Traditionally, contractor firms have relied on a mix of full-time (salaried + benefits) and part-time (paid hourly) workers to win new contracts. However, this approach was limited by company overhead budgets as companies would only seek new contracts that the B&P budgets would accommodate. If one is aiming for maximum efficiency, i.e. securing the maximum number of proposals as possible, then this approach does not scale and cannot lower risk or improve winnability. Trying to win competitively awarded contracts with the least investment is like having perfect aim at the wrong target. To tackle these limitations, Blackdragon was established—a highly innovative global consulting firm increasingly recognized across the vast federal contracting industry as a major disruptor. It helps clients focus on the right bid pursuits while the team increases their probability of success.
The visionary behind this innovative company is Rob Rosenberger, CEO and Founder at Blackdragon—a ground-breaking disruptor to federal contracting, an industry notorious for resisting change. The company has proven to radically change how contracts are identified, pursued, and ultimately won. He adds, “The first and only of its kind, the company breaks longstanding paradigms by revolutionizing contract bidding in an industry renowned for its resistance to change.” Today, Blackdragon ranks as the largest and fastest-growing Bid and Proposal (B&P) company across the United States.
In our tête-à-tête with Rob Rosenberger, he walked us through the insightful happenings of the industry while also shedding light on the events that shaped his astonishing entrepreneurial journey.
Firstly, could you explain what makes Blackdragon’s offerings unique amongst the competitors?
Blackdragon has always been different from our competitors. They offer similar services to bidder clients—resumes of people for hire as full-time or part-time workers; but unlike them, Blackdragon is the first and only true Gig Economy matchmaking platform where thousands of expert freelancers (Dragons) worldwide are quickly fit into on-demand, virtual ‘dream teams’ for each project. In many cases, these dream teams self-form before they have a bidder client selected, which triggers our algorithms and predictive analytics to target the most winnable candidates for sponsoring that project. Dragons only work on projects they believe in, so if they are not successful in recruiting an ideal bidder client for a project, the project never launches and they move to the next one.
We use propriety technology and first-ever modelling to calculate custom prices for each client project. Alongside we offer fixed price “products” (deliverables), available on-demand, created by competitively selected experts instead of hiring individuals hourly; a matchmaking platform with the largest body of freelance industry experts who know how to win contracts; a force multiplier effect—our clients can pursue 2x (or more) opportunities per year within existing resources, and faster turnarounds & consistently higher quality—for better value.
Dragons use the Blackdragon platform to make money with their talents, experiences, and relationships relevant to winning specific contracts on behalf of bidder clients. Our two-sided matchmaking platform has two user groups: 1) freelance experts (sellers) and 2) bidder companies (buyers). In our case, both user groups are invited to make recommendations for improving our portfolio of product offerings, our business model, and features within our ever-expanding online marketplace. The most sensible ideas are prioritized and implemented. The bolder the recommendation for adding value across our growing community, the more we like it, regardless of source.
Given we are a comprehensive body of entrepreneurial-minded opportunists acting as a united body and not a conventional company with traditional employees, Blackdragon’s culture is unique. In fact, our motto is “Modern Day Free Company.” We choose which contracts we want to win and then select which bidder client we want to win for. Similar to ghost writers for authors, Dragons function as third-party bidders working behind the scenes to win targeted contracts on behalf of selected clients.
Yes, my leadership style has evolved; and I am always learning how to improve. I modify my style based on each task I am entrusted to accomplish whether it be on a Board of Directors, running a company, overseeing a sensitive project, or coaching a youth sports team. There is no one style that fits all circumstances. While always distinct and outcome-oriented, it varies based on the stakes we are facing, the scale of the objective we are undertaking, and the resources available to maximize our opportunity or mitigate our challenges.
I believe ideal leaders must have vision, charisma, emotional intelligence, and exceptional integrity. They must be excellent communicators, good delegators, and most importantly able to inspire followers to achieve great things—perhaps beyond what those people believe they can achieve on their own. Ideal leaders are ultimately accountable for success and failure. They set the baseline for the organization’s culture.
I foresee the federal contracting industry continuing to transform to the post-pandemic landscape where a virtual workforce must win contracts for companies. As this scales, it will be more challenging for bidder firms to sustain armies of virtual employees being salaried or billing by the hour. The time-based model runs best when the workforce is physically located where cost inputs can be monitored and controlled. Also, I envision bidder firms having to adjust how they choose which opportunities to invest in. Now that Government employees are also working virtually, it is much harder for contractors to build and sustain personal relationships with key decision-makers. Bidders will need to become smarter about which pursuits make the most sense and which ones are distractions.
As aforementioned, the industry is gradually digitalizing, that’s where Blackdragon comes in. We were virtual before virtual was cool. We provide high-quality on-demand products for fixed prices with fast delivery. Our Gig Economy model enables us to crowdsource the very best expertise the industry has to offer on every product purchased. I see the federal industry follow other industries (retail, accommodations, taxis, etc.) in shifting to operate with on-demand, virtual products for better value. Moreover, we are the only B&P firm that uses technology, analytics, modelling, and crowdsourcing to give our clients a competitive advantage.
Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower.” Innovation never happens in a vacuum. Effective leaders of change view collaboration not as a pain point but as an opportunity to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. To maximize inventiveness, I believe it is important to let go of the high-control, low-trust model of leadership. Leaders of innovation must empower and motivate people around them to be creative, push beyond boundaries, and achieve growth. Good leaders give their employees opportunities to grow, make them feel valued and respected, and give them clarity about their roles and responsibilities. Innovators must not be afraid to break with the norm and go against conventional wisdom or repeated methodologies revered as “best practice.” Paying too much attention to traditional business metrics for the sake of maximizing efficiency will prevent breakthroughs.