The federal government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services, and government contracting opportunities for small businesses abound. In fact, to ensure small businesses are not pushed aside by larger businesses, the law requires that 23 percent of the approximately $500 billion in contracts every year be awarded to small businesses.
The government shows great care to include small businesses as it purchases goods and services. By doing so, it gains access to new ideas that small businesses provide while supporting them as engines of economic development and job creation. However, one of the biggest challenges that small businesses face regarding government contracts is uncovering the right opportunities. In order to find the right government contract opportunities that fit your small business, follow these five tips:
No. 1: Know the rules. First and foremost, you need to determine whether or not the government even considers your business a small business. Guidelines are strict, and vary according to industry. To find out what constitutes a small business in the eyes of the government, and in your industry, select the primary North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code for your business from the NAICS chart then find that code in the Table of Small Business Size Standards PDF. This lists the maximum number of employees or gross profits a business in each industry can have and still be considered a small business.
No. 2: Register. Before registering, however, you must have a Dun & Bradstreet Number for each physical business location. Then, create a user account and register your small business in the System for Award Management (SAM). Government agencies and contractors searching for subcontractors use this database to look for businesses based on size, location, experience, ability and ownership. By registering, you will also automatically be entered in the Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) database, which contracting officers use to search for small businesses to fill their contracting needs.
No. 3: Strategize. Once you have determined that you are, indeed, a small business and have registered in SAM, familiarize yourself with what the government is looking for, as each of its agencies and departments has unique goals. Fortunately, the government offers insight into its budgetary priorities, with each federal agency or department budget listed on the Office of Management and Budget website, making it easier for small businesses to identify opportunities.
No. 4: Find a contract. Now that you’ve done all the necessary legwork, there are a number of informative sites that can greatly assist with finding a government contract. One such site is FedBizOpps.gov; if a federal agency has a contract that is valued over $25,000, they must list it on this database. Once you register a small business, you can search opportunities here and bid on them. Another invaluable site is SUB-Net. As part of their contract, prime contractors that have large contracts with the government are required to provide subcontracting opportunities, and they are listed on SUB-Net.
No. 5: Know your business. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to know your business. As a small business owner, it is imperative you have a thorough knowledge of your own company and what you can offer, which can and will considerably narrow the scope of your search for a government contract.