Applying General Advice for Winning Government Work to GPO
Winning work through the federal government can be a daunting task if you don't know what you are doing. It takes preparation, practice, patience and professionalism to be successful when dealing with the world's largest bureaucracy―one that buys enormous amounts of goods and services each year.
Some general tips on how to win work from the federal government apply specifically to winning work from the United States Government Printing Office (GPO)―an agency that awards approximately $425 million annually to private sector printers. The general tips below have been adapted by Deborah Snider, senior vice president of e-LYNXX Corporation and division president of its Government Print Management division, for winning GPO work:
1. Understand that GPO procurement is different from other federal government procurement. GPO is a Congressional Branch (the Congress) agency, whereas other federal government agencies fall under the Executive Branch (the President). This means that the rules governing procurement are different. Attorneys and federal government procurement experts are often at a loss when it comes to GPO rules and regulations as GPO is not covered by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and has its own set of rules and regulations. This requires specialized expertise as provided by a GPO specialist.
2. Decide what to sell. You need to know your capabilities and be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. If you are the best at running quick turn-around jobs, then that is the work you should seek. There will be other opportunities, and you should not ignore them, but you will be most competitive in the areas where you are strongest.
3. Contact a specialist/expert. Government print management experts at a GPO bid service are your best avenue for getting dependable advice on becoming a GPO supplier. Their advice will ease the process of first registering with GPO and then qualifying your capabilities. Caution: There are some GPO bid services that just repackage what you can get for free off the GPO website… and then charge you for it. Avoid them.
4. Get registered and certified. Make your interest in doing government work known. Before beginning with GPO, every private sector printer must register and then be qualified to compete for work in one or more of five levels:
Level 1 – Best quality, highest quality, tightest tolerances (examples: art books, medical journals and meat grading charts) Onsite inspection is required for this level.
Level 2 – Better quality, prestige quality, library quality (examples: yearbooks, recruiting materials and illustrated professional papers)
Level 3 – Good quality, above average quality (examples: annual reports, general process color work, court decisions, budget reports, catalogs and textbooks)
Level 4 – Basic quality, informational quality, utility quality (examples: telephone directories, indexes, project reports and technical manuals without process color and with only occasional halftones)
Level 5 – Functional quality, lowest usable quality (examples: Interoffice forms, line-only information handouts)
If you qualify for Level 1 work, you also can bid on jobs in the other four levels. If you qualify for Level 2 work, you also can bid on levels 3, 4 and 5… and so on.
5. Be realistic about your capabilities. Past performance influences whether a printer will win additional GPO work. Don't get off on the wrong foot by missing a deadline, mislabeling a shipment, not acknowledging a job change order or incorrectly submitting an invoice. Start with a smaller project you know you can do well and prove yourself.
6. Do your homework. The most successful GPO print suppliers rely upon data from the only database in the country that maintains an archive of GPO jobs, dating back more than 20 years. Analysis of this data, such as how past GPO work has been priced, allows printers to make an educated bid for work that can be profitable.
7. Don't assume it's automatically in the bag. Keep in mind that competition for GPO work can be fierce, especially for jobs in the $2,500 to $5,000 range. Large, difficult, specialty or fast turn-around jobs tend to have limited competition. Don't assume you can bid and win based on guesstimates. You need to be very careful and specific when evaluating job specifications and determining whether your equipment and staff can handle the work within the required timeframe. Paper is another important consideration, and you must know when you can substitute stock and when you cannot. Miscalculating on just one aspect of a job can cost you the bid, rejection of the completed job and worse.
8. Be confident, but remain poised. You have to be alert during the bid process, as the GPO issues amendments to its specifications that must be acknowledged or the bid is rejected. The same is true after the job is awarded, in that the GPO can issue change orders that again must be dealt with or the result can cause financial difficulty. You must be attentive to detail and understand clearly what you are doing. This is not a guessing man’s sport.
GPO is a dependable and profitable source for work to fill non-productive, non-revenue generating downtime. According to Snider, printers that enter the GPO marketplace both strategically and consistently, with knowledge of how to work the numbers and fulfill requirements, increase their bottom line annual profitability from a national average of less than 3 percent to more than 10 percent.
About e-LYNXX Corporation
e-LYNXX Corporation developed the patented technology integral to e-commerce. Endorsed by Educational & Institutional Cooperative Purchasing (E&I) and Printing Industries of America (PIA/), e-LYNXX drives results through its three divisions. Patented Procurement Method licenses the Automated Vendor Selection Technology (AVS Technology) used in e-commerce and procurement systems. American Print Management provides systems, services and the patented AVS Technology to reduce substantially the procured costs of direct mail, marketing materials, labels, packaging and other procured print. Government Print Management offers effective U.S. GPO bid services and strategies. For more information, visit www.e-LYNXX.com.