By Jeremy Higbee
Even though there are budget problems right now, the government spends a great deal on government contractors, particularly small business owners. In 2009, the government spent $96.8 billion in contracts with small businesses. That’s a whole lot of money. Any small business owner or entrepreneur would be remiss to not take advantage of that large of a revenue opportunity.
That being said, it’s probably best not to attempt to rely solely on government contracting opportunities as a single source of income for your business. There are companies like Lockheed Martin that develops military weapons, jets, and satellites that rely solely on government contracts that run up into the hundreds of billions. Unless you’re planning on make the next F-35, I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket.
Since you’ll be dealing with the government, there’s going to be a lot of paperwork, registering, and seemingly pointless hoops to jump through. Here are the hoops that need to be navigated in order to benefit from Uncle Sam’s federal contracts:
In order to start bidding on contracts, you’ll need to register with your local state procurement office and the Small Business Administration (SBA). Once you’re registered, you are not guaranteed a contract, there are several other steps you must go through to be visible to government agencies seeking certain products and services.
First, you will need to acquire a D-U-N-S Number (Dun & Bradstreet Number). This is a unique nine-digit number that simply identifies the physical location of your business. Next you will need to obey the SBA’s size standards. These standards are judged by the average annual receipts or the number of employees. Once your size is determined, you will be able to find your NAICS codes. These codes help government agencies find your business based on the products or services that you provide.
There are certain “set-aside” contract programs that small business owners can take advantage of. These programs are self-certified, so you need to be the one that tells the SBA that you qualify. Here are the programs:
- Women-Owned Small Business Program (WOSB)
- Veteran-Owned Small Business Program (VOSB)
- Service-disabled Veteran Small Business Program (SDVOSB)
- Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones) – this means your business is located in one of these areas.
- Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB)
Staying Ahead of the Competition
There are certain registering opportunities and online tools that not all small business take advantage of, but really should. First, you can register with the General Service Administrations database called SAM (System Award Management). It’s almost impossible to get noticed by a government agency without registering in this database. This is the ultimate search tool for government agencies looking to award contracts.
The SBA has free government contracting classrooms, cleverly named Government Contracting Classroom or, in government lingo, the GC Classroom. This classroom is online and offers training on the ins and outs, wheres and whens, and hows and whys on government contracting. The great thing about these courses is that you can set the pace of the videos and lessons so that you can learn at your own speed.
There are also online bid notifications services that can inform you of new government bids that are posted by federal agencies. You will be able to look up, track, and bid on the newest and most up-to-date government contracts, launching you far ahead of competitors in your field.
Jeremy Higbee is a freelance writer and avid snowboarder. When he’s not shredding up the slopes (showing the young people what-for), he’s giving marketing and spending advice to small businesses, blogs, and entrepreneurs.