“The best way for a small business to grow is to have the federal government as a customer,” Entrepreneur.com wrote. “The U.S. government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, with total procurement dollars reaching approximately $235 billion in 2002 alone.”
But federal government contracts aren’t the only way for small businesses to participate. In fact, on a local level you may find you have a better chance at opportunities. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for these local government agencies to become dependent on the same core group of businesses they’ve always worked with. Getting in on this business can be tough, especially if these relationships are long-term. But new opportunities open up all the time and long-term contracts eventually run their course. The best way to be in the right place at the right time is to begin the process of persistently applying for local and federal government contracts.
But for many small businesses, landing those official contracts can seem like a daunting process. The paperwork can be overwhelming for a busy business owner with limited resources. Luckily, there are resources available for small businesses interested in pursuing government contracts. Follow these three steps to land a government contract:
- Determine your business’s niche. Before you can begin applying for opportunities, it can help to fully understand what makes your business stand out. Join associations or councils that represent your niche to add to your credentials.
- Peruse the list of opportunities at the Small Business Administration (SBA) website. The SBA lists contracting opportunities on its website. If your small business doesn’t have the resources to handle some of the larger government contracts, SBA’s list of subcontracting opportunities may be a better fit. These opportunities are organized by state to help you narrow down only those that apply to you. SBA also has a mentor-protege program that can help pair you with a larger organization.
- Contact your local government procurement office. State and city governments have officials tasked with handling contracts. Set up a meeting and work to determine what your business needs to do to be considered.
- Register with SAM. The System for Award Management (SAM) acts as a clearinghouse for Federal contractors. SAM combines the Central Contractor Registry, Federal Agency Registration, Online Representations and Certifications Application, and Excluded Parties List System, with more systems to be added soon.
- Be persistent. The SBA can be a valuable resource, not only for linking you to opportunities but to providing information on what you need to do to land those valuable contracts. Government contracts can be a valuable income source for small businesses, but the process can be slow and involve quite a bit of “red tape.” Don’t give up at the first lost opportunity, understanding that the process is usually very competitive.
While dealing with the government can be frustrating, to say the least, with so many great opportunities lingering untapped, it’s important to try to find a way to take advantage of them if you can. The SBA can prove a great resource for locating and landing those opportunities.