The hidden determinant of P-win

By Brian Caouette | 22 April 2020
Mark Johnson
Washington, DC, United States (U.S)

An expert in small business entrepreneurship and business transformation

Mark Johnson is a seasoned entrepreneur who leverages his thirty years of commercial and federal business experience to help small businesses achieve ...

OnFrontiers, described as a “Linkedin on steroids,” is gaining adoption by growth leaders in the Federal marketplace who have found the platform to be a scalable means of accelerating revenue by doubling down on their company’s greatest asset – its knowledge network.

Building a team to win is one of the most important aspects of increasing your probability of winning (i.e. pWin) in a capture. Most small and mid-sized businesses have all heard a story about an “expert” or have gotten a sales pitch about how a 3rd party firm has experts who can help you win.

Mark Johnson, Managing Partner of Catapult Growth Partners recounts working with a large firm who brought in their account expert to meet with the capture team. The individual seemed to have insight into the client’s challenges and expectations. She knew all the client’s hot buttons. With her intel and deep knowledge, Mark’s team was able to provide a client-centric approach and deliver an offer that “read the client’s mind.” Their knowledge and expertise resonated throughout the entire proposal and as a result the prime contractor had a resounding win.

Most small and mid-sized companies don’t have these types of experts on hand.  They only consider an investment in this type of expert resource on large strategic deals.  They believe these types of experts are unaffordable or they do not have the resources or the time to identify affordable “experts” to supplement their capture team.  So, most of the time these companies have no alternative but to leverage the limited resources they have available.  They simply do not have the time, resources or the money to engage an expert that can increase their pWin.

Your knowledge network is the ultimate weapon

If you break down the drivers of the probability of winning (i.e. pWin); customer, competitor, capabilities, cost/value – they each require an incredible amount of human intelligence and expertise to win. A contractor’s knowledge network — the collection of relationships it can activate on-demand to supply these inputs – is vital to both selecting the right opportunities to pursue and to building a favored position on those captures.  “All else equal, the bidder with the stronger knowledge network has the edge” says Mark.

The first benefit of a stronger network is client intimacy. A contractor with access to people who deeply understand the context of the mission, the challenges the agency faces and who provide insight into the solution can more easily come to the right win themes. Building client intimacy has always been important, but it is especially so in the current procurement environment. Competition is fiercer than it has ever been and the movement to best in class or agency-specific vehicles have accelerated the time a business has to respond to a task order. In today’s competitive environment a strong knowledge network that can produce client intimacy is critical to winning!

Knowledge networks deliver other important benefits that increase your pWin. One is innovation. Agencies are seeking new and often non-obvious, solutions from bidders. Arriving at these requires creativity and cross-disciplinary thinking. A contractor’s network can be used to tap the experience of professionals beyond the “usual suspects” who normally support your capture process. Outside experts can serve as non-advocate reviewers at each gate to shake up the thinking, thereby expanding the talent pool a contractor has at its disposal.

A strong knowledge network will also be beneficial in building a “team to win.” A strong team enhances your team’s ability to build stronger win themes.  To better understand the agency’s challenges and to develop a solution that meets the client’s expectations. To ultimately produce a superior technical proposal. They will also enable you to produce the strongest group of Key Personnel for your bid. The firm that has the strongest network to quickly identify the strongest team will dramatically improve its odds of winning.

Historically beyond reach for most contractors

Though growth leaders have long recognized the value of their network, a focused investment in building one has been too expensive for most to take on. There are several reasons. The crux is that the kind of knowledge that gives you an edge comes only from hard-earned experience – for example, years working with a specific agency or department. If firms want to access that knowledge, they generally need to pay for it. Because there are only so many experts any business can permanently employ, the number of opportunities that a small or mid-sized company has the knowledge to bid is, by its very nature, limited.

Contracting experts on a retainer or project basis can fill this gap, yet here there are significant search costs in addition to the fees. Networks of capture staff are limited and time-consuming to access. “How do I know which of my 3,000 Linkedin connections can get me to that former non-uniform wearing Air Force professional who knows how training programs work on a particular base?” asked one of Mark’s clients. Accessing that sort of intelligence will require days of emailing, persuasion, and administrative work before getting any useful nuggets in return.

Specialized consulting firms present another option. Several firms in the federal market broker relationships with insiders. The cost, however, comes at a premium which makes this method worthwhile for small and mid-sized companies only in limited cases. The other drawback is a clunky user experience. Accessing experts via consulting firms flows through a gatekeeper who supervises the relationship and restricts access to the consultant. The network is, owned by the consulting firm v. the contractor, precluding the ability to build relationships with the consultant that enhance the contractor’s overall competitiveness.

The final challenge is inadequate systems for managing and retaining a contractor’s network. Relationships are most often held by individuals rather than the business. All small and mid-sized businesses know too well the dilemma faced when a member of their Business Development team leaves. After they are gone, the relationships and agency/market intelligence leaves with them.

The consequences are clear: slower growth and missed opportunities. Recognizing this, Mark has long been searching for a way to make the magic an expert can deliver more of a repeatable, predictable occurrence. In OnFrontiers, he feels he’s finally found that “The platform takes a novel approach integrating a powerful set of features and functionality not available in any other platform we’ve seen in this market.” The OnFrontiers platform will bring a significant advantage to all who utilize it.

An absolute “game-changer” for growth executives

The centerpiece of OnFrontiers is a robust network-building capability that aggregates the internal and external relationships that power any knowledge business. Anyone working on a capture has a single place to go to find a person to help on a pursuit. This effectively formalizes the network asset many contractors tout yet fail to operationalize. It allows a contractor to better utilize its intellectual capital by centralizing high-fidelity relationships.

OnFrontiers integrates a rapid introduction and consultation platform which helps capture teams build their networks on the fly. OnFrontiers screens experts according to highly specialized criteria and sets up confidential paid learning consultations, generally within 48 hours of a request, to dig into the topic of interest. Once engaged, experts become part of the contractor’s network and can be reengaged as advisors, consultants or even key personnel on the proposal. Unlike brokers, OnFrontiers doesn’t charge fees on deeper engagements or restrict follow-on contacts.

OnFrontiers global marketplace of experts includes former high-level mission officials and functional leaders who advise on granular topics, such as how a system works in a particular department or agency. It also includes industry experts, which support the need for innovation. The marketplace spans all sectors and geographies — OnFrontiers sources from over 300k profiles when matching experts to clients.

The result is a cost-effective means of building and leveraging a contractor’s knowledge network to power its growth. Although the platform has only recently made its way into the federal marketplace, its value has already been proven out working with several leading government partners, from top-100 contractors to small businesses getting off the ground. “OnFrontiers is laser-focused on solving the growth challenges contractors face. We are 100% committed to helping them succeed” says OnFrontiers CEO Brian Caouette.

Interested in learning more? Find out how OnFrontiers can help your team capture more business in the Federal market.

An expert in small business entrepreneurship and business transformation
Washington, DC, United States (U.S)
Co-Owner, Housewives in the City

Mark Johnson is a seasoned entrepreneur who leverages his thirty years of commercial and federal business experience to help small businesses achieve success. Mr. Johnson began his career at General Electric where he developing strong accounting and financial management expertise. He then managed large complex global IT programs for Fortune 500 companies and ultimately achieved the level of Partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2000, he transferred to the Federal practice where he brought global best practices to the Federal market. Several years after IBM acquired PwC (2002), Mr. Johnson was appointed Vice President managing a large practice in the Federal market. Throughout his career he has helped transform business and government through technology. In 2010, Mr. Johnson started 3A Broker Services. Through 3A Broker Services Mr. Johnson focuses on providing small businesses the tools and expertise they need to accelerate their business growth and achieve their dreams. Through 3A, Mr. Johnson and his Partners have advised dozens of small businesses on market trends, business strategy and achieving revenue growth. He is currently supporting WOSB, VOSB, SDVOSB, Hub Zone and 8(a) certified clients in the Federal market place and also has several Social Media clients. Most recently Mr. Johnson launched Team To Win, the premier source for prime contractors to identify experienced based small and disadvantaged business teaming partners in the Federal market.