$100 billion is on the table. Will you take it? According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the government awards nearly $100 billion in contracts to small businesses every year. However, all government contracts are not created equal. Some contracts may not pay enough to be worth your while, or they may have unrealistic deadlines. Others are set aside for specific business types, for which you may not qualify. If you want to learn more about how to get the right government contract — read on. These secrets will help make sure you’re not leaving money on the table.
1. Grow your network.
Government purchasing agents are people, too — and they are more likely to do business with someone they know and trust. If the request for proposal (RFP) you’re answering includes a pre-bid conference, be sure to attend and ask questions. Introduce yourself to key individuals, such as procurement officers, technical experts, and even the competition. Even if you don’t get the job, an introduction today might lead to a referral or collaboration tomorrow. You can also attend government and industry-sponsored trade shows and conferences, where you can learn more tips about how to become a government contractor, and form relationships that could change the trajectory of your small business.
2. Learn to say no.
The U.S. government posts 19,000 Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) jobs each year, according to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) — so don’t stress if you don’t meet the qualifications for an individual contract. Here are a few opportunities to avoid:
- Contracts outside your realm of expertise: If the job doesn’t match your services, or your size, just say no. (Or, consider partnering with a competitor for larger jobs.)
- Jobs with unrealistic deadlines: No matter how bad you want the contract, don’t accept it if you can’t deliver results on time. Doing so will jeopardize future government employment opportunities.
- Bids that aren’t in line with your vision: Government contracts require a significant commitment. Make sure it’s worth the investment.
3. Market Your Small Business to the Right Agencies.
Focus your efforts on the government agencies that buy the types of services you offer. For example, if you are a paving company, market your services to the Department of Transportation. If you’re in healthcare, consider the Department of Health and Human Services. Not sure which agency makes the most sense for your line of work? Visit the Federal Business Opportunities website and click the “Agencies” tab for a searchable, alphabetical listing of agencies. (Hint: you can enter keywords and see which agencies match.) Once you identify two or three agencies that align with your expertise, market your services to those agencies directly.
4. Remember the details.
When it comes to the government, it’s their way or no deal on the highway contract. Government contracting work is known for its very specific and strict bid format requirements, so be sure to read the RFP carefully, and follow all required processes, deadlines and formats. A good rule of thumb is to read the RFP once, before you submit your proposal, noting any important timelines or requirements in a checklist. Then, read it again just before submitting, checking that requirements are met. If you have questions, or you aren’t sure whether you qualify, just ask.
As the world’s largest buyer, the U.S. government can open new doors for your small business. However, you may need access to working capital to pay employees, vendors and subcontractors while you’re waiting for government payments to arrive. Talk to Blaine Waugh at Triumph Business Capital — they specialize in funding small business government contractors.