Money is aplenty when it comes to government contracts. The U.S. government is the world’s largest buyer of goods, from spacecrafts to zippers to paper clips, if you can make it, chances or the government may be looking to buy it.
In 2007, small businesses won a record $83.2 billion in federal contracts, an increase of almost $6 billion from 2006, according to Small Business Administration. The government is mandated to award 23% of all contract dollars to small businesses annually, yet it missed that goal by 1% in 2007.
For many entrepreneurs, the hardest part is getting started. Navigating the paperwork, certification, and bureaucracy, can make closing the deal with a federal agency rather cumbersome – but it’s not impossible. Check out how to get started and read your business for a government contract.
Know your resources. “The secret to successfully securing government contracts is gaining a thorough knowledge of the government’s specific demands,” says Michelle Thompson-Dolberry, director of advocacy marketing at American Express OPEN, an online resource center for small business owners. Understanding the type of assistance available to you as an entrepreneur is key to finding out what the federal contractors are looking for. From online procurement classes with the SBA to reference guides, these resources will be your lifeline when inking a deal with the government.
If you need counseling or training on how to seek federal or state contracts, local Procurement and Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) are available to match a firm with procurement opportunities.
The Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) is also set up to assist small businesses with obtaining contracts and subcontracts with federal agencies and prime contractors..
Set up your CCR profile. To apply for a government contract, small business owners must set up a profile with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) . The CCR is an online government-maintained database of companies interested in doing business with the government. Federal agencies search the database for prospective vendors, “it is the first place agencies turn to, Thompson-Dolberry says.
Entering your small business profile, including your business information and key word description, allows contracting officers, prime contractors, and buyers from state and local governments, to learn about your company.
Get certified. Businesses that are women or minority owned, and certified as such receive an added boost when applying for government contracts. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs do not take advantage of the classification. While 5% of all government contracts are set aside for women entrepreneurs, the SBA says only 3.4% of these designations are utilized.
To get certified, reach out to organizations such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Additionally, each state operates a Minority Business Enterprise and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certifying body.