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Winning in the Federal Market Space: Advice from Randy Richter

Randy Richter, Chairman and Price to Win Director at Richter & Company, was a recent guest on episode 19 of Scribble Talk, a podcast that invites well-known industry veterans to share effective strategies for bidding on and capturing federal contracts. Richter was asked to talk about factors that had shaped the development of his Maryland-based small business that has helped its clients win more than $30 billion in new business since 2006.

Born in a self-described “blue-collar” Baltimore neighborhood, Richter told hosts Ashley Kayes and Baskar Sundaram that he originally planned on going to work at a Sparrows Point steel mill or at the Dundalk Marine Terminal. Instead, thanks to the early influence of his uncle, aka “Unc”, and the guidance of Scoutmaster Dave Hagen, Randy set his sights on something beyond the streets of East Baltimore. At the age of 11, he was working with “Unc” at a mobile home park, learning the basics of the building trades, the soft skills of salesmanship and negotiation, and a solid work ethic. Scoutmaster Hagen introduced him to lacrosse, a sport he parlayed into a full ride to Cornell University. This education, along with the guidance of these two mentors, changed Randy’s life and put him on the path to success in life, and eventually in business.

According to Richter, the company he founded in 2006 was a sole proprietorship with very modest goals. How then, asked co-hosts Kayes and Sundaram, was he able to build this enterprise into one of the best-known consulting firms on bidding strategy in the federal market space? Was Randy Richter a natural savant at proposal-writing out of the gate?

Absolutely not, he confessed. “In fact, the first proposal I was ever asked to write was a total failure,” he laughed. “I did everything wrong. I did no planning. I had no process. And I had no clue how important it was to learn who our customer was or what they cared about. I spent no time at all studying our competition to try to figure out what they might bring to the table. When it came time to present our bid, my team and I walked blithely into a buzz saw, carrying my sub-par proposal— and got crushed by another company who knew all the things we didn’t about our potential customer.”

Despite the immediate outcome, Richter says that experience was important in the long term because it opened his eyes to the importance of competitive intelligence.

“Failing so dramatically at my first foray into proposal-writing taught me one of the most important things a person can know about capturing a contract: it’s not about you and your company. It’s about them: your prospective client and your competition for their business. Collecting and analyzing information about those two entities, and then using that information to produce actionable intelligence, is the foundation for success in this business.”

Asked if Competitive Intelligence (CI) and Price to Win (PTW) work are the same, Richter said, “They are separate but integrally linked functions. You can’t do one without the other, but they are different. CI is the process of gathering and analyzing data on your competitors. PTW is using that data to build out the costing that your competitors are in a position to offer, and then designing a solution that beats that number while staying in line with your own business objectives and fulfilling your prospective customer’s goals.”

When asked about role models and influencers in his life, Richter again returned to “Unc” and Mr. Hagen, the two men who had given him the tools he needed to get the education that redirected this life. But when asked about “words of wisdom” that had guided his business philosophy, Richter called upon the chorus of the late, great Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler.

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ‘em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run.

(The Gambler lyrics©Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

According to Richter, it’s important to know when to walk away from a bid. In other words, he said, know when to “cut your losses so you can live to fight another day.”

“When I think about a Price to Win position, I always think about these lyrics,” said Richter. “A good Price to Win process is designed to respond to the government’s needs, and applies factors like gaming strategy, aggressiveness, fees, and corporate interest to identify the ‘price to win’ position. Never forget, however, that the Price to Win process also identifies the position your company needs to achieve to meet your business goals and objectives. It doesn’t always mean winning. You may want to position your company with your customers without actually winning the program. If the price you come up with doesn’t fit your corporate objectives and it allows you to capture the contract, it’s not a true win.”

To wrap up the hour-long interview, Richter answered the “What do you wish you had known in 2006 when you started your company” question with some final words of advice for all types of entrepreneurs.

“If you’re going to start a business, you need to embrace the concept of failure. You can’t take the safe route—which means you’re going to stumble and fall…often…but you have to keep risking it. Keep doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.”

“As entrepreneurs,” he concluded. “We’re like the old saying: the turtle never goes anywhere without sticking his neck out.”

“Keep sticking your neck out.”

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There’s a “New” Procurement Type in Town – Other Transaction Authority/Other Transaction Agreements

We all know the traditional acquisition types used in federal contracting – Full & Open competition, small business set-asides, sole source, etc. However, you’ve probably only just started hearing about OTAs and have been left scratching your head. We’ve been hearing more and more about this mysterious acquisition process that provides an alternative to traditional methods – no FAR regulation, no full blown proposal writing, much less red tape. OTAs, Other Transaction Agreements, are being used to create a more flexible, efficient, and cost-effective method for the US Government to buy technology.

What is an OTA? How is it different from traditional contracts?

History of OTAs

While OTAs have been around for decades, they’ve only recently gained significant attention within the acquisition community. First signed into order in 1958, along with the creation of NASA, OTAs were introduced as a mechanism to beat the Soviet Union in the Cold War Space Race. This new acquisition process provided NASA with the “authority” to enter into transactions not subject to regulations that applied to typical contracts.

In order to execute an Other Transaction Agreement, agencies must have Other Transaction Authority granted by Congress. What started with NASA in 1958 has now expanded to include the Departments of Defense, Energy, Health & Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation, as well as some specific government agencies and programs.

Differences between Traditional Contracts and OTAs

OTAs offer flexibility to what is typically a cumbersome process. In recent years, Non Traditional Contractors (for example: small, innovative commercial companies) have shied away from working with the US Government to avoid what is generally viewed as an expensive, time-consuming, and complicated process. The rise of OTAs have changed the calculus and could open the door to new competitors. The chart below summarizes the basic differences between Traditional Contracts and OTAs.

Key Takeaway

DoD (and the broader US government) has increasingly utilized OTAs as part of an overarching goal to reform the way it does business. As the chart notes, the streamlined OTA process has many benefits – it’s less formal, has fewer regulations, and requires less up-front costs, but it will take time for both the acquisition community and industry learn how to use this mechanism correctly. Richter and Company is here to help you navigate the process and succeed in today’s ever-more competitive marketplace. Since 2006, we have helped our clients win more than $30 billion in new business using our proven methodology and comprehensive tools. To see how we can help you win, please contact us.

We’ve covered the basics in this blog post, but we are excited to share a webinar and White Paper with more details in the upcoming weeks!


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Introducing Our New CA and PTW Tools

We are pleased to introduce to you some of the newest and most powerful solutions here at Richter and Company – our competitive analysis tool, competiRATER, as well as our Price To Win Tools, laborRATER & wrapRATER. While these new products use elements of our traditional services, they intuitively analyze general capabilities and solutions in the context of an awarded contract vehicle or market segment. As a result, these productized results now may be offered at a much lower price on an non-exclusive basis to multiple clients seeking improved performance.

Our traditional services provide detailed assessments of the low-level solutions and capabilities of targeted competitors, based on consistent processes backed by comprehensive and ethical research. Each analysis is highly tailored to meet the requirements of specific opportunities and specific clients. As a result, these services are offered on an exclusive basis to just one client per opportunity, through our PTWservices and CAservices offerings.

Our competiRATER tool is intended to provide a high-level analysis of a targeted company’s general capabilities in the US Federal market. Each unique analysis is based on independent, open-source research which augments prepositioned information in our extensive knowledge base. competiRATER deliverables use a consistent format to analyze and present accurate and highly-reliable information. Results provide insights and actionable information to increase your win probability and profit — news you can use, not fluff filling a binder. Results are generally provided within five business days of acceptance of your order. Pricing is per single competitor; discounts are available for multiple purchases.

Note that competiRATER results are not intended to assess the specific capabilities, strategies, or solutions in the context of the requirements of a specific opportunity. They are offered on a non-exclusive basis. Clients wishing an opportunity-specific assessment are encouraged to request a proposal for exclusive support.

Our laborRATER tool product provides labor cost and pricing data that can be used to benchmark your labor rates against others in your market. laborRATER results are based on labor “pools”: groups of similar labor categories that reflect similar types of work. Pricing is for a single labor pool and region and discounts are available for multiple purchases. Results are generally provided within five business days of acceptance of your order.

Finally, our wrapRATER product is intended to provide an estimate of a targeted company’s likely current wrap rate before fee. wrapRATER results do not reflect the company’s likely future rate, strategies, or solutions in the context of the requirements of any specific opportunity.

Results are offered on a non-exclusive basis. wrapRATER results are not intended to assess the specific strategies, tactics, or solutions likely to be used by a company in its pursuit of a specific opportunity. Clients wishing an opportunity-specific assessment are encouraged to request a proposal for exclusive support.

For more information on each specific tool, please contact us at the emails below or by calling 301-845-7300.

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Richter & Company Employee Spotlight: Avantika Singh

With over 15 years of experience in the government contracting industry as a seasoned pricing strategist, Avantika Singh has a deep focus and understanding of bidding methodologies, pricing tools and techniques, and possesses in-depth experience on cost/price development and analysis.

Prior to joining Richter & Company, Ms. Singh was the VP of Pricing Strategy & Solutions at The McKelvey Group. She has also worked as a Financial Analyst and Project Control Analyst at several government contracting companies, providing thought leadership and valuable financial analysis to help sustain and increase growth.

We are thrilled to have Avantika on the Richter team and we wanted to take the time to further introduce her to you with the following set of ten questions. With that being said, we hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about her!

What made you want to get into Pricing & Strategy?

I have always enjoyed honing new skills and I am looking forward to bringing value to this industry from my past knowledge and experience.

What aspect about your job do you really enjoy?

I enjoy analytical reasoning and estimating, which ties in so well to my role here at Richter.

What is one thing people might not know about you?

I actually minored in Astronomy during my undergraduate career. Finance was my major, but I also enjoy astronomy.

What is one thing people don’t know about Richter that you think they would find surprising or interesting?

The extremely high level of analysis and capability this firm brings to the industry, especially for being a small family-run group.

What is the most unique experience you’ve had at Richter during your time at the company?

I’m too new for this one, but I’m sure to have some stories, soon! Haha!

What is your background? Ex: where are you originally from, where did you go to school, etc.?

I was a Finance major in my undergraduate studies, then I completed my MBA.  Following that, I worked around the beltway for pretty much all sizes of companies, starting with IBM, Siemens’ and L3.

What is your favorite pastime?

I enjoy the outdoors – specifically going hiking. When indoors, I enjoy watching Bravo

Have you travelled a lot? Where to? What was your favorite place and what’s the next place on your list?

Yes, I love, love, love to travel! My favorite place is probably South Africa or Costa Rica. My next dream vacation would be to Mt. Kili in Tanzania, or maybe New Zealand.

What is currently on your Netflix list? 

The Crown.

Do you have any bucket list items? Ex: skydiving, learning to play an instrument, etc.

Skydiving is on my bucket list, as well as living abroad for maybe a year at a time in a new country, once I retire!

So there you have it, straight from Avantika! That’s all for this month’s Employee Spotlight. Stay tuned here to our blog for more industry news and information, including introductions to more of our team here at Richter & Company!

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Richter & Company Announces Chris Richter as President

With 10+ years of proven experience in business development and technical and analytical support within the public and private sectors, we are proud to announce that our own Chris Richter has assumed the role of President of Richter & Company.

When asked about his new role, Chris commented: “I am excited to start my new role as President of Richter & Company. Having the ability to be an integral part of growing the company from the ground up, I’m excited to take it to the next level.”

Chris was recently interviewed with a set of ten questions to help define his approach and personality within the organization.  Take a moment to learn more about Chris within his new role as President:

What made you want to initially work at Richter & Company?

In 2007, Randy Richter (my father and company Chairman) approached me to help provide some research and marketing support. We decided to do a week of marketing to the top 20 programs that year and as a result of those efforts, landed a few new clients. Those clients fueled our growth over the next several years and I knew this type of work was clearly something I felt strongly about and could excel within.

What aspect about your job do you really enjoy?

One of the best parts of working at Richter & Company is the breadth of programs we get to support.  In a single year we may do everything from building tactical vehicles, surface ships, aircraft, healthcare IT, or intel analysis.

What is one thing people might not know about you?

My favorite movie growing up was Top Gun. I think I’ve watched it over a hundred times. My nickname was “Goose” when I was younger and the scene of Tom Cruise on his Honda sport bike led me to buying my first motorcycle in college.

What is one thing people don’t know about Richter that you think they would find surprising or interesting?

Full-time staff does almost all of our work. We are not a “body shop” using 1099’s. We hire the best people in the industry to provide premier value to our customers.

What is the most unique experience you’ve had at Richter during your time at the company?

Honestly, it is challenging to pick only one.  I think the most unique experience was during my first presentation of a competitive analysis. The plan was to present to the capture manager and the proposal manager, but when we arrived to present the briefing, it was the entire executive board. Talk about jumping in with both feet! The good news is that I was able to provide them with information they needed, and Richter & Company was proud to help them to secure their bid.

What is your background? Ex: where are you originally from, where did you go to school, etc.?

I was born in Ithaca, NY and moved to Maryland when I was 5.  I went to school in Virginia and eventually ended up back in Maryland.

What is your favorite pastime?

I grew up playing lacrosse – in fact, my father and I helped really grow the sport within Western Maryland. However, two years ago, I ruptured my Achilles in a Master’s lacrosse game. Having a strong competitive nature, I needed to do something. I was introduced to competitive pistol shooting shortly after my surgery and actually shot my first 12 matches wearing a boot to protect my newly repaired Achilles.

Have you travelled a lot? Where to? What was your favorite place, and what’s the next place on your list?

I’ve traveled to most of the US, the Bahamas and Bermuda, but my favorite vacation was in Costa Rica. The rainforest was amazing, and the people have such a relaxed attitude. Next will be somewhere else tropical, and eventually I want to make it to Europe and the Far East.

What is currently on your Netflix list?

Lost in Space, The Defenders, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and of course, Stranger Things.

Do you have any bucket list items? Ex: skydiving, learning to play an instrument, etc.?

I will say that I’ve done most of my bucket list items. I’ve been skydiving, both tandem and solo, I’ve ridden a motorcycle at 199 mph (I couldn’t turn my wrist that last fraction to break 200 mph), I learned how to ride horses and to shoot pistols and rifles. I think the few things that remain are to make Grand Master in USPSA and to visit Europe.

So there you have it, straight from the man himself! That’s all for this month’s news here at Richter. Stay tuned here to our blog for more industry news and information, including introductions to more of our team here at Richter & Company!