The hardest part of winning new work is beginning to plan on how to keep it. All too often, companies do not give recompetes the attention, focus, or resources required. How can we improve our ability to retain work and not fall into the trap of incumbentitis?
The first thing we must do is fundamentally change how we think about recompetes. It should not be about keeping the work we have. Our organizations need to see recompetes as a chance to continue to develop and improve our relationship with the client and enhance a mutually beneficial partnership.
The key to doing so is thinking of the recompete as a sequel to our original bid. No one wants to have a contrived story that basically just rehashes the original. Good sequels explore new territory, bring on new adventures, and smartly incorporates new characters into the cast we know and love. This article explores how we can apply lessons from creative enterprises, especially the Walt Disney Company and its various components, to improve our recompete capabilities.
The first key to reimagining the recompete is to realize we must build off our original story. No one wants to see a follow up that follows the same old storyline. Those are the films destined for straight to video or a lackluster reception (I am looking at you, Cars 2). However, great sequels combine what make the first film great with new challenges. The Incredibles 2 is a great example of how we can expand our storytelling in the sequel.
In our proposals, we can do the same by bringing in new solutions and approaches that build off what we have been doing. The worst thing we could do is have our proposals simply say, ‘we mean it this time!’ We need to keep looking forward and see how we can bring new solutions and approaches that meet the challenges our client faces today and tomorrow. The past is prologue – it provides the basis of what we need to do in the future but should not replace the hard work of determining how we can help our clients continue to grow.
A second key tip is to bring new characters into the storyline. In Toy Story 2, we meet the Roundup Gang. They are the characters from Woody’s television show in a previous generation. The storyline is built around how Woody can help his new friends while not losing Buzz and the rest of the crew back at Andy’s room. And who can forget the amazing Forky, introduced in Toy Story 4 who becomes the driver of the story?
In the same way, we cannot simply rely on the same old crew to drive our recompetes. In proposals it does not make the story stale – it makes our bids non-competitive. If our team has been on a contract for a while, they likely are too experienced and too expensive for the contract. While this is expected during execution, it can prove lethal when the contract is up. Therefore, we need to find ways to incorporate new faces into the bid. During the contract, especially in the last year, we need to begin to right-skill our workforce. We should move people who have outgrown their position either up in the program or on another project. This greening of the workforce, when done ahead of the recompete, gives our new personnel a chance to make a clear connection with the clients.
Most organizations say recompetes are the most important bids in the company. However, too often we begin to think no one can beat our team. This sense of hubris leaves the door wide open and leaves our organizations at risk of submitting a dud of a Proposal. By applying lessons from successful sequels, we can stand apart from the competition and take home the award.
Kevin Switaj, PhD CP.APMP is the President and CEO of BZ Opportunity Management, a consulting firm located in northern Virginia that provides full life cycle support for Government contractors. For more information on how we can add empathy and creativity throughout the proposal process, check out Kevin’s new book Keys to the Castle, available in paperback and Kindle versions today. Visit keys.bzopportunity.com today for your copy.