In the past year, two major governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) — Alliant Small Business and CIO-SP3 Small Business had major on-ramps.

On Feb. 14, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced it awarded 81 vendors small business contracts. On Feb. 28, the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (NITAAC) made a Pre-Award Notice to 40 service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) vendors for the Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners 3 (CIO-SP3) Small Business Ramp On. NITAAC expects to award more contracts to vendors in other small business categories shortly.

Statistics from the Alliant Small Business and CIO-SP3 SB GWACs tell us that the top 10 vendors will likely receive 50 percent of all contract awards, and approximately 10 percent of vendors will never see a single award, as summarized below:

  • Alliant Small Business Summary (awarded $5 billion to 65 vendors from 2012 to February 2018)
    • Top 10 vendors won 59 percent of all contract dollars
    • Top 25 vendors won 85 percent of all contract dollars
    • 17, or 26 percent, of vendors won $10 million or less
    • 6, or 9 percent, of vendors won $0
  • CIO-SP3 Summary (awarded $3.8 billion to 95 vendors from 2012 to February 2018)
    • Top 10 vendors won nearly 50 percent of all contract dollars
    • Top 25 vendors 78 percent of all contract dollars
    • 41, or 43 percent, of vendors won $10 million or less
    • 11, or 11.5 percent, of vendors won $0

Five years after a GWAC award, many small vendors will be off-ramped because they exceed the contract size standard. Before the recent pre-award notice, CIO-SP3 had 95 small business vendors, 40 of which had outgrown their size standard and are known as "other than small business" (OTSB).

These vendors are unable to bid on task orders unless a contracting officer waives the small business requirement, which is rare. Once off-ramped, most of these businesses end up at or below the $100 million mark in value, which makes competition challenging.

Winning a great GWAC is an honor and should not be squandered. Vendors are not going to win a sizable share of task orders waiting around for them to drop. To optimize your return on investment, consider implementing these 12 tips.

  1. Understand the IDIQ organization and mechanics, including how a statement of work (SOW) becomes a request for proposal (RFP), how to use the GWAC software, how to process awards and payments, grounds for protest, etc.
  2. Develop a strategic plan to become star player
  3. Conduct research on current and potential GWAC customers
  4. Identify your competitors and how you place in the pack
  5. Create a multiyear pipeline to win bids
  6. Cultivate the partnerships needed to win task orders with large and small companies
  7. Develop a marketing plan to build your brand awareness and co-sponsor marketing events
  8. Develop a plan to support the GWAC's Program Office
  9. Build an organization that can efficiently collaborate and respond to RFPs (business development, capture, proposals, production, contracts, finance, etc.) and transition to operations without disrupting ongoing work
  10. Build your proposal response capabilities
  11. Teach staff members how to collect information, grow business organically, win their recompetes, and support other proposals
  12. Keep your house clean — ensure you are continually updating the past performance, producing stellar monthly reports, updating your resumes, and earning excellent Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPAR) grades