Thursday, February 5, 2009

Federal Contracting: Terrifying Prospect or Lucrative Opportunity?

The federal government is well-known as the largest purchaser in the world. It uses so many products and services that it is literally a market in and of itself – the range of things the government purchases for its needs is so diverse that many companies exist entirely to sell to the government. However, the labyrinthine sets of rules and procedures can make it a terrifying area of business for the uninitiated.

The first United States government purchase was performed in the 1770s, when General George Washington directed Philip J. Schuyler to buy weaponry from Major Duncan at Schenectady, with a guarantee to pay for the goods upon delivery. Since then, opportunities to sell to the federal government have expanded greatly; though a large portion of the federal contracting budget is still set aside for military and defense purposes, more money is spent on a much wider range of opportunities that most people realize.

Believe it or not, currently only about 5% of businesses in the United States actually do business with the government. This is despite the fact that it generally spends, on average, over a billion dollars a day, on everything from janitorial services to dog treats to IT services to research. Why is that?

The rules governing the federal procurement process are incredibly intricate. If the contracting field is new to you, you are going to find out just how difficult it can be – this is one of the most complex arenas that there is in business. Fortunately, there are plenty of people and businesses willing to help, and it is possible to acquire a working knowledge of the process, policies, and procedures that apply to your business and how to navigate the government contracting arena.

One piece of good news is that the government tries to do a lot of its business through small contractors. The U.S government has federally and legally mandated goals and procedures designed to favor small businesses. Every federal agency has a small business contracting goal – a percentage of its budget each year is ‘set aside’ specifically for a variety of types of small businesses, ranging in amount depending on the agency. Businesses are eligible for these set-aside goals if they fit the description, be it small, woman-owned, minority-owned, or any in a wide array of other categories.

Small contractors can work with the government without a large office staff or support system, but only if they understand how everything works. Unlike other customers, you cannot simply walk into a government office and make a sales pitch. There is a huge array of protocols that must be met before you can do business with the government – but if you know your rights and are familiar with government programs, contracting can be extremely lucrative for anyone willing to accept the time, effort, and expense of getting started. You also don’t have to do it alone – there are many companies out there willing to direct you along the correct path and to help you get going.

Everyone knows about the current declining economy, said by some to be the worst since the Great Depression. Small businesses should definitely consider utilizing government contracting as a source of income. The federal bailout means that there are going to be hundreds of billions of dollars of extra contracting money spent in the next few years. These dollars will have to be spent somewhere – and not all of them are going to be on the multi-million dollar contracts – the companies that win the large contracts started out winning small contracts. Your business sells products or services that the government buys, and the time to get started with federal contracting is now. In short, federal contracting is
both: a terrifying prospect AND a lucrative opportunity. Navigating the maze can be dangerous but the risk is well worth the potential reward!

Working with Gateway to the Government, your business can penetrate the complex web of doing federal contracting. Through our partnership program, you gain access to everything – all of the advantages of the small business set-aside programs and the lucrative field of contracting – without having to accept the huge amount of time, effort, and expense of getting started.

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