There is good that has come out of this ill-fated and completely avoidable misadventure trying to get onto the GSA Schedule.
1. The process and requirements forced me to focus and articulate my areas of expertise.
2. I had to give serious thought to what differentiates my services from others who work in similar areas.
3. I learned about the importance of identifying my company as a certified woman-owned business. That is not something that I have played up in the past.
4. The massive documentation I had to develop will be very useful in future proposals and marketing efforts.
a. Creating the narratives of projects that I have completed was very instructive.
b. Writing the capability statement cave me a head start in defining what it is that I do.
c. The responses I have written to the requests for proposals contain information I can and will use again in future (and hopefully, more successful) proposals.
5. I got practice pricing potential travel and lodging expenses, which was illuminating in itself.
6. All may not be lost. I do have another year to watch and see if there is work I can do for the federal government.
And what hard lessons have I learned?
- It is important to conduct thorough research into any venture that appears attractive. I should have spent a lot of time on the GSA website. I also should have checked out the websites of more of the women-owned contractors who did and did not get contracts- and called to talk with them about their experiences.
- I need to ask more questions to get a complete picture of the requirements before I voluntarily jump onto the merry-go-round.
- If the application is incredibly difficult to complete, that is a good indication that the application process will be incredibly difficult.
- If the application process is so complex that it requires paid expertise to complete it, then the implementation (marketing) phase will also require paid expertise.
- If you want to do business with the federal government, you need to be in a financial position where you do not need the business.
- If the solution to stress creates more stress, it is not a good solution. The reason for wanting to get onto the GSA Schedule was to reduce my stress about the paucity of work and finances. Sadly, the process of getting onto the GSA Schedule kept me highly stressed for two years and did not do anything to get me work or improve my finances.
- I need to be aware that I was guilty of magical thinking: getting on the GSA Schedule will open the door for lots of federal lucrative contracts. I did not consider how difficult it would be to introduce myself and build relationships with federal agencies.
- When I consider taking a risk, I need to think through my decision to its practical and most likely conclusion. I can not allow my desperation to muddy my view of the most realistic exit.
- Nothing involving the federal government is ever simple or easy.
- If it sounds too good to be true, be wary, because you do not have the full story.