Can you imagine your small business providing that key product or service to the Navy, the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Agriculture?
We can. The federal government spends more than $500 billion a year in contracts, making it the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world. Small businesses throughout the country can and should take advantage of contracting opportunities so that they can grow, innovate and create jobs. At the Small Business Administration, we have a variety of resources to assist small firms in navigating government contracting.
Washington businessman Danny Farrow, founder and managing principal of Farrow Construction Specialties, took advantage of our government contracting programs. He began his path with SBA's 8(a) certification program and counseling services, and these avenues opened the door to several government contracting opportunities.
We want to help entrepreneurs navigate government contracting like Danny Farrow. Here are five winning tips:
-- Get a counselor. You can find counselors in SBA's Seattle District Office; or in the Small Business Development Centers, Women's Business Centers, Veteran's Business Center and SCORE chapters across Washington. These professionals are standing by to help you get in the contracting game, and most of their services are free.
Go to sba.gov/direct.
-- Get certified. A number of certification programs can increase your chances of winning a contract. SBA's 8(a) program provides counseling, mentoring and access to set-aside and sole-source contracts. Service-disabled veteran-owned businesses and small companies in Historically Underutilized Businesses Zones (HUBZones) also are eligible for set-asides. SBA recently launched the Women's Federal Contract Program which opens up contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses in more than 300 industries where they are under-represented. Find out more at sba.gov.
-- Be targeted. The most successful contractors have a specific product or service that federal agencies need. Decide what you have to offer and target your efforts at the federal agencies that need it most.
-- Market your business. Get your foot in the door by attending matchmaking events with agency contracting officers, or by reaching out to agencies' Offices of Small and Disadvantage Business Utilization (OSDBUs). Go to osdbu.gov to find out more.
-- Identify contracting opportunities. Be proactive. Once you've determined the agencies most likely to buy from you, you need to find contracts to bid on. Stay in close contact with the agency's contracting officers you have met, and go to the Federal Business Opportunities website at fbo.gov, which has a list of all contracts available for bid. Also, look for new tools such as green.sba.gov, an online portal that houses all of the clean-energy small-business opportunities across the federal government.
Winning a government contract is hard work, but small business owners are not in it alone. Contact us today at SBA.gov to learn how government contracting can benefit your small business.
-- Calvin W. Goings is the Region 10 administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration. He oversees small-business programs and initiatives in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.