three-red-heart-balloons-704748Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on our relationships (or lack thereof) and assess where we stand in our dating life. As a federal contractor, our most important relationship is with our client; most importantly, how compatible the work feels with our corporate strengths. If you’re a small contractor looking to expand by pursuing new opportunities, the rules of finding a great contract follow those of dating pretty closely. Find the work that feels compatible, look for work in the right places, showcase your strengths with a great profile, and craft the perfect proposal.

The first step is finding a contract that aligns with your organization. At Ellumen, we specialize in services such as application training and medical logistics solutions. We search for opportunities that we find compatible with our existing services and strengths, just like one would search for their perfect match in the dating pool. It’s okay not to pursue contracts that don’t seem compatible with the work you do; it’s best to understand your place in the market and forget contracts that play to your weaknesses or require an unjustified overhaul of talent and resources. However, just like how dating can allow for personal growth, every contract offers the opportunity for expansion and new capabilities/opportunities. Just because a contract doesn’t perfectly align with your current strengths doesn’t mean it won’t be an opportunity to grow and learn as a company.

As a small business, it can be challenging to identify vehicles and landing sites for relevant contracts – like how it can be hard to find potential compatible partners in a small town or new environment. Knowing where to look and what to look for is key. The starting place is, which is the hub for contractors and proposal resources. However, expanding your search to include other or more specific vehicles can offer an experience tailored to both you and your potential clients’ needs. Looking for partners in a bar or on a dating app requires a different set of expectations, and understanding yours while perusing gives you a great advantage. Do you have a small business set-aside? Are you veteran-owned? Do you have an existing relationship with a potential client already? Like how a dating site matches you with similar singles, find contracts whose set-asides and preferences match your unique attributes.

Just like on a date, bringing your best self to the table and being confident in who you are will foster the best relationships. Once you’ve found a contract that seems like a good fit, it’s important to have a capabilities statement that outlines your strengths, past performance history, key personnel, and any awards or recognition. This statement is like a detailed dating profile; it’s your best chance at capturing on paper what makes your business unique – so spend time crafting and updating it. Again, be open to flexibility and growth – your business can expand beyond what’s on paper with the proper client relationship.

When you’ve finally found “the One,” it’s time to craft the perfect proposal. Tell your story and be detailed in explaining how your resources and personnel fit the technical requirements of the work. Be fair and competitive in your pricing strategy. Show that your past relationships were strong and rewarding. Your proposal sets the tone for the rest of your relationship, so engage your potential client and follow their requests in how to approach the document.

Just like dating, the world of contract bidding requires uniqueness, compatibility, and flexibility. Every new relationship offers a chance to grow your business, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.