- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

Clarence “Dick” Griffin is a big game guide inside the Beltway; his clients are businessmen and his quarry is the lucrative government contract.

“The federal government is the largest purchasing entity in the entire world, and they buy virtually everything,” said Mr. Griffin, founder and chief executive officer of the Griffin Method, a consulting firm that specializes in helping small and midsize businesses negotiate the federal government’s procurement bureaucracy.

“It doesn’t matter whether a company sells products or services, hardware or software, technology or construction, they can find a customer in the federal government. There are certain things that give some companies advantages over others in winning government contracts. I understand what contracting officers and project managers want, and I direct my clients accordingly.”

Sitting in the boardroom of Brotman Winter Fried Communications, a corporate media-relations agency and new Griffin Method client, Mr. Griffin, begins his presentation.

“We are data miners. We help our clients analyze their competition. We identify for our clients how their pricing structure relates to that of their competition,” Mr. Griffin said.

Leaving his chair, Mr. Griffin, 62, moves swiftly to the front of the boardroom. Pacing through a series of PowerPoint slides, he highlights potential growth opportunities for Brotman Winter Fried in addition to new ways the company could outpace its competitors.

Mr. Griffin’s firm also identifies who completed the previous contract his clients are now chasing, the dollar amount that company was compensated and why the government wants a new contractor.

According to Mr. Griffin, the Griffin Method consists of precision-marketing and proposal-writing support. Many small and midsize companies seeking government contracts fail because they do not understand the procurement system, said Mr. Griffin.

Mr. Griffin has more than a decade of experience working with federal contractors. Before launching the Griffin Method in 2004, Mr. Griffin served as a project manager for the U.S. Department of Labor, where he helped supervise IT projects and technology procurements. Before the Department of Labor, Mr. Griffin was a computer specialist for the U.S. Department of Education where he designed and implemented the Web site for the deputy secretary of education and created a prototype Web site for the Federal Interagency Committee on Education.

The most important part of the government-contract-procurement system, said Mr. Griffin, is understanding how the system works.

“Companies aiming to do business with the federal government don’t understand that it is still a people-to-people business. They have to learn how to drill the entire federal government down to one person, their desktop, their telephone number and their name. With the federal government, it is always a one-on-one situation,” Mr. Griffin said.

“Companies do not know how to talk about themselves appropriately. The government makes award decisions based on the perception of risk. While larger companies fully understand this concept, other companies, with no experience in working with federal contractors, don’t understand how to articulate their strengths in a way that gives them a competitive advantage. That is exactly why I founded my business,” Mr. Griffin said.

During the past seven years, Stephen Winter, president of Brotman Winter Fried, and his Executive Vice President Kenneth Fried have secured a handful government contracts without professional help, but with lukewarm success. In seven years they accrued about seven contracts. “None of them were huge dollar projects,” Mr. Winter said.

The onslaught of new government contracts created by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the stimulus package, caused the two partners to re-assess their procurement strategy. After attending numerous conferences and seminars on gaining government contracts, Mr. Fried and Mr. Winter sought the expertise of Mr. Griffin.

“Dick knows what we don’t know. He is working with us to help develop our strengths and put those strengths on display. He is refining our search for government contracts ensuring that we do not waste time. Before Dick, we really were just going after these contracts blind,” Mr. Winter said.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the government spends nearly $98 billion on contracts with small businesses each year. Mr. Griffin said that his “winning edge” earned his clients more than $400 million in contracts. While most of Mr. Griffin’s business is retainer-based, the going rate for Griffin Method services is $165 an hour.

“With that sort of money on the table, the pursuit of government contracts provides a logical alternative for businesses who are struggling in the commercial environment,” he said.

The recession has restricted commercial business in some areas such as California and expanded in such others as Mississippi and Louisiana, Mr. Griffin said, adding that commercial construction contracts have increased in the last few months for his clients in the South. In terms of government contracting, there are a number new opportunities wrought by the change in administrations and the stimulus package waiting to be seized, said Mr. Griffin, noting that businesses that lack a winning strategy may get left behind.

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