If your company is currently working with the government, or thinking about jumping into the government space, a GSA Schedule Contract can open up additional opportunities and make your business more attractive to federal buyers.  A GSA Schedule is a contract that can be used by federal agencies to purchase a company’s products and services; it contains pre-negotiated pricing, terms, and conditions which streamline the government sales process.   More importantly, a GSA Schedule Contract allows small businesses to capture some of the $32 billion in annual spending through the program – over 37% of which was spent with small businesses last year.   Agencies can even set aside contracts exclusively for small businesses through the GSA Schedule program.

For the most part, you can submit a proposal to obtain a GSA Schedule Contract at any time.  However, before you begin the process, take the time to assess your current situation.  Where does your company need to be in terms of your organizational structure, financials, and past performance in order to obtain a GSA Schedule Contract?  What is your plan for when you receive a GSA Schedule Contract?  What resources and structure do you need in place to successfully utilize the contract?

Preparation is the key to success in any project, including the GSA Schedule.  Here are four important steps your small business should take to prepare for a GSA Schedule Contract:

  • Determine Fit within the GSA Schedule Program

With over 17 million products and services offered through about 40 different GSA Schedules based upon category, there is a Schedule for almost every business.  Browse GSA’s e-Library website to see where your products and services fall within the GSA Schedule Program.

  • Assess Financial Stability

Your company’s financial stability will play a key factor in your eligibility to receive a GSA Schedule Contract.  Take some time to assess your financial health.  Have you been in business for at least two years?  How are your assets allocated?  Do you have any liens?  Pay particular attention to financial ratios, including your asset to liability and debt to equity ratios.  GSA wants to avoid awarding a contract to a company that may go out of business in a year or two.  With this in mind, make sure you can paint a picture of financial stability before you begin the GSA Schedule proposal process.

  • Develop a Government Marketing Plan

A GSA Schedule unquestionably simplifies the government sales process, but you must still actively seek out sales opportunities.  Take some time to conduct sales research.  Identify which agencies have the highest demand for what you offer.  Narrow that down to one or two agencies and create a targeted plan to reach these potential buyers.  Be sure to consider who is currently supplying these agencies.  Can you compete with these companies?  Is your company hampered by any restrictions such as bandwidth or geographic reach?  A GSA Schedule is only as valuable as the effort your company puts into managing and marketing it.  A strong marketing plan is a necessity and will serve as blueprint for your future success.

  • Build Government Experience

Many small businesses are surprised to learn that government experience is not required to obtain a GSA Schedule Contract.  GSA Schedule Contracts are meant to mirror your commercial business practices, so a company only needs to show an established history of commercial sales.  However, when you consider the time and resources involved in obtaining a GSA Schedule Contract, you’ll understand why we recommend a company build some government experience before taking that next step.  Subcontracting is an excellent way for your small business to ease into the government market.  Working for a prime contractor will expose your company to some of the intricacies unique to the government contracting industry.  Depending upon the subcontracting agreement, you may also be able to forge a relationship with the agency you are indirectly working for.

The federal market is becoming increasingly attractive for small businesses with over $500 billion in annual contract spending and expanding, small-business-friendly initiatives.   GSA Schedule Contracts provide small businesses with a competitive advantage in the government space, while simplifying the traditionally complicated sales process.

Julie C. Crosby is the President of Federal Schedules, a GSA consulting firm.