By Carol Craig in FORWARD Florida
August 16, 2016
New businesses seeking to survive in today’s marketplace must come up with innovative ideas, products and/or services regularly to thrive. This is no different in the government contracting realm, although government does tend to adopt innovation at a slower pace than other types of business.
For a government contractor in Florida, the competition is fiercer than it's ever been when it comes to finding and responding to proposal requests from local, state and national government procurement officers. For that reason, being innovative in this arena is even more important than ever.
When I started Craig Technologies in 1999, I was reluctant to reinvent the wheel. I wanted quick, easy, cheap solutions for my business-related problem of the day. If I needed to track RFPs or build a better reporting system for example, I would download an inexpensive program. The result… many cookie cutter solutions that didn’t meet my business’ unique needs.
In the world of government contracting, having the right processes in place is critical to not only getting new business, but keeping it. As I worked hard to grow my company, I realized that there really was no software solution in the government contracting industry that met the wide range of needs companies like mine had when pursuing new business.
After countless ineffective, cheap downloads, I decided to hire an in-house software developer to create solutions customized to our business model. So, Tim Hagerty (my new software developer) started building software solutions that would efficiently automate many of our current manual processes for A/P approval, performance reviews, travel authorizations, visitor control, etc. As we encountered challenges in business processes, we would present them to Tim and he would customize a software solution for us.
Specifically, in terms of identifying and pursuing government contracts, we noticed how much time our staff was spending manually searching for RFPs, then creating multiple Excel sheets to track proposal team tasks, generate reports, etc. Tim created a new software that, not only automatically retrieved new government proposal opportunities from a myriad of sources, but also sorted those opportunities based on customized company filters. The software also automatically provided RFP updates from government sources, and assisted our capture team in managing tasks and award pipelines more efficiently. Reporting dashboards were built in as well - so now everything we needed to pursue new business was located on one platform. We realized that this type of software could be valuable to other government contractors as well, and that’s when my newest company, ProDash(™), was born.
My ProDash story is just one example of how we can be innovative as business owners. Innovation within your business can mean many things - whether it’s taking a fresh look at old processes and procedures, or considering new approaches to business development and customer relations. These are some of the ways to stay ahead of the trends in your industry, and sometimes those ways include creating your own solutions.
My advice for you is to not always take the easy way out. Look within your organization for solutions. Does your team have the talent to solve a particular roadblock or issue? Be open to innovating. If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be soon starting up another business - a software business no less - I would have probably thought you were crazy. Yet, here we are.
Regardless of the type of business you own, refusing to innovate and evolve can result in loss of business, smaller profit margins and unmotivated employees. One way to start innovating is to listen to the ideas of your employees, whether they seem good or bad on the surface. Be open to their suggestions. You never know what phenomenal process improvement could be waiting for you.
Additionally, ask yourself, is there an issue you can solve in your industry, to help not only your business, but your colleagues as well?
While innovating doesn’t always lead to an expansion or spin-off company, it can definitely lead to a more marketable product or service, resulting in revenue growth.