Despite the possibilities, Eric Dobyne, Chicago regional director for the Minority Business Development Agency, says a low percentage of minority businesses take advantage of seeking contracts within this sector due to a lack of knowledge or because they find the process too complex, especially when there are no guarantees they will be awarded the contract. But even when a bid is not accepted, the business can request a debriefing from the agency. Dobyne says that when successfully attained, a government contract can create a solid revenue stream. He adds, “It has to be a part of your overall business strategy.”
And Bailey, who works with clients large and small in developing and implementing strategic solutions and best practices to increase the number of contracts awarded to MWVBEs (Minority, Women and/or Veteran Business Enterprises), agrees. She adds, “Government contracts represent a potentially large revenue stream and small business owners can’t afford to leave any money on the table.”
STEPS FOR SUCCESS
Are You Ready? Investigate if the government is currently interested in purchasing your goods or service. Check out the Federal Procurement Data System Website. There, you can see past contracts awarded and find which agency is buying similar products. Also visit USAspending.gov, which provides citizens with easy access to government contracts, grants, and other award data. Next, familiarize yourself with the rules of government contracting. The rules and regulations of government contracting are published in the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation)—a must-read reference guide for the prospective enterprise as well as firms that have secured a contract. The FAR will tell you exactly what your rights are, what you can and cannot do, what things benefit you, and why you need to understand them so that you know the system and benefit from it. “Small business owners should not be overwhelmed by the FAR,” urges Bailey. “They can use the table of contents to locate topics that pertain to them, but should definitely have a working knowledge of FAR Part 19” (a section of the Website that assists small businesses in dealing with the bureaucracy of accessing governmental contracts).
Have your team in place. “If you’re serious about going after government contracts, meet with your professional advisers,” says Sarika Sangwan, manager of advocacy marketing at American Express OPEN. “Your attorney should understand how federal contracts work and your CPA should be able to help you with the financial aspects of these opportunities.” In addition to this, pull together resourceful, strategic thinkers who add synergy and excellence to your team.