Small Business Tips for Winning Federal Contracts
9. Learn from others
Use all available resources to find information that will save you time and money. For example, you can find how-to articles, guides, videos, and tips on how to do business with the government on American Express OPEN Forum. You'll find free monthly webinars at Give Me Five, a website for women-owned businesses seeking federal contracts, which is also sponsored by American Express OPEN.
"Some free resources for companies interested in government contracting can be found at the local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) offices," adds Jennifer Schaus, owner of Jennifer Schaus & Associates, a boutique consulting firm in Washington, D.C. "These are federally funded programs that conduct seminars about the various components and marketing tools in federal contracting."
Schaus also recommends that small business owners:
- attend "Industry Day" at the agencies
- participate in mentor-protégé programs within the agencies (this is where the large firms mentor and sub-contract with the small guys)
- meet with the OSDBU - Office of Small & Disadvantage Business Utilization (every agency has one)
- attend some of the new Small Business Administration seminars
- attend trade shows, conferences, networking events and associations
And don't overlook industry resources as many of them have federal contracting ties that can help you, too.
"Industry events around the beltway frequently bring up federal-contracting and industry leaders like the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) and the AFCEA, says Lateef Mauricio, managing partner of NOVA Advertising, a strategic marketing firm that specializes in marketing and business development in the government contracting industry.
Also, Mauricio adds, "the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) facilitates networking opportunities and may serve as vendor advocates."
Your own city may offer help for small businesses interested in securing federal contracts. If your city doesn't, certainly cities around the D.C. area do. For example, the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber (BWCC) hosted its 21st Annual Government Procurement Fair this past Halloween.
Mark your calendar to catch the event next year. It's the longest-running procurement fair in the Baltimore-Washington region, and it's faithfully attended by more than 50 federal, state and local government agencies every year.
10. Step away from your computer and smartphone
While it's often much quicker and less stressful to email a potential customer, face-to-face meetings and networking are far more effective in creating meaningful connections and establishing relationships with government procurement officials. Make the time to regularly visit the D.C. beltway and to attend key conferences such as the GSA Expo or the OSDBU Procurement Conference. Do not limit your communications to email and phone -- though both are important follow-up methods.
"Work closely with the agency's Office of Small Business Utilization (OSBU)," agrees Michael Perch, a principal consultant at RoadMap Consulting (RMC), a firm that specializes in helping small businesses secure government designations and win government contract bids. "They can provide valuable insight into specific contracting opportunities."
11. Remember to dedicate time to pursue government contracts
Treat this time like a client meeting, and specifically allocate time blocks into your schedule. If you don't, your strategy becomes a hope or a wish and, with inconsistent effort, it will be extremely difficult to effectively attract the new business. For example, one successful woman contractor sets up weekly time dedicated to government contracting pursuits.
12. Last but not least, be patient and persistent
Business development takes time; don't give up. According to American Express OPEN's survey of government contractors, it took active contractors 1.3 years and four bids before they won their first prime federal contract. But here's the encouraging news; experience pays off.
With experience comes increased contracting success -- small firms with 10 or more years of contracting experience win more than half (53 percent) of the bids they submit versus just one in five of the proposals submitted that are won by companies with three years or less of contracting experience.
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