CATEGORIES

How to do business with the federal government

Patience is a virtue and knowledge is essential.  

By Erica Courtney

We have seen the statistics. The federal government spends more than $550 billion on goodsUnited States Capital and services annually. That is $10,000 per second, every minute of every day. This is normal spending and does not even include the $787 billion recovery package passed by Congress last year to jump-start the economy. In addition, there are millions being spent on disaster recovery/natural disaster events.

Have you thought about penetrating the government marketplace? Perhaps it is time to stop thinking about it and do it. While you sit and wait, your competition is most likely figuring out what they need to do to be successful in this space.

Typically, companies fall into one of three categories:

  • Those that have been writing proposals for months or even years, spending countless resources with no awards granted. They are just about to throw in the towel and can’t understand why they are not successful.
  • Those that have never attempted to enter the space and have no idea where to begin.
  • Those that need a bit of direction but not full positioning.

The fear of the unknown is scary but as with anything in life, you just need to know how to play the game. It is not that hard if you have the right tools in place along with the proper know-how. Take the proper steps in the beginning and you’ll be doing business with the federal government before you know it.

1. Get registered. As required by law, at a minimum, your firm must be registered in a few systems. First, you should have a D-U-N-S number, assigned by Dun & Bradstreet at no charge to federal contractors. (Go to http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform for information on obtaining the nine-digit number.) Then register in Central Contracting Registration (CCR) at https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/default.aspx.

You will be asked basic information about your company such as points of contact, size, and products and services offered. If you are a small business, you will also register with the Small Business Administration. When your CCR is complete, you will see a prompt to register your information in their system.

Next register at Online Representations and Certifications Applications (ORCA). Because this is a regulatory site, completing the form can be complicated. Set aside some time to complete your entry and ask for help if needed. CCS has a great resource page at www.courtneysolutions.com/resources.html for more information related to company size standards, codes, regulations, and opportunities.

2. Differentiate your company. Once your company is registered with CCR, SBA, and ORCA, you can begin scrolling through Web sites such as www.FedBizOpps.gov looking for open market solicitations. Of course, so are millions of other companies, so you need to be one of a handful that stand out.

Being classified as small or disadvantaged is not enough, because there are millions of small businesses competing for the same jobs. More contracts do go to small businesses than in the past, but the majority of money goes toward large businesses that can perform many tasks and manage the overall projects. There is room for both. Search the Federal Procurement Data System (www.fpds.gov/fpdsng_cms/) to see exactly how federal funds are spent.

So how do you differentiate your firm from others? Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you have a contracting mechanism in place to make it easy for federal, state, and local buyers to do business with you?
  • Have you been pre-screened for compliance and competency?
  • Have your prices been deemed fair and reasonable for the taxpayer? If yes, then you save the buyer vast amounts of time spent to do background checks and manage risk.
  • Do you have a fixed-price contract? (If you do have a long-term fixed price contract in place, buyers using stimulus funds must buy from you over others as stipulated by Congress in H.R. 1 ARRA Section 1554.)

3. Get a fixed-price contract. Across the board, fixed-price contracts are used most often by all major federal organizations when acquiring goods and services. But it is not easy to get one. In fact, more than 90% of all applications get rejected immediately, spawning a whole industry of consultants to help companies work through the process

General Services Administration (GSA) is the federal government’s largest acquisition arm and owns/leases more federal buildings than any other entity. You must apply through the GSA to secure a fixed-price contract, but the process can take from six months to more than a year with a consultant’s help. Without a consultant, the process is virtually unmanageable for the average business owner who does not have the time or resources to devote to the tedious process.

However, when choosing a consultant to outsource this function, make sure you hire a firm that not only gives you the tools to be effective in this marketplace but the know-how. You may have a contract, but if you do not know what to do with it, you have just wasted a lot of money. (For more information on GSA go to www.gsa.gov. Click on “For businesses,” then “Getting on schedule.”)

Tackling the government market can be daunting but the rewards are well worth it if you are willing to put some effort into it. Get good guidance from a reputable consultant and have a clear plan for what you sell and to whom you intend to sell. Understand that nothing happens quickly in the government.

Once you have your first shot at government work, make it count and do the best you can. Once that door is open others will soon follow. Be persistent and smart about approaching this market. There is no reason you can’t succeed and grow your business exponentially.

Erica Courtney

Erica Courtney

Erica Courtney is the president of Courtney Consulting Solutions,

www.courtneysolutions.com. While serving in the U.S. Army, she was responsible for buying millions of dollars worth of goods and services to support some of the most highly deployed units in the country. To contact her, call 904-371-1938 or visit her Web site at www.courtneysolutions.com.


Leave a Reply