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Questions You Should Ask Before Agreeing To Be A Sub

It seems like the perfect situation. You get an email from a firm asking you to be on their team for a proposal they are putting together. They will be the “prime” and you will be their “sub.”

Teaming arrangements can be great. There are plenty of firms out there that generate most of their revenue through teaming arrangements. Scraps from a large prime could easily be a feast for a small sub.

Not only that, but putting together proposal materials as a sub is almost always easier than putting together a prime submission.

Sounds great, right!?!? But before you say yes, there are a few things that you should consider.

Can You Perform The Scope Of Work?

This seem obvious. but it comes back to communication. What exactly is the scope of work this prime expects you to complete?

Will They Actually Use Us?

This might sound like a silly question, but it’s not. Primes want to win work. If they are smart and strategic, they will find the right teaming partners to meet all their participation goals/contractual requirements and give them a competitive advantage.

But they also want to generate revenue and profit. And primes usually have more resources than subs. If they can provide any specific service with their in-house resources, they may do that instead of using your firm. Yes, there may be long-term problems with that strategy. But few firms ever get criticized for their overabundance of long-term strategy.

This would leave you in a bad position, you helped them win the work and they stole back what you thought they had promised you. Not only that, they wasted your time and money.

Even though it often takes far less time and money to put together proposal materials as a sub, it would be foolish to discount both the hard and opportunity costs associated with this effort. They could be substantial.

How do you combat this? First, you could put together a teaming agreement, signed by both parties, that outlines either the scope of work or percentage you will get. Of course, if things go south you’ll have to sue the prime. In the end, that may cost you more than the revenue you would have generated.

You could also team only with firms you have a very high degree of trust with. These will often be primes that see the value of your contribution. A great relationship with a prime can be just as prosperous as one with an owner.

Do They Have A Reasonable Shot At Winning This?

It makes no sense to adhere to strict go/no go procedures when selecting opportunities to prime, but throwing them out the window when a teaming opportunity comes your way.

The problem is, you don’t know what you don’t know. They could have an “in” or advantage that you don’t know about. But on the other hand, they could be swinging wildly at any RFP they see. You have no idea.

They may also be reluctant to give you a great deal of information about their strategy and advantages if they believe you may team with another prime.

I would suggest you have a conversation to learn more about why they selected to go after this contract. It will be near impossible for you to perform a calculation to determine their chances. Ultimately, you will have to use your judgement based on what you hear and what they are willing to reveal.

Do We Have A Better Shot At Winning This As A Prime?

If you missed this RFP, that alone may indicate you aren’t well positioned for the contract. However, there are cases when a firm will share an RFP that you actually have a better chance of winning as a prime.

In this situation, you should have a conversation with them. I believe there is a bit of an ethical question here. If a firm sends you an RFP that you would not have seen, it would be pretty unethical to submit as a prime and not include that firm on your team. If someone gives you an RFP, I believe you have an unspoken obligation to them.

If it came out today, and you check that website in the afternoon…that’s a little bit of a different story. But for the most part, my rule of thumb stands.

Like I said, you’ll have to make the case that there are more reasons for them to be your sub than to prime. Depending on their ego, that may prove difficult in even the most obvious of situations. But again, if this is a trusted teaming partner, your two firms should be able to come to an agreement.

Does The Compensation Work For Us?

This is a complicated question. Sometimes, the prime will dictate the rates or cost. It’s important for you to know what those will be before you agree to team. You want to be careful about primes putting you in a money-losing situation.

Even If They Win, How Likely Is It That We’ll Be Needed?

I admit, this is a rare situation. But with large on-call contracts, clients may throw in every service they can think of when they will only likely need two or three.

This may not be a question of go/no go. Rather, it may be a question of level of effort. Unless you have some inside knowledge, it will be hard to determine the extent your services will be needed on “on-call” contracts. It will probably be a lot easier for lump sum contracts with a fixed scope.

Asking these questions will help you determine whether or this teaming opportunity is right for you or not.

How To Solve Your Biggest Problem

How to solve your biggest problems

We all have something in our life or our job that, let’s face it, despite our best efforts…

…just doesn’t seem to be working.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could fix that thing?

Today, I’m going to open up and share with you how I solved the biggest problem in my life. And I’m going to let you in on how you can use the “Big Problem Solution” to remove the biggest roadblocks in your life.

But first, let me share my embarrassing “before story.”

The One Universal Truth

There is only one universal truth in this world…

…I am horrible with money.

My challenges with money during my 20s were the stuff of legend (legend of the idiot):

  • Lived paycheck to paycheck with no savings

  • Got into a big dispute with credit card company and had collection agencies calling me

  • Forgot to pay college loan and got default notice

  • Best friend had to loan me $1,000 just so I could move out of my mom’s house

  • Many, many overdrafts in my bank account

Yet, today it’s a completely different story. I am by no means rich, but I have more than enough money in my savings. Other than my mortgage, I’m completely debt free.

My credit rating is disgustingly high. For months, Chase has been begging me to increase the limit on my credit card. But I simply have no need for more credit. Sorry Chase.

I straight up paid for the car I drive with cash. And I recently sent my mom on a trip and bought her a high-end gym membership.

I’m not trying to brag. Like I said, I’m not rich…not by a long shot. Instead, I’m trying to show you just how drastic my financial life has changed since I used this “Big Problem Solution.”

Because guess what…

…I’m still terrible with money.

So, let me explain what I did.

I’m Not That Guy

My college roommate was great with money. He tracked every dollar he ever spent in a spreadsheet. He kept a meticulous budget. As soon as a bill came in, he would pay it.

Everybody knows that’s how you manage your money. That’s what you are supposed to do.

I tried all that stuff. I bought software. I tried to track my spending. I tried to set up a budget.

But I forgot to enter purchases into my software. Bills would come in and be thrown into a pile until I forgot about them. Whoops.

I felt like a failure because I couldn’t do this simple thing that “everybody else” did. It felt like I couldn’t operate like a “normal” human being.

I didn’t want to admit to anybody that these “normal” financial best practices were so difficult for me. People would just assume I was lazy, incompetent, or simply lacked motivation.

Luckily, a tragic event helped free me from these misconceptions.

If I Ever Find This Crook…I Might Thank Him

One day, I went to Target. While in the store, my iPod got stolen from my car. My $500 iPod was gone. The cops and Target could only respond with, “sucks for you.”

It might sound like no big deal for you, but that iPod was like Gollum’s ring or Cinderella’s glass slipper. It was precious to me.

I didn’t have $500 bucks to replace it. I didn’t even have a credit card.

I needed to find a way to replace that iPod as quickly as possible with no savings and no credit.

The Big Problem Solution Thesis

For me, the expert’s advice wasn’t going to help. “Getting motivated” wasn’t going to help.

My current “system” wasn’t going to help. So far, it had failed spectacularly.

That’s when it dawned on me. The system that worked for other people simply didn’t work for me. And I was easily able to identify what cog in this system wasn’t working…me.

I didn’t want to track every dime I spent. I didn’t want to remember to transfer money into my savings account. I didn’t want to develop and maintain a personal budget.

I needed a different system.

You see, here is the thesis of the “Big Problem Solution:”

The systems that works for everybody else won’t always work for you (or your firm).

My Big Problem Solution

I needed a system for saving $500 that didn’t involve me. So, I created it.

I set up a new online bank account that transferred $100 from my checking account the day after I was paid.

The funny thing was, I didn’t even notice that money was gone. I’d never see it in my checking account. Any money in my checking account or pocket just gets spent (almost like magic). But I don’t spend money that isn’t there.

Two and a half months later, I had enough to go get that iPod.

Big Problem Solution Application

The power of systems is once you have one that works, the more you use it…the more you’ll benefit from it

So, I used the same process to save for an engagement ring (I just changed the amount). I can still remember walking into Robbin’s Diamonds with more money in my pocket than I’ve ever held in my life.

I applied the same system to automatically pay my bills. And when my car was paid off, the system started saving that money too. When I got married, that same system started sending money to my wife’s account to cover my portion of the new bills.

I recognized the “normal” systems, the systems everybody else says to use, simply don’t work for everybody. Sure, 95% of them do (the shoe tying thing works for all of us, right?).

But the 5% that don’t work for you will continue to screw up your life if you don’t replace them with ones that will.

There is a great passage in a new book coming out from Sam Carpenter that I would like to share with you:

“From your current first-floor living quarters, I’m going to urge you to descend the newly discovered stairway that leads down into the basement. I want you to go down there to see the machines that have been creating your life results back up there on the first floor. And so I’ll ask this question again: When you finally see your systems relentlessly working away down there—the undirected machinery that has been producing the random results upstairs where you live—will you take control of that machinery? Will you vigorously direct those machines to produce exactly what you want, or will you just turn your back and quietly trundle back upstairs and continue to let them run unattended down there in the basement, churning up the same old random unsatisfactory results?”

Big Questions

If you are serious about changing your results, start with these questions:

What result do I want to change?

What system is producing this result?

Which parts of this system aren’t working?

What is the system I can use that doesn’t involve those non-working parts?

ABT (Always Be Testing)

Don’t worry if this new system isn’t perfect or whether or not it will even work. Just make sure it doesn’t include the “cogs” that aren’t working in your current system.

Keep testing new systems, using this process, until you find one that works.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Listen, if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s this…

…most of the advice you get is terrible.

“Conventional wisdom” is often wrong. And no advice, no system, will work for absolutely everybody.

It’s up to you to identify which systems in your life don’t work and rigorously test new systems until you find the ones that do.

Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment and give us an example of some of the bad advice we get from people.

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