Doing business with the federal government can be financially rewarding if you go in prepared. Though it requires patience, attention to detail, and the filling out of many forms, working with the world’s biggest customer could be a great boon to your business. Generating the first dollar of revenue is a step-by-step process.
Get your DUNS Number. Dun & Bradstreet assigns a DUNS, or Data Universal Numbering System, number to each individual location of your business. If you apply online, D&B will assign your DUNS number in one business day. Applying for a DUNS number to register for government contracting is free.
Register with Central Contractor Registration. All companies doing business with the federal government must register with CCR. You’ll provide your federal taxpayer identification number and checking account information for government deposits. You also need product classification numbers for the goods or services you plan to sell to the government. Federal supply codes are used for goods and product service codes for services.
Also be prepared to indicate your company’s primary and secondary North American Industrial Classification System code when registering with the CCR.
Before you bid, seek knowledgeable assistance from free or low-cost resources designed to help you sell to the government. Here are a couple to try:
- Small Business Development Centers: SBDCs are sponsored by the Small Business Administration in cooperation with universities, community colleges, cities, states, and local economic development programs. You can easily locate centers near you by using the SBDC locator.
- Procurement Technical Assistance Centers: Funded by the Department of Defense, PTACs provide local assistance to small businesses seeking to do business with all federal agencies. PTACs work closely with SBDCs but may have more up-to-date resources with which to navigate the maze of searching for government requests for bid proposals. There are more than 250 local offices in the United States. You can find a current listing of PTACs on the Department of Defense’s Web site.
Search for contracting opportunities and bid on them through FedBizOpps.gov. This Web site may contain 40,000 bid opportunities at any one time, listing the opportunity, agency involved, date the bid must be submitted, and all other pertinent information necessary to offer your product or service to the government.
Another place to find contracting opportunities is the SBA’s Subcontracting Opportunities Directory. The directory lists large government contractors that are looking to fulfill their quota of subcontracting approximately 25 percent of all work to small businesses.
During the “pre-award” phase of the contract, your business may be asked to undergo a financial audit by the agency awarding the contract if the contract is large and the agency has questions about your company’s financial ability to service the contract. One such agency is the Defense Contract Audit Agency. If you’re seeking Department of Defense contracts, the DCAA will send out an examiner to inspect your financial statements, learn how you will finance the work, and ascertain that your management has the domain expertise to perform the work requested. Ensuring that all your financial books, management résumés, and corporate records are in order will make this process go more smoothly and help you win the contract.
Sam Thacker is a partner in Austin, Texas-based Business Finance Solutions.