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How to Get Your Share of the Government Procurement Pie

December 7th, 2010 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Despite the recession, government contracting has continued to be a lucrative business for small companies that are capable of providing products and services the government needs. But becoming a prime contractor to the government can be complex and confusing, with lots of hoops to jump through to get the business, costly requirements you must meet and long waiting periods to get paid. If the idea of getting government business appeals to you, but your company isn’t quite prepared to contract directly with the government, consider subcontracting.

Becoming a subcontractor to a government prime contractor can be a great way to get your feet wet in government business. In many cases, prime contractors must meet certain goals to subcontract a percentage of their business to small companies, women-owned companies or minority-owned companies, which can make it easier for your business to get a foot in the door.

How do you get started? Two major online databases that prime contractors use to find small subcontractors are the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS). Get your business listed in both of these online directories; be sure to keep your profile current, especially your contact information.

Once you’ve got your business listed where contractors are searching, the next step is to search out some prime contractors on your own. Here are some places to look:

Visit the Subcontracting Directory on the SBA’s website; you can search by state to find companies in your area.

Small business liaisons at government agencies can give you lists of prime contractors that they use, and may also be able to offer suggestions and help on how to approach these companies.

Your industry association is another good place to get advice and find out about subcontracting opportunities.

You can find lists of subcontracting opportunities at the SBA’s Subcontracting Network and FedBizOps.gov.

The Association of Procurement and Technical Assistance Centers can provide one-on-one help in getting subcontracts.

Got a potential contract? Check the details carefully before you sign on the dotted line. Because you’re dealing with a middleman, it’s crucial to be clear about the subcontract’s legal terms, how you will be paid and when, who is responsible for what aspect of the project, and any regulations or quality control guidelines you need to meet.

When you get your first subcontract, do everything you can to go above and beyond the call of duty. The level of ability you show in fulfilling your first subcontract will make—or break—your future subcontracting efforts.

Photo Courtesy: Karen Axelton

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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