Key Words: "Federal Government Contracting"
IMPORTANT NOTICE AND UPDATE: (7/12/2012)
The System for Award Management (SAM) to Streamline Government Contracting Process
In an effort to improve the federal government contracting process for small business owners, the System for Award Management (SAM) was created. Phase 1 of SAM services combines several procurement systems - including the Central Contractor Registration (CCR), Federal Agency Registration (FedReg) and the Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA), Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) - into one, easy-to-use website.
SAM, which was scheduled to launch on May 29, 2012 has been postponed. The new launch date will be July 29, 2012. SAM will serve as a government-contracting portal and enable small business owners to register to do business with the federal government, and represent/self-certify as a small business all in one place. This streamlined, integrated approach will eliminate data redundancies, improve capabilities of the government-contracting workforce and save taxpayers money by reducing costs. SAM will be managed by the General Service Administration (GSA). If you or your customers require any assistance (troubleshooting, data concerns, general information, etc.) with SAM contact the Federal Service Desk at fsd.gov or by telephone at 1-866-606-8220.
For more information, please visit SAM.gov.
You have worked hard establishing your small business in the commercial market; or you have succeeded in your profession working for large enterprises. You have established yourself and you are recognized as a success by your superiors, your peers and your subordinates. Someone or something one day attracts your attention with the suggestion that the federal government may be in the market for your skills, products or services. This article will address the path to expanding your existing business or initially undertaking a business involving federal government contracts.
There are not many products or services that the federal government does not buy and it buys them on a large scale. In the year 2005 the federal government purchased $314 billion worth of goods and services from businesses large and small. Small businesses received a record-breaking $79.6 billion in federal prime contracts, exceeding the statutory goal of 23 percent of the total government buys according to the Federal Procurement Data System and the SBA. This article is the first in a series of papers addressing the exploration of the federal marketplace for small business.
II. GETTING STARTED
The best way to explore federal government contracting possibilities is to expand your business plan to include a sector for that type of business or develop your start up plan including a federal government business sector. Doing business with the Federal Government is not "Rocket Science" but it is different. It embodies a set of regulations entitled, "The Federal Acquisition Regulation" or FAR, which contain the rules by which the government and industry abide in contracting for supplies and services. The FAR had its genesis during World War II and has evolved since that time to control and regulate the ever-expanding amounts of goods and services which the federal government buys.
The following are the most important "Mechanical Steps" necessary in positioning your business to begin selling to the federal government. They are listed in the necessary sequence for becoming a supplier entity in the government system. A link to appropriate web sites is provided at each step.
A. Dunn &Bradstreet (D&B) Number Go to Small Business Tab At:
If you do not have one a D&B Number is necessary before you can complete a Central Contractor Registration (CCR) which is required for all companies who aspire to sell to the federal government. A D&B Number is also required for your Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) application if you intend to pursue minority- owned business certification. If you are not already incorporated you may wish to incorporate before you set up your D&B number. Incorporation is fairly inexpensive these days and can be done via the WEB for either a non-profit or a for-profit business. Try search mechanisms, such as "Incorporate.com", or "Incorporate Now". It is best to do a check with the Better Business Bureau before using the results. Establishing your D&B is free.
B. For Central Contractor Registration:
Completing the CCR requires a D&B Number and also requires that you determine your North American Industrial Classification (NAICS) code or codes. This is a 6 digit code which classifies the products or services you supply or perform. The NAICS is utilized throughout the Federal, State and many local venues. Try to find 6 digit NAICS codes closest to the supplies or services you plan to provide. Within each 3 digit subdivision there are specific 6 digit codes and codes such as "all other" which should fit. Remember federal government agencies, the SBA and the whole national procurement system are set up on these codes. The size factor in the NAICS Code Listing is in $M and specifies the ceiling in annual sales that small businesses cannot exceed to qualify for a given NAICS.
C. For application in the SBA Small, Disadvantaged Business (SDB) Program:
If you qualify as a minority, follow the directions closely. Note there is a preview section which will acquaint you with the application and the types of information that will be necessary when you start the process.
D. For Historically Under-Utilized Business (HUB) Zone Information:
Note that Hub Zone qualification is based on where the business is located and where the personnel in the business reside as well.
E. For Searches on Federal Buys:
FEDBIZOPS is the gateway for all federal business. The search tool there is a very powerful engine with many filters that are useful. It is well worth the time to learn the filters. Every federal agency is required by regulation to advertise there and you will be amazed at the products and services the federal government buys.
F. For an example of a small business capability statement check the following web site:
A capability statement is always a good idea for marketing. The link above as an example. It was found on the web in the public domain Note that the site is a SDB. Later you will get into proposal preparation and the regulations governing the types of grants and contracts, as well as billing the government for your work and other factors.
G. Questions for you:
Are you planning to produce a deliverable, distinct, end product such as software, hardware, a commodity, a report, a conference, a survey or a study, sell it to meet the government's statement of work and bill for the end product when delivered?
Are you planning to price your services at an hourly rate, sell them by labor categories with professional job descriptions to perform the government's statement of work and bill by the hour for labor and at cost for material and travel?
Answers to the above questions are key factors in how you set up your business and price your work in proposals to federal agencies. The answer to the above questions is "Yes" in both cases for some businesses. Some small businesses sell their product commercially, but contract for product implementation and support on a service contract basis.
The next topic in this series of articles will deal with avenues for marketing a small small business in the federal government environment.