What Is Happening
The U.S. government is moving toward a paperless process for learning about and obtaining bids. Just in case you are new at this (I had to go to a conference just to understand some of it), the government has to request public “bids” so that everyone has the chance to get the work. This process is called a Request For Proposal (RFP). Many of these items are for office equipment, supplies, and services. The U.S. government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the entire country – so this is a sizable chunk of work for vendors. A funny thing has happened, though. Even though 40% off all US business are owned by women, only 1.5% of all the government dollars spent go to these businesses. That means that either we do not know how to access these contracts, or we have businesses that do not sell what the government wants.
Know Your Market
Knowing if your business provides the kind of goods that the government wants requires some leg work. Make sure that you have the following items for your business: e-mail address, TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number – IRS 800-829-1040), DUNS number (Dun & Bradstreet 800-333-0505), SIC codes (Small Business Administration 800-827-5722), and CAGE code (Defense Logistics Systems Center 616-4367). Then you need to find out if anyone buys your products or services. One place to start is by looking into the database at GOVCON at www.govcon.com . My Internet/Web Development business did not bring back much in the way of responses. There are some reasons for this. First, the SIC codes are out of date for technology fields. However, there is good news. I was told by someone in SBA (Small Business Administration) that these will either be updated soon, or re-worked with a new system that will include technology business. The second reason is that GOVCON lists large contract bids. My business type is less than $5K bid which does not show up in their database.
The Leg Work Option
The next step beyond GOVCON depends on how serious you are. If you have the time, the best thing is to write a letter to the “Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization” (OSDBU) in each of the major government agencies (45 of them). You need to ask some very clear questions:
- Who is your women’s business advocate?
- Request their publication “Forecasts of Contracting Opportunities”
- Request under the Freedom Of Information Act the name and dollar amount of past vendors for your product
With these materials in hand, you know who to talk to, what major contracts opportunities are coming up, who your competition is, and what they are charging for the products. With all of these items, you are much more likely to plan your business for the bid, and much more likely to actually win the bid. Remember, these bids can be for some major amounts – so this effort may pay off for you handsomely.
The Consultant Option
I have to be honest, I’m a business owner, not a government contracting expert. I’m sharing with you information that I learned from a woman business owner who is a government contracting expert. All she does is help businesses do business with state and federal government agencies in the U.S. It was my impression that she is really good at it. A consultant like this may be available in your area also. For a fee, she will do your leg work and will even help you write the proposal. For businesses that provide goods and services in demand by the government, this may be the way to go. To contact this one consultant (she may refer you to someone local to you) e-mail email@example.com and tell her that you heard about her at WomanOwned.com.
Visit the Best Net Resources for contracting. Or visit our list of the Best Government Agency Sites for business development and information.