By Jared Shepard, President and CEO, Intelligent Waves

Introduced in 2011, the new T4NG contract platform was designed to streamline acquisitions as “a single focal point for managing the multiple contracts; give VA access to the best industry capabilities without the traditional long acquisition lead time; and help the Department meet its Veteran small-business goals.”

As this model gains ground and more companies look to take part in the opportunity, here are a few things worth noting to make your participation more successful.

1. Seek Multiple Partnerships

Perspective is important. Even the most seasoned T4NG Prime does not chase every opportunity – period. Instead, focus on opportunities that meet deliberate forecasting goals combined, and that are aligned with your unique capabilities, efficiencies, or understanding. As a small business, you need to develop relationships with multiple Primes in order to capitalize on opportunities that fit your niche.

2. Understand your Strengths

It is important to not be a generalist, but instead offer unique capabilities, intimacies, or approaches. Jared Shepard, President and CEO of T4NG Prime Intelligent Waves (IW) says his company is always seeking partners and team members who have unique understanding of a problem set, niche capability, capture/business development resources, and those who are willing to work together towards a customer’s mission. “This isn’t a case of holding out a tin cup, asking for a hand out, but it’s about having partners who add value and understanding, and who are prepared to write, to participate and to respond. Any small business who says they can do everything, probably can’t do much well. We would always prefer a company who has in-depth understanding of a specific problem set, rather than a generalized understanding of a concept.”

3. Develop Customer Intimacy and Understanding

Shepard says developing a valuable niche when it comes to the VA is based on intimacy—knowledge of their problems, who they serve, their processes, and the Agency itself. “You either have the intimacy today, or you must develop it. The VA is a challenging organization to get work in without substantial intimacy or understanding.” Intimacy, bottom line, he says, “is about understanding, and that requires meeting with people, talking with problem owners and customers, and spending time getting to know the vision. Most importantly, this includes talking with people who are involved, in all aspects, on the frontlines every day.”

4. Put Skin in the Game

When approaching a T4NG Prime, come with a list of ideas, assets, and capabilities you can bring to the capture and proposal for the opportunity. Use this approach, rather than coming with workshare demands or pricing requests. Most T4NG Primes will reward any participating business—large or small— for its activities support, and committed resources to an opportunity.

5. Communication is Key

Staying in constant communication with partners is critical. Don’t assume because you’ve “signed up to a team,” that you will be consistently engaged or included in upcoming opportunities. Inclusion and participation is determined through communication on a case by case and individual opportunity basis. Shepard says communication must be a two-way street. “We have a responsibility to communicate opportunities and needs. Partners have a responsibility to come ready to be proactive: developing deals, collaborating, and involving us in strategy, technical solution, and joint marketing efforts.”

6. Look forward

“Looking forward is critical in understanding the imminent demands to ensure they’re ready to face them head on, instead of scrambling to catch up.”
In contracting, looking forward requires looking back. In Healthcare, and Government as a whole, the constant reorganization of leadership has left a lot of money unallocated. Requirements must eventually be funded, and when that happens, Primes and subs must be ready to respond. “For small businesses that are looking to partner, they need to be realistic about what they want and what they can provide. They need to either have established intimacy or niche capability, so they’re ready to participate quickly. Looking forward is critical in understanding the imminent demands to ensure they’re ready to face them head on, instead of scrambling to catch up.”

7. Be Proactive

Much has changed in VA acquisitions since Kingdomware. This has left the Government and businesses — large and small — adapting to a new environment. In this chaos, there are opportunities for small businesses to be proactive in identifying partners, and demonstrating that they understand the client or the client’s needs. One of the greatest advantages of a small business is its ability to be flexible and proactive. In the world of T4NG, this means moving early, adapting quickly, responding consistently, and understanding their value.

Our thanks to Jared Shepard, President and CEO of Intelligent Waves LLC, for his insights. Intelligent Waves is a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) listed on the 5-year $5.3 billion Commodities Enterprise Contract (CEC). Jared is also founder of Warriors Ethos, a non-profit focused on veteran transition.

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