Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce
Uncle Sam's Secret Sauce

Episode · 1 month ago

Write Winning Proposals with Gregg Clarke


With over $30 billion per year in projects being purchased through multiple awards schedules, many business owners are missing out on huge opportunities to grow their business, take on bigger projects, and form new strategic partnerships.

Gregg Clarke, Director of Business Development at DKA, a company that specialized in writing winning proposals and helping new small business owners win multiple general services schedules, awards schedules, and more.

Gregg joins the show to talk about his experience with DKA, how he helps his clients land contracts that are in line with their specialties, links his clients with potential opportunities that align with their core competencies, and everything you need to know about the recent changes to GSA schedules.

If you want to work with Gregg and DKA:https://www.dkawins.com/

5713 Corporate Way, Suite 102, West Palm Beach, 34047

(561) 640-9171


Uncle Sam’s Secret Sauce is hosted by Rafael Marrero, Founder and CEO of Rafael Marrero & Company, which helps small companies do business with the world’s biggest customer: the U.S. Federal Government.

You're listening to Uncle Sam's secret sauce, a Raphael Morrero and company podcast. This is a show for US small business owners and decision makers looking to grow their business. You're about to hear a conversation with successful entrepreneurs in the fields of construction, janitorial, cybersecurity and more. Here you'll learn how to sell to the government and what this secret ingredients are for effective marketing for small businesses. Let's get into the show. We're here with our very good friend Greg Clark from D K A. Greg, welcome to Uncle Sam's secret sauce. Thank you, Rafael. How are you, my friend? Fantastic. been working hard to get you on this program because you're one of our preferred teaming partners and we enjoy working with your firm. Great it's been a pleasure working with you. Ever since we met, we've developed a very good relationship and every single person that we've ever sent over for services in your room I got nothing but compliments on your services. So thank you for really really taking care of our clients well, very kind words. I appreciate it. Actually, as you know, it goes both ways. Everybody that I've sent to you an equally high praise and whatever. You and I get around together. We have a pretty good time ourselves. Absolutely, we're both foodies and we like music. So yeah, of course. So let's start at the very beginning. Great, why don't you tell me a little bit about the family origins, where you hail from originally, and a little bit of the family background? Sure. So, my parents are from Barbados in the West indies. They moved up here shortly after they got married. I was born here in South Florida, N one of not too many natives, and I lived in south Florida all my life and I went to school with Florida state and after I graduated I moved back to West Palm Beach and I was waiting tables and a bar on the water and answered an ad in the class FIBS when when? That's how people got jobs back in we just dated ourselves there. Yeah, we did it, indeed, we did indeed. So, yeah, I was perusing the classified ads during my break and fat saw an ad in the newspaper, applied and went and interviewed and got a job. I didn't know anything about it, but that was my father coming through. He's like, I got a job because I didn't know anything about it and I want to learn everything about it. So that's how I entered the world of government contracting with the large company, large meaning about a hundred employees in downtown West Pond Beach. They had three shifts of writers working twenty four hours a day pumping out proposals and I got my feet wet in that environment. And about fifteen months later two of the higher ups decided they wanted to go out on the road and they liked what they had seen from the kid the first fifteen months that I've been there, so they asked me to come with him and and that was and that's when DK was born and we've been rolling ever since. Coming up on twenty seven years. So you were right out of college, you went to work for a proposal shop after working in a restaurant for a little bit, and fifteen months later you went off and branched out with your founders and you've been there ever since. Correct. That's fascinating. That's a good team and speaks highly of the culture there right because, from what I gather, the majority of the folks in your team have been there for quite some time. The youngest employee your group. How long have they been around? The new guys been with us. Fifteen years. Wow, okay, that's pretty steady. He's as good as anybody in our company. That's right. And he's been there fifteen years right. Yeah, that's great. Well, and hopefully there's nothing we can keep it going, because it's been twenty seven years. I wouldn't know how to interview through a job or find a job at this point. There during no more class spot out, so I don't know where to find them. Exactly what? You don't even have a resume, right, you know? Yeah, exactly. So let's talk about the things that your firm does for the benefit of our listeners and our audience. Please tell us a little bit more. First and foremost, give us the website name and tell us your role in the company and your coordinates so that if someone wants to look you up during the process, they don't know where to find you. The company is deep a a and that stands...

...for D Sutter, Ker and associate. So I was associates to sutter incur with the owners and I was associates and it was just me, just the three of us for a while, and so our website is D K A, d like David K, like kitchen a, like apple, wins W I N S Dot Com, and that you do. You Win all the time. When we formed the company, the mission was to help companies put their proposals together in pursuit of federal government contracts. That was the mission and that was the sole mission and that's all we did for a long time. To date, the three grew to six. Fifteen years ago we matched out at six. To date we were at three nine seven federal government contracts. We've helped our clients win. They have a combined value that grew to the point that we surpassed two billion last June. It's a big point of pride for us. Those are some heavy numbers. You should be very proud. We've always had a map in our office and whenever we get a new win, a flag goes into the map and if it's a win that we won the last time and we had the incoming that we want again them, the flag goes from blue to red and then from red to gold and gold agree. So yeah, the maps getting fulled. We're not going to get our deposit back on that wall. That's a good problem to have. That absolutely is I think I remember that wall with the map and the pains because you showed me, yeah, you showed me where your first customer was located. If I'm not mistaken and my memory serves me right and I'm not having a senior moment, I think it was a customer in Alaska. You're exactly right, and they are now your clients. That's right, yes, sir, and you're helping them with getting a d a certified. Absolutely, Yes, sir. This is a company that we started working with actually when I was working with the company that I worked with prior to D K they became my client then in ninety four and then when we started decaying, actually went to Alaska two months before we formed D K A. I let them know what was happening and explained everything to them and said, you know, we're starting this, so you have an option. You can stay where you've been or you can come with us. And I just got an email from them about ten minutes ago. They're still with us and we want them about, I guess, close to thirty five year contracts over the years and we have a few more under evaluations. So we'll be adding to that win list for them now they've added a couple of new entities and one is my friend's wife. She started a company. She's disabled veteran and you're helping them get a a certified yes, sir, and I understand they stock commissaries. Correct primarily. Yeah, they operate commissaries, which is like a grocery store on a military installation. So Defense Commissary Agency based in Fort Lee, Virginia. They will put out solicitations toward five year contracts that all these military installations around the country to operate the commissaries, the grocery stores. And we have, in addition to the company that I've talked to, we had handful of other companies that we work with and pursuing those. They stock the shelves, they clean the floors, they receive when the trucks pull up with the palates of products, they receive it stored in the warehouse and then the night the stockers come in and fill the shelves. So yeah, we're getting close to overall about fifty total wings in that industry, all five year wins, about two D and fifty years worth of commissary contracts. And they sell everything. They sell all types of food to the military into their families and it's part of the fence commissary agency, which is Decca correct, and they have a worldwide presence. So think of them as big supermarkets with all kinds of products that they have. They try to get best in class shelf products at a lower price point for the benefit of the military and their spouses and children to buy at the base level. Okay, so now d k a does something extremely well and they're a very cohesive organization and you guys have worked together for years, so you could basically read each other's minds by now and know when when there's a talking point or a selling proposition on a proposal. What are some of the...

...areas of services? Break them down for us, because this, you know, it's not for the faint at heart. It's heavy lifting. There's a lot of paperwork involved and you guys excel at it. So what are the areas? What are the core services that you offer? Break that down for the benefit of our listeners. Sure so, as I said, the proposal writing. That's all we did for a long time, and when I say a long time I'm talking about over ten years. That was all we focused on and around oh seven we organically fell into a second industry, which was the G S A schedule, the multiple awards schedule. That came about because we would win contracts for our clients and they would go in and do a great job for the government customer, and the government customer came back to them and said, if you're on the G S A schedule, we could do more work with you and we want to do more work with you. So if you get on the schedule, we have sales waiting for you. So they came back to us and said, I don't know what the G S A schedule is, but we have to be on it. So can you help and we didn't know anything out it really at that times, but we looked into it and we realized, okay, an agency has issued a package and a response needs to be prepared. This is what we've been doing every day since. So yes, we can help you, and we started helping existing clients through that process as a courtesy, and then word of mouth started to spread from our clients to colleagues of theirs and we started doing more and more and we looked around and saw this is an entity on its own and there are a lot of companies that do just this, and this is a great way for us to help companies get into a new position. But also, in that process we're going to learn a tremendous amount about their experience and capabilities in preparing this application, guiding them through the evaluation process until they are approved, so that, now that they're on the schedule, we know so much about them I'm able to do a really good job of identifying opportunities for them that are a good fit for their experience and capabilities and say it's great to get on a list, but the point is to get sales. So now that you're on this list, let's look at these opportunities where you can grow your business. That's one of the things that makes you stand out, Greg because I have witnessed firsthand how, when we've met with clients and I've introduced you to clients, you've been good about proactively reaching out to the clienting. You sometimes copy me on these emails. That's why I know and you say, Hey, Pedro, this is an opportunity that I found that is in your core competencies and are you interested in going after this pursuit? Right, and I've seen these. You identify their nakes codes or core competencies or capabilities right and you map that and then you come back with opportunities that for clients that you're serving and you identify opportunities that you feel you can win and help the client prepare a compliant, winning response. Yes, what you said is absolutely accurate, but also outline the go no go factors. You know, I'll say, this looks like it's a fit for what you do, but you need to have this past performance, this certification, what you know. Here the go no factors that are going to prevent you or include you in this process. Do you have this? And if they don't, then you know? All right, well, I know that. Now let's go on to the next one. It's not just me identifying and everybody. You don't rely on me to find everything for you. Let's both be looking. That way, we double the chance of us not missing something that's perfect for you. That's right. And let's take a minute because I've had clients actually insist and I want a bid on this, and I'm big on the bid, no bid, decision making process because, let's face it, we're small businesses, we have limited resources and we have to apply our bandwidth where we feel we have a good chance of winning right. It's not pixie dust, it's not magic. There's a science behind this and it's a numbers game. So we have to go through a bid, no bid process where we determine what the win, the pet the probability of winning is right, the Pe win right, and you guys do that and you come back with a score and say, okay, this is worth pursuing or not. We've developed a very nice tool that we use and excel where we go through all the yes or no questions and we figure out if we're in a position to win. If we don't come back with an eight percent or higher, than we don't...

...go a step to US step three. That's pretty much the way we nail the way you do it. People think I'm negatives because they come to me with the project and they say we would really like to have this contract, this is a nice contract, I'd love to have it, and I'm going to go through that solicitation. I'm going to try to find a reason to not pursue it, not because I don't want to do the work and I don't want them to the client. But if there's something that's going to prevent you from winning a contract, I want to find it as soon as possible so that we're not spending any more time on it. People get upset with me that I'm being negative. You know, let's do this. You gotta be positive. Let's go after now. There's no point. I mean the people who really, really want to have a contract but they're really, really don't have any chance of winning it. So I'm not gonna say no, let's not do it. I'm gonna Point to something say here's why they're not going to award it to you. And it may not be in the solicitation. It maybe because I've identified something about the history of the contract or the incumbent that tells me, Hey, look, this comes out every three years. This company has had it since ninety or whatever. You know, if there's something there that tells you know, they're probably gonna keep it again, let's you have limited resources like everybody else, so let's make sure we're applying them in the right places. That's right. I mean if you, as a contractor or not familiar with the contracting officer, with the past performance, the seat pars ratings of the incumbent. If there is an incumbent. If you don't know their hot buttons, if you've never met with a contracting officer, if you don't understand the acquisition strategy, then you're lost in the woods. Right. You're shooting in the dark. Just because you find something on a portal and it sounds like something that matches your background, that doesn't guarantee that you're gonna win it. And a lot of work goes into these things and I agree with you. Some people accuse me of being negative, but I'd just like to give them a reality check. What's the probability of you winning this thing? Right, let's take a look at it and at surface it may sound like something they do, but you know, then you've peeled the onion back a couple of layers and you find out there's a well established incumbent. They couldn't go soul source, so they had to take it back out to bid and they're going to probably stay there because the program managers are happy in the contract being officer is happy with them. So always do your research right. Never go in and big cold. You need to have situational awareness. You need to understand the culture in that agency or department and you have the capabilities. Can You demonstrate your capabilities? Can you come in with a competitive price? And your marketing materials and everything else that goes with that needs to be very strong. So you need to bring your a game to the table. I'll tell you something else. If you're struggling to get a field, whether there's an incoment contractor or not, whether it's new or not, if you want to find out if the agency has somebody in mind, sometimes the past performance requirements are going to tip their hands. If they wanted to see a lot of very specific past performance. That is three projects in the last three years, at least two million a year for this agency, you know, and and it goes on and on and on. And you might start reading that and say they are probably not more than one or people that have this. Maybe one and that's the person that's doing it now, or maybe the person that that was involved in the development of the performance awards statement. You know, that might be an indication that let's put our resources somewhere else and that would consider that very exclusive past performance requirement. But if they're saying we don't care what you've done. Just show us what you've done and let's talk to the people and see if you made them happy, and that's all we want to know. That might be an indication that they're not that happy with the person that's there now, or they're really open to opportunities with New People. Yes, sir, that's right, folks. This is Great Clark, Business Development Manager for B K a. They specialize in writing, winning proposals and helping new small business owners when multiple awards schedule or General Services Administrations Schedules, contracts schedules. These are the G S A proposals and the G S A schedules, and sometimes best in class vehicles, such as the ones recently awarded, and all types of specialized multi year contracts such as BP as, blanket purchase agreements and indefinite delivery and definite quantity, which are...

I d I q s, and g wax, which are government wide acquisition contracts. So Greg is your go to partner when it comes to proposals, multiple awards schedules and, above all, they've got a great track record of winning G S A schedules. Recently there have been some changes in the G S A and the General Services Administration contracts, and you tell us about some of the recent updates and how many g s a schedules there are and the types of products and services that can be sourced via a G S A schedule? Sure, so, about two and a half years ago there were thirty two different schedules. There was a schedule for I t, equipment products and software, services, products and software. There was a different schedule for engineering and a different schedule for advertising and integrated marketing solutions and financial business solutions. Every each schedule was a broad industry grouping and the problem was that agencies were put out of solicitation and wanted to solicit companies that are on the schedule, but it would have multiple disciplines and there would be a little consulting, a little bit of I t, a little bit of engineering, and they didn't know where to put it and it became a problem. On the other side you have companies that are very diverse in what they do and they would end up having to get three or four different schedules and maintain four or five different scheduled contracts. And so G S A, about two and a half years ago, said let's consolidate all thirty two schedules into one, and we're just going to call it the multiple awards schedule. It helps the government agencies by broad services contracts and then it also helps diverse companies because there's only one application to go through that. But, like you said, yes, this is called a contract vehicle. This is the granddaddy of them all. You know. This is fifteen thousand companies and government agencies by about thirty to thirty five billion dollars per year with the products and services directly from the companies that are on the multiple award schedule. But there are a lot of contract vehicle were out there and that's not what was going on in nineteen any four, when I started in this business. Everything was an individual contract, you know. But now instead of having on a military base a food service contract and a mechanical maintenance contract and a grounds maintenance contract and security guard, they have a boss contract, the OSS base, operations, support services. One Management Company subs everything out and that's just under one big umbrella. Instead of having thirty different construction contracts over five or ten years. A base or an agency knows that they're going to have a lot of work in one industry over a five or ten or fifteen year period, they're going to put together a contract vehicle. Maybe they'll call it a multiple award task order contract. Well, they're going to put out a solicitation to attract contractors who meet the criteria of the agency's choosing. And now we have a pool and it maybe five, eight, ten, twelve companies and over that period of that contract, fifteen years, the agency is as a need comes up, will issue a streamline task order and the companies that are on that will compete for in two that's what government contracting is about. There's a lot fewer individual contracts and a lot more contract vehicles. What the advantages of having a multiple award scheduled contract? Well, again, there's thirty billion dollars plus per year that's being purchased through the multiple award schedule that you're not eligible for if you're not on the contract. So there's that Prong of it where you're you have a dating aspect that's not available to you. But the other part is the marketing piece and that's where your sales team, if you're speaking with agencies and talking with them about what you have and what you offer and what you can do that will make their lives easier. If they're interested, one of the first things we're gonna ask you is, are you on the G S A schedule that'll let them buy from you quick or easier and less expensively, because not only are you there, but that you're already going to have your pricing negotiated. So it's a it's a tool in your sales teams belts right. So think of it as for those of you that are new to government contracting, that don't have any...

...government experience, I like to compare multiple awards schedules to a master agreement. When you have a master vendor agreement in the private sector or Master Services Agreement in M S A. The only difference is that the G S A schedule actually has pricing right. Most Master Services Agreement Talk About Service levels and pretty much define who the vendors are. They down select to a group very similar with the G S A schedules, and your finances are vetted by the G S A, your company's credit, your past performance, so there's open ratings. Is a company that evaluated past performance in the past right get references from UN if you didn't score high on the list. So I think you have to reach a score in the nineties. Is That's still the case? Great yet now open ratings is only for companies that are new to the federal government. Otherwise, I u see cars and peoples. Correct. If you're new to the government and you're getting a G S A schedule, you're gonna need to get a past performance evaluation. That's under broadchut sanction. To do that open ready report where you're going to provide pains and contact information for people who can speak to your performance and they're going to be asked to complete a survey about your performance and your customer service and your timeliness and responsiveness, etcetera, and the data from those surveys are going to be used to create what's called that open ratings report. They'll send it to you, you send it to us and we put it in your application. Okay, about how long does it take to get a S A schedule? I only get asked out about ten times a day. The quick answer is it depends. There's two components. We have to prepare and submit the application. I want that to be done in thirty to sixty days. However, we have no control over that because the first step in the process is we provide about a five page needs list to the company we're working with and tell you to read through it and then get on the phone with a person who sent it to you and go through each one to make sure you have a strong understanding of everything that's being asked for you and at that point the balls in your court. So our clients set the pace on how quickly we get everything from them, but again I'd like that process to take thirty to sixty days and no longer than that once we get it submitted. Typically, the evaluation process we're seeing in the two and a half years since it was merged into the multiple awards schedule is about three to six months. We've seen it a little bit quicker, we've seen a little bit slower, but typically we're experiencing three to six month evaluation process to award and again, once you're awarded, it's for a period of five years with three five year options and then at the end of twenty years you reapply. Very good. Now, Gregg, can you share with our listeners your experiences working with company? Well, our experience is working with you has been fantastic. Number One, whenever you have somebody that asked about anything that we do. We get a great introduction when we're dealt with with a company who has everything that it takes to get started with the government. A lot of times I'll get calls from people that they want to work with the government. Will do you have a capability statement? No. Are you minority, young, while I am, but are you certified? No. So you're getting companies procurement ready and sending them to us in position that an agency is going to look at you and say, yes, you're ready to go. What I find when I send my clients and the other direction from me to you, it's a company that maybe wasn't ready for a day certification yet, because I urged companies to hold off on that as long as possible because it's a very valuable certification to have and and has a shelf life, an expiration date. So I work with companies and help them get contracts, maybe as a subcontractor so they can build up a rapport with an agency as a subcontractor where they're going to develop a rapport and then develop some past performance so that they can be ready to work as a prim contractor. Then I send them to you so that you can get them the certifications they need, get the capability statements they need, the business cards so that everything looks the same as their website and so that they're ready to go, and you always come back to me if there's anything else you need, so that they're always happy. The only reason they come back, ever, is to say your Guy Great, Clarks did'd such a great job. Now we need you to update my capability statement because I have a G S A schedule. So that's a...

...good thing, right, absolutely. So they come back and they actually come back and actually I just recently had a case like that. Right. So, yeah, I got my G S A schedule, so I need to update the capability statement. So, Greg before we leave, I wanted you to share with our listeners. Give us a couple of your ingredients to Gregg's and D K A secret sauce. Give us three ingredients for success in federal contracting from your perspective. What would they be? Well, you have to have past performance to be successful in government contracting. Where you get that, it will dictate what federal contracts you can pursue. There's going to be some contracts, and that's leading into the second point. Your bid. No bid process. You'RE gonna have to figure out a way to make yourself aware of everything that comes out for what you do and what and where you do it. The Federal Government has Sam Dot Gov for contracting opportunities. Some people love it, very few but some. Most people don't, but that's the free resource and that's where you can find opportunities and you have to go through that process of reviewing everything to find projects for what you do and where you do it. And then it's going to come down to your bid. No big process evaluating them to determine what's a good fit for your experience and capabilities, and then what it is learning how to put your best foot forward to be successful, and I would say I would add to that, when you're not, make sure you get a debriefing so you find out in your proposal what did you do well and what do you need to improve upon. That's a very good recommendation right there. Win Or lose, always ask for debrief right. Lessons learned are a very good way to get ahead in federal contracting. I've always said failure is never an option, but if you must fail, fail forward fast. I agree, Greg. It's been a pleasure having you folks. Greg Clark from D K a your go to resource in government contracting, Proposal Writing, General Services Administration. D S A schedules blanket purchase agreements. I D I cues any type of large contracting vehicle in the federal government. Greg's your guy, Greg Clark, has been a pleasure of having you. Thank you for joining Uncle Sam's secret sauce. Thank you up Yally soon. Until next based in Miami, Florida, Raphael Morrero in company is a management consultancy founded in two thousand eight by Dr Raphael Morrero. The firm helps other veteran owned, minority, women and small businesses break into the federal marketplace and do business with the world's richest and most powerful client, the US federal government. To learn more, visit Raphael Marrero Dot Com. You've been listening to Uncle Sam's secret sauce, a Raphael Morrero and company podcast. Keep connected with us by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player and giving us a rating. That helps us to keep delivering the latest in business growth strategies and ultimately, learn what Uncle Sam's secret ingredients are. Thanks for listening. Until next time.

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