Federal contractors are encouraged, and often required, to subcontract or partner with other companies to do federal business.  Both socio-economic and business development factors drive decisions to team up with other firms.  Before your company gets to the altar with a potential partner, though, make sure you know exactly why you’re there and what you’re willing – or not – to do in order to be a good business partner.

The first rule here is to understand your company, what it stands for and what it wants out of government business.  This analysis must go beyond “we want to make money” and include the type of image your company will have.  This step protects your firm from later contorting itself to pursue an enticing opportunity, but one that may bring more risk and cost than it’s worth. Self-analysis also allows you to tell your business partners exactly what they’re getting when doing business with you.

Don’t get pushed around or talked into doing something that is outside your abilities or ethical standards.  It’s not just other contractors that can sing an enticing siren song, either.  Government agencies can put significant pressure on a firm to bid on a project in order to be seen as a “good guy” that might help establish your credentials for business later on.  Remember that there is such a thing as “bad business” and be prepared to walk away if a specific opportunity may have lasting negative side effects.

While most companies initially go into business with a clear idea of what they are and how they want to do business, this vision can get blurry over time and, left unattended, can result in your firm looking very different from what you wanted it to be.  Make sure you take the time to review your business foundations regularly so that your firm keeps a clear idea of its market identity and doesn’t end up as the contractor equivalent of the “Picture of Dorian Gray”.