After achieving success to a certain degree in the local and state government markets, it is a natural progression for many small businesses to then select the Federal market as a growth opportunity like my company identified while participating in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program. The Federal market is the largest purchaser spending over $500 billion annually of goods and services where only one to two percent of all small businesses in the United States do business with.
As your small business starts swimming in the Federal market while continuing to grow on the local and state levels, know that there are key strategies required for success in winning contracts. To assist in landing work in the Federal market and continuing to grow on in the local and state government markets, below are seven key ways to increase your small business's chances of landing a contract.
Get a Mentor: Using a Mentor is a proven method and game-changer in helping many small businesses achieve success. Mentors can assist your small business in learning how to mitigate certain risks and obstacles ahead of time. This alone not only save costs, but eliminates surprises and headaches. For the best experience, select a Mentor that has been successful, especially in an area where your small business needs assistance and has similar business ethics.
Attend Training Workshops: Many government agencies offer free or low cost training for small businesses year-round. Workshops such as "How to do business" or "Understanding the Procurement Process and Policies" are valuable to avoid costly mistakes and they help you optimize strategies to land work. Small business leaders can contact their targeted government agencies Small Business Development Office or visit their perspective web site to identify upcoming workshops. For the City of Houston, small businesses can seek assistance through the Office of Business Opportunities or visit www.houstontx.gov/obo. Also, Small Business Development Centers (SBDC's), Procurement Technical Centers (PTAC's) and Women Business Centers (WBC) are other resources offering workshops for small businesses. Go to www.sba.gov/direct for additional information and assistance.
Get Certified: Though certification is not required to do business and to secure contracts with a certain government agency, certification is a strong strategy to increase your chances and position your small business to land government contracts. For example on the Federal level, my technical services company has recently received its Small Business Administration 8(a) certification. The SBA's 8(a) program provides mentoring, counseling, and access to sole-source or set aside contracts. For those small businesses that meet the 8(a) criteria this is a valuable tool to develop and grow. Some other Federal market certifications include the Services Disabled Veteran-owned Business (SDVOSB), small businesses located in Historically Underutilized Businesses Zones (HUBZones), and Women Owned Small Businesses (WOSB). Go to www.sba.gov for additional information.
Focus: The most successful small businesses in the government marketplace and especially in the Federal market target two to three agencies that buy their particular products or services. To best position your small business to achieve success; research several government agencies that might can use your product or services and once confirmed, begin your early game marketing efforts.
Market Your Small Business: One of the things that I learned during my corporate days at General Electric and from growing up in a family business is always be marketing! Industry data show that 3% of the marketplace is always buying. If you as the Leader of your small business have decided to save costs by limiting your marketing budget then you run the risk of stunting the growth of your business.
Many government agencies on the local, state and federal level hold matchmaking events with agency small business managers and contracting officers. Participating in these events provide opportunities to introduce your small business's offerings, gain the edge on those small businesses who have chosen not to attend such as event or do not understand the importance of positioning one's firm through marketing activities. Go to www.osdbu.gov for upcoming Federal matchmaking events.
Identify Contracting Opportunities: Be proactive versus waiting passively for someone to call or email you regarding a contract opportunity. After selecting the few agencies that use your products or services, the next step is to sign-up on their web site to receive notifications about upcoming contracting opportunities and most importantly, to review agencies' fiscal year budget and allocations for projects. Also, you for Federal contracts, visit www.fbo.gov which lists all contracts out for bid and highlights information about future contracts via Sources Sought notifications.
Say Thank you: Sending personal handwritten notes is still a powerful way to connect with target accounts, especially when most small businesses fail to say "thank you" to those who are assisting in their efforts. Also, a personal handwritten mailed note shows you have taken the time versus a quick trigger email and that you truly want to work with the selected organization.
In closing, small businesses are the cornerstone of the United States economy creating approximately 65% of our nation's jobs. When small businesses are successful in winning government contracts, the United States of America, your state and community benefit.
I am thrilled to be a small business owner and excited about making a difference by sharing my tips with other small businesses on the www.huffingtonpost.com. Follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook @BradlinkLLC if you have any questions or comment below. Stay tuned for my follow up blog article next month on teaming to grow your small business through government contracts.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.