Is Your Business Ready to Compete for Government Contracts?

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By Sean Moore

Governments spend millions of dollars on contracts for products and services every year. These government contracts are great opportunities for your small business to grow and expand market presence. Small-businesses are important to the economy, so governments have taken a lead in supporting small businesses through set-asides that require contracts to go to small companies. With this advantage, why do so many small businesses not work to get government contracts? Honestly, it’s because the process is not easy and requires small business owners to go through a detailed qualification process. Fortunately, once businesses qualify, they can compete for a share of the millions of dollars in contracts made available by the government. Here’s how the process works.

Make sure your business is registered and in compliance.
While this sounds like a basic requirement, many businesses lack the proper registrations or licenses required by governments. It is critical that your business has completed all of these requirements and paid all of the required fees. Additionally, the business must be in good standing with the government. This means all taxes are paid and financial obligations are met so the government can issue a certificate of Clean Hands or Good Standing.

Get a D-U-N-S Number
You must have a Dun & Bradstreet Number for each physical business location you have before you can register to do business with the government. All businesses that have to register with the government to receive a contract or grant can obtain the number for free and have it within one day using the D-U-N-S request service.

Determine Whether Government considers your business to be a small business
Government definitions of small businesses vary based on industry. The Small Businesses Administration (SBA) defines a business as small mostly based on either, the number of employees over the past 12 months or the average annual receipts over the past three years.

The easiest way to determine whether your business qualifies as small business for government contracts is to use the resources on the SBA website. First, you select the primary North American Industry Classification (NAICS) code for your business, and then find that code in the Table of Small Business Size Standards which lists the maximum number of employees or gross profits a business in each industry can have and still be considered a small business by the government. Your primary NAICS Code will not restrict you from contracts outside of your primary code as long as your business can fulfill the requirements of the solicitation.
Do I qualify for any special programs that might give me an advantage?

Programs like the District’s Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) program provide preference to District-based firms pursuing District Government issued procurement opportunities, and expands the availability of business opportunities with District-sponsored development projects. These types of programs are available at all levels of government and can give your small business an even greater advantage. Do your homework to find other programs that might work for you.

Do your homework
There are a lot of resources available to help you with your business and help you learn the process of selling to the government to achieve the greatest success. Small business technical assistance providers, the SBA and other agencies offer the support and training you need and much of it is free. Courses include business management essentials and the basics of government contracting. Additional courses cover women-owned small businesses, veteran-owned small businesses and preparing government contact proposals.

Search for Opportunities
You have made it this far but the most challenging work lies ahead. Its time to search for contracts.
• Register with government procurement agencies to ensure you are notified of available contract opportunities
• Register and search databases for prime contractors that have large contracts with the government and have subcontracting opportunities for small or minority businesses as part of their contract. Use your NAICS code to find solicitations right for your business.
• Build your business through networking, marketing, promotion and best of all, a track record of successful performance

Leverage these strategies and you’ll be well on your way towards effectively competing for contracts.

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