Get In The Game

How to take advantage of public procurement opportunities

contracts, invoice and accept payment for purchases electronically via the Internet.

As part of the move to cut costs and simplify the procurement process, most business today is conducted electronically rather than on paper. (See “Electronic Commerce and the Future of Money,” June 1997).

“In the Army, we are working toward digitizing all of what we do, leading to a paperless environment,” says Gen. Johnnie Wilson, commanding general of the Army Material Command. “Companies have to invest in technology so they can link with other agencies and companies.”

Federal procurement officers can place orders up to $100,000 using government credit cards, via GSA’s electronic ordering system, GSA Advantage! (www.gsa.gov) or the SBA’s PRO-Net database (http://pronet.sba.gov), says Ford. In this way, agencies can narrow their search for a contractor to just a handful of names and contact them directly, thereby expediting the process.

In 1997, credit card purchases increased among 18 federal agencies by more than $1.75 billion, and the total number of credit card purchases increased by 3.9 million, indicating that more agencies are purchasing on their own.

All government agencies have Web sites that provide pertinent information about procurement such as solicitation lists and RFPs. To prepare for electronic commerce, find a financial institution and software and hardware provider to create your Web site or online product catalog and establish a connection with your buyers. (See “The Top Seven Tips For Business Owners,” Techwatch, this issue).

MODELS FOR SUCCESS
Another successful 8(a) participant, Symtech Corp. in Alexandria, Virginia, has become a $3 million, award-winning Web site design firm by focusing on what it does best-information technology-and finding niches to fill within government agencies, such as NASA, the Department of Energy and the Navy.

Symtech provides information services, technical training, Web technology design and maintenance. The firm’s largest federal contract is with NASA, which was won in 1995, says Seymour Metters III, president and CEO. Metters developed his technical skill as an AWACS (Airborne Weapons and Control Systems) radar technical engineer for the Air Force and management and service engineer on personal computers and mini copiers at Xerox.

“For my first contract, I searched Commerce Business Daily to find out which contracts were up for re-bidding,” Metters says. “I assessed whether I had the money available to bid and whether to team with another firm. Then I gathered intelligence about the company that already had the contract and waited for the solicitation to appear in Commerce Business Daily.” Metters says when the contract came up for bid, he prepared his request for proposal (RFP). “And once I got the contract, I had to develop a business plan to map out how I would complete the job.”

As part of the $2.5 million, five-year contract obtained through the 8(a) program, Symtech provides technical support services for data analysis, technical maintenance and maintains software programs. Symtech maintains the Lunar Prospector Web site.

Approximately 14.5% of contracts and subcontracts are awarded to SDBs, representing $1.75 billion, says Ralph Thomas, associate administrator for small and disadvantaged business utilization at NASA.

“Two of the biggest challenges

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