For small businesses looking to expand, federal contracts offer one of the biggest opportunities for expansion. Each year, the government sets aside a minimum of 23% of federal contracting dollars specifically for small businesses. There’s one catch, however: federal contracting is quite time-insensitive and intimidating. For one, it involves a lot of complex steps, from the registration of the business to finding and ultimately bidding on contracts.
Still, the rewards outweigh the drawbacks and the initial investment. As soon as your small business is set up and you get your first-ever government contract, it’s pretty much rinsed and repeat.
Here, Road Map Consulting shares with you what you need to know to get your first federal contract:
Why Small Businesses Look for Government Contracts
Here are some of the most appealing aspects of government contracts that attract small businesses:
The U.S. Government Remains the World’s Biggest Buyer
If you overlook government contracts, you are forgoing the biggest possible avenue for customers and revenue.
They Set Aside 23% of Contract Dollars for Small Businesses
This has already been mentioned, but let’s look at it closer. That 23% is a huge percentage of the $500 billion spent by the government on federal contracts every year. Acknowledging that government agencies need to meet that 23% target can give you an advantage. Through the Federal Procurement Data System, you can track agencies that haven’t met their target, thus giving you a higher chance of procuring a contract.
How to Bid on Government Contracts
Before even bidding on government contracts, you need to register your small business. This is where most small businesses might cut losses because the registration process in itself is quite arduous.
Once you complete the registration, you will have to start finding government contracts for bidding and responding to proposal requests.
Finding Government Contracts for Bid
There are several avenues for those on the lookout for government contracts:
The SAM here stands for System for Award Management. It is a government-wide database made for vendors that seek out government contracts. This should be your “go-to” if you’re looking for prime contracts you can bid on and if you wish to work directly with government agencies.
Another way to get government contracts is through subcontracting. Those who directly work with agencies are prime contractors. Those who prime contractors bring on to help them complete a part of the work designated to them are called subcontractors.
There are a lot of subcontracting opportunities through SBA’s searchable database called SUB-Net. This is a good place to start if it’s your first time working on a government contract.
If you don’t know which government agencies are a good match for your small business, you can work with a bid-matching service that can help you find contracting opportunities that are right for you. Most Procurement Technical Assistance Centers offer free bid-matching services, so don’t forget to ask about that. This is also a good place to start for first-time contractors.
How to Prepare Your Proposal Effectively
When you find a contract that’s a perfect fit for your small business, you should immediately start with your proposal preparation. Government agencies must share contract details before the submission of your proposal so you have what you need to make your bid.
Government agencies might ask for:
- Request for Proposal
- Request for Quotation
- Invitation for Bid
Remember to Follow the Formatting Instructions
As important as the proposal content is following specific formatting requirements. Government agencies expect as much from vendors. So make sure that you follow the right order, structure, and time frame as asked for. You can check the SBA’s contracting workbook that provides the guidance you need for this.
Price Your Products or Services the Right Way
The price you place on what you offer is an important aspect of getting your very first federal contract, so you want to be sure that you’re bidding competitively. For the very first contract, don’t expect to make a lot of money. It’s more about the experience you get in procuring the contract, the relationship you build with the agency, and other learnings that can help you set up more contracts in the future that matter.
Government contract bidding 101 in the U.S. is a complex process that requires a great deal of knowledge and preparation. The process involves researching the appropriate agency and understanding the criteria needed for the contract, developing a competitive proposal, and submitting a compliant bid. Understanding the various rules and regulations governing the process is essential to ensure a successful bid. Road Map Consulting can help you with that.
Road Map Consulting is a trusted company that offers management consulting services and other services that can help you improve the performance of your business. We can also help you gain a competitive edge in the federal contracting market. Get in touch with us to learn how we can help!