As the US government increasingly seeks out small companies to add to its payroll, WINBIDS and the US Department of Labor explain the potential benefits of these contracts. When it comes to winning these bidding wars, small businesses often cringe at the thought of competition with larger companies. These big, bad wolves, however, are sometimes more bark than actual bite.
While bigger businesses can offer products and services on a grander scale, small businesses are just as capable of delivering a blockbuster presentation worthy of impressing the judgment panel. The real ability of small businesses has not gone unnoticed. In fact, in the past couple years, the federal government has taken monumental steps to reach its goal of offering 23% of its contract funds to the smaller business players.
For these owners, the keys to this procurement range from learning the rules of the game to understanding the importance of standing out in a crowd of overzealous bidders, explained WINBIDS, a consulting firm that helps small businesses win government contracts.
When placing bids and completing reports, many prospective contractors resort to using internal resources. As small business contractors consistently face stiff competition, this is a rookie mistake. The government contracting game is always evolving.
Nowadays, the General Service Administration (GSA) Schedule is where small business gets the chance to meet greater opportunity and exposure.
“GSA establishes long-term, government wide contracts with commercial companies to provide access to millions of commercial products and services at volume discount pricing,” reads the U.S. GSA website.
Various agencies use the GSA Schedule to purchase products and services because in their eyes, the companies that make up this all-star roster have already proven their worth and law-abiding trust. The road to obtaining a government contract can be tedious. The GSA application alone ranges anywhere from 300-500 pages. But this lucrative opportunity can help small businesses expand for optimal growth and expansion.
Before government contracting can even be considered a viable probability, small business owners need to ensure they are prepared to step up to the plate and take a commendable swing.
1. Be Part of a Team
The ins and outs of federal contracting are worlds away from commercial contracting. According to research completed by American Express OPEN, on average, it takes an individual contractor up to two years and at least four unsuccessful bids before procuring a single government contract. To better these odds, companies that are not on the GSA Schedule should consider joining a corporation already on the list. The contracting rules obligate larger businesses with federal contracts of greater than $550,000 to subcontract to smaller counterparts.
It’s not always possible, however, for a company to join one already on the GSA Schedule. In these instances, according to the professionals at WINBIDS, joining forces with other like-minded business owners could prove just as fruitful.
2. Explore your Niche
Applicants should keep aim at a unified target. WINBIDS urges companies to highlight their strengths. In turn, this will help reveal which government agencies are in need of their particular services. This means research. Federal, state and local government agencies buy anything from office supplies and car services to aircrafts and medical research. Sites like FedbizOpps and Federal Procurement Data System allow contractors to view the current marketplace, while bringing the competition and open arenas for expansion into focus.
3. Timing is Priceless
According to many statistics, the best time to bid on a contract is at the end of the government’s first quarter of the fiscal year. At this point in time, those agencies that haven’t spent their allotted budget may make hastier purchases, out of fear of losing that unspent allowance.
4. Get Help in the Right Places
Contractors should look to the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) as their new guidance counselor. Not only does this advantageous arm of the Department of Labor help underdogs comply with laws and regulations, the OSDBU is a power player in providing the information needed to be a competitive force in the government procurement playing field.
“Our clients have procured over 2.6 billion in both GSA and non GSA government business combined since 2011. We look to see that number increase significantly in 2014,” said a WINBIDS manager.
5. Never Stop Establishing Connections
Networking is always beneficial, if it’s done the right way. From building contact lists on social media networking sites and getting published, to volunteering and joining local business groups, contractors should never stop making connections. A seemingly insignificant encounter can ultimately help lead to a contractor’s next bid win.
Interestingly, many small companies are still unaware that government agencies are in need of their specific services. The federal government, however, buys approximately $5 billion worth of products and services from small businesses each year, contracts that are ultimately up for the taking. This past year, Philadelphia-area electronics company Electro Soft, dove into the GSA pool, successfully scoring a schedule contract.
The WINBIDS manager added, “There are many different resources available to identify the right opportunities for a particular company. The challenge is the time needed to invest in the research to include finding a competitive edge over the competition. WINBIDS has the capabilities to identify the right opportunity along with competitors past performance pricing and contractor contact.”