Navigating the complex federal contracting road that small businesses travel when pursuing business with the federal government can be daunting. The key to successfully partnering with the federal government is through the mutual sharing of information between government and industry and by understanding how the government procures its goods and services.
The challenge for small business is the education required to follow the right road that will lead a small business to accelerate and achieve success.
The government clearly recognizes the importance of partnering with small businesses, as evidenced by its attempts to pass several laws, including the JOBS Act (April 5, 2012) and the Small Business Tax Cut Act (March 21, 2012).
However, some of the tools provided by the government aren’t always as helpful as they need to be if a small business owner doesn’t already know how to use them and navigate them.
One example is the FedBizOpps website provided by the federal government.
What many small businesses don’t understand when just starting out is once an opportunity hits that website, you’re already too late to the game. The website is a great tool for searching solicitations; yet the reality in many cases is government agencies and departments already have been planning them months or years in advance. However, it is a good research tool for awarded contracts coming up for re-competition in the coming fiscal years.
The key is for small businesses to make the educational time investment in addition to the financial investment. For instance:
- Join and become familiar with the many non-profit organizations in the D.C. area that offer education and training events to get visibility.
- Get on e-mail distribution lists of these organizations.
- Select organizations that fit in the company’s core capabilities.
- Attend industry days and get to know the industry and government key players and always be honest with what you can perform.
- Learn and study the budget cycles and upcoming programs being considered for funding near and long term, and create a plan.
Winning business from the federal government takes many months, if not years. However, if a small business owner understands this, stays continually educated on the organizations mission, funding streams, acquisition and procurement processes and builds strong relationships with the small business offices, advocates and partners, they will surely be able to accelerate through these difficult times and achieve their goals.
Curt Anderson is the industry chair for 2012 SBC an education and training event hosted by Industry Advisory Council, an organization of companies committed to improving government through the application of information technology.