As more businesses, especially small businesses, are looking for more opportunities in a shrinking economy the world of federal contracts is looking more and more appealing. The maze of small business certifications can be very confusing. When you add to the mix terminology that gets into the daily conversations that are incorrect, you have the perfect storm of confusion in a marketplace that can already be a challenge for the new comers. Make a point of understanding the difference between the uses of the term ‘set-aside’ versus ‘sole-source’ in federal procurement. People have the tendency to use the term set aside thinking and meaning sole source. A set-aside means that the government can determine that there are enough of one type of companies…let’s say for example ‘small’ to be able to ‘set-aside’ a requirement for only small businesses to compete for that work. It does not mean that a requirement will be ‘sole-sourced’ or ‘directed’ or awarded to a firm without competition. It means that eligible small businesses can compete on a more level playing field to compete among themselves for a specific requirement. I have found this confusion in terminology even used by well intentioned and seasoned government employees.
In the past we have seen certifications providing set sides for small companies, hub-zone companies, 8a companies and within the last few years the veteran owned and service disabled veteran owned businesses. On February 4th 2011 long awaited certifications for small and economically disadvantaged small woman owned companies finally was launched. These long awaited certifications for women should prove to be a launch pad to success for those women who are willing and able to find their path to success within the federal marketplace.