10 Keys to Small Business Teaming

April 20th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

This week on NVTC’s blog, Jim McCarthy of member company AOC Key Solutions shares how small businesses can gain a market foothold, offset vulnerabilities, obtain site knowledge, open doors to a larger key personnel pool, or spread risks and bid costs through teaming. McCarthy provides ten keys to developing contracting relationships.


Instances of the “lone wolf” pursuit of a government contract by a single prime contractor are vanishing. Today, multi-company teaming arrangements are more the rule than the exception. Companies now team to gain a market foothold, offset vulnerabilities, obtain site knowledge, open doors to a larger key personnel pool, or spread risks and bid costs.

For small businesses (SBs) especially, a teaming arrangement may be the most viable strategy for growth and prosperity. Too often, however, despite best efforts, SBs fail to land on a team. Or worse perhaps, lacking leverage as they cut deals with the prime that are just empty promises. What is a SB to do?

Try these 10 keys to small business teaming:

  1. Isolate on a primary need of the agency. This requires diligent research and early market intelligence.
  2. Establish a relationship with the customer with the need. Persistence and patience are paramount to gain face time.
  3. Get smarter about the need than anyone. Invest time and energy to do your homework.
  4. Devise and package a solution to meet the need. Solve the problem. Provide the features of your plan, but be sure to focus on customer benefits. Test-drive your plan with the customer.
  5. Hit the streets to spark interest. Contact every potential prime interested in the opportunity. For bait, tell the prime that you alone have the solution to the customer’s pain.
  6. Set the hook. Forecast how you can earn the prime N number of evaluation points by solving the customer’s problem. Be bold yet credible.
  7. Gain leverage. Hint at your solution — but give details only in exchange for a place on the team. But not just any place. Insist on precise terms in writing — a set scope of work (“swim lane”) with a guaranteed level of effort contingent upon contract award to your prime. Be prepared to walk. If one prime will not play ball, go to another.
  8. Offer something else value-added. Deliver a subject matter expert to help with the proposal. At no cost, prepare 100 percent compliant proposal text for your swim lane. Cover your own B&P costs. Participate for free on color review teams. Offer a candidate key person for bidding. Fund your transition costs if the team is successful.
  9. Sign your deal. Not just a handshake, but get the terms and conditions in writing. Execute non-disclosure agreements and non-competes.
  10. Deliver. Don’t forget to circle back to your original customer to inform him/her that you will be delivering your solution as part of [name of prime contractor]‘s powerful team. Then meet your commitments just as you would expect the prime to meet its promises.

There is no free lunch. Give something of value to get something of value. Appeal to the best competitive instincts of the primes. Deliver what counts: as a team member present additional evaluation points that make the difference in winning. In so doing, not only do you meet a primary need of the government, but you earn (and deserve) a legitimate place at the team table.


Jim McCarthy is the founder and principal of AOC Key Solutions, a proposal consulting firm dedicated to helping companies win government contracts. Mr. McCarthy’s career spans over 30 years of proposal development, market strategy, and oral presentation coaching to federal contractors. Learn more at www.aockeysolutions.com

For more information on what NVTC has to offer for small businesses and entrepreneurs, check out the NVTC Small Business and Entrepreneur Committee. The committee hosts various programs, including a yearly teaming and contracting event for small companies interested in government contracting. At the event, small businesses can discuss partnering or subcontracting with large companies and meet with government agencies and their small business offices from the federal, state and local level about how to do business with them. 

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Finding the Right Teaming Partner

December 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs | Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Stu Funk of LMI and Amy Deora of Summit share teaming insights from a recent project.


Many factors drive teaming partner success. Whether you are looking for the right set of skills to meet client requirements, or the ability to quickly turn quality proposals, it is important to be strategic about teaming. Stu Funk of LMI and Amy Deora of Summit recently partnered on a cost savings analysis of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) energy investments. They share their insights on teaming strategy.

Q: What do you look for in teaming partners?

Stu Funk: We view small business partnerships as essential to LMI’s health. We look for small businesses with strong management that help us better understand client problems and meet niche needs. When an opportunity arose in support of HUD, we felt that Summit was a great fit, given its strong track record with the client. We also felt the project showed promise in advancing how agencies measure energy efficiency. Summit brought key analytical capabilities and organizational knowledge.

Amy Deora: We often look for the opportunity to be on a team where we can use our core competencies in partnership with a firm that has a different set of competencies, which ultimately allows us both to reach a greater breadth of projects than either firm could complete alone. For example, for our current partnership, LMI brings subject matter expertise in best practices in energy efficiency programs, whereas Summit provides methodologically rigorous utility consumption modeling, while other teaming partners bring expertise in affordable housing policy. In this way, we’re more than the sum of our parts and can provide comprehensive approaches to client problems.

Q: How does “culture” affect your choice in partners?

Stu Funk: As a not-for-profit consultancy, a client-focused culture means everything. We are fortunate that profit is not the driving force behind how we vet and deliver projects. We place our clients first and we like our partners to do so as well. We find this mindset makes a difference in the quality we deliver. Summit showed care for solving our client’s problem before worrying about the bottom line.

Amy Deora: Summit’s most fruitful teaming partnerships also come from mutual client focus. LMI has been a good fit for us because of this shared priority. In cases where teaming hasn’t worked well or we decide against embarking on the project together, it usually is because the firm lacks the same focus on client satisfaction.

Q: What do you bring to your teaming relationships?

Stu Funk: We strive to be an excellent teaming partner. While we need to consider the financial success and sustainability of our small business partners, we are committed to supporting them where we can — from offering access to project management systems to providing training and market intelligence. With Summit, we have discussed “capture” on other opportunities and our current work led to some new work for Summit within the same office.

Amy Deora: Even though Summit is a small business, we know it’s a two-way street when teaming with a larger business. We don’t just expect a large business to bring us opportunities; we need to provide them as well. We have strong client relationships and subject matter experts that can bring our partners, even those that are much larger firms, into new lines of business, or engage them to provide additional support on our ongoing projects. Small businesses can be the leader in this way, opening up networks for larger businesses, while benefiting from larger firms’ bench strength.

Q: What advice do you give someone who is testing the waters of a new teaming relationship?

Stu Funk: The ultimate goal with teaming partners is to craft a plan that solves a client problem. Make sure client needs are being addressed up front, so that you not only bid and price effectively, but you deliver on your promises. From the outset, you and your teaming partners should be in agreement on what needs to be delivered.

Amy Deora: Setting clear expectations from the beginning is key, especially in large, complex, and fixed-price projects. Even in the business development stage, clear roles and responsibilities should be determined. Be honest with your potential teaming partner about any potential staffing “holes” or any areas in which you do not have strong qualifications so that you can all better prepare to serve each other and your client.


Stu Funk leads the energy and climate change practice at LMI, a not-for-profit consulting firm dedicated to advancing the management of government. He has 38 years of experience in energy and logistics planning and execution, climate change planning and management, strategic planning, facility planning and recapitalization, weapon-system acquisition, and resource analysis

Amy Deora is senior manager in the applied statistics and economics practice group at Summit, a data analytics advisory firm that guides federal agencies, financial institutions, and litigators as they decode analytical challenges. More about her background and experience can be found at the Summit website.

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