By Ted Marshall
Vice President, Business Development
Marathon TS differentiates itself in the federal contracting market by offering a powerful staffing capability that most others simply do not have. In fact, our ability to source talent rivals many classic staffing companies; in most cases, we outperform them. This puts Marathon in the enviable position of providing world-class technical solutions while also competing with traditional staffing companies to fill requirements for agencies and contractors seeking cleared, highly skilled technical people for their contracts.
Looking deeper, we differentiate our work even further by avoiding the common trap of most staffing companies considering “any req a good req” and instead of working only on those that have a high probability of being filled.
In my business, there’s always a lot of pressure in to bring in requirements all the time. It takes a lot of upfront training and personal discipline to accept and absorb that pressure and then set it aside to focus on finding the very best requirements out there needing to be filled.
As a top producer at multiple companies and now at Marathon TS, I have honed a process of qualifying requirements that has proven to be highly successful for me, my company, and our clients.
When I first receive a requirement, I ask a series of questions to determine whether it has a high probability of being filled. By separating out the high-fill-probability reqs, from the others, I can focus our finite resources on requests that will ultimately yield successful outcomes. I am very cognizant of the fact that, when I agree to work a requirement, that I am committing company resources and, therefore, need to be reasonably selective. In my experience, I should say “No” to about 4 out of every 10 requirements that cross my inbox. They will just consume too much time and resources. And, they will either never be filled, lead to an unprofitable result or, worse yet, unhappy clients.
So, what are the questions I use to sort the good from the ugly?
The first answer I want is who controls the work for the project. In other words, will I be working directly with the prime contractor? It is so much better to be working directly with the team that is controlling the work–and the hiring decisions. I can more quickly understand the specifics of the position, the details of the requirements, and the challenges to finding the right candidates. I also can get much better feedback on the first applicants I send to the contractor. So, this relationship is a priority for me as I assess any requirement.
The second question I ask: Are there other contractors working the same requirement? At times, I have found that there are 20 or 30 companies competing to fill the same seat. That just makes the effort untenable. There is an old saying: “if you want to catch fish, don’t go where all the boats are.” That is very apropos when identifying high-fill-probability requirements. The less competition, the better.
The third question is whether the requirement is funded. This is a no-brainer. If a requirement isn’t funded, I am not going to support it unless there are strategic reasons to do so. One good exception, for example, is if we have a teaming agreement with workshare responsibilities.
Finally, I want to understand how the prime is truly motivated to fill an empty seat. In particular, I will dig around to find out if the prime is actually hoping to fill that requirement with their own talent or if the government customer has expressed discontent because of the opening(s). If they are seeking to hire their own talent no matter what, there’s no point in finding candidates for that requirement. However, if they are getting pressure from their customer to fill the req, that typically means they will be open to whomever can help bring the right person to the contract.
Of course, it is very difficult to walk away from a requirement. It takes real courage. If I do have to say “No” to a client, I use that as a teaching moment. I try to help the entity see the reasons a particular requirement will be difficult to fill. Sometimes, they are unaware of the challenges a requirement may present. I also discuss ways the request could be recast to increase the probability of it being filled. That might involve changing the rates or the required skill sets, the location or opportunity for remote work, the level of clearance, or the labor category.
Of course, other people use different strategies and approaches to filling requirements. Many are also successful. But I have supported numerous organizations with much different approaches to delivering candidates, and my process has led to results that have proven to be both sustainable and repeatable. Most important, my clients know I won’t overpromise and that we have the demonstrated performances and the technical expertise to fill the challenging requirements we accept. They know that if I say we will deliver, they can be quite confident that we will.