For the past few months, millions of Americans have been working from home and, for the first time in history, government employees were no exception. In mere days, federal, state and local agencies joined schools in shuttering their doors to the public. Though an exceptional job was done of adapting most services to online platforms, there are still some government operations that are better conducted in person.
That is why many state and local government agencies are eager to re-open their facilities in a safe, phased-in manner – which leads us to the topic of this discussion…
How do suppliers’ balance their obligation to keep employees safe with their contractual obligation to government customers?
Though your government customers may be ready to return to work – and restart product orders/services/construction projects with you – your team may not yet ready or able to resume work, at least not at 100% capacity. If your offices, factories or distribution facilities are located in different states than the government agencies you support, your operational capacity may still be restricted to 25, 50 or 75% depending on your local stay-at-home orders (even if you are categorized as an essential business). Or your labor resources may be reduced due to positive COVID-19 cases or employees who are calling out of work due to safety concerns. Many high-risk individuals – or workers with high-risk individuals in their households – may not feel comfortable returning to work for a while. So, it is imperative that you communicate any projected or confirmed delivery challenges with government customers immediately – and continue to update them as things change. Business operations in both the private and public sector are likely to remain fluid for some time.
Fortunately, most agencies will be willing to work with you. They understand the challenges of this pandemic and prioritize worker safety as much as you do. There is a very good chance that you will be able to adjust contract terms if delivery extensions are needed or certain inventory items will be unavailable indefinitely. It is also possible that they will offer some temporary flexibility in their usually-strict manufacturing, supply chain and subcontracting plan terms and conditions. For example, if you’re a large business that is contractually obligated to set aside a portion of the award to small business subcontractors, and those small businesses are not operational right now due to COVID-19 impact, then the government agency may be willing to relax those terms and conditions to maintain project or service continuity.
Again, communication with your government customers is key.
Of course, if you’re able to provide additional services or you’ve been able to secure additional inventory quantities for immediate delivery, it is important to pass that information along as well. Many agencies are struggling to source goods through traditional supply chain channels and would be thrilled to learn of alternative (and already-vetted) vendor options.
Just be cautious not to overcommit! Make sure you have the resources to fulfill orders or dispatch crews on time, every time.
What to Do if You’ve Been Issued a Stop-Work Notice but Your Company is Open for Business
If your team is ready to get back to work (or maybe never stopped working) but your government or commercial customers still have your contracted projects on pause, then you may feel compelled to seek out opportunities with other state, local or federal agencies to generate the revenue needed to keep your business solvent. However, you could quickly overextend your resources if your existing government customers resume operations sooner than you anticipated and you don’t have the labor, financial or material resources to deliver committed goods and services to all customers simultaneously. Though we are huge proponents of pursuing growth opportunities – we are always advocating for you to bid on relevant government contracts – it is critical that you focus on sustainable growth.
Call your current customers often to check on operating status. Though your points of contact may not also be able to give you a definitive answer on when stop-work or limited work orders will be lifted, they should be able to tell you if contractual terms will need to change long term for any reason. Meaning, unless you know that your contract is going to be terminated, it is likely that you will still be contractually obligated to fulfill the terms of your agreement at some point. Your contract could simply be resumed, with fulfillment schedules picking back up right where they left off or your contract could be extended for the length that work was paused. Either way, it is not smart to reallocate your inventory or team to new customers long tern unless you know for a fact that you will no longer need to provide those goods and services (at any point in time) to your existing customers. The last thing you want is to set yourself up for fulfillment challenges in the near future.
Of course, if you do have the bandwidth to take on additional customers or have the means to expand your workforce, expand your inventory and sustainably grow your business, then we recommend you sign up for a bid notification service such as BidSync immediately. It’s the best way to find out which of the more than 100,000 North American government agencies have an immediate need for the types of goods and services you offer.
Sign up now for BidSync to learn more.