example, buys of less than $3,000 for supplies.
Companies should check with individual
agencies for these opportunities, which don’t
require competitive bidding and are often
transacted via credit card, says Dorfman.
For purchases between $3,000 and
$150,000, the government can use simplified
procedures for soliciting and evaluating bids. In
fact, federal rules require these “simplified purchases” be reserved for small businesses unless
the contracting official cannot obtain offers
from two or more small firms that are competitive on price, quality and delivery. Again,
check with individual agencies for these and
other smaller-procurement opportunities.
“A good way to learn about becoming a
prime contractor is to start out by being a sub-
contractor,” adds Karen Hontz, SBA director of
government contracting. “That also provides
you past-performance information that you
can use to pursue your own prime contract.”
For subcontracting opportunities, check
www.sba.gov/subnet, an SBA website. A sub-
contracting directory lists prime contractors
by state, type of business and their small-busi-
ness liaison officers, says Hontz.
Read the fine print. Many contracts reference the Federal Acquisition Regulation
(FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition
Regulation (DFAR), both of which post rules
dictating how federal contracts are executed.
Read the fine print carefully in every contract
and follow instructions exactly.
Build relationships. As gargantuan as the
federal government is, securing a contract
often is tied to personal relationships. That
means attending PTAC, federal agency,
NASBC or other outreach events and becoming acquainted with federal small-business
representatives, prime contractors and small
companies that successfully secured contracts.
“Everything else being equal,” says
Dorfman, “if you’ve built up a good relationship with somebody, you have a better chance
of getting a contract.”
Get debriefed. Whether she wins or loses a
contract, Turczyn insists on asking for a debriefing, where a contracting official must discuss
why a business did or did not win the bid.
“We learn how we can do it better that
way,” says Turczyn. “When you’re working
with a contracting official repeatedly, you get
to know their preferences.”
In the end, securing federal contracts isn’t
easy. As with the private sector, it requires
time, patience, money and commitment.
“Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get that
first contract you apply for,” says Hontz. “Keep
Harvey Meyer is a St. Louis Park, Minnesota,
HERE ARE SOME organizations and websites that help small companies seeking
contracts with the federal government:
• Small Business Administration
• National Association of Small
• Association of Procurement
Technical Assistance Centers
Lists all federal agency planned
purchases of more than $25,000.
www.usaspending.gov. Shows the
wide variety of goods and services
purchased by federal agencies.
• Central Contractor Registration,
www.ccr.gov. Enables federal
agencies and prime contractors
to find small-business contractors.
Lists federal agencies that feature
small-business outreach offices.
• Association of Small Business
us.org. References Small Business
Development Centers, which can
offer assistance to small companies
seeking federal contracts.—HM
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