The federal government is one of the top employers of small businesses in the United States. Even in this age of budget cuts and belt tightening on the federal level, the feds are on track to award about $500 billion in contracts this year. What’s more, the law requires that 23 percent of those contracts go to small businesses. That’s a tremendous opportunity for any small business, especially emerging MWBEs.
But doing business with the labyrinthine bureaucracy that this the federal government is challenging, to say the least. But it can be done if you take your time, learn the rules and plan strategically. Here are some tips that will help you along the way.
Create an Account on Sam.gov
If you haven’t already done so, sign up with the federal System of Award Management at Sam.gov. An account on this system is required to do business with any federal agency. Signing up is easy and free. Just create a user account, log-in, and follow the prompts to create a registered business entity. You will also need to submit a notarized letter appointing an entity administrator for your firm. However, your registration can be activated before that letter is received. To learn more about this requirement, read these updated FAQs.
Search for Clues
Each year, the federal government is required by law to award 23 percent of its contracts to U.S. small businesses. However, the government may adjust these goals up or down based on data from prior years. The adjusted statutory goals are published annually and can give small business owners a heads up as to which federal agencies will be expected to award the largest number of contracts to small businesses in a given year. As an example, for fiscal year 2018, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior and the Small Business Administration are required to award more than 50 percent of their contracting opportunities to small businesses.
Additionally, federal law requires that each federal agency award a minimum of 5 percent of its contracts to certified small woman-owned businesses and an additional 5 percent to certified small disdvantaged businesses each year. However, not every federal government agency meets those goals. Knowing which agencies are falling short is a good way to identify opportunities to market your goods and services to a federal agency that is actively trying to recruit businesses like yours. The reports are available on the Federal Procurement Data System and can be accessed at any time.
Knowing where the federal government is spending money and tracking solicitations for bids is key to identifying contracting opportunities in your business niche. Two websites that can help you do this are USA Spending.gov and FedBizOps.gov.
On the newly redesigned USA Spending website you can research which agencies are spending money and review historical data on the types of contracts awarded by each one. But be forewarned, at this juncture about 85 percent of the data is as yet unreported, so the information may not provide the level of granularity you need.
FedBixOps, on the other hand, provides a detailed view of all federal government contracting opportunities available at a given time. Unfortunately, there are so many of them (42,000 as of August 2018) that sifting through them can be an overwhelming task. If you’ve never used the site before, it’s a good idea to watch the instructional videos provided by the FBO that will show you how to log in, search opportunities and use the advance features of the site. Or if you want to dive right in, you can search opportunites by keyword, date, agency, state or set aside amounts.
Searching for opportunities online is a one way to learn about available contracts, but winning those contracts usually requires a more active approach. And that’s where networking with the procurement community and other industry experts can be extremely helpful in gaining you the kind of exposure you need. To find events that offer networking opportunities in your genre, try searching the website Gov.Events.
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