By: Mike Sabellico
1. What is your best client coming to you asking about?
My top clients ask me about the same things all my clients ask about – How can I grow my business at a healthy pace. Most of the companies that come to see me already have an established commercial market and they are looking to expand into government contracting at the federal, state, county, and local levels. According to the US Small Business Administration, the federal government spent more than $93 billion last year on prime contracts with small businesses alone. But the process of obtaining a government contract can be daunting. I was a government contracting officer for the United Stated Coast Guard for several years. It’s important for business owners to know that government contracting officers, project managers and technical officers live in a world that’s very different from the corporate environment with which traditional businesses are most familiar.
2. What are the top 3 tips you usually give them (regarding the above)
Tip #1 – Learn the government contracting landscape. Know what certifications are available and which ones you can attain. Then decide which ones to pursue based on the leverage they provide to the specific customer targets you see as a good fit for your product or service. The Federal 8(a) certification can be a powerful tool but only if you will market to the federal government and an agency in the federal government has purchased that type of goods or service as 8(a) set-aside purchase. You can spend all day every day attaining certifications and still not grow your business – you need to be strategic in selecting certifications.
Tip #2 – Consider subcontracting roles first. The government is fundamentally risk adverse and as such will not readily give a new firm with minimal past performance the chance as a prime contractor. Government agencies will look critically at staffing, finances and past performance, so if your company is fairly young, you can try starting out as a government subcontractor to establish your business with government work.
Tip #3 – Learn how to effectively price and bid. Responding to government Requests for Proposal (RFPs) or Requests for Information (RFIs) is demanding, time consuming and arduous. There is an art to being able to respond to a particular RFP while highlighting your company’s strengths and minimizing any areas for improvement. Knowing how to effectively price and bid – which should be much less aggressive with the government than in the private sector – will help make you a competitive candidate for the government’s business.