FedInsider: Dueling Books Reflect Procurement Experts’ Personalities

Dueling Books Reflect Procurement Experts’ Personalities

Self-published books used to be the domain of the mediocre and the desperate. Mostly they were low-rent affairs, cheaply produced. They served pretty much the vanity of their publishers, and looked it.

No more. Nowadays would-be authors have an astonishing variety of online social tools to spread the word (including Amazon.com), distinctly better production services, and an ecosystem of genuine editors willing to help the manuscripts. Those with enterprise, enthusiasm and a more-than-passing subject matter expertise can produce a book to rival the output of snootier collegiate and trade books.

Such is the case of Judy Bradt’s Government Contracts Made Easier, published last week. Bradt has been consulting for contractors and would be’s since 2003. Before that, she was a specialist in U.S. government contracting for the Canadian Embassy, which is when I first met her.

Coming out just a few weeks earlier is Mark Amtower’s Selling To The Goverment, published by Wiley. Amtower started out way back in the early 1980s as the circulation manager for Government Computer News, and developed a knack for list-based federal marketing which he’s developed into a sort of Mark Amtower brand of speeches, consulting, seminars and generally being Amtower, as he refers to himself.

From the outside, the federal market appears arcane enough that most companies avoid it. From the inside, it’s a lively, competitive, and chummy tribe with its own shibboleths and lore. So to set yourself out as an expert takes a certain gutsiness. Both of these books exhibit that with breezy but authoritative writing.

Bradt’s book is the somewhat more earnest, with more references to specific sections of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, more bullet lists, charts, step-by-step instructions and exercises. For instance, she devotes nearly a page to details about debriefings and when contractors are entitled to them. The precision is clothed in breezy, down-to-earth language that makes this book highly accessible — not unlike Bradt herself. She’s organized her book around six steps a company must follow in order to have success in this market.

Amtower’s book is peppered with anecdotes going back to the 1980s, as befitting a man who loves to schmooze and tell stories. You could get the impression from his book that Amtower is a name-dropper. He is, but he really does know hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in the market. And they know him. Once you’ve met him, Amtower is sort of hard to forget. His book emphasizes the intuitive, difficult to quantify marketing and selling practices that accompany the detailed procedures necessary in the federal environment. He includes a clear-eyed section on how to use social media (including which not to bother with). There is also a thorough glossary of the market’s lingua franca.

What I appreciate about both Mark and Judy — and this is expressed in both of their books — is their willingness to learn from anyone with anything to offer as well as their willingness to generously share what they know. And give credit in writing where due. Such people are what make this market a rewarding community ecosystem. Over the years, that environment has produced remarkably new enemy pairs or camps. Instead people cooperate where they can, compete like crazy when that’s necessary, and share the proverbial beer when the day is done.

Both books are easily obtainable via Amazon.com. Search in books for “Amtower” and “Judy Bradt.” And when you run into either of these remarkable individuals, I’m certain they’ll be glad to sign your copy

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