Your guide to federal contracts

During the fourth quarter of the federal fiscal year, which ends on September 30, government agencies are finalizing their acquisition for the year and assessing their remaining dollars to potentially check off a few items not purchased on this year’s wish list. Many small business contractors find that they can pick up a few hundred thousand dollars or even a few million dollars from various government customers during this period. This is especially true for small businesses with special certifications. In some cases this may be your first chance to get in the door if you are prepared and satisfied to capture something on a smaller scale.

So how can your small business land more dollars in this fourth quarter?

Following are some tips and insights to get you started and on your way to getting your share of remaining procurement dollars before it is taken away.

• Move quickly to identify and respond to opportunities. That means checking for new solicitations, reviewing agency budgets to determine what work is unfinished and asking agency officials about upcoming solicitations.

• Make sure the necessary back-end stuff is completed in advance to capture fast breaking opportunities. Have your past performance documents updated to include contracts in progress; verify your resumes are in the hands of key personnel; make sure your teaming partners are identified and ready-to-go.

• Search on FBO.gov for “sources sought” notices, which are synopses posted by agencies that state they are seeking possible sources for a project. This is the perfect time for an agency to make its mandated small business goals.

• Tap existing government customers and remind them that your company is available. It takes five times more in cost to create a new customer than to expand with an existing customer-the same holds true in the federal marketplace. If you have a customer who is very happy with your services introduce another area of work you can provide and allow them to test your ability in some small way. This may grow into something larger when the new budget dollars begin to flow.

• Maintain regular communication with the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) staff at various agencies and remind them that you have a strong interest as well as the performance capacity to be able to quickly respond to any of their customers during the fourth quarter.

• Team, team and team: Teaming up with other business owners to jointly bid on federal contracts can help increase chances of landing larger contracts. According to American Express OPEN’s government contracting survey, teams that are involved in teaming have won 54 percent more prime contracts than the national average. Keep in mind that ‘hunting’ as a pre-established team can be quite effective!

• If you’re on a GSA Schedule, aggressively market this contracting vehicle to agencies. The end of the federal fiscal year is all about quick capture so the use of GSA Schedules for acquisitions becomes especially attractive to agencies given their presumption of competition, the thoroughness of vendor vetting, their ease of use and expedited processes.

The key to success in the fourth quarter is creating your own luck and being prepared to respond quickly. But even though time is scarce, do your homework before any communications or solicitations go out as there is no excuse for not knowing your customer’s mission and objectives. An educated contractor is indeed a successful contractor.

Dõna Storey is the American Express OPEN Advisor on Procurement and a woman-owned small business contractor herself. She helps other small firms navigate the procurement process. For more information, please visit http://www.openforum.com/governmentcontracting.

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