Times are changing. Our clients are looking at cutting costs more than ever before and as a result our rates we can charge them are being controlled more than ever. Positions are being cut which is increasing competition for the open positions that do exist. In doing so, we need to make sure our rates are even more controlled than ever before in order to keep our resources competitive. We continue to operate with minimum corporate overhead which gives us a great competitive advantage but we also need to think outside the box on how to control our costs.
We are seeing salary demands beginning to come down due to the competition in the industry, but this is only one side of the equation. We also need to look at controlling the cost side. It is critical that we do this without changing what makes our company one of the best places to work (http://bizj.us/qevg9). Our benefits package is top notch and that needs to remain that way. Training is one of those items that provides more of a benefit to an employee than it does to a client nowadays. Reason being is that in the contracting world, when a customer wants someone with a certain skill they hire them. They don’t look to send a current resource to get trained to learn a new skill because of the cost it incurs but also because going to three days of a class does not bring them back an expert either. As a result, this cost incurred by a company is largely no benefit to them other than the intrinsic value it provides their employees as they feel they are learning new skills. But is this worth the cost that it levies on a company? We are talking about often times $1500 for a 3 day class not to mention lost revenue from the person being unbillable during that time…and this assumes it is a local class and doesn’t cost you travel and room and board!
We are in the process of rolling out a new Knowledgebase for our employees. The goal of this knowledgebase is for all of our employees to have the ability to get exposed to new technologies without having to spend days out of the office. It will cost nothing for us to provide this service. While it is not the same as formal training class, it is a solution we can provide during tightening times that not only allows our employees the ability to continue to learn but also helps us control our costs and still provide our full set of company sponsored benefits.
So how does it work? Basically, we will set up a heirarchy of topics in a folder structure on our intranet and begin to populate these folders with articles, white papers, training slides, videos etc on these topics. When one of our employees learns of a new topic, they can create a new folder and then others can add in content that is available to all. In the meantime, our staff can browse the knowledgebase and read about emerging technologies, or maybe an existing one they had always wanted to learn about but never had a reason or a means to do so. Will this limited exposure turn our people into experts on all of these topics? Absolutely not. But I ask, does 3 days in a training course where the instructor usually reads from a set of slides do that today? Our thought also is that this method will expose our staff to more types of technology as well as the newest technologies that do not yet have training classes offered and make them more well rounded. Love to hear peoples feedback on the topic. Email me your thoughts: email@example.com
We just put the finishing touches on another Prime Contract bid and it got me thinking how far we have come from a few years ago after our first failed attempt. I will never forget the debrief from that effort. It was actually humiliating to sit there and have the customer reach to find positives to tell us about what we put together and submitted to them. Our documents were terrible, our resumes were terrible, everything we submitted to them..was terrible. We were at a crossroads and had to make a decision. Do we take it as a huge slap in the face and give up or do we listen to them and learn from the process. I still have the set of debriefing slides sitting on my desk in my office. Anytime someone tells us we can’t do something I think back to those slides and that failed effort and think how far we have come in just a few short years.
Since that effort we have been awarded 2 prime contracts and have just finished up and submitted yet another bid this week. This last one reminds us how far we have come because we were able to turn the effort around in a 10 day period (calendar days not business days) which is an extremely aggressive turnaround time for a proposal. Not only did we meet the date, we still had both of our owners doing billable work during the day to clients during that time. Dave and I have gotten very efficient at this process and we both compliment each others roles very well. In fact this last effort was done with only one face to face meeting between us. That meeting lasted about 30 minutes. We laid out our plan of attack and our outline for our documents. We then split up the tasks and got to work. We both have great confidence in each others abilities and that is critical when pulling together a proposal on a quick turnaround.
The other thing we have working in our favor is a great team. As soon as we find out about the proposal we send an email to our entire staff to see if anyone has any interest in helping out. The only people we will ask to assist us after that are people that replied to that initial email. We will never ask anyone twice to give us their time to work on a proposal. We signed up to own this company and part of that responsibility is doing work after hours to grow this business. Our employees did not sign up to work around the clock on proposals. In fact that is one of the reasons many of them join us to begin with; because they come from big companies where that is the norm. That being said, our employees are paid for every hour they spend on a proposal all the way down to editing a proposal document for us….another aspect that is very different from most other companies.
Our recruiter Lee is our other Ace in the Hole on these efforts. As soon as Dave and I identify our staffing needs for a proposal, I get on the phone with Lee and tell him what we need and off he goes. Lee pre screens countless individuals and narrows down to a list of people we need to meet iwth in person. He then looks at our calendars and sets up in person interviews for us. This last effort, we interviewed about 9 people over the course of a 4 day period to make 3 job offers.
The bottom line with proposals is that it really doesn’t take a team on overhead working on nothing but proposals in order to be successful. In fact, I would argue those companies that do that ar eoften times at a disadvantage because they have people writing their proposals who don’t stand to really benefit from winning those proposals. Whereas for a company like us we have our two owners doing the work. We know how to sell our business. We after all made it what it is today. The last effort we were awarded, we beat out two companies that had over 300 employees each. The look on their faces was priceless to us as we sat around a table with them when they were informed that they were beat out by us….”two kids” as we were sure they were thinking.
There will undoubtedly be more losses in our future…it’s the nature of the business. But we also now can guarantee that there will also be many wins as well. In the past we would question that and wonder if we should continue to pursue prime contracts or just settle to continue to be a subcontractor. It has been proven to us over and over again that it pays to be different.