Great question and the answer is it depends. Now, I know this kinda sounds like a lawyer answer but bear with me. Past performance is a HUGE catch 22 that is used to exclude because, shocking as it may be, this is a fact: Buyers do not really want competition any more than you do.
Important: when it comes to past performance – or any other contract requirement for that matter – relationships trump EVERYTHING. If they like you, they will figure out a way to buy from you. This is why it is so critical to be building relationships 11 of the 12 months of the year (October – August) so when October 1 hits, your #1 strategy is how you can use SAMradar to support your relationship development phase and leveraging the contact info to connect with buyers who can connect you to program people.
That being said, let’s look at what is happening and how you can “fill” the requirement for specific past performance. While investment bankers are forced to say “Past performance is no guarantee of future results”, govies on the other hand believe intently that Past Performance is the BEST guarantee of better results. What does the FAR says about past performance? FAR 42.15 and what shows up in CPARS and this is what contracting officers will use to check you out. If you don’t have any federal contracts, you don’t have a CPARS and this is a disadvantage.
Here is something you won’t find this in any government documents and if you ask them they might say it is against the FAR but if you ask industry people, they will agree with this:
Past Performance Food Chain
1) In the department
2) In the sub agency
3) In the parent agency
4) Any federal agency
5) State and local government
a. Well known (Disney, Microsoft, Ford etc.)
Now that you know this, you can see why relationships are so important right? And you are going to be diligently working to develop relationships and using your SAMradar subscription because it makes SAMradar and you both smarter right? Good.
Now let’s get to meeting past performance requirements…
1) What is in grading criteria for award? You can usually find that in the grading portion of the RFP to see how important past performance is to the award criteria. If it isn’t in the RFP, this shows that they are more likely to accept an alternative past performance that is not federal. Watch the questions though because if I am a competitor and I have federal past performance, I want to restrict the competition to the experience I have.
2) Is your Past Performance relevant? This is a yes or no answer - not maybe. If it is really in line exactly with what they are looking for, then it is relevant. I hear a lot of folks that say “it is similar” or “they should accept this because it is most of the requirement” – this is not going to work and will make you look bad. Better to not bid.
3) Do you have the past performance in house?
a. Yes. Get all of your past performance in order. Here is a link to a USAID matrix that will help: https://www.usaid.gov/documents/1868/past-performance-matrix
i. Find a teaming partner. One of the best ways to find a teaming partner is using SAMradar to research the buyer history and see the companies that buyer is using right now. Yes, these are your competitors and while sometimes you will be beating each other up in a back alley, the next day you will be presenting together. And the best part – Feds love teaming because it reduces risk (See what FDIC says on page 6).
ii. Create a Joint Venture (JV) or even a SBA Mentor Protégé (MPP) with a large business. This can be very effective as the large company can use your socio-economic status and you can use their bench depth. Like the teaming partner above you can use SAMradar to look at the buyer’s history. Big boys are in there too so they are great potential candidates to leverage a JV or MPP.
iii. Buy a company. This is by far the fastest and most effective way to obtain contracts and past performance. Now, it is also the most expensive. If you want to know who to target, isiFederal can assist in the process of identifying potential acquisition targets. Remember to have them give you COMPLETE ACCESS to their past performance in CPARS so you can see how federal contracting officers ALL of your potential acquisition’s deliverables!
4) Start small. You might be really good but if you are new, you are risky and you are dealing with seriously risk adverse people. This means you can minimize the risk by minimizing the exposure on smaller prime projects. If you have a product or service that is expensive, suggest a pilot/proof of concept so you can prove your worth.
Have questions about a SAMradar opportunity and want help with a quick review of whether your past performance will work? Reach out to Gregg Clark firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him you are a SAMradar user and the review is free!