Want to learn all the rules of government contracting? How much time do you have?
If you’re looking for a quick list of rules for bidding on a government job, I’ve got good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good: if you’re a small business, the government wants to make things easier on you. They have set aside funds for small businesses, hired representatives to help you, and even simplified the approval process for small business government contracting. The bad news? The basic rulebook for government contracting is still over a thousand pages long. Plus, separate agencies may have their own addendums. Add the sea of “helpful resources for government contracting” available online, and it can be hard to know where to start.
While we can’t cover all the rules in this blog, we will list a few of the most important ones, along with a few links and resources to point you in the right direction, and help cut through the clutter.
1. The FAR
First things first: read the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), otherwise known as “The Bible” of government contracting. This is the thousand-page document I was telling you about, and it contains all the rules governing the government purchasing process. Except the agency-specific supplements, which can also be thousands of pages long. Go ahead, read it. I’ll wait.
What? You’re busy? OK then, try these Quick Tips first:
- Ask the Agency.
If you don’t have time to read every line right now, you can ask the specific agency issuing the request for proposal (RFP) you’re interested in to let you know which sections apply to the contract. Also, ask if there is a separate agency acquisition supplement you need to review.
Some agencies, like the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), are not bound by the FAR, and have their own acquisition guidelines. That’s one more reason to ask which rules to review.
- Hit the Highlights.
The most important parts of the FAR for small business are Part 19, Small Business Programs, and Part 52, which overviews the standard terms and conditions for government contracts. Read these first.
2. The Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) exists to help small businesses in America grow — and that includes helping you understand the FAR and other rules governing government contracting. Their website is packed with useful information, but deciding what to read first can be overwhelming. Below are a few shortcuts to some of their top resources, to help you learn the rules faster:
- Rules for Getting Started
To be a government contractor, you’ll need to get Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number, register your business with the System of Award Management (SAM), find the correct North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code, and more. We could list all the rules, but the SBA has already done that for you in this quick, user-friendly online article.
- Free Online Courses
The SBA has created free online training for small businesses like yours. Here’s a link to their course listing on government contracting for small businesses. From understanding the FAR to learning eligibility requirements for special business designations, these courses make following the rules a lot easier.
- Federal Contracts: Overview of Responsibilities
This article provides an overview of some of the terms and conditions unique to federal contracts. (Hint: it’s less than a thousand pages.)
3. Rules (and Benefits) for Small Business Programs
If your business qualifies, you may be able to apply for certification in one of these small business programs, which can provide advantages in securing government work. Learn the rules, and find out how to get certified, at sba.gov:
- Small Business (SB)
- Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB)
- Small Disadvantaged Business 8(A) Certified [8(A)]
- Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZONE)
- Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB)
- Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SD-VOSB)
4. Quick Tips for Small Business Government Contracting
Triumph Business Capital can be a great resource for helping your small business get the funding you need to secure government contracting work. Call and ask for Blaine Waugh if you have any questions.