Tap the sure-fire set aside.
While many federal contracts are reserved for small business, each federal business pursuit takes significant effort. But regardless of your set-aside status, one set aside supports EVERY successful federal contractor: the set aside of your TIME to make a good decision about entry into this market. That’s the set aside that everyone can win.
Gather your resources.
Companies that want to grow, inanymarket but especially the federal one, invest time and money up front. To fund your federal growth, you might shift resources from another market, project or endeavor, or might look for new working capital. You might invest to hire someone new, research a market, develop business, get legal advice, court partners or execute your sales plan.
Buckle in for the long haul.
Expect at least a year and likely longer, of spending time and money without generating revenue on the road to your first contract, whether as a prime or partner. Well-focused persistence pays off: two-thirds of the companies who spend that time win a second contract within another year.
To win fast, go slowly.
So you’ve determined that you have the resources and you have the time, now what? Past performance is the great sales accelerator, and one of your most powerful marketing tools. You want to get that tool in your kit quickly Take the time up front to learn the market and research your sweet spot opportunities. That way, you can create a targeted plan for business in a few agencies where you can win most quickly and perform best.
Solve problems for your federal buyer.
With so many federal spending cuts, this market is riskier than ever. Even established federal contractors, large and small, can find their programs postponed, cut, or suspended. That’s why it’s important to position what you do as something that solves a critical problem. This will put your contract higher on the list of the agency’s priorities and makes it less likely your program will be cut. Finding this “sweet spot,” between what you provide and what the agency needs, is the next step to successful federal business development.
Then leverage small business programs: Qualify, Apply.
Many women's business enterprises are attracted to the federal market because they've heard about the Women's Procurement Program and its goal to award 5% of its contract dollars -- over an estimated $2.5 billion in 2014 -- to women-owned small business (WOSB). But even if your business is not in one of the 83 North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes eligible for WOSB set-asides, your company might qualify for other set aside programs.
The federal government aims to award 23% of its prime contract dollars to small business across all NAICS codes, and also has specific set aside programs to support its contract award goals for companies located in Historically Under-utilized Business (HUB) Zones (3%), service-disabled veteran-owned small business (3%), and small disadvantaged business (5%).
Finally, large companies who win any federal contract worth more than $650,000 must have a small business subcontracting plan. If your business is small but has a great track record, these large firms represent another path to market.
Thinking of federal business to grow your company? Now is a great time to consider whether federal buyers could drive some of that growth. In short, there is plenty of opportunity for companies of all sizes and industries…if some careful thinking up front suggests that the effort would be worthwhile.
This article originally appeared in the WBENC President’s Report, January 2014,