year is an interesting year for federal government contracting.
to The Federal Times,
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has resulted in a 13 percent
rise in federal contract spending in 2009, and much of this will continue
through the “busy season” when federal fiscal budgets close on September 30.
Federal fiscal years run from October 1 to September 30, when a “use it or lose
it” mentality kicks in and busy vendors vie for government year-end dollars.
October, the federal government typically slows down its spending dramatically
as Congress and the Executive Branch work through new budgets and determine
where spending will fall. The actual new fiscal year money doesn’t trickle down
to agencies until late winter or even spring. During this time, government
vendors usually engage in a sales and marketing push to raise awareness of
their products and services among target agencies – events, webinars, and
“educational” events are popular as vendors try to match their offerings to an
this year, speculators and industry watchers are forecasting a different
Mark Amtower, a leading authority on doing business with the
government predicts that “instead of the traditional ebbs and flows, the
stimulus bill means spending won’t slow even at the end of the fiscal year.” As
the fiscal calendar starts anew, Mark points to the fact that government
agencies will still be spending stimulus dollars, rather than coming up with
same Federal Times article also
points to the fact that once ARRA funding dries up and deficit pressures start
to emerge in fiscal 2010 then the government’s procurement budget is expected
to shrink and stagnate (FedSources’ 2010 Budget Outlook).
So what does this mean for small
business and how can you make the most of federal spending in the new fiscal
the new federal fiscal year is not likely to see the typical spending slowdown,
so if you are invested or looking to invest in doing business with the federal
government then it’s time to hunker down and align, or continue to align, sales
and marketing resources where the money is being spent.
good news is that the government is actually one of the biggest advocates for
helping small businesses navigate the government contracting maze and find
whether you are new to federal government contracting or are adjusting to the
new opportunities provided by the ARRA here are four essential
steps (as recommend by Uncle Sam) that you should follow on your path to doing
business with the federal government:
1. Register to do
Business with the Federal Government
There are three things a
small business must do to become a registered and certified government
contractor – obtain a DUNS number,
register your business with the government’s Central Contractor Registration
(CCR), and obtain a past performance evaluation (a must if you want to get on a
GSA Schedule contract). Learn how to do each of these here.
2. Understand how the
Government Buys Goods and Services
25 percent of contracts are set-aside for small businesses (check here
to see what qualifies as a small business) and all federal purchases above
$3,000 but under $100,000 must be reserved for small businesses, unless the
contracting officer cannot obtain offers from two or more small businesses that
are competitive on price, quality, and delivery (source).
You can learn more about
set-aside programs for small and disadvantaged businesses (SBA’s 8(a) and
HUBZone programs) as well as other programs and resources from the federal
government that help small businesses successfully compete for government
3. Get on the GSA
Not the only government
procurement vehicle, but an essential starting point for small businesses, the
U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) establishes the largest
government-wide contracts under its GSA Schedules Program. GSA establishes
long-term contracts that provide over 10 million commercial supplies and
services that can be ordered directly from GSA Schedule contractors or through
shopping and ordering system. Getting a GSA Contract is not a guarantee that
you will win immediate business but it equates with credibility in the
government marketplace. Learn more about getting
on the GSA Schedule.
4. Find the
Once you are registered to
sell to the government, now you can start searching for opportunities. Before you dive in, develop a plan to
understand the needs among the countless agencies for your product or service.
Check out the Procurement Data System (www.fpds.gov)
to determine which agencies have a history of buying your offering. Once you
have a target list, check out FedBizOpps (www.fbo.gov),
which is used to publish all solicitations of $25,000 or more. You can use your
NAICS code (look it up here)
to search for “sources sought” – not contracts, but notices from agencies
looking for your product or service.
with complementary services will team up to bid on federal contract
opportunities. If you’re new to federal contracting, teaming with another
business as a “subcontractor” is a great way to get your foot in the
door in the federal government.
Tips Finding Federal Contracting Opportunities
to learn more.
Stay tuned for my next
post which will focus on the ins and outs of marketing to the government.
Contracting Opportunities Guide for Small Businesses
SBA Federal Contracting
Opportunities Online Training Program -It’s free,
comprehensive, and includes numerous resources to help you understand and
engage in the government’s contracting process.
to Host 200 Events to Help Women, Veteran and Minority-owned Businesses Get Access to Informatio… (SBA Press Release)
The Essentials: Securing a Share of Government Business (from OPEN Forum)
– Another excellent resource is this brief downloadable PDF that summarizes
best practices for selling to the government, including how you can use government resources, such as
Business Administration (SBA),
to your advantage.
Fedmarket.com: The Federal Marketplace – Provides excellent “free content” including
articles, white papers and newsletters to help you sell to the government.