Competing For Contracts

One of the greatest boons to any agency is to win a government contract. Not only are the dollars awarded helpful, but it becomes free advertising for the company. For example, Diamond Reporting was famous for constantly getting large NYC Law Department deals. Every plaintiff lawyer saw a Diamond reporter at their city dep, and if you don’t think that helped business, I don’t know what to tell you.

But now with the realization that we need more entrepreneurs out there building a brand and supporting stenographic reporting, I feel it’s important to put out information on how a person can gain information about contracts and then possibly win them.

Very generally, governments need goods and services, and it doesn’t make much sense for the government to create its own factory or department for the good or service, but rely on private sector companies and their existing infrastructure. Often, this need for a good or service is addressed by an RFP, also known as a request for proposal. Basically it’s calling all of the private companies in a field to send in a proposal for how they would meet the need that the government or entity needs. I talked about this in For The Entrepreneur, and I mentioned getting on Allstate’s vendor list, the City of New York’s vendor or vendex system, and the State Court System’s publicly posted RFP site.

There are numerous entities which we can seek to do business with. This even expands to the District Attorneys of Nassau, Suffolk, and other counties, who purchase stenographic services through RFPs or procurement. As a matter of fact, another source of income is the Attorney General, who also occasionally requires stenographic services. The bottom line is if your company is not constantly checking for RFPs or on the government’s list of potential providers, your chance of getting these contracts is zero. If you compete, you have a shot. The tricky part is most agencies have separate procurement lists, so creating a routine of checking with each one is vital.

Now, one might say, how do I compete for contracts? I’ve never seen one. I don’t know anything about anything. Luckily, contracts between a public sector agency (think Corporation Counsel) and private sector company (think Veritext) are often public records. I wrote in the past about access to public records. The very brief rundown of it is that if you know a company has a contract with a public agency, you can request a copy of such documents. For example, Diamond Reporting and the Law Department, you would go to the Law Department website, find the FOIL officer or call and ask for the FOIL officer’s contact information. Once you have that, write a simple letter or email:

  • Hello, my name is NAME. I am writing today with a FOIL request under the Freedom of Information Law. It is my understanding that COMPANY NAME has or had a contract or agreement with PUBLIC AGENCY NAME between MONTH YEAR and MONTH YEAR. I believe the contract was for stenographic, transcription, court reporting, or deposition reporting services. I request a copy of the contract or agreement, any renewals or supporting materials/addendum, images or files related to the contract, or documents related to the contract between COMPANY NAME or a subsidiary/parent company of COMPANY NAME and PUBLIC AGENCY NAME. I also request a copy of any records related to any RFP, request for proposal, or proposal related to the contract or agreement, I agree to pay and will promptly pay any reasonable fee with regard to the copying of these materials. Please send any request for payment or materials to YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS HERE and/or if it would reduce the cost of producing such records, a request for payment or the records may be sent to YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. If this request is declined please provide a reason for the declination so that I may appeal. Thank you for your time and attention.

In days, weeks, or a month, you’ll have an answer. If you get no answer, write or call again politely. The name of the game is if you persist, you will have a contract in your hands, and you will be able to see whatever the truth is. Again, the tricky part here is that most agencies have their own FOIL officer and so there’s rarely a possibility to get all the information in one shot.

If you are feeling particularly generous and receive contract information you’d like posted on Stenonymous, feel free to write or comment, and perhaps we can begin building a more open and public understanding of how all of this works for future entrepreneurs.

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