Here’s What It Takes to Become a Federal Government Contractor

Government building with American flag

Do you dream of landing contracts with the federal government? Becoming a qualified federal government contractor requires your business to complete a number of steps and meet specific standards that don’t apply to other types of work. For many small businesses, this additional effort pays off with new contracts and added revenue. If you’re ready to open the govcon door, here’s what you need to know.

Be prepared for a lengthy process.

Before you put in your first bid you’ll need to do a lot of background work, beginning with research to discover which government agencies purchase the products you offer. Start by searching the General Services Administration (GSA) Schedules and the Federal Procurement Data System.

Next, enroll your business in the System for Award Management. Be sure to complete all fields, including optional entries such as federal supply codes, past performance references and keywords. This will maximize the number of times your company appears in the search results when agencies are seeking potential federal contractors. When you’ve completed this step you’ll be allowed to apply to become a scheduled vendor.

It’s who you are and who you know.

Simply appearing on the list of scheduled vendors isn’t enough to bring contracts rolling in. Many federal government contractors get their start in the sector as employees of an existing contractor or government agency. If you don’t have that kind of built-in network within government purchasing, you’ll need to be diligent about creating relationships with procurement officers at the agencies or sub-agencies where you want to become a vendor. You can also contact the small business liaisons at each target agency.

It’s easy to feel like a small fish in a very, very big pond, but there are several ways your business can stand out and compete with the sharks for contracts. The federal government requires that some contracts go to certified small businesses and encourages procurement officers to deliver relatively low-dollar contracts to these companies.

In addition, bidding is only open on some contracts to small businesses located in designated low-income areas or those owned by service-disabled veterans, women, individuals of specific ethnicities and members of socially or economically disadvantaged groups. Contact your state’s Minority Business Enterprise agency to learn about becoming certified as one of these organizations, or visit the SBA website to learn more about contracting assistance programs.

Spot your opening and take it.

Now you’re finally ready to start bidding on contracts. Remember that first job you applied for back in high school? Well get ready, because this one won’t be nearly as simple. Begin by visiting the Federal Business Opportunities website, where you’ll find a comprehensive list of solicitations for federal government contracts, to select an opportunity that’s a perfect match for your company.

Study the solicitation carefully and pay close attention to all the guidelines of the specific contract before you start preparing your bid. You’ll also need to review any other rules the solicitation refers to, which will most likely be drawn from the set of general rules for federal contractors contained in the massive Federal Acquisition Regulation. Bear in mind that the expression “close enough for government work” does not apply to the world of federal government contracting, where one deviation from the rules can cost you the contract.

Subcontracting is another viable option for small businesses. Large government contracts usually require the winning bidder to subcontract some portion of the work to small businesses. Besides the subcontracted work, this path allows your business to build a network of key contacts that may be helpful in acquiring future contracts for your company. Large contractors usually have their own liaisons to small businesses whom you can contact; you can also find solicitations for subcontractors on the SBA’s SUB-Net database.

Fulfilling all the requirements to win and keep a federal government contract isn’t easy, but it can deliver substantial benefits to your business. The govcon experts at HBP are always ready to help, from guiding your initial steps to keeping your business in full compliance with the contracts you land. Contact our office today to learn how we can help you become a successful federal government contractor.

Written by Christine Jackson, CPA