Getting involved in the federal market place can be tumultuous and highly competitive, but worth it. In 2012, small businesses won around $90 billion in government contracts. That’s a lot of money, nothing to scoff at there.
It’s not easy, though. There are a plethora of regulations, registrations, and rules (all the r’s really) that all need to fulfilled and executed properly. There are also a lot of acronyms. The first one you need to know is SBA, which stands for the Small Business Administration. The SBA is the government agency in charge of maintaining and implementing all of those aforementioned r’s. It’s important to visit their site regularly for the newest updates on the government contracting landscape.
Ready to get started? Here’s how:
First, register your business with the General Service Administration’s (GSA’s) System Award Management (SAM) database here. While registration with this system is voluntary, it is also the only way you’re going to do any business with the government. It’s also free, which is nice.
The SBA, in partnership with the GSA, pulls info from SAM to populate the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) so that government agencies – or even private sector corporations –that are interested in a service or product your business offers can search for and find your company. I warned you about the acronyms, didn’t I?
Here comes another: you need to acquire a D-U-N-S Number, which stands for Dun & Bradstreet Number. This number is a nine-digit identification code for that indicates the physical location of your business. It’s also free and required.
You will also need to register for the proper North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, which are the size standards for businesses. The SBA is well aware that not all businesses are equal. There are many different sizes, products and services within each industry. There are many different NAICS codes that you can register for (especially if you have many different products or services) so be thorough.
The NAICS codes ensure that the proper contracts go to appropriate businesses. These codes also help when government agencies are searching for a business for a certain service or product; they put in the code and all the businesses registered underneath it populate the search results.
Signing up for an online bid notification service is also a smart move once you are registered and are able to bid on government contracts. These services will allow you to receive updates and track the newest government contracts and bidswithin your industry.
The SBA also has a Government Contracting Classroom (GC Classroom) that offers online training for small businesses wanting to learning about government contracting. These courses will start from the very beginning and progress at a pace that you choose. Everything from registration to certification programs (more on those later) is covered.
If you find that you are having trouble getting in the federal government market, you may be able to procure some “set-aside” contracts for certain small businesses. A Procurement Center Representative (PCR) will be able to help you do business with the government contracting officials (you’re link between your business and the government).
You are able to certify yourself for “set-aside” contracts program if the business is in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone), if the business is owned and operated by a veteran or a service-disabled veteran (VOSB & SDVOSB), if the business is owned and operated primarily by women (WOSB), or if the business is just generally disadvantaged (SDB).
Sorry about all the acronyms, folks, but that’s the way it is when you’re dealing with the government. There may be a lot of hoops to jump through, but getting involved in the federal market place is almost guaranteed to generate revenue and increase profits.
Jeremy Higbee loves to shred the slopes in SLC when the powder is just right. When he’s not shredding on the slopes he writes about local news, opportunities, and business.
Image courtesy Steve Snodgrass