SBA Delaware Director John Fleming
Fiscal Year 2018 was the first time in history that the federal government awarded more than $120 billion in federal contracts, and the sixth year in a row that the federal government exceeded its target milestones for small business contract awards.
That’s a rallying cry to small businesses across the nation and in our great state: there’s no time like the present to make Uncle Sam – the largest single buyer of goods and services in the world — your next customer.
We know that, across the board, January is traditionally a time of “fresh starts,” new beginnings. Similarly, January is a great time for small business owners to take a “fresh look” at doing business with the federal government. Every year, Uncle Sam buys $500 billion in goods and services annually and Congress mandates that 23% of each dollar spent must go to small businesses. And every year, the federal government’s process of identifying a sizeable number of the small businesses that will be awarded those dollars begins at late winter and early spring federal government procurement conferences, gatherings of federal government agency buying representatives and private industry businesses aimed at fostering business relationships between the Federal Government and/or its prime contractors and small, small disadvantaged, service-disabled veteran-owned, HUBZone and women-owned businesses. So, for small business owners considering selling to Uncle Sam, the calendar’s turn to the new year signals the time to kick-start preparations to participate in the procurement conferences that could kick-start a new and lucrative business relationship with their next new customer: the federal government.
So, in that spirit of “new beginnings,” here are five tips to help small businesses prepare for the upcoming procurement conferences that could springboard their firms to next-level growth:
- A valuable first step in the process is connecting with your local SBA or Procurement Technical Assistant Advisor’s (PTAC) office: Bidding on federal government contracts can be very different than the private sector sales approach. These federal government contracting experts can guide you through the federal process, including identifying which federal agencies are most likely to purchase what you sell and which upcoming procurement conferences those agencies will attend; providing sample capability statements and checklists; and more.
- Prepare an ‘elevator-speech’ style pitch detailing your business, your applicable experience, and how you can help your targeted buying agency achieve its goals.
- Prepare/update a capability statement: This is the equivalent of a resume for your business aimed at convincing your targeted federal agency buyer to do business with you. A capability statement should be only one page long, continuing onto the second side of the page only if necessary. Your capability statement should be updated and tailored to the specific needs of the agency that you are pitching. Your capability statement should focus on five key areas:
- Core competencies;
- Past performance;
- Company data, including DUNS, CAGE Code, NAICS codes, and any set-aside eligibility (e.g., Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB), Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB), 8(a), HUBZone, or Small Disadvantaged Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB));
- Contact information, including a specific person’s name, a professional e-mail address (government agencies may block Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail accounts as junk mail; internet providers often offer professional addresses with your subscription), and updated website with hotlink.
- Update your marketing materials: business cards (include your DUNS, CAGE and NAICS codes); brochures and product/service fact sheets; product samples; and website and social media.
- Complete all agency and prime contractor registrations before attending a procurement event: To do business with the federal government, you must register in the System for Award Management (SAM) at www.sam.gov. And, if your business qualifies as disadvantaged-owned, woman-owned, and/or service disabled veteran-owned, and/or it is located in a historically underutilized business zone (HUBZone), visit www.sba.gov/federal-contracting/contracting-assistance-programs to certify your business as such in order to qualify for special consideration in the federal government contracting arena.
The truth is, when small businesses win a federal government contract, we all win. Healthy small businesses grow the economy and support the American workforce. But, Delaware firms are not currently winning their statistically “fair share” of federal contracts, with 2018 data (the most recently available numbers) showing that Delaware firms only secured $148.8 million of the total $500 Billion federal government contracting dollars.
Here at SBA’s Delaware District Office, our sites are set on changing those numbers for the better in the New Year. As SBA’s Delaware director, I travel the state and get to know the small businesses owners and the communities that they serve; I see the energy and the ambition that drive those businesses and the one-of-a-kind products and services that they provide. In the New Year, we at SBA look forward to helping those firms harness the power of federal government contracting to grow and prosper, in the New Year, the new decade, and beyond.