Government Contracting: Should Your Business Give It a Try? American Express Expert Shares TipsRamon Ray
Lourdes Martin-Rosa walks the talk in her role as an American Express OPEN Advisor on government contracting. A small business owner herself, she founded the professional services firm Government Business Solutions (GBS), which provides expert programs in landing a government contract.
I recently sat down with Lourdes to discuss the reasons why a small business owner may want to work with the government, and how to get the ball rolling.
A Long Standing Stigma
The federal government has been mandated to allot 23 percent of funding for prime contracts to small businesses. This is a large chunk of change that is just sitting there for the taking.
There is a stigma attached to working with the government that includes everything from mountains of paperwork, to never getting paid on time. The truth of the matter, however, is that the United States government is the largest procurer of products and services in the world—with $5 billion dollars in annual contracts. This is across all industries from construction to professional services, marketing, and entertainment—there is an opportunity for everyone.
Lourdes points out that when she speaks with government contractors, the common question they are asking is “where are all the small business owners?” The stigma has kept people away, but the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and you can’t land a contract if you never try.
Be an Expert in Your Industry
Lourdes has been working with AMEX in the OPEN forum doling out advice and tips on how exactly small business owners can get a piece of the pie. In the forum, you can download free insight guides that are written in layman’s terms and interlaced with small business success stories. The following are a few tips and resources she shared with me:[Tweet “.@GovBizSolutions shares her tips for #smallbusinesses landing a #government contract.”]
1. Narrow Approach
“Do not try to kill a mosquito with a shotgun,” as Lourdes puts it. Rather than sending out mass e-mails to small business specialists in every agency, narrow down what agencies you intend to business with, and go from there. Smallbusiness.data.gov is a great resource that shows what agencies are performing well in small business sectors.
2. Capability Statement
This is usually a one-page document (much like a resume) that outlines who you are, what you can do, your past performance, and what your capabilities are. These statements can be used to meet any requirement posted.
3. Automatic Bid Notifications
All contracts over $25k are mandated to be posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO.gov) website. Here you can sign up for notifications based on industry specifics—which are sent to your inbox daily.
Gain a competitive edge through certifications and teaming. Women, disabled veterans, historically underutilized business zones, and other factors create specific niches that small business owners can use to gain a competitive edge.
5. Procurement Forecasts
It is federally mandated that all agencies have their procurement forecast posted on their website. For example: on the Department of the Army’s website, you can view all planned purchases for 2017. Small business owners can use this information to draft a marketing plan, prepare a team, and communicate with the small business office within the agency. This type of foresight can give a small business the push it needs to win the contract.
Although it is a government contract, there is still room for relationship building. Sending a capability statement to a focused group of agencies is the first step in establishing relationships and gaining trust. Just because you are a small business, does not mean you do not know what you are doing. Lourdes articulated it perfectly when she stated:
The government is truly an untapped resource, and with the proper tools and approach, a small business owner can land a lucrative government contract just like the big guys.