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Using Modern Technology to Scale & Grow Your Government Contracting Company: A Conversation with Unanet’s Chris Crowder

Using Modern Technology to Scale & Grow Your Government Contracting Company: A Conversation with Unanet's Chris Crowder - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Approximately 30 percent of government contracting companies rank organic growth as the top contributor to their financial challenges, according to Unanet‘s recent GAUGE Report, a widely referenced benchmarking report that highlights trends, best practices and business challenges for government contractors. Unanet has noticed that many of its smaller GovCon customers have expanded more easily than others, likely because they had the right infrastructure in place to do so.

In his new role as executive vice president of GovCon at Unanet, Chris Crowder is striving to bring more strategic engagement, customer care, and innovation to the company’s GovCon customers. In this Executive Spotlight conversation, we spoke with Chris to understand how Unanet’s modern enterprise risk planning and customer relationship management solutions can help GovCons unify operations and support growth.

We hear a lot about challenges GovCons are facing, such as staffing shortages, but what are some positive things that you see among your GovCon customers?

I’m very optimistic about the sector overall. Our customers tell us they are growing rapidly, and there is more opportunity than ever before due to increased infrastructure spending and other government priorities. I’m also heartened by more innovative technology replacing some older, legacy technology both in government agencies and at the GovCons who serve them. This will help everyone be more efficient and achieve their goals more readily. It also contributes to greater transparency and collaboration among agencies and GovCons.

You mentioned GovCons are saying there is more opportunity. How can firms get a piece of that business, especially smaller companies?

Approximately 37 percent of small businesses don’t have a formalized capture or gate process for federal proposals, according to our recent GAUGE Report. Both projected and actual win rates more than doubled since last year. This was fueled by a significant increase in win rates by firms with fewer than 100 full-time employees. This indicates a lot of manual work, whereas use of a specialized CRM tool could provide detailed and robust reporting functionality, helping project managers make financial decisions that will grow individual contracts and ultimately help steer the company toward expansion.

What specialized tools can help GovCons win more business?

First, we can share what’s not working with companies trying to win more business: spreadsheets and off-the-shelf small business software. Many of our small business GovCon customers are moving up from small-team operations, where spreadsheets made sense. But as they grow by orders of magnitude, spreadsheets weigh them down. They are impossible to manage at scale and have too much room for error. And the data is stagnant. There’s no real-time update of rapidly changing situations. Similarly, some legacy systems are not very intuitive and it’s often difficult to get the type of reports or data they need.

Tools that help companies with new business opportunities are primarily in the CRM space, like Unanet CRM for GovCon. But what is most helpful is when the CRM can integrate perfectly with their ERP so that the business can track a project from initial RFP all the way through invoicing and payment.

What should GovCons think about if they’re planning for considerable growth?

It’s much harder to implement systems after you’ve grown, so my advice is to prepare as soon as you see growth happening. Also, as companies grow, they are often focused on the next 18 months or two years, but they should be looking further into the future, at the next five years or even 10. What will that growth look like? Thinking longer-term when selecting software will help companies save money in the long run because all the systems they need will already be in place and will help them be more efficient (and less stressed out) as they manage major growth.

Here’s a great example: PPT Solutions Inc., a Huntsville, Ala.-based firm that works with Army aviation and Department of Homeland Security customers, saw the writing on the wall that it was winning more business and growing at a speedy clip. PPT had previously used off-the-shelf software to capture time entry, payroll invoicing and contract data. As the company began pursuing large new business opportunities, it realized that manual processes weren’t going to work. They made the transition to Unanet ERP and CRM before they grew, so they weren’t expanding while at the same time transitioning into a new accounting and contracts management system.

Which business processes are most important to streamline as a small business that is expanding?

Invoicing and accounting processes are particularly valuable to streamline because they help you get paid faster and make things easier on your customers at the same time. But all project management functions become more efficient when the right tools are in place. Whether it’s managing budgets, payroll, expenses or even connecting with sub-contractors, the real value is in unifying almost all your operations so that you can better serve your customers.

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