As a long time capture manager for large business, I meet with small businesses all the time. On every Prime contracting opportunity I’ve ever worked, I’ve teamed with small businesses as subcontractors. On occasion, I’ve even subbed to SB Primes.

When I meet an SB the #1 thing I’m looking for is to see is – do you have your sh*t together? I don’t want to partner up with a shady SB that is on the fast track to financial insolvency. Some of the clues you have their act together include: having a DCAA compliant accounting system, a Facility security clearance, a credit line, an ISO quality certification or CMMi certification, contracts with revenues in the 8-figures, logos in multiple agencies, staff with a certain percentage of bachelors, masters, and PhDs, and awards and accolades from outside organizations. (Not there yet? Don’t worry, you can begin to work toward having these things in your business as you build your capabilities. Rome wasn’t built in a day).

OK- but it doesn’t end there. The #2 thing I look for is – what’s your story? And how well can you tell it? Who do you serve? What are your core competencies? Are they proven? Then, prove it to me. What do you do better than every other SB? Are you confident? (Don’t stutter your way through this! So many companies — even the large businesses have business developers who can’t articulate their story). It’s not good. You need to train your people before they go out and meet potential clients and partners on what to say. Make them practice.

And the #3 thing I look for is — can I see myself working with you? Are you personable and friendly? Do you seem interested in helping me meet my goals? I’ll be honest with you, I’ve met some SB folks that are just clueless. They whine and complain they haven’t gotten enough work on another contract with us. (It’s so important to take your complaints to the right person in the company, that is empowered to help you. A capture manager generally can’t help you with getting work on the contract. That’s the program manager. ) Or, some other large business treated them poorly. (How is it my fault that someone else didn’t treat you well? I’ve got every intention of doing right by you.) Or they deserve a certain workshare percentage, but they haven’t explained to me “why.” (No one is going to give you workshare without you clearly defining your value to winning the contract). When we can establish a mutually beneficial relationship, it’s a win-win. If you’re meeting with a lot of LBs and not able to lock in a teaming agreement, this could be the reason you’re failing to close them.

Look, I get that working with large businesses can be a pain. It’s a 2-way street, believe me. Hopefully my candid thoughts will help you put your best foot forward in your next interaction with a large business.

Could you do me a favor? Of the 3 things I mentioned here, which one is the biggest challenge for you right now? Hit “reply” and let me know if it was 1, 2, or 3.