Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The recently released Farm Bill mandates modernization of the Electronic Benefits Transfer system used to distributed SNAP (nee food stamps) benefits to eligible households

Congress’ recently released Farm Bill mandates modernization of the  Electronic-Benefits Transfer system, the specialized debit-card technology by which SNAP (nee Food-Stamp) benefits are transacted by cardholders. 

With over 40 million cardholders using their EBT cards an average of10 times per months, EBT is one of the largest stand-alone electronic-payment systems in the US.
Congress has identified several specific targets for EBT technology modernization. These are.

1) Adding the ability for SNAP recipients to access their benefits through mobile technology

2) Online acceptance of EBT

3) A national gateway to facilitate the use of benefits beyond the state that issued them to a particular recipient.

4) Addressing access to state EBT systems.

5) Incentivizing the modernization of EBT technology.

The bill also addresses public-private partnerships for improving EBT technology. 

It is important to note that EBT leaders in the private, Federal, and state sectors have for some time already been working on implementing these improvements.

It is also worth noting that the bill mandates certain back office changes to improve SNAP integrity. These include procedures for the replacement of EBT cards, data reporting, tolerance levels for payment errors, state performance indicators. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Marketing Technology to Government

Marketing Technology to Government

I have seen a number of sellers and marketers crash and burn trying to market their technology products to government agencies. Often, the problem is a failure on the part of the seller or marketer to realize quickly enough that he or she and the agency rep are or should be on the same side of the table.

All too often, the seller or the marketer will approach the agency rep antagonistically because of pricing. The seller’s job is to sell his company’s products or services at the greatest possible margin. The agency’s rep’s job is to secure the seller’s wares at the best possible value. This value is a combination of price and technology.

So, if your technology is not the freshest on the market don’t be surprised if the buyer asked you to take a haircut as the buyer is willing to trade a newer technological iteration for some cost savings.

Once you both move past the money issues both parties should be working toward the same goal, a sale.

Both sides need to recognize that the agency has a problem to solve and that the seller may very well have the solution to that problem. Since the seller is proposing the solution, it is incumbent on him or her to avoid a stand-off or shouting match in order to get the deal done. Prideful reluctance to give in to the buyer should not stand in the way of a good deal.

The technical aspects of the produce being sold and bought may present another barrier since the agency rep may not be versed in the nuances of the product. Similarly, the seller may not be familiar with how government agencies operate and how decisions are made.

If a seller approached the sale as if the agency’s problem is his own and recognizes that he and his counterpart are playing on the same team to solve the same problem, the sale will be made at a price that is fair to both teammates.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Getting Started Contracting with Government

Getting Started Contracting with Government 

By one estimate, there are 80,000 government agencies, federal, state and local, that purchase a variety of goods and services from the private sector. The aggregate value of these purchases is in the billions of dollars.

Your first move in the government sector should be to settle on exactly which of your many goods or services you plan on selling to government. At this point, you should become familiar with the NIGP, or the National Institute of Government Purchasing index. This is a listing of all the goods and services that government agencies typically buy. This will be your first indication if there is a government market for your company’s offering. You should also visit the website of any agency to which you wish to sell and click on the procurement tab to find what things that particular agency buys. This will tell you if that potential buyer needs your company’s offering.

You also need to determine where you wish to sell: nationally, regionally, only in the state in which your company is domiciled, or locally. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these. for example, selling nationally opens up a huge market for you but could entail a great deal of travel the expense that will cut into your margin. If your company doesn't already have regional operations you could actually realize more profit selling locally. 

You next should locate specific bidding opportunities. 

There are several ways to go about this. One way is to contract with an aggregator. This is a company that will report to you periodically on which agencies have issued tenders for the goods or services that your company supplies. The drawback to this approach is expense. These reports are costly and most bidding companies will not have the bandwidth to respond to more that a fraction of the opportunities in the report. In addition, much of the information is repeated from report to report to report. So, you will be paying repeatedly for the same data and you will be paying for information that your can’t use or which is stale. 

An alternative to an aggregation service is to retain a consultant. Make sure your consultant has hand-on experience selling to government not just other contractors. Experience selling in your vertical would be a bonus. This is a much more personal approach than using an aggregator. In the interest of full discloser, Chaddsford Planning provides this service.

A  third approach, if you have the time and/or resources is to go it alone and contact thousands of government agencies yourself to determine if they purchase what you are selling and then to continue dialing for dollars until you find the right person who has purchasing authority and can buy from you.

The next step is to identify the requirement of the job. in order to for your potential customer to do business with you you will be required to submit a formal written proposal that accomplishes three things. 1) specifies exactly what you are offering, 2) specifies exactly what you expect in return, 3) shows precisely how your offer solves the agency’s problem.

It is a lot of work, but there is a lot of reward.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Public Speaking Can Be a Career Builder or a Career Breaker

Public Speaking Can Be a Career Builder or a Career Breaker

If you follow The Lobster I am betting that your interest in career development will make public speaking a career builder for you.

Unfortunately, if you are unprepared and try to wing it, a speaking opportunity could well be a career breaker.

When I went off to Ohio’s Defiance College I was a tongue-tied 18-year old. The few ideas I was able to articulate were delivered in a thick East Coast brogue and cadence which left my audiences wondering what they had just heard.

That was until I fortuitously was scheduled into Prof. Robert Pearce’s Speech class.  The dean of students must have caught my act at some point and placed me there. Professor Pearce had what I thought was the coolest job. Companies would hire him to give speeches of behalf of executives who could not clearly articulate the company’s message despite their business acumen.

Company communications flacks would give him the content and overall message which he would deliver in a beautifully crafted speech. Being an adjunct professor for inarticulate knuckleheads like me seemed to me like slumming it.

After four undergraduate years and a graduate degree from one of the country’s most prestigious universities and a long career in business, I tell everyone that Prof. Pearce’s speech class was the biggest career builder I had.

Not only did I have one career, I had several, all involving public speaking. For several years I was high school teacher, bringing the finer points of Hamlet to 16, 17, and 18 year olds.

From there I became a broadcaster, speaking to unseen audiences. My first boss in broadcasting and my business mentor was Mr. Fred Palmer, the owner of WATH in Athens, Ohio. Not exactly a 50,000 watt flamethrower. Mr. Palmer was my Prof. Higgins who taught me how to speak properly and connect to an audience.

After I left Mr. Palmer I continued in the broadcasting industry.

I next parlayed my broadcasting experience into a long career in marketing and PR. This career has given me numerous speaking opportunities which have raised my industry profile. This has brought in more and more new clients.

I meet many business colleague who assiduously avoid opportunities to get up in front of a room of several hundred decision-makers and influencers. This I believe is one of the biggest mistakes a businessperson can make.

If you receive an unexpected invitation to speak at a conference or other function, follow these 3 steps.

1) be positive and thank the person who rendered the invitation.
2) ensure that you know the audience.
3) quickly go online to make sure that your knowledge of the topic is up-to-date.

Invitations to speak can sometimes appear from nowhere. In a business setting, always be mentally prepared to speak if asked. One good way to do this is to evaluate other speakers for what they seem to do correctly or wrongly. As they speak notice how the audience responds to them. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Chaddsford Planning Associates in the News

We recently publicized our participation in the 20th annual EBT-the Next Generation conference especially Front Page Focus which centered on the positive impact of the SNAP program on disaster recovery in Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

As a result, our press release garnered 6500 unique views including 1600 in the first hour. 30 viewers clicked over to this website for more information. 13 percent of the viewers  were referrals from over sites.

2000 of the interested viewers were from Virginia and 1600 were from California. 1600 views originated in Ireland. 

The most social media mentions about Chaddsford Planning came from Illinois and Pennsylvania. Nearly 80 percent of the social media mentions were on Twitter.

The social mentions potentially reached 24,000 people in the first week after release. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Contracting to Managing the Farmers Market EBT Equipment Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has posted a Request for Information to determine the feasibility of a small business set-aside to provide Farmers Market Support Services on behalf of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

It is the intention of the Food and Nutrition Service of USDA to issue a procurement for the subject requirement in Fiscal Year 2018. The Service is seeking statements of capability from interested parties who might potentially submit an offer to provide the subject requirement.

This will be a small-business set-aside for a businesses that demonstrate the experience and staffing to perform the subject requirement as stated in its capability statement.

The Government is seeking responses from qualified small businesses able to providing "performance-based contractual support for the Electronic Benefit Transfer Equipment Program".

The contractor will be responsible for administering the distribution of EBT Electronic-Payment terminals and services to Farmers Markets and farmers who sell directly to the public and who are authorized to be reimbursed by USDA for the cost of eligible food covered by the SNAP (Nee Food Stamp) program.

The Request for Information number is P-18-011. Interested vendors can find the RFI through the federal business opportunities website, https.fbo.gov, by searching for this number.

The NAICS number for this procurement is 522320, financial transaction processing. The small business threshold is 38.5 million dollars.

There is a very specific set of requirements which you are advised to read before submitting an offer.

If you are interested in this opportunity, questions are due to the agency by Friday, December 1. Email your questions to Tset.wong@fns.usda.gov with a copy to matthew.horn@fns.usda.gov

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Negotiating Government Contracts

Negotiating Government Contracts

The following advice is based of 30 years of experience negotiating contracts with government agencies. The basic rule that many contractors forget is that contractors and their client agencies are on the same side of the table. The agency is not the adversary. The adversary on the other side of the table is the status quo. The agency has a problem to solve and you presumable have the solution. Or what you believe is the solution.

Sure, both the contractor and the agency want to cut a deal that best benefits it. But government contracting is not a zero-sum game. Neither should want to irreparably harm a mutually beneficial relationship. If the agency overpays for the solution the contract could be voided and the agency could go back out to bid. If the negotiations result in a contract that fails to cover your costs and a reasonable profit given what other buyers are paying for the same product or service in the same market, you will probably walk away from the opportunity and welcome a second bite at the apple in a rebid.

So, we recommend that contractors avoid adversarial posturing and accept the fact that both they and their client agency are on the same side of the negotiating table and that the adversary is not the agency but the status quo, which contractor and agency want to vanquish.

One frustrating aspect of government contracting, of which many would-be contractors may not be aware, is the bifurcation between the contracting agency and the purchasing agency. In most state governments the purchasing agency is responsible for procuring the goods and services that the other departments require in order to operate.

So the agency that will use your product or service won’t be the agency with which you will negotiate.

Another fact of which would-be contractors should be aware is that government contracts are of a specified durations such as 1, 3, or 5 years. Short durations protect the agency in the event that technological changes render your solution obsolete during the term of your contract.

So, if the initial term of the contract is up, be ready with Rev. 2 of your offering.

Monday, August 14, 2017

They’re back: Biometrics were once touted as a failsafe security technology for financial payments.

They’re back: Biometrics were once touted as a failsafe security technology for financial payments. That was until a myriad of cost, privacy and operational issues reared their heads between the conceptual and implementation phases.

Biometrics make “know your customer” a “no brainer” But while you may know who your customer is, the question is at what cost. Also unknown is which biometric technology is best suited for a particular customer base. Also, to be determined, is how to capture and securely hold customer biometric data.

In the face of these and other issues, many financial institutions and providers simply gave up and settled for other, less problematic, security technologies, such as EMV.

However, as James Bourne, editor of TechForge Media, writes is the LinkedIN Payments group blog biometrics may be making a comeback, if something that has never been can come back.

Since 2011, MasterCard has been driving an interesting biometrics project in South Africa in partnership with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). South Africans who receive social security benefits access those benefits on a SASSA Mastercard debit card.

The single debit card replaced a system which manually disbursed cash on behalf of multiple agencies to a recipient population equal to 1/2 the general population.

The Mastercard solution allowed for multifactor authentication, including voice print, finger image, and PIN. One time per month each beneficiary must perform a proof-of-life demonstration through a voice print or finger image in order to receive his benefit for the month.

Although this is a government benefit program, beneficiaries are mandated to sign up for bank account.

The SASSA project also requirers merchants who wish to accept the SASSA card as a form of payment to have biometric readers in place at their front-end in order to process SASSA transactions. The SASSA card is an open-loop network card with a restricted-access geographic limitation, meaning that it can only be used in a pre-defined region.

While the technology is costly, the government enjoys higher payment efficiency, payment accuracy, transparency, and dramatically lower cost of disbursement operation and reduction in payment fraud estimated at 3 million.

Beneficiaries enjoy faster delivery of benefits, increased benefit accuracy, increased security through the elimination of cash and the addition of biometric protection as well as achieving financial inclusion through the mandatory bank account.

Editor Bourn provides background information on biometrics and the financial services industry and also pimps last June’s Biometrics in Banking and Financial Services Summit, an annual event.

Email Etiquette

Here are 4 common email faux pas that are rude and disrespectful and won’t win you any points from the person you are emailing and trying to impress, such as a prospective new employer. 

We are use to the wild-west atmosphere of online communications, some of which is due to the limitations of the various forms of social media. For example, the 140-character limit of Twitter doesn’t allow for a proper salutation. 

Failing to address the person whom you are emailing. This is rude and obnoxious. It would be as if you just walked up to a person on the street and started talking to him without introducing yourself. If the subject of your email is short and perfunctory you still need to be polite. And while we are at it, don’t forget a proper closing. You would never end a phone call by simply hanging up. So sign off your emails with a proper closing. Even a simple “goodbye” or “thanks” will do.

Asking your addressee to overlook any typos or other mistakes in your text. This tells the person to whom you are writing that he or she is not important enough for you to take a few moments to proof the body of your mail. It also marks you as an unserious, superficial person. 

Being tone-deaf. Email communications, by their nature, are impersonal, which is why we sometimes opt for them as our form of communication. Nevertheless, we sometimes “personalize” them by editorializing with the tone that shows how we really feel. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we have done that. It could be a scolding tone or a “I don’t give a damn” tone. Just be aware of the effect that your tone has on your message.

Failing to read an email in its entirety. The fact that we are communicating electronically vouches for the fact that we are busy. But there is no excuse for not reading completely an email to which we are responding. Doing so is rude and insulting to the person with whom you are communicating. 

None of us is expected to be a perfect wordsmith. If William Shakespeare were writing for today’s demanding editors, Hamlet might be 5 pages. Just be aware that your emails may say more about you than you intended. Whether this extra messaging is good or bad is up to you.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Is it Time to Rid Ourselves Of the Blight of Social Media

Is it time to abolish social media? So asked Jonathan Crossfield in a recent article in Chief Content Officer magazine circulated by the Content Marketing Institute.

Unfortunately for the abolitionists, Social Media has become part of the fabric of our postmodern existence. We could just as easily abolish nuclear weapons, vulgar music lyrics, or every middle schooler having a personal website.

As Crossfield explains, there is an inherent buzzword feel to the term “social media” which makes disagreement over the meaning of social media likely in the newsroom or marketing department. This should not be unexpected in a technology that has experienced such rapid adoption.

Another issue created by this rapid proliferation of social media is that we focus more on the channel, or the medium, rather than the message.

The traditional media will report that President Trump issued another statement on Twitter, and excoriate his use of language. but rarely do they bother to report the substance of the President’s message.

However, the President’s use of Twitter fits the purpose for which social media was intended. That is to allow users to communicate directly with others. In the President’s case this means directly reaching out to voters without the filter of often-hostile reporters and editors in between them. That is called disintermediation. That is the social aspect of social media. Please see www.ericschwartsman.com for a better understanding of the concept of disintermediation.

So who knows exactly what social media is? To try to answer that question, Crossfield turns to law makers who in their efforts to regulate the technology need to first define it. First up in this exercise in futility is the California legislature, which struggled to differentiate social media from other forms of digital communications.

The Golden State solons defined social media as “photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations”  As Crossfield points out personal photographs of the nature the Supreme Court wrestled with in trying to define pornography stored on a mobile phone would qualify as social media under this definition.

Crossfield has examined a variety of social media policies and finds them similarly lacking in the objectivity necessary for enforceable government policy. These include this attempt by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

“Social media also included all other emerging electronic/digital communication applications.”

That narrows it down.

I was recently reminded of the benefits of social media in my own small home town which was the location of a road rage shooting. Law enforcement agencies credited social media for providing several clues that helped break the case quickly and bring the shooter to justice. The police were able to use the social channels to reach out directly to anyone who had pertinent information about the crime. This was 1 of 3 violent crimes lawmen here were able to solve over the last couple of months by monitoring Twitter and Facebook

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Best Cities in which to Celebrate the Founding of the Repupu

Since we are in the July 4th season we bring you a list of the best places to celebrate Independence Day compiled by our friends at WalletHub (https://wallethub.com/blog/4th-of-july-facts/22075) These cities were ranked based on 18 measurements related to how well they balance fun and cost. These metrics included the cost of beer, how long their fireworks displays last, and their July 4th weather forecast.

Based on these metrics, the best city in which to celebrate the birthday of the nation is Atlanta, Ga. The A is followed by the City by the Bay, San Francisco. Coming in third in the list is the City of Good Neighbors, the often overlooked Buffalo, NY.

Fourth in the July 4th sweepstakes is the birthday boy’s capital, Washington, DC. In fifth place is the always beautiful San Diego.

Places 6 through 10 are occupied by Madison, WI, St. Louis, MO, Milwaukee, WI, Orlando, FL, and Seattle, WA.

The WalletHub number crunchers also say that We the People plan to spend over 7 billion dollars on food this 4th. We are reputed to be the nation with the most overweight people so was there ever a doubt how we would spend the 4th. Eating our way from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania to Alaska and Hawaii. From Scrapple to Poi.

To soak up all that food we are told we will spend more than 1.6 billion dollars on beer. An estimate that places July 4th at the top of beer-guzzling holidays.

The WalletHub math whizzes figure we will spend over 800 million on fireworks this holiday.

With all those bottles of beer and bottle rockets be careful while celebrating. The statisticians predict that 2/3 of all fireworks injuries this year will occur within a month of the 4th of July.

So we have time for all that Bacchanalian eating and drinking we have FDR to thank. President Roosevelt in 1941 signed the bill that made the 4th of July a paid holiday. All that fun and you get paid for it.

Have a good time, but don’t be stupid. And don’t forget the reason for the season. Make time to take in a July 4th parade. Many veterans participate in them. Take time to thank them for their service.

Today, only 52 percent of Americans say they are proud to be American.

Tonight, after the eating and drinking are done and you have had your fill of fireworks and parades hit your knees and thank the God under whom this nation exists for all He has given this country and We the People.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Semper Avanti 
A good beach read this summer

Semper Avanti is a tale of love and redemption, of struggle and overcoming personal crisis, of being tested beyond what you think your capacity to respond is. 

On the surface, Semper Avanti details author Nancy Bucceri’s battle to hold her life and family together following word that her husband has suffered a near-fatal stroke while away on a business trip. However, any reader who has experienced personal struggle can relate to the story.

Although this plot line doesn’t seem to fit with sand, surf, and suntan lotion, as the subject of the book I can tell you that it is an uplifting story and a yarn well spun.

So far the reviews on the January 2017 release have been universally good. One reviewer wrote of Semper Avanti that the “writing is unobtrusive which serves the story well, and the narrative is breezy, funny and warm.

The review continues, “despite the subject matter, Semper Avanti is an entertaining read”.

Another reviewer calls Semper Avanti “a thoughtful and well-intentioned work that details personal crisis management” Semper Avanti, which means always forward, ends with the author’s 10 suggestions for managing personal crises.

The Lobster heartily recommends Semper Avanti. It is available in paperback or as an e-book. ISBN number 978-1-5320-0381-3. The website for Semper Avanti is www.nancybucceri.com. You can check out the book there, order it, and register for the author’s blog series. It is also available on www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. And if you enjoy it, please share what you liked by posting a review.