3 Plan Ahead Strategies To Help Secure Your First Government Contract
By Yolanda Cowart | July 10, 2017
Too many small business owners struggle to fill their sales pipeline when the U.S. government is spending billions of dollars each year on products and services those small businesses can provide. While it’s true that government agencies regularly contract with big name companies, many governments are creating small business enterprise programs that target small businesses as a way to encourage small business growth and stimulate local economies. So, the question is, how do you position your small business to tap into those dollars? These three strategies can help you secure your first government contract.
The process of gaining the needed government approval and certifications that lead to these contracts can be tedious and painstaking, but they needn’t be overly drawn out. Let’s examine how you can cross every T and dot every I to procure that government contract.
- Start by getting all your ducks in a nice tidy row. Make sure you have all the certifications – women-owned, minority-owned, small-owned, enterprise zone and HUB Zone – that can give you a leg up on your competition.
Also, make sure you have a list of more-than-satisfied clients who can sing your praises. You should also consider joining another small business already doing work with the government as a subcontractor. Do your research to find out who the largest government contractors are and approach them with a proposal to take some of the workload off their plate. They get the help they need and you get a foot in the door. We call that a win-win.
- Next, do the research to find out where you fit in the government’s buying process. Keep in mind that the government buys almost everything – including what you sell. They’re buying for schools, offices, administrators, housing, park districts, construction projects, festivals, and more. That means they need food, products, services, toys, paper, pens, electronics, toothpaste, soap, bottled water, furniture – just use your imagination. Then register for a complete list of federal business opportunities at www.fbo.gov. Know exactly who your target market is and how the government serves them, then go after them. Just let the government help you.
- Finally, start building relationships that matter. Keep the old business adage that people do business with people they know, like, and trust in mind. The government is made up of people and building relationships with the right people is an important part of growth and development for every business. An actual human being heads every government agency in existence, and making yourself and your business known to them is just plain smart. Many government agencies host conferences and seminars each year. Attending those conferences can put you in touch with the right decision makers and help you gain valuable knowledge about how the process works.
By planning ahead and developing strategies you can eliminate the obstacles that create artificial barriers to government contracting. Taking advantage of business certifications programs, demonstrating a solid track of past performance, and conducting market research and gathering business intelligence are important steps for doing business with the government. Start local, many of the local governments have small business programs that can help you develop a list of government clients who can sing your praises. Build strategic and strong relationships with business owners, government representatives, and purchasing officials that can help you get a bullseye in your target market. With the right approach and preparation you can cross every T and dot every I to secure your first government contract and set your company on the right path for doing business with the government.
Florida PTAC at Pinellas County Economic Development
Yolanda Cowart has more than 20 years of experience in public service at the local and municipal levels. Early in her career, she worked as a human resources and relations professional while serving as a liaison to the business community and advocacy groups. Her prior experience includes being a human relations specialist for Lee County Government, and an equal opportunity director for the City of Fort Lauderdale. Her background combines public service and human relations experience with hands on leadership in equal opportunity, supplier diversity, business certifications programs, organizational training and development, and managing workforce diversity principles. Cowart is the procurement specialist for the Florida PTAC at Pinellas County Economic Development. She connects businesses to resources and tools for state, local, and federal contracting opportunities. She is a Certified Procurement Professional (CPP), a Supply Chain Management Professional (SCMP), and a Certified Verification Counselor. She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor of arts in political science and history.