Effectively Working with the Government – My Rule Book

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Let’s talk government contracts. For most businesses who partner with Uncle Sam, it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship. What’s to love? The often very large price tag tied to them, the prominence of working with federal or state agencies that can really make your portfolio glow, and the connections you make that almost always prove to be valuable further down the road. And what’s to hate? All the red tape and hoops that must be jumped through, the beyond slow pace of progress, and an exhaustive amount of meetings, paperwork, and reporting that comes with the territory.

As you make a list of pros and cons for working with the government, whether you go after the contracts directly or sign on a subcontractor, if you find that the pros outweigh the cons then there are several important things you should know about working with the government that can make your life a lot easier. Take a look as I reflect on my own government work and how I navigate the highs and lows of communication and efficiency.

Create a scheduled and consistent line of communication.

Right out of the gate, be sure to establish your recommended and requested frequency for communication. Is this a weekly or monthly meeting or phone call? Be sure to have an agenda for every meeting and follow-up with notes and action items. If you can establish your “team” and who needs to be a part of these recurring meetings, you will be able to continually move the ball forward on tasks as scheduled.

Take control of being the task master.

Whether you’re a Type A personality like me or not, get comfortable with being in control. Especially with government contracts, it’s best if you control the task list, deadlines, and who you need what from. Then you can follow-up as needed and kindly remind people when they’ve fallen behind. Assuming the role of project manager is always to your advantage.

Know what does and does not need approval.

There will always be the important tasks that need full approval from the tippy top of government, but for everything else be sure to ask if it’s necessary to run it the whole way up the flag pole. For things that don’t involve their approval, you can cruise right through your task list without the unnecessary hang up. This is a conversation to have openly and early in your engagement.

Play nice and build trust.

Be a team player and build rapport with your government contacts early. This includes being positive, complimentary, and courteous. If you can prove that you will make working together as seamless and painless as possible, you are far more likely to gain buy-in from critical stakeholders.

Get your certifications!

This is easier said than done, but be sure to get any and all certifications with the government for which you apply. For me personally, this includes my woman-owned and small business certification. Wow that was fun and easy to obtain (note the sarcasm)! But from what I’ve learned, it’s always worth the effort. Such certifications can further your relationships with government work and earn you more projects in the future.

Keep your eye on the prize.

Finally, keep your eye on the prize when it comes to government work. Will there be headaches, setbacks, and disappointments? Yes. Are government contracts always lucrative and great for building your resume? Absolutely! While some added layers of effort might come with the territory of government work, you also stand to gain a lot from the experience.

Has your work led you to partnership with some level of government? What has been your learning curve? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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