Finding Subcontracting Opportunities
Finding subcontracting business is a bit like finding prime contracting business: you can focus on the bids as they come out (and be a part of the crowd), or you can get ahead of the game by talking to the right people BEFORE the bids come out. Let’s begin with the former strategy.
Where do you go to find subcontracting bids? One place to check is SBA’s SUB-net: http://web.sba.gov/subnet. Last time I checked there were 43 subcontracting bids posted there. Now, that’s not a lot of activity when consider how many federal subcontracting opportunities there are on any given day.
Why only 43? Here’s one reason: prime contractors don’t want the entire world of subcontractors coming at them and creating unnecessary work. They like working with companies that have performed well in the past. For many contracts, primes don’t need to look beyond their circle of “friends,” those with whom they have a shared history, etc. — which leads us to our next section.
At large businesses, subcontracting coordinators are somewhat analogous to government buyers. Often you need to market to these folks so that you’re a part of the planning before a contract is awarded or, better yet, before a solicitation is posted.
First: finding companies that match up
How do you find the right subcontracting coordinators? (Or, if that title isn’t used, the person in the company who sources and/or works with subcontractors.)
First make sure you locate large businesses that are winning, or are likely to win, contracts that have performance elements that match up with your company’s capabilities. In this regard, award notices can be helpful. As we discussed in the last two installments, FedBizOpps is the place to go, not only for solicitation announcements, but award announcements as well. Our new product, FedBiz Now emails these same federal award announcements every hour. Go http://www.fedbiz.bidengine.com for a free trial.
Keep in mind, though, to analyze seriously whether your company’s capabilities match up on any given contract, you’ll want to get to the solicitations. Award notices, as a rule, only provide basic information.
For a broad picture of the prime’s contracting activities, you might check federal contract history data. As we’ve discussed, the Federal Procurement Data Center (FPDC) publishes contract award data for all procurements exceeding $25,000. Fedmarket.com offers the full fiscal year 2000 FPDC awards database in exportable format, along with special reports by product/service code and geographic area.
What about the state and local levels? As you can imagine, award information among state and local governments is decentralized, scattered all over the Internet. But here are some example locations:
- Texas Bid Tabulations and Award Information – http://www.tbpc.state.tx.us/procinfo.html
- Missouri Bid Awards – http://www.oa.state.mo.us/purch/cgi/bidaward2.cgi
- New Jersey Notices of Award – http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/purchase/contracts.htm
This is one area where Bidengine, http://www.bidengine.com, can be very helpful because it allows you to search about 500 state and local awards pages by keyword, all at the same time. It’s a time-saver.
Where a state, county or city doesn’t post awards on the Internet, you’ll have to pick up the telephone and call the procurement office and ask for the information. Okay, here’s that word again: focus. Limit your calls to only those agencies with which you have a reasonable expectation of doing business.
The buyer may just send you award documents on all recent activity (which means you’ll have to sift through a lot of irrelevant information), or he may give you a heads-up on upcoming opportunities, or even suggest you to a prime contractor to contact. You won’t know till you call.
Subcontracting directories also are potential starting points for establishing long-term prime contractor relationships. Some example federal subcontracting directories:
- DOD Subcontracting Directory – http://www.acq.osd.mil/sadbu/publications/subdir/.
- DOD Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program – http://www.acq.osd.mil/sadbu/csp/index.html.
- Department of the Treasury, Small Business Subcontracting Opportunities – http://www.treas.gov/sba/rfqlist.html.
- Small Business Administration, Subcontracting Opportunities Directory – http://www.sba.gov/GC/sbsd.html.
Second: getting to the right person
Once you’ve found the right company, now you have to get to the right person. If the name of the subcontracting coordinator is a mystery, call the prime’s main corporate number and ask for the government contracting organization. The manager of this unit will get you to the subcontracting coordinator (if they have one) or the end-user.
For large contract awards, chances are you can get to a winning company’s subcontracting coordinator without too much difficulty. Large companies tend to have subcontracting coordinators on staff because they’re not only necessary but also required by law. (Under federal regulations (i.e., the FAR) contracting officers require large businesses that win contracts valued greater than $500,000 (construction contracts in excess of $1,000,000) to submit a small business subcontracting plan. The plan includes the name of the person who will administer the program on behalf of the large business.)
Ideally, the coordinator will already have your capabilities on file from a previous visit, and now you’re calling about the specific contract, or promising bid opportunity, you saw announced at FedBizOpps, a state site, a local site, etc.
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