dramatically grow smaller firms. 

Managing Incumbent Work Forces

PREPARATION

A small business anticipating participation in the federal contracting market must make pursuing it part of a long term strategy.  Success in government contracting does not happen overnight. 

Like any other market venue, a niche must be located, market research must confirm the need for products and/or services and the competition; the customer and the potential sales must assessed.  Unlike many other fields, success relies on early requirements identification and strong marketing.

7 Tips for Lean Federal Budget Times

Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Contract

5 Factors in Forming a Small Business Contracting Company

The government contracting market allows a small business to pass on the costs of operations at a project level as well as write off company-wide expenses if allocated in a defined manner to single government cost objectives (contracts).  

Small business can also operate in a lower risk environment with contract types suited to the challenges involved.  The trade-offs to these features are requirements for audits and job cost accounting that require verified consistency from cost estimating to billing and contract closeout. This does not occur without preparation. 

Small Business Sytems Development

Entering the market requires carefully sculpting commercial past performance into prospective government contract performance and accumulating strong customer satisfaction ratings.  The feds talk to each other. 

Meeting the Past Performance Challenge

Business Ethics and Past Performance

EXECUTION

With the right combination of planning, preparation and opportunity, a small enterprise can seize the moment with:

Identification of specific opportunities that fit company capabilities

Small Business and FEDBIZZOPS

Astute bid/no bid decisions

Making an Astute Bid/No Bid Decision

A solid team of resources both internal and external

Vital Tips for Project Management

Managing Industry Teaming Relationships

A Winning proposal, effective project start-up/execution and quality products and services

Government Contract Proposal Preparation

SUMMARY

The small business segment of the huge federal government contacting market is poised to grow exponentially due to advances in technology and the need for flexibility, mobility, agility and economic performance. 

Rule changes are being considered to enhance entrance of commercial enterprises into to the government contacting venue. Congress and the federal agencies are looking hard at constructive changes to make the challenges we have discussed here easier to meet for the small enterprise.  But the rules change slowly.  

The Government and Innovative Technology

Seize the small business contracting moment by being diligent in learning about the market and pursuing it. Make your company well equipped to succeed:
  • Define your niche
  • Learn the rules
  • Plan 
  • Prepare 
  • Execute 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Meeting Veteran & Employer Challenges During Transition from Military to Civilian Work

Image Eastern Illinois University

Expectations and Reality are Far Apart on Both Sides of the Employment Spectrum

By Ken Larson

Aside from the legal and moral obligations to employ returning veterans, there is a third, vital challenge in the employment transition equation: understanding the vast difference between the military and civilian work environments.  The expectations of both parties must be carefully assessed and communicated with realistic processes for effective transition from military to civilian employment by the veteran.

Civilian Knowledge of the Military Environment Has Diminished


As a country, America has been at war nonstop for the past 13 years. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.


The Tragedy of the American Military

War was much closer to home when the draft existed and military participation ran higher during WW II and the Vietnam Conflict.

The Nature of Today's Wars and a Cynicism with Regard to Their Outcome Impacts the Veteran and the Civilian Outlook

Ultimately, the military’s discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

Despite a six-year, $287 million effort to make troops more optimistic and resilient, an Army survey found that 52 percent of soldiers scored badly on questions that measured optimism, while 48 percent reported having little satisfaction or commitment to their job.


Understanding the Military's Morale Crisis

Veterans bring these issues home and find a civilian employment environment that does not have a focus on combat life and death, but rather an emphasis on long term thinking, collaboration, viewing actions with respect to the impact on internal and external customers and politically correct human resource considerations.

The assumption on the part of the employer is that the strength and training of the individual coming out of the military environment permits a reasonable transition. It does not.

We Must Educate and Develop Programs to Bridge the Gap from Both Ends.

A transition partnership between the veteran and the company is necessary. Expectations must be adjusted to reflect the differences in both venues.

Military core values such as – oaths, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a culture of direct command, and a narrow focus on the task at hand are no longer available when the veteran leaves the military. 

In the civilian environment political correctness, strategic group awareness, tact, organization factors, and a broad view of mission and achievement are required.

A veteran is therefore not so much entitled to a job as he or she is entitled to be understood, and to be allowed to understand the civilian job environment, growing into it.

Professional Roles are Vital

There are two important types of professional roles to consider when hiring and managing military veterans in the business venue.

As a veteran who made the transition to civilian professional work and ultimately owned a small enterprise, and as a counselor who supports veterans in becoming business owners, my experience over several decades indicates military men and women do well in Role 1 below. They have the most challenges with Role 2.





Role 1 TechnicalScientific, engineering, logistics, electronics, design and similar skill sets where direct supervision, team building, corporate policy compliance and human resource planning and utilization are not major factors.
VS
Role 2- ManagementFunctional process capacities responsible for hiring, evaluation, supervision, compliance with civilian law and department activities involving group dynamics, customer relations and sensitive human factors.


http://themilitarywallet.com/military-to-civilian-transition-tips/
I came out of the military having had a leadership role in engineering, base development planning and combat support. I served in war zones in Southeast Asia and on highly classified missions. I was not a manager. I was a military leader in specialized skill sets under Role 1 above.

I knew how to direct people who followed orders without question because the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which we swore an oath said they must do so.

I felt uncomfortable in jobs involving Role 2 above because they were foreign to me. I later adjusted, learned the venue and became skilled as a manager in the corporate world. I preferred staff assignments, however for most of my career.

The corporate venue seemed enormously political and bureaucratic to a former war fighter like me. I was not that tactful. I cut to the chase often and did not always take everyone with me when I made a decision.

Once I grew into a Role 2 performer, I found in interviewing, hiring, evaluating and managing young veterans, even seasoned ones, who had retired and joined the civilian work force, that almost all were better suited for Role 1. It took years and effort on my part to fit them into Role 2 and some never made it.
Management Analysis and Moving Forward

The principal reason for the logic conveyed above is that the military environment may seem to be structured in a way that fits Role 2, but the military does not turn out individuals who are suited in the knowledge and experience necessary in the civilian environment and they are not very good at it without extensive training and adaptation.

Enterprises have multiple-faceted challenges and they require multiple- faceted people. Even though individuals may hold a specific position job title, success in the civilian work force demands avenues where the human resource can contribute in multiple ways.

If a contributor has experience and training in several areas the business can utilize, that makes him or her  a valuable resource and it is likely they will be professionally fulfilled and rewarded from doing so. Military personnel have specialty training and focus; few have a wide view of what is in front of them, particularly with respect to military vs. civilian professional settings.

It all comes down to the workers having an element of control in the future success for both themselves and the company and having the opportunity to realize their potential in that regard.

If the professional is in a narrow, technical discipline and his or her expectations are to have others support them in that role or if they are more comfortable in a "Stove-piped" professional setting and not attuned to group dynamics and the often politically correct nature of the civilian organization, they perhaps belong in technical roles and they do not belong in management roles at the onset of their employ.


Summary

In fairness to veterans and to our hopes for them in the future, we must understand these above distinctions, build on Role 1, understand the risk in Role 2 and assist wherever possible.

Above all, a respectful partnership and realistic expectations must evolve between the veteran and the company for success in transitioning former military personnel into the civilian work force. This must be achieved through education, training, communication and assessment of both the veteran and the company personnel

About the Author:

Ken Larson is a 2 Tour US Army Vietnam Veteran, retired after 36 Years in the Defense Industrial Complex, having worked on 25 major weapons systems, many of which are in use today in the Middle East. He concluded his career with his own consulting firm.
As a MicroMentor Volunteer Counselor Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting.













 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Portrait of a Crooked Government Contractor

Image:  The Economist

COMPUTER SCIENCES CORPORATION (CSC)  –  Waste, Fraud and Abuse BY THE NUMBERS

Financial Manipulation

“SEC Press Release”

” The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Computer Sciences Corporation and former executives with manipulating financial results and concealing significant problems about the company’s largest and most high-profile contract.CSC agreed to pay a $190 million penalty to settle the charges, and five of the eight charged executives agreed to settlements. ”

Securities and Exchange Commission Press Release

Resume Padding, Time Card Fraud and Kickbacks

“Project on Government Oversight”

“This wasn’t CSC’s first run-in with its federal customers. In 2000, CSC’s credit services unit paid $6.4 million to settle allegations that it made false claims for payment on federal student loan programs. 

A few months earlier, CSC paid $8,730 to settle fraudulent billing allegations on a contract with the Defense Commissary Agency. In that instance, CSC employees were accused of charging the government for the time they were attending college classes. 

In 2005, CSC reimbursed the government $1.3 million after discovering a former employee, over a nine-year period, billed NASA for payments made to fictitious companies. 

In 2008, CSC agreed to fork over almost $1.4 million to resolve a False Claims Act lawsuit alleging it took part in a massive kickback and bribery scheme among federal IT contractors dating back to the 1990s.”

False Claims, Securities Litigation, Software Litigation

“Project on Government Oversight”

“Founded in 1959, Computer Sciences Corporation is a global information technology (IT) services company. With approximately 80,000 employees, CSC provides systems design and integration, IT and business process outsourcing, applications software development, Web and application hosting, and management consulting.

Total Number of Instances: 8″

Contractor Misconduct Data Base - CSC

A History of  Government Cronyism and Poor Performance for Over a Decade

“Washington Post” 2005

“Groundbreaker, a $2 billion effort to modernize and outsource the agency’s [NSA] electronics infrastructure, including computers, software and networks. 

A CSC-led team in 2001 won the Groundbreaker contract. As part of the contract, about 1,000 NSA employees became employees of CSC or one of its teammates. 

Groundbreaker and Trailblazer were supposed to work together, but both are believed to be behind schedule and over budget, Aid said. “You cannot do one without the other,” he said. 

Hayden, in his testimony in April, acknowledged that NSA initially had mishandled the Trailblazer contract. “We learned within Trailblazer that when we asked industry for something they had or something close to what they already had, they were remarkable in providing us a response, an outcome,” 

Hayden told the committee. “When we asked them for something that no one had yet invented, they weren’t any better at inventing it than we were in doing it ourselves.”

Trail Blazer Loses Its Way

Why is the contractor still doing business spending your taxes under billions in active contracts? We suggest you inquire with your Senator and your Congressman.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Remembering Gordy Schmidt - Vietnam Veteran, Gardener & Artist


Gordon Charles Schmidt, 69, of Hastings, MN, passed away unexpectedly Saturday June 6th 2015 while gardening at the Minnesota Veterans Home of Hastings. Gordon Charles Schmidt Obituary

I often met Gordy Schmidt at Lake Rebecca in Hastings on one of his many long walks.  
I would fish and he would take in some sun along the trails and at the park. 


I learned of his tremendous craftsmanship with wood A Veteran's New Found Passion and also observed his love of gardening.  

Together with Doug, his gardening buddy at the Vets home, the two had beautiful showcases every year. Gordy specialized in flowers and Doug was the vegetable expert.  I worked with them to get soil samples sent to the U of M and watched their artistry through my window in Building 25 just above the Vermillion River.

Another fond memory is Gordy's keen eye for dangerous tree limbs along the trails and holes in the ground in the parks that could break an ankle.  Together we would take photos of the dangerous areas and send an email to my contacts at the city parks department and they would come out to cut the limbs and fill the holes.  With 25 miles of trails to maintain, they appreciated Gordy's keen eye.

We will miss Gordy and his artistry in several venues. 

Rest in Peace Gordy,
Ken
 


Sunday, March 01, 2015

THE VA - AN UPDATE BY A SERVICE VETERAN ON DEPARTMENT PROGRESS AND PROCLIVITIES


                                                                        Records Backlog at a VA Center

HISTORY

In September of 2012 this site published an article on the VA and its efforts to improve services to veterans as well as support small business. It was noted from personal experience that excellent care was being received by those in the system but that there was a growing backlog of cases and lack of an effective process to support getting a faster rate of entrance by those returning from the battlefield. 
 
Also noted were disturbing trends in outlandishly expensive conferences and ridiculous video productions, wasting funds earmarked for veteran care. Red flags were going up in the Inspector General office regarding mismanagement of small business set aside programs as well. 



UPDATE 
 
Much as occurred since September of 2012. 
 
Last month (January 2015) I visited the VA in Minneapolis for a blood analysis in connection with my annual physical. I marveled at the hundreds of personnel who were going through the blood draw process at 8AM that morning. Polite technicians handled everyone carefully and courteously. My test results were on my doctor's computer for my 11 AM appointment that day.
 
In 2012 I used the VA hospital courtesy center computers for veterans, finding them hopelessly out of date, security-bound and barely functioning. During my January 2015 visit I found beautifully functioning high speed computers and a courteous attendant serving many veterans at the the center
.
On my most recent visit I also went to the department that handles I.D. Cards and applied for a new one, having been informed my card was out of date. I was attended by a sharp technician who checked my credentials, transferred by data, took my picture and processed my application inside of 20 minutes and I was behind several others. 
 
We who are in the system are still receiving fine service. 
 
But the massive number of returning veterans has strained the VA Health Care System to the point where the Department Secretary has been fired. A corporate executive from outside the system has been placed in charge. The department has been massively reorganized into 5 regions across the country to deal with a scandalous scenario of wait times and neglect in services for incoming veterans. 

 

We forecast the above situation.  It is principally due to the fact that the 5 armed forces medical records systems are not connected to the VA Health Care System and the government contractors who have attempted to develop a system to connect them have failed miserably. 

"Next Gov"

" Defense and VA Scrap New Electronic Health Record after estimated costs ballooned to $28 billion. By Congress’ count, the doomed effort – a result of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act – already cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. "
 

THE FUTURE

Congress is focusing on firing personnel as a remedy. In our view that is symptom-like remedy, not a solution. 

 
We now have a corporate bureaucrat in charge of the department who is running it like a corporation, reorganizing and establishing a 5-headed bureau under him. There will no doubt be 5 separate fiefdoms to manage. Who knows what will happen to requirements for IT as existing IT system designs get split 5 ways? 

Government contracting services companies are continuing to have a field day, growing rich and failing in the classic fashion we saw with the Obama Care roll out.  Success is not a money-making proposition for these firms.  They get their monthly bills paid as they march hundreds of service workers into government buildings to catch the latest whim of the civil service program managers as they change specifications depending on which way the wind is blowing in the massive bureaucracy.

We believe those who are lucky enough to have entered the system will continue to receive good care. 

We pity those younger or seasoned injured and ill who are knocking on the door and waiting to get in.








Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Citizen and the Citizen Military – What Lies Ahead?




Military pay raises are minimal, high profile overstuffed general officers and admirals are bad for morale (revolving door and pensions higher than career pay). What is the mix of technology and manpower required to fight today’s wars? How do we acquire, train and retain what we need? Reserves and National Guard involve long term multiple deployments with no assurance of a future for those who return.  We now have a chairman of the Armed Services Committee that wants to go to war with everyone:



The following are 3 perspectives from experts:

Can YOU answer the Citizen's Question at the end?


PERSPECTIVE 1 – From a Military Man

Mark Seip a senior Navy fellow at the Atlantic Council recently noted the cultural and conception gap that exists between America and it volunteer armed forces: 

“From the military side, many of us feel that we are unique to our generation in our calling; that we rose above the self-absorbed stereotype often associated with both Gen Xers and Millennials to protect our nation. We accept significant time away from our families, often subpar working conditions compared to our civilian counterparts, and average pay in relation to the skills we possess in order to wear the uniform. Moreover, as our nation’s warrior corps we assume a level of risk since time immemorial, that our occupation entails a distinct possibility of loss of life. Our service therefore requires a level of confidence and self-assurance to do our jobs and take the risks required.


Second, the widening gap is a function of exposure, both in numbers and in proximity. As Fallows points out, 2.5 million served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. To provide context, according to an NPR study 8.7 million served in some capacity in Vietnam. Furthermore, during Vietnam the majority of the generation at that time had fathers and mothers who served in some capacity either in WWII, Korea or both. Today, however, the actual number and/or the tangential family tie to the military is lower, reinforcing the distance between those in service and the rest of the nation.”


PERSPECTIVE 2 - From a Military Contractor

Eric Prince, the former CEO of Black Water continues to insist that private security employees working for the U.S. government in warzones should be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, instead of the civilian criminal justice system.

"It’s quite different for a jury that is 7,000 miles away from the warzone, looking at a split-second decision made seven years earlier in a warzone, minutes after a large car bomb goes off." Prince said he hopes the guards' convictions can be successfully appealed. "The last chapter is not written yet."

Although he quit the business, Prince still sees a future for the private security business.

 "The world is a much more dangerous place, there is more radicalism, more countries that are melting down or approaching that state." At the same time, the Pentagon is under growing pressure to cut spending and the cost of the all-volunteer force keeps rising, Prince said.

 "The U.S. military has mastered the most expensive way to wage war, with a heavy expensive footprint." Over the long run, the military might have to rely more on contractors, as it will become tougher to recruit service members. Prince cited recent statistics that 70 percent of the eligible population of prospective troops is unsuitable to serve in the military for various reasons such as obesity, lack of a high school education, drug use, criminal records or even excessive tattoos. In some cases, Prince said, it might make more sense to hire contractors.”

 
PERSPECTIVE 3 – From a Military Analyst

“DEFENSE ONE” Notes:

“The film “American Sniper” about legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle broke box office records this holiday season when the picture earned a million dollars in five days on only a handful of screens. It is time we grappled with America’s actual wars and their real-time, life and death consequences, once again with as much dedication as we line up to watch them play out on the big screen.

The military may be fighting a war. Or wars. But we, as a country, are not. In USA Today’s list of its most read articles of 2014, neither the war in Afghanistan nor the simmering fight in Iraq – to which U.S. troops are headed back – cleared the top 10. The same is true for Yahoo’s list of its most searched stories. No Iraq or Afghanistan in sight.

It is nearly inconceivable but somehow true that in the 2013 government shutdown, death benefits for the families of those killed in action fighting for the United States also shut off.”

 The Movies Vs. Real War


Citizen's question: Could or should we reinstate the draft?