Vetrepreneurs looking to expand into government contracting should first join NaVOBA and then check out these 10 tips for getting started:
1)Boots to Business – Get Help Starting Your Business - Boots to Business is a public-private partnership program that gives service members support to help them learn the nuts and bolts of how to start and grow a business and access SBA tools and resources available to them.
2) Find a Veterans Business Outreach Center– The SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development oversees multiple Veterans Business Outreach Centers across the country. In addition to helping veterans build a business plan and start a business, these centers can help veterans land government contracts, get access to mentoring services, and find training.
3) Review your Financing Options – In addition to a range of other loan programs, SBA’s Patriot Express Program is specifically designed for small businesses that are more than 51 percent owned or controlled by veterans or members of the military community and are available up to $500,000.
4) Familiarize Yourself with Small Business Incentives for Government Contracting – The law mandates that government agencies establish contracting goals that require them to reach out and consider small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses for procurement opportunities. Currently, 23 percent of contracts must be awarded to small businesses and three percent to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. These opportunities will help open doors, but you must still be able to sell your business on performance, price and ability. Contact your Veterans Business Outreach Center to learn more about these and other incentive opportunities.
5)Learn About How the Government Buys – The government applies standardized procedures to buy products and services it needs from suppliers that meet certain qualifications. The primary contracting methods used by the government include micro-purchases, simplified procedures, sealed bidding, contract negotiations and consolidated purchasing. Learn more about these in another SBA online training course, Government Contracting 101: How the Government Buys, or read a quick overview of the process in my earlier blog: Government Contracting – Learn how the Government Buys from Small Businesses.
6) Understand the Rules – Understanding the government’s procurement rules is critical to your success as a government contractor. The FAR, or Federal Acquisitions Regulations, is the roadmap for doing business with the government. Check out these resources on SBA.gov to help you become familiar with the regulations that apply to most federal contractors.
7)Size Does Matter – As a small business, certain government programs may apply to you. The question then becomes: What is a small business, or, more specifically, is your firm a small business? Over the years, SBA has established and revised numerical definitions for all for-profit industries, and this numerical definition is called a "size standard." Use SBA’s Size Standards Tool to help determine if your business is truly “small” and qualifies for government contracts.
8) Learn the Process of Selling to the Government and Find Opportunities – Selling to the government is not as big of a mystery as you might think. There are several fundamental steps you should follow:
For a deeper dive into this process, read Selling to the Government – Get Started with These 5 Steps or check out SBA’s information about Registering for Government Contracting, which explains the easy steps you need to follow to being bidding on government proposals.
9)Find Subcontracting Opportunities – An alternative to seeking prime contracts is to explore subcontracting opportunities. Subcontracting with a prime contractor can be a profitable experience as well as a growth opportunity for a business. To help small businesses find opportunities, SBA maintains SUB-Net, a searchable database of available subcontract opportunities.
10)Have a Question? – If you have questions about the federal marketplace, government contracting methods, contract opportunities or winning recovery and other federal contracts, check out the following resources:
SBA’s Government Contracting Guide – Explore the process of government contracting with easy how-to guides and resources.
Government Contracting Classroom – Available via SBA’s Learning Center, these self-paced, free online courses cover the fundamentals of selling to the government as a small business owner.
Get In-Person Assistance and Training– SBA and its resource partners can answer your questions about the federal market place, government contracting methods, and finding contract opportunities. Find your local SBA office, Veterans Business Outreach Center and more with this interactive map.