The Business of Defense

Want to make it as a federal consultant? Think about it like baseball

“The game has to come to you. And so as the game comes to you, you take what the pitcher offers.” That, says Patrick Lynch of Lynch Consultants, is key to s...

When it comes to explaining how his firm has found success as a federal management consultancy, Patrick Lynch favors a baseball analogy: “The game has to come to you. And so as the game comes to you, you take what the pitcher offers. You take where your men are on base.”

What that means, he explained, is being ready and willing to adapt and grow into the opportunities that come a business’s way.

Circumstances will direct the path a business takes if the team is willing to capitalize on them, said Lynch, founder and managing partner of Lynch Consultants. “We evolved in a direction that we never really anticipated, but it’s ended up being a great path.”

For instance, not long after Lynch launched his management consultancy in 2011 and had a few partners, he expected the team would begin to acquire clients inside the Marine Corps and focus on providing financial management help given their backgrounds.

“We thought we would be much more heavily on the financial side,” he said. “We also thought that we were going to be much more heavily in the Navy and the Marine Corps — based on two of our partners who were retired lieutenant generals out of the Marine Corps. And I had just spent nine years at headquarters in the Marine Corps.”

Today, Lynch Consultants focuses on four service areas:

  • Chief information officer advisory and IT strategy
  • Finance and risk advisory
  • Data analytics and strategy
  • Program and project management

It has partners, mainly with experience working for or supporting the federal government, who drive the services of each focus area. “Each individual partnership has a different client base, has a different technical focus,” Lynch said.

During an interview for the American Society of Military Comptrollers’ The Business of Defense podcast on Federal News Network, we asked Lynch how he reset and Lynch Consultants took advantage — as he said — of the opportunities that came to it.

Know your value proposition

There are a couple of critical factors in having early success, Lynch said.

For starters, “you have to have a vision, you have to have a value proposition — go down kind of a geeky rabbit hole,” he said.

Second, be sure an agency or organization the business targets has the budget to hire the company: “The reality is the office has to have funds. They’ve got to have money. Now, you’ve narrowed the funnel.”

Finally, there needs to be a viable contract vehicle.

“And of the three, without question, the contract vehicle is the hardest piece, period,” Lynch said.

That means really knowing the ins and outs of federal procurement processes and regulations.

“You have to have a master’s in contracting,” he said with a little laugh. “There is no such thing as a master’s in contracting. But if you’re in the small business world, you need a Ph.D. in contracting, and you have to understand the contracting rules and processes better than anyone else — because you have to be able to navigate with ‘the bigs.’ ”

Just as Lynch Consultants was beginning its journey, the Marine Corps opted to begin doing most of its contracting through the Navy instead of through its Regional Contracting Office at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

That changed Lynch Consultants’ trajectory. It simply couldn’t compete against the much larger consulting companies that already had a foothold in the Navy, Lynch said.

Ultimately, the Navy did become one of its main customers, alongside the Defense Logistics Agency and the Health and Human Services Department. But it’s because the team began doing work in civilian agencies and adding partners with areas of expertise beyond finance, he said.

Lynch likes to joke that early on, he “couldn’t even spell FDA — no idea what it was.” But he then spent seven years working onsite at HHS’ Food and Drug Administration and gained insights that made him “a better consultant and makes the firm a better firm in terms of being able to promulgate good ideas,” he said.

Lean into your value proposition

Lynch also recommends that small businesses focus on one of two specific value propositions.

One approach? Become the “luminary thought leader” that provides government with specific technical guidance and perspective. That way, the government doesn’t necessarily need to hire a large company “to get access to really smart, informed people that can provide different perspectives,” he said.

There’s also a second value proposition “where small businesses really shine: the ol’, get ’er done,” Lynch said.

Unlike large companies, he explained, small businesses are driven to deliver on each specific objective for the assignments that they win. Big consulting companies often have other broad business objectives and might also not be local companies working in the same communities as nearby federal locations.

The result? “We are emotionally tied to our clients,” Lynch said, adding, “Our only leverage is our people and our performance — whether they’re the thought leaders in the industry or whether we can prove that we can turn a lot of wrenches better than anybody else.”

To listen to the full discussion between Patrick Lynch, Managing Partner of Lynch Consultants, and Rich Brady, CEO of ASMC, click the podcast play button below:

Discover other The Business of Defense podcasts here.

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