Inside With Robert Wink—Contract Specialist With USACE and Former FEMA Contracting Officer
Although all agencies have similarities, they are also all unique. Robert Wink, published author and CEO of Integrity Lion Acquisitions, provided us insight on how different working with two agencies can actually be.
Wink is adamant about helping entrepreneurs learn the process and how to do the work in federal contracting quickly, effectively, and without wasting time, Wink opened up about his experiences working with FEMA after a large natural disaster and how the rules are not the same as many of the federal agencies.
Wink comes with vast experience working within the government. He retired from the US Army with multiple deployments to Iraq, was a Contracting Officer with FEMA and is currently a Contracting Specialist with the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Wink is also the author of two books: “Small Business Starting Guide to Federal Government Contracts and Searching for Solicitations” and “Secrets to Noncompetitive Government Contracts.”
INSIDE WITH ROBERT WINK
1. Get familiar with the industry or the agency you are going into Or Working With
From an insider perspective and as a contracting officer, working for FEMA and also the US Army Corps of Engineers, we learn from Wink that they require very different things from their contracting officers and allot their spending very differently. This is important for those wanting to work for the agencies or those looking to work with a specific industry or agency.
“Absolutely, because even at the Army, I was at the Mission Installation Contracting Command and we were very heavy on small businesses. Went to FEMA, man FEMA. That was a … FEMA is a whole different animal when it comes to Contracting. What I mean by that, and I’ll stick with the small business side. When I would bring up, “Hey, what’s our small business goals?” You got that deer in the headlight look… I think in the two years, the couple, and the month… couple weeks I was there, not one time did we ever talk small business goals.”
2. Natural Disasters Change The Rules
It’s important to note that rules change. Especially during natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey.
“During your disaster, the disaster have a local area set aside…So during those disasters, those Presidential declared disasters, we were supposed to…and within the first 150 days, we can contract to anybody, because it’s a disaster. It’s a go. But, during that time, we have to start moving and transitioning to local area set asides. So, we have to compete.”
3. Contract Specialist and Contract Officers Are Not The Same
Using the following example, Robert Wink explains how Contracting Specialist are like paralegals. Whereas, Contracting Officers are like lawyers—reviewing, making decisions and even arguing on your behalf to the government.
“I try to explain it the simplest way of explaining it is this way. You have your Attorney, who’s the one that approves everything and can negotiate on behalf of whoever they’re representing. That’s your Attorney. Now, the person that does the leg work and all the hard-core work. I mean, you’ll get into the weeds, and looking at the laws, and policies, and regulation. Even though the Attorney does that, it’s your Paralegals at the end of the day.”
4. People Will Sell You Anything If You Let Them
Be aware of companies with a government title in their name to give people the false appearance as though they are representing the government. Then, in very, very small fine print at the bottom, they state, “We are not a Government agency.”
“There’s companies out there that take the same information in my book. I know a couple in Florida. They will charge people anywhere from $400.00 up to $5,000.00 to enroll them in SAM.gov. It’s free, it’s unbelievable… it’s embarrassing…” states Wink.
What you are being charged for, ultimately is free. Be aware.
5. State Objectives Differ from Performance Work Statements
“So a Performance Work Statement is a, ‘I need you to complete this. I don’t care how you complete it, but there’s a measurement. So you have to provide this document and you have to perform this type of work. But, we’re going to measure your process along the way.’ What the Statement of Objectives is, ‘Hey, I need you to do janitor work on this five thousand square foot building, two hundred rooms, you tell me how you’re going to do it. You develop those metrics.’”
6. Read The Solicitations
Wink advises small businesses, where hiring a lawyer or Consultant to dissect solicitations for you is not an option, to simply read.
“So what I tell everybody to do is, as soon as you see something that you think you can do, read that Performance Work Statement, or that Statement Objective, or the structure. Whatever the Government’s attempting or trying to purchase.”
After reading it, Robert Wink advises asking yourself whether or not you can achieve what they are asking.
Ask yourself, “Can you do it?”
Don’t waste time. You need to know if your set aside can even do it before you spend hours analyzing the solicitation.
7. Pricing Is More of An Art Than A Science
Always take into account what the risk is when deciding how you mark up a job. Also, when you’re bidding a job, bid it so that you can make profit for yourself. Don’t worry about what the other person is bidding, because if you try and play and numbers game, they could have missed something, and you could end up costing you money.
“Account for all risks and to make profit. You never go into a project to lose money, unless it’s to keep your business afloat. It’s either not working or taking a little bit of loss just to keep the doors open. And employment. But, that’s a business decision.”
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