As a government contractor or a prospective one, you should have a basic idea of Past Performance. It’s your grade on how your business completed on a job or order. Factors such as technical performance, cost control, timeliness, and how you carry out business relations all come into play. It will go from “Exceptional,” being the highest, to “Unsatisfactory,” at the lowest. When you bid on another contract, the government will use this score to gauge the risk of working with you. So where does the Past Performance Questionnaire fit in?
Beyond the Score
There’s a huge public misconception that government contracting always comes down to the lowest bidder. Price is important. However, Past Performance is where the real money comes in. You could find yourself neck and neck with someone else in many factors. Many of the times, it’s Past Performance that hands over the letter of award.
So, what if each competitor’s Past Performance rating is too close to call?
That’s where the Past Performance Questionnaire comes in. Your rating is like your grade in a class, and the questionnaire is like the teacher’s notes. The Contracting Officers (COs) basically are trying to get a closer look at your previous work. On some solicitations, they require one and on others, they will require multiple PPQs to gain this insight.
Completion and Submission of the Past Performance Questionnaire
Every agency has a different Past Performance Questionnaire. NASA’s is about 11 pages long, the FDIC’s is six pages long, and the FCC’s is a mere two. The agency gives you access to their Past Performance Questionnaires, you send them out to COs that you’ve worked with, and then either the CO or you will get it back to the agency. It all depends on the instructions that are given.
So what are some things that a PPQ will ask?
Again, that depends on the agency’s specific Past Performance Questionnaire. Sometimes they consist of boxes for the CO to check off, other times they can have open-ended “essay” questions.
Here’s one from NASA’s PPQ:
Would you make an award to this contractor again for similar type of work? Why or why not?
Here’s one from the FDIC:
Identify the contractor’s strengths.
There is no legal obligation for a CO to fill out your Past Performance Questionnaire. Nothing in FAR says they have to do it. Contracting Officers are busy people. So let’s say that a solicitation requires you to submit three PPQs by a certain date. Two of them make it back to the current agency that you want to work with. The third one got buried under the massive amount of work that a contracting officer was supposed to complete. The deadline sets in.
The result? Tough luck.
In 2017, a company by the name of Genesis Design and Development, Inc. filed a bid protest to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Their proposal was rejected by the National Parks Service because they couldn’t provide the three Past Performance Questionnaires as required in the solicitation. They only provided the contact information on their government references. Genesis argued that getting the PPQ completed by its past clients was difficult since many of them were too busy. The original solicitation stated that proposals could get rejected if they lacked a sufficient amount of information for an evaluation. The Past Performance Questionnaire was considered part of that “sufficient amount of information.” Thus, their proposal was rejected.
What Can You Do About It?
It’s a scary thought. You find the perfect opportunity, you have a great past performance rating, your proposal is flawless, but… a Contracting Officer didn’t fill out the PPQ that was given to them. It was a bit of an “off” week and things got backed up.
Unfair? Of course.
Avoidable? With a bit of strategy.
Developing a Network
Getting registered in SAM or getting your set-aside certifications are just keys to the door. They’re important and it’s a whole process to properly obtain them, but they’re just a piece of the bigger picture. Whether it’s the public or private sector, building working relationships will always matter. Being recognizable and recallable matters. Right now, as you’re reading this, think about the government jobs or orders you’ve completed in the past. Who did you work with? What were the names of the contracting officers? Do you know their emails or phone numbers?
Jot them down and start a living document of government references. Just as you would with your private sector references, give them a head’s up. If you’re working on a contract and everything is going on point, ask the CO if you can use them as a reference. Developing this type of a network is your best bet towards avoiding this problem. It is unfair and it does seem ridiculous that you could miss out on a contract because of something out of your control. This is just another obstacle you need to work past so that you can keep progressing. Plenty of people work around these roadblocks and find their way to success.
However, what if you haven’t won any contracts yet?
What are some of the best ways to develop working relationships with the government?
Going Beyond the Registrations and Certifications
That’s where we come in. Forming these relationships is just one facet of your strategy. Government contracting isn’t just about one opportunity, it’s about the bigger picture and growing your business. There’s a reason why US Federal Contractor Registration is the most trusted third-party government registration firm.
We don’t just register people in SAM and arrange their set-asides. We will train you and provide guidance with our team of experts to help you successfully navigate the federal marketplace. We’ve worked with thousands of entities, coaching them and giving them insight from years of experience, to point them in the right direction.