Becoming a Federal government contractor – while not always simple – often results in contracts that are lucrative and long lasting. For small business, such government contracts can easily be a path to growth and longevity, particularly in a depressed economy.

Small business owners would be mistaken to think that they are too small to matter. Departments of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Treasury, etc. all have needs of products and services. They are particularly interested in innovation and promise, virtues that are usually cornered by entrepreneurs.

Thankfully, doing business with the Federal Government is pretty transparent. While the directions and resources may be overwhelming in sheer volume, the information is readily available to assist you in your bid for becoming a government contractor.

Departmental size, bureaucracy, and decision-making can also be barriers to your success. Still, if your business provides a product or service useful to government needs, you shouldn’t be deterred.

Keep the following tips in mind when considering or pursuing government contracts:

  • Time is not your friend. Give your plans 12 to 14 months to mature. The current contractor doesn’t always get a renewal. Sometimes, they have failed the agency; other times, you can beat the competitor’s bid.
  • Put your hat in the ring. List your business on the Central Contractor Registration. This is a database agencies can search for info that appears to suit their current needs.
  • Put the plan in motion. Check where all government interests must be posted. Reviewing their needs locates potential targets for you; it also tells you what they are looking for, so you can adapt to their needs.
  • Do deep and wide research. For example, the Department of Defense has an Office of Small Business Programs which includes a Guide to Marketing to the DoD.
  • Explore resources such as your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center, set up to assist small businesses, especially those that are veteran, disadvantaged, or women-owned business, in their application processes with assigned Small Business Specialists.
  • Secure the “solicitation for the requirement.” Study it in detail, seek advice, and do what you can to meet the specifics required.
  • Turn information on the competition inside and out. Explore available databases on current contractors, subcontractors, and earlier contractors. It’s all available to you – if you take the time.

Now, be advised: Federal contracts represent a significant undertaking in time, and time is expensive. So, clearly – if there is no felt return for this investment, stay away. But, if you see potential here, set goals, staff to the need, and secure qualified advice. It can re-shape your business future!


By Steven Schlagel