Who Can Help You With Government Contracting?
There are a variety of special federal programs and initiatives designed to benefit small businesses in the government contracting process. In addition, help is available from a variety of public and private sources, including counseling services.
Firms, both large and small, interested in doing business with the federal government must help themselves by learning how the federal government conducts its business and by identifying and seeking out those purchasing offices that buy the products and services they can supply.
However, additional help and advice are available to you as you work through this maze called government contracting. You can get assistance directly from the government as well as from government-sponsored and commercial counseling services as you go through the contracting process.
Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Depending on your situation and circumstances, you will have to determine which one or which combination works best for you.
Assistance is also available from federal special small business programs that are designed to encourage participation by small businesses in the government contracting process, including small businesses owned by certain minority and disadvantaged groups. You may also be able to take advantage of programs administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that are designed to help small businesses market to both large business and government procurements.
Contracting Help from the Government
There are several ways in which the federal government tries to assist you in finding opportunities and doing business with it. By encouraging participation in the government procurement process, the more potential suppliers there are, the better the chance the government will obtain exactly what it needs at the best possible price. For that reason, there are numerous government websites devoted to government contracting. In addition, there are specialized government personnel available to assist. Government procurement conferences and publications are also valuable resources to a business that wants to sell its products or services to the government.
Obtain Contracting Information from Government Websites and Personnel
The federal government has more than 4,300 websites, according to a
recent GAO report. Fortunately, if you're looking for contract
opportunities, you don't have to cover all of those sites.
In order to help companies identify government opportunities and
buyers, the government is making a strong effort to reduce the number of
locations and to create a more uniform format to simplify the process.
The government is looking to establish "gateways" (i.e., websites with
multiple links) to make your search easier. There are several already in
existence that are being used more and more to post and find
Following is a list of the better ones. Remember that these sites
will help you find the opportunities, but once you do, you, not the
government, will have to do the work.
- FedBizOpps (Federal Business Opportunities):
All government procurement opportunities of $25,000 or more are posted
here. Here, government buyers are able to publicize their business
opportunities by posting information directly to FedBizOpps via the
Internet, and commercial companies looking to do business with the
government are able to search, monitor, and retrieve opportunities
solicited by the entire federal contracting community.
- Small Business Administration (SBA): This site has a wide range of information pertaining to small businesses as well as SBA-Net,
a gateway to resources, opportunities, and networking. Most
importantly, it has a direct connect to CCR database, which is fast
becoming the sole database used by government buyers to locate potential
small business contractors.
- Procurement Gateway: This is the Defense Logistics Agency site for all opportunities from its buying offices.
- Federal Acquisition Jumpstation:
Although not a place where opportunities are posted, it has most links
to the federal sites that small business owners would have an interest
- Recovery.gov - The U.S. government's official website
providing easy access to data related to Recovery Act spending and
allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse.
- E-Verify - An Internet-based system that allows an employer,
using information reported on an employee's Form I-9, to determine the
eligibility of that employee to work in the United States. For most
employers, the use of E-Verify is voluntary and limited to determining
the employment eligibility of new hires only. To access this site, go to
www.wingov.com and click on E-Verify.
- USA.gov - This site has lots for all, personal, business,
government employees and visitors to the US. It is also a portal to
other government websites that might be of assistance to you. The link
for businesses provides info on how to do business with the federal
government, Data and Statistics, Laws and Regulations and lots and lots
For more government web portals, check out:
There are tons of sites that can help you find what you are
looking for, spend some time researching and you will find a wealth of
information. For those who are brave, try USA Search.
Specialized Government Personnel Are Available To Assist You
There are several types of government employees whose main job is to help you do business with the government.
- Small Business Specialists (SBS): By law, every
government buying location must have a Small Business Specialist to work
with small businesses trying to do business with that office. Major
government buying offices have a full-time staff, while smaller offices
have a part-time person assigned to that task. These specialists can be a
valuable resource for you on the inside. Get to know them.
- Competition Advocate: This individual is assigned at a
high management level at major buying offices and is responsible for
promoting the acquisition of commercial items and for promoting full and
open competition. To that end, Competition Advocates challenge barriers
to the acquisition of commercial items and to full and open
competition, such as unnecessarily restrictive statements of work,
unnecessarily detailed specifications, and unnecessarily burdensome
contract clauses. They also look at requirements for a specific item to
see what can be done to expand competition for the item, challenging any
requirements that are not stated in terms of required performance or
essential physical characteristics.
- SBA Procurement Center Representative (PCR):
Procurement Center Representatives work for the Small Business
Administration, but are often located at a major government buying
office. Their job is to identify items and services that could be
produced or provided by small businesses and try to get them "set aside"
for small businesses (i.e., only small businesses can bid on them). If
the buying office is small, the PCR may work out of an SBA District
office and travel to the buying office.
- SBA Commercial Marketing Representative (CMR):
Commercial Marketing Representatives monitor the performance of large
companies under their large government contracts and can help you get
subcontract work from large prime contractors.
Publications Procurement Conferences and Counseling Services Provide Government Contracting Assistance
The government issues a large number of publications to assist small
businesses, but we're only going to mention the most useful ones. You
can order these from the Government Printing Office for a fee or you can
go to a government website and read or print it. If you go to a web
site, try looking under "publications" or "help" to see what they have
- Selling to the Military:
This publication covers general information about items purchased by
the military. It also gives locations of the buying offices and a phone
number for the Small Business Office.
- Small Business Specialists for DoD:
Here is a listing of names, addresses, and phone numbers for all the
resources you need to do business with the Department of Defense.
- The General Services Administration has eliminated its printed publication about doing business with the GSA in favor of web-based information.
- Participating in VA Acquisition Program: Here is a fact sheet that covers general information about how and what the Veterans Administration buys.
The government, as well as other non-government sponsors, hold
conferences to help you in your quest. Procurement conferences are a
good way to meet and speak with government buyers and large prime
contractors. Some areas of the country have several conferences per
year; other parts have only a few.
Usually you won't get a contract at one, but you can make valuable contacts. The "FedBizOpps News" area of the BidNet site
will often announce these events and tell you whom to contact. Other
government websites post these conferences on their calendars as well.
You also can learn about upcoming conferences and events from your local
Help from Counseling Services
If you need more personalized, ongoing assistance and advice, you can
get it through government-sponsored or commercial counseling services.
You can also get answers to questions and problems your business may be
facing by joining a professional association.
Valuable resources available to a small business include Procurement
Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), which may be found all over the
country. They are frequently associated with educational institutions.
Commercial counseling services can also provide, but be sure you
understand the economics of using one. There is also a government-backed
membership organization called the National Contracts Management
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. The
Procurement Technical Assistance Program started in 1985 to help the
Department of Defense place contracts in areas of the country that
needed an influx of federal dollars. Although it has never been called
an economic development program, it works like one to some extent.
Through cooperative agreements, the federal government enters into a
cost-sharing arrangement with a state or local government or
not-for-profit organization to provide general counseling services to
businesses seeking government contracts. Its original purpose was only
to help with military contracting and with areas of high unemployment,
but over the years it has expanded to provide assistance to businesses
wanting to do or doing business at the federal, state or local level.
It is a well-run and very cost-effective program with counselors with a high level of expertise.
The Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) will help you
identify contractual opportunities with the government; help locate
potential marketing opportunities; help prepare proposals, financial,
and contractual forms; and provide guidance with regard to quality
assurance, production, and/or the resolution of engineering, financial,
quality or production problems. It will also provide you with assistance
on e-commerce issues.
While most services are free, some PTACs may charge a nominal fee for
certain services such as electronic bid matching or for getting copies
of specifications and standards. You can contact one of the regional
directors at Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, and the director will put you in contact with the appropriate local center.
In addition, the website www.sellingtothegovernment.net could help you to locate a PTAC near you.
Commercial counseling services. Hiring a private
commercial counseling service is another way to get help in doing
business with the government. The good ones can offer great personalized
assistance, but will cost you some kind of money, flat fee, percentage
of contract, retainer plus costs, or some combination.
If you decide to use this method, try to find a service that is
accustomed to working with small companies. And remember: Buyer beware.
If a service tells you that it can guarantee you contracts, keep
looking. Check references and talk to some of the government people that
the service has worked with.
You can find a commercial counseling service through word of mouth or
by searching on the Internet. Sometimes a Small Business Specialist
will be able to recommend a good one.
National Contracts Management Association. The National Contracts Management Association (NCMA)
is a government-supported organization that was started years ago
(1959) because of the lack of good help for companies doing business
with the federal government.
Over the years, it has grown in numbers and effectiveness. It is
recognized for its member certification program, educational seminars,
and monthly magazine, "Contract Management," which alone is worth the
price of membership. The new membership fee is about $120; the annual
renewal fee thereafter is about $100.
Membership also entitles you access to its members-only site on the
Internet, where you can get answers and advice on contract-related
questions and problems, read and download "Contract Management" magazine
articles all the way back to January 1980, and get a list of websites
that are helpful to contractors.
In addition to the national organization, there are local chapters in many parts of the country.
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