For socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses wanting to enter the federal marketplace, there is not just one defined game plan for success. In my experience, the best path forward for most firms is to go down the following nine step path and complete any of the items the firm is able to complete, that make sense given the primary line of business. I would expect that many have completed some of these steps already, but fully realizing one’s potential may require more than you are currently doing, so look over my list, it could give you some inspiration (and some ideas).
1. Get registered with sam.gov (mandatory).
2. Create a compelling capabilities statement.
3. Determine if your firm is eligible for any of the following four federal certifications:
a. Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) are both women’s business certifications, with subtle differences between the two.
b. HUBZone Certification is for historically underutilized regions of the country.
c. VOSB and SDVSOB Certifications are for Veteran and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses.
d. 8(a) Certification is for Socially and Economically Disadvantaged firms, generally those owned over 50% by a minority owner.
4. Apply for a GSA Schedule Contract to gain visibility in the federal marketplace, as well as have a contracting vehicle put in place to simplify the buying process for federal buyers.
5. Build a list of the procurement officers that have purchased your goods or services in the past two years within your given geographical boundaries.
6. Determine what large businesses are doing work in the federal space that you would like to work with and in. Register with these large businesses as a subcontractor. Remember that the federal large primes are generally required to subcontract 35% of their contract award value to small businesses via their subcontractor inclusiveness plan.
7. Monitor the Contract opportunities website https://sam.gov/content/home, agency or military specific bidding sites, as well as online bulletin boards like GSA eBuy (if a GSA contract holder).
8. Attend Networking events, if they are highly relevant to the business you wish to perform with the federal government.
9. When you land your first contract, provide great customer service, and make sure you are meeting all expectations. We generally tell firms that this is how your performance relates to your pricing over competitors for future contracts.
● Exceptional – 6-10% over Satisfactory
● Very Good – 3-5% over Satisfactory
● Satisfactory – No Premium
Remember that government marketing is the long-game. It will take time to break into the federal market, but this barrier to entry also leads to strong business opportunities for firms willing to make the effort to get over the hurdles.
If you are wondering how each of these elements could be an advantage to help expand your business through federal contracting, I always recommend contacting an industry expert such as ez8a, Advance GSA or Advance 8a. They all have the expertise in evaluating your firm's potential, and none charge for an initial consultation.