More than one great company has fallen prey to what I call “incumbent-itis”. This virus infects your team with delusions. These delusions allow project managers and capture professionals to believe that they have a “lock” on winning the recompete only to find that they had misplaced the keys that actually opened that lock. There are two primary ways that companies catch “incumbent – it is”.

  1. Focusing on how things are not how they are going to be under the new contract

The incumbent knows a lot about agency operations. So, they tend to think that they have a better handle on how things are, how things should be, what the client wants, and what they don’t want.


Does the solicitation for the new contract agree with the incumbent’s vision? If incumbent companies aren’t careful, they will overshoot or undershoot how they respond to the solicitation. Neither approach addresses the new contract requirements.

And the evaluation team is going to be required to award a contract based on the new contract requirements. And to evaluate proposals based on those requirements. And nothing else.

So even if the agency wants to award the contract to the incumbent – they may not be able to because their solicitation response is not compliant. And that brings me to the second risk.

  1. Does the agency really like your company as much as you think they do?

To answer this question, assess the following.

  • Realistically look at what has gone wrong. Something always has. So, did you fix it fully? How do you know?
  • What has changed since you won the contract? New management? Better way of delivering the service? Newer product that is faster, cheaper, or produces better results?
  • Who are the competitors – really? How will you compare to them? Don’t overestimate the value of being the known entity. (You can find who the competitors are by looking at recent award data for similar contracts, preferably within the same agency.)
  • How can you beat a lower priced offer from a less experienced challenger?
  • Is there any way that you can continue to provide exceptional service by reallocating personnel or other resources to remain price neutral? To lower the price? Exceed the performance standards without adding cost?

Don’t wait until the solicitation drops. Start planning for your recompete as soon you win the contract. Have regular strategy meetings. And ask the government client how you are doing. Then listen without argument. Get specific feedback on what changes they would like to see. And then change. Make sure the change delivered the result they sought. Communicate. Respond. Perform.

Finding your own cure for incumbent-itis is more important they ever. This is one of many topics that we cover in our Project Team Business Development Support program.

And since you’ve read this far – here is your prize. Invest in your team in 2021 by enrolling them in our customized Project Team Business Development Program. Reserve a date by May 31 and receive $1,500 off the program fee. Email or call, 202-362-9477.