Finding More Customers Through Government Contracting
Government contracting provides a steady and reliable revenue stream for many businesses. According to USASpending.gov, government agencies awarded more than $445 billion in contracts in 2014. Tapping into this spending pipeline can spur significant business growth.
Government entities consume just about everything that the private sector does, from promotional tchotchkes to janitorial services. Is government contracting right for your business? Take these steps to find out.
Identify areas of growth
Contracting opportunities tend to vary by city, state and region, and different agencies have money to spend at different times. For example, Department of Transportation spending may skyrocket in states with funds earmarked for roadway expansion or special projects, and Department of Defense contracts typically grow during wartime. Find out which agencies are most active in your geographic area and determine if they have a need for your products and services. The Federal Business Opportunities website includes a searchable database of available contracts. Use it to mine for opportunities by state, agency and keywords.
Talk to current contractors
Network with companies that already sell to the government, and ask about how they determine whether an opportunity is a good fit for their own business. Local offices of the Small Business Administration often hold matchmaking and educational events where you can meet contractors and agency representatives. These events may include seminars on the ins and outs of public sector work.
When getting started, you may find that local and state contracting opportunities are a better fit for your business. Winning these bids builds a track record of success that you can leverage to pursue larger awards. In addition, building relationships locally is often easier and more affordable than making the investments required to compete for regional or national opportunities.
Think about competitive advantages
Businesses often face fierce competition for government contracts, so it pays to concentrate on opportunities that truly match your company's strengths. Pinpoint and articulate the qualities that are most likely to interest government prospects. For example, does your company have unique expertise or access to cutting-edge technology? If your company can deliver added value or streamline an agency's workload, you may have a leg up on your competition.
Consider becoming a subcontractor
One of the easiest ways to enter government contracting is to become a subcontractor. The government encourages, and in some cases requires, prime contractors to partner with smaller businesses to fulfill awarded projects. Developing these subcontracting relationships can help you learn about the contracting process and evaluate its potential for your business. These partnerships will also build your public sector portfolio, which is often key to securing future opportunities. The General Services Administration (GSA) Subcontracting Directory provides a list of prime contractors that may have subcontracting needs.
Explore all potential inroads
The government aims to award a minimum of 23 percent of all federal purchases to small businesses. It also works to assign a portion of contracts to women-, veteran- and minority-owned companies. Visit the Federal Business Opportunities website to search for contracts that are set aside for companies like yours. To qualify for these opportunities, your business may need to apply for specific government certifications.
Some federal agencies also coordinate with the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) Council, which works proactively to find opportunities for smaller companies to sell to their organizations. This group typically forecasts upcoming needs and offers training to help prospective vendors identify opportunities.
The competition for government contracts can be tough, but many businesses have found it to be a valuable source of income. With the right moves, you could become one of them.