The federal government spends billions each year on almost every product and service under the sun. But don’t think this is solely with corporations. The federal government does its best to work with a variety of diverse business types. Meaning that no matter how big or small an enterprise is there’s a good chance the government wants what they’re selling.
There are opportunities abound to become a sub or prime contractor for the federal government, but only if you know where to look: the government operates through a myriad of different agencies, bureaus, field units and districts. And each entity works with its own budget and mission. Finding the right fit for your business may seem overwhelming at first, however.
Before you start counting your money in the bank, or even applying for contracts left and right, you’ll have to register your business by creating a profile on System for Award Management (SAMS). The federal government uses this site to find potential contractors to do business with.
Another important first step will be to identify your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and Federal Supply Classification (FSC). In order for the federal government to identify product/service listings and procurements it uses these codes.
With all this information at your disposal now is the time to make sure the government has a demand for your business. Conduct basic market research by searching through the FBO.GOV site. They offer a federal contract search engine that helps to fine tune your search and connect you with potential deals more expeditiously.
One important thing to note is that there there are a variety of different contract types that the General Services Administration (GSA) offers. According to their website, the GSA establishes long-term government-wide contracts to commercial firms to provide access to over 11 million goods/services. And their contracts are as diverse as the businesses they deal with. The two most common kinds of contracts the GSA offers are Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA) and Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs). BPAs simplify the process of repeat orders, giving customers increased buying power, as it takes advantage of quantity discounts. GWACs establish task and delivery contracts for IT use by other agencies within the federal government.
Just being able to complete an order may not be enough to get you noticed by the federal government. It’s possible you’re in with the wrong kind of competition. Go to sba.gov to find if your business is eligible for certain certifications, such as an 8(a), SDB or HUBZone certification. These certifications may grant your business access to set-aside contracts, which the federal government saves for small or minority owned businesses so that competition is fair.
It can be hard fighting for your fair share with fully-fledged and international companies. Make sure you take advantage of every possible opportunity. In the meantime, bid often and regularly on different contracts. Because of the federal government’s scale, contract requests can come in at all hours of the day, so stay vigilant and don’t be afraid to hit refresh on your browser. The federal government generally takes between 30 to 120 days to review submissions. Contracting Officers (COs) handle each individual proposal. They take into consideration a business’s past performance references, the proposal’s pricing, terms, technical acceptability, as well as the overall responsibility and responsiveness of the business itself.
You’ll want to present your capabilities directly to the CO or agencies hoping to purchase your goods/services. With each proposal that you submit, remember that their time is valuable, so be brief but convincing that your business has the most cost-effective solution to their requirements.
Applying for government contracts can prove to be an arduous process. But don’t lose hope. The federal government allocates around a fourth of its contracts to small businesses. In 2016, with $82.8 billion spent by federal agencies, that meant around $18 billion was spent on small businesses alone.
As Lourdes Martin-Rosa, American Express OPEN adviser in Government Contracting, said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “The only thing the federal government really manufactures is money. So if they’re going to purchase anything, whether it’s zippers or furniture, it’s going to come from a private entity. And hopefully in most cases that’s a U.S. business.”