By Courtney Fairchild on September 21, 2018
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel at Women Impacting Public Policy’s (WIPP) ChallengeHER’s Oceanside, CA conference. The panel, “Roadmap to Success: Utilizing Small Business Advocates,” was designed to help small businesses understand how to exist and be successful in the federal market and working for the federal government.
The panel brought together experts in various facets of small business and federal contracting including: Jane “Lucy” Leu, Procurement Center Representative, US Small Business Administration (SBA); Rachel Fischer, Director, San Diego Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC); Ivette Jorge, Small Business Specialist, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP); and Anthony Caruso, Small Business Specialist, General Services Administration (GSA). Here are the top 5 takeaways these small business specialists and procurement center representatives recommend to be successful:
1 – Do Your Market Research
Federal market research is essential for determining which agencies are potential customers, as well as deciding how to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
- By searching the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS), you can find information on past procurements by keyword, PSC code, NAICS code, contract number, contracting agency, contractor, and more. In other words, FPDS provides a centralized hub for finding out what your target customers have purchased in the past, and which of your competitors they’ve purchased it from. FPDS data and FFATA Sub-Award Reporting System (FSRS) data also powers searches at USASpending.gov.
- Searching FBO will let you search current opportunities as well as archives from the past 365 days.
- Researching the federal budget will let you understand budget estimates by agency, allowing you to target your efforts to those agencies most likely to purchase your services. Additionally, each agency is required to maintain a procurement forecast.
- For information on contract awards under the GSA Schedules, check the Schedules eLibrary.
2 – Use Your Free Local Resources
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) can help you navigate the federal market and contacting space. There are 94 PTACs with 300+ local offices; you can search for your nearest PTAC here.
3 – Understand Your Target Agency
In order to build an effective relationship, you need to help the agency solve a problem. Developing a detailed understanding of the agency’s mission, objectives, and current spend priorities will position you to provide an effective solution.
4 – Discover How Your Target Agency Buys
Different agencies take different approaches to procurement. If, for instance, your target agency prefers to buy through the GSA Schedules, then it’s important that you get on Schedule as soon as possible. The same goes for other contract vehicles—you want to make it easy for your target customer to buy from you!
5 – Reach Out
Every agency has dedicated small business specialists who work to ensure that the agency meets its small business socioeconomic contracting goals. Reach out to your target agency and make sure you’re on their list!
The road to successful federal contracting for small business is complex and often difficult to understand. Global Services can help you explore various options to help launch your business into federal contracting.
— Courtney Fairchild, President