What is CPARS and how can you use it as a marketing tool in the Govcon space?

Most people know what Yelp is and how important it is to your business if you are a restaurant or a hotel or any number of other establishments that rely on positive ratings.  Yelp can be very helpful or very detrimental depending on the experience the writer had with your establishment.  CPARS is the equivalent of Yelp in the government arena.  CPARS is the way the government measures you. 

When my company was performing guard work for various government agencies it was critical that our team understood the importance of exceeding the scope of work requirements so that I could position the company for either a "very good" or "exceptional" rating and market these for future sales.

The CPARS is a tool that the buyer (the government in this case) looks at when they are researching contractors.    It evaluates and measures the contractor and subcontractor performance. 


There are 5 ratings available that the Contracting Officer or Contracting Officer Representative can choose to rate you under the following seven (7) areas of performance:

CPARS Ratings

Areas of Performance


  1. Meeting the requirements


  1. Forecasting and controlling your cost


  1. Adhering to schedule

Very Good

  1. Commitment to customer satisfaction


  1. Timely and accurate reporting


  1. Integrity in business ethics


  1. Concern for customer’s interest

Unsatisfactory and Marginal are self-explanatory and of course no one wants either of those ratings attached to their performance.  However, if you did not know any different you might think that Satisfactory is good and you would be happy with it.

Satisfactory means you met your requirements under the scope of work and you resolved problems that arose under that scope to a satisfactory level.  I mean sure that’s good because you did what you were expected to do but getting a Satisfactory rating is like getting a "C" on an exam.  I don’t know about you but a "C" was never a grade that I worked toward.    No contractor is perfect and there are always going to be issues that arise.  The point is that the contractor (as well as future buyers) is concerned with the corrective action you took to resolve the problem. 

However, to get a Very Good rating, the key is not only the corrective action you took to resolve that issue BUT to go in and triage it and put in place processes, tools and recommendations that obviate this from happening again.  That would ensure a Very Good rating because you are not only meeting the requirements. 

The Exceptional rating which is what I strived for was saved for those instances that you put in the extra effort to exceed their expectations.  A good example of this would be shortening the "startup" time on the contract.  Let’s say the statement of work allows you 60 days to transition and go live but you accomplish it in 55 days or anything under the 60-day requirement.  That is considered exceeding the expectations and the requirements of the contract.  That deserves an Exceptional on the rating. 

How Can You Leverage This To Your Advantage

Communication is key.  Remember this because the biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it took place at all!  The best way to ensure high ratings on CPARS that you will be able to use in marketing your company to other "buyers" always comes back to communication.

It all starts at the kick off meeting.  When you are awarded a government contract there is always a kick off meeting where you meet all the key players- the Contracting Officers Technical Representative (COTR) who you will likely be dealing with much more than the Contracting Officer (CO), along with many other actors involved in the contract in addition to your Project Manager (PM) and his /her team assigned to the site for the contract.    This is your opportunity to get a better understanding of their expectations and how they align to the SOW and requirements in the contract.  This is also the time to ask questions about their expectations and your goals to exceed them. 

You should have these meetings for every option year that is exercised on your contract.  This affords you the opportunity to review your performance, clear up any questions and to give you a good idea of how they are going to rate your performance on the CPARS.   In addition to that, you should set up monthly calls with the COR and the CO and any time that you have met and exceeded any of the requirements in the SOW, you should follow it up in writing through an email and have it acknowledged.  This will go a long way to memorializing your performance when it comes time for someone to rate you in the CPARS. 
Unfortunately, it is not always the case that the person most familiar with your performance (be that the COR or the CO) is going to write your assessment.  As unfair as this sounds, this is very common so you will need to help them along by supplying them with any kudos you have received during that year and any emails that memorialize them.   I am not saying this to be a constant pain by requesting everything in writing, but what I am saying is that in the instances where your team exceeded the expectations in the SOW and in the requirements of the contract, you need to get it in writing in an email.  Whether you compose it and send it to the COR and CO to memorialize it or they send it to you in writing. 

The key is that you need to have these at the ready by the 4th QTR of the year so that you are prepared to refresh the memory of your COR and CO prior to them rating and evaluating your performance in CPARS.  You do have an opportunity to provide input once it is written prior to it going live but why wait until then?  No one wants to do this twice, so it behooves you to get ahead of the curve with whoever is writing your evaluation and provide this to them.  Anyway, it makes their job a lot easier and they absolutely appreciate that!

Training the Team

Training is related to communication.  The team assigned to the contract (from the PM down to the security officer) need to have skin in the game and need to take responsibility for their part in communicating utilizing the chain of command so that nothing slips through the cracks.  Having weekly meetings with your team asking the questions "are we meeting/exceeding the expectations?"  How to identify something that exceeds the scope of work (a/k/the requirement).  If everyone understands the requirements then they can easily identify exceeding it.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to brief the team on all requirements as well as your expectations to exceed them and encourage them to think outside the box on corrective action and triaging so as to avoid it from happening again. 

Seven Parts To CPARS

In addition to the 5 CPARS ratings that were discussed above, you must focus on the seven parts to the evaluation which are the keys to your performance.  Each of these should be part of your training with your team so that they can track them throughout the year.  A good habit to get into is to perform a self-assessment each quarter on these.

If you are interested in learning more about how position and market your company for government contracts, you can contact Lisa Dolan, CPP at:  lisad@whitehavenadvisors.com
As consultants to the security industry, regardless of whether you are a small or large business owner, Whitehaven Advisors can provide you with the expert guidance and support needed to enter into government contracting.  Whitehaven also provides advisory services to established government contractors on best practices for winning contract bids and remaining in compliance with complex contract requirement.   www.whitehavenadvisors.com