Want a new customer? The world's biggest buyer of anything and everything is somebody you already know. His name is Uncle Sam, and thanks to new economic stimulus legislation, he's got more money to spend than ever before - hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending on top of federal government purchases that already totaled over $425 billion per year. And he's itching to spend it.
The big deal for small business is this: By law, at least 23 percent of all government buying must be targeted to small firms. Billions sometimes go begging because the government can't find enough qualified small businesses to take the money. Selling to the government - the business-to-government (B2G) market - can provide serious revenue for your business. And it may not be as complicated as you think. What's more, this isn't only for "big" small businesses. Even one-person or home-based small businesses can be awarded contracts.
Still, you can't simply raise you hand to get money (unless you're a bank, perhaps); there is a formal "process" with plenty of rules. Your three basic steps are these:
1) Get comfortable with how the contracting process works;
2) Find out if your business is qualified to sell to the government, and whether it's the right move for you;
3) Register and start pursuing opportunities.
Must-Know Government Websites:
Start at the U.S. Small Business Administration website which has an excellent introduction to government contracting opportunities for small business. It includes these key components:
- How small businesses sell to the government
- How the government defines a "small business" for this purpose
- Myths and realities of government contracting
To start the process, you'll need to first classify your business, and then register your company to take part. This Government Contracting Checklist for Small Business can help you sign up, start up and smarten up.
Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps.gov) is the U.S. Government's central online marketplace for government contracting. At FedBizOpps, commercial vendors (that's you) and government buyers (the guys with the money) can post, search, monitor and retrieve opportunities. Anyone can search for opportunities without having to register or login (but you'll have to register to actually apply for contracts). Once you register, you can search for specific opportunities for your type of business, organized by NAICS code.
NEW! Economic Stimulus Act Opportunities: This is brand new to the FedBizOpps site, and has the absolute latest of selling opportunities coming out of the economic recovery bill. In the time it took me to write this, another dozen showed up.
Central Contractor Registration (CCR) is the primary registrant database for the entire U.S. Government. It collects, validates, stores and disseminates the information to a variety of government agencies.
Government Contracting Field Staff: Government contracting is full of acronyms that stand for a variety of officials involved in the process - PCRs, CMRs, COCs, and more. This explanation of who does what will help.
Private Sites that Offer an Assist
Given the size of the government contracting market, there are hundreds of firms and websites that offer training in the process, consulting and access to listings. You'll find a wide range of helpful options under "Government Procurement" at Business.com.
TargetGov.com offers tools that help contractors connect to the right people within federal, state and local governments. Search the Government Buyers Guide to find the specific procurement officials for your category of products or services.