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Friday, May 17, 2024

The Changing Dynamics of Collaboration in Today's Small Business Contracting

Collaboration in government contracting is changing dramatically. 
The government is becoming more open in its dealings, driven by a dramatic need for commercial technology from the commercial sector, dire efficiency issues and the weight of a massive debt load. 

Budget and funding pressures, competition for scarce resources, efficiency and similar concerns are creating an environment where open, accessible communication and teaming at several levels can yield excellent returns for progressive small enterprises and their partners.

These advances are being enhanced by communication and processes made instant with technology, remarkably enabled for creativity and teamwork, as well as the lower operating costs of a small enterprise.  The new collaboration includes reaching out to clients, industry partners and suppliers. It also requires employee involvement at all levels in the dynamics of the collaborative process. 

Although sound, professional and business contracting techniques will always be necessary, together with prudent management and risk analysis, the collaborative dynamic is on the move. 

Now is the time to take the initiative in designing collaborative efforts with federal agencies, marketing solutions that maximize contractor and government resources and the best possible efficiencies in service solutions. Go in early, go in hard, go with a team concept and be open and objective with your primes, your suppliers and your customer. Engage your employees at all levels in the effort.
Many are planning strategically, are you?

Insights To Succeed In Small Business Government Service Contracting




Monday, May 13, 2024

What is a "Compliant" Federal Government Services Contract Small Business System?

It seems the single word, "Compliance" in small business federal government services contracting business systems implies many different things:

  • Small Businesses wish to know about compliance to assess the cost of doing business with the government, assure readiness and business system capability.
  •  Software Suppliers maintain they have compliant tools to achieve government contracting business management and wish to sell them.
  • The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) has the mission to insure compliance with Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) under the Federal Acquisition Regulation.
  • Defense Contract Management Agency Fact Finding Teams wish to observe small business systems to determine if an enterprise is capable of pricing, job cost accounting and billing consistency.
  • Prime Contractors wish to know if a subcontractor is compliant with FAR and CAS so related flow down clauses can be made part of contractual agreements.
The criteria for determining government contracting small business system "Compliance”, as discussed above, is met when:

1. The business system is unique to the company, and recognizes the way the firm is organized and the way it manufactures or delivers products, supplies or services. Each company does business in a slightly different way, performs services or delivers products with organizations that function in various manners and yet all ultimately meet Modified US Government Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) objectives by live data demonstrating consistency with regard to cost allocation to contract objectives in pricing, job cost accounting, billing and closeout.

2. The business system meets Modified Cost Accounting Standard (CAS) Coverage defined by the government is as follows:

Standard 9904.401, Consistency in Estimating, Accumulating, and Reporting Costs  Standard 401

Standard 9904.402, Consistency in Allocating Costs Incurred for the Same Purpose Standard 402

Standard 9904.405, Accounting for Unallowable Costs Standard 9904-405, Accounting for Unallowable Costs Standard 405     Unallowable Costs

Standard 9904.406, Cost Accounting Standard—Cost Accounting Period  Standard 406

Modified, rather, than full, CAS coverage may be applied to a covered contract of less than $50 million awarded to a business unit that received less than $50 million in net CAS-covered awards in the immediately preceding cost accounting period.

The following article contains practical business system guidance regarding building a Modified CAS Coverage Small Business System for federal government contracting:
Managing Risk In Business System Development

Read the above government requirements and business system development guidance, and then give your selected method of business management the Modified CAS litmus test. Make a judgment that is the best for your company and try it out on DCAA. If they have problems with the approach you can adjust it.

The bottom line objective is that you wish government approval going forward so that your rates are accepted in proposals, your audits have a satisfactory outcome and you get paid when you submit a billing. Without those critical success factors the business cannot operate.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Meeting The Small Business Federal Government Contracting "Past Performance" Challenge

As a small business begins the proposal submission process to federal government agencies or to prime contractors the past performance requirement is a major challenge. By definition a start-up company in government contracting has no direct government agency past performance projects to site in meeting the requirement in requests for proposals (RFP’s) for historical references to similar projects in terms of size, duration and complexity.

Past performance data must be specific to the enterprise bidding a contract. It cannot site historical references to performance of individuals now in the company when they were with other firms, achievements by predecessor companies or successful projects that the current company did not perform as its current entity. The purpose for this rigid perspective by the government is to avoid "Fronting" a new enterprise with misleading information to obtain a high past performance rating.

So how can a startup or a small business new to government contracting meet the past performance challenge?

The answer lies in historical projects that may be similar in the commercial arena and a high quality proposal that clearly demonstrates an understanding of the requirement at hand, a unique and cost effective project plan and high performing personnel and/or products tailored to the statement of work to offset an interim, light past performance record.

A past performance reference sheet usually accompanies an agency RFP. It normally requires the bidder to fill it out with references to historical projects the company has performed and the contact points for confirmation. The government may request these forms in advance of the main body of the proposal to allow enough time to send them to the references. The past performance form is sent by the government to the references and you never see the result. The input goes directly from your past performance references back to the government.

For details on past performance formats and records processes please see Your Past Performance Record 

Many small businesses work through prime contractors to "Grow" past performance history (subcontracts count). By teaming with a sizable firm a small entity can relate its participation to larger projects and ultimately graduate to a good library of references, carefully maintained and kept as a living, growing data base of good customer service records that can be sited again and again in proposals.

It is wise to keep customer perceptions of your professionalism and products or services alive by constant vigilance, visits, surveys and other feedback mechanisms so that you are not surprised at a proposal debriefing when you find that a client you thought rated you highly did not.

The major services maintain past performance records by contract that you can access. Inquire with them as to a membership at the appropriate web site and review them regularly. The GSA utilizes service companies to rate contractors. You can get your rating by inquiring with them, much like a credit rating, except pertinent to cost, schedule and technical performance. Monitor your D&B report. It is always out there for prime contractor and government assessment of your financial health, your vendor payment history, your organization profile and your rating.

The U.S. Federal Contractor Registration System for Award Management  has a narrative to profile your company. Check your registration and insure you have a current and complete description of your supplies and services available to all who use the Dynamic Search Mechanism Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS)

Insure your web site, your capability statement and your marketing plans are maintained current alive and dynamically reflective of your successes as you pursue new business and carefully develop your library of past performance records by project with accessible profiles to use in your government proposals.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Meeting Veteran & Employer Challenges During Transition from Military to Civilian Work

Expectations and Reality are Far Apart on Both Sides of the Employment Spectrum
By Ken Larson 

Aside from the legal and moral obligations to employ returning veterans, there is a third, vital challenge in the employment transition equation: understanding the vast difference between the military and civilian work environments.  The expectations of both parties must be carefully assessed and communicated with realistic processes for effective transition from military to civilian employment by the veteran.

Civilian Knowledge of the Military Environment Has Diminished

As a country, America has been at war nonstop since 911. As a public, it has not. A total of about 2.5 million Americans, roughly three-quarters of 1 percent, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many of them more than once.

War was much closer to home when the draft existed and military participation ran higher during WW II and the Vietnam Conflict.

The Nature of Today's Wars and a Cynicism with Regard to Their Outcome Impacts the Veteran and the Civilian Outlook

Ultimately, the military’s discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

Despite a six-year, $287 million effort to make troops more optimistic and resilient, an Army survey found that 52 percent of soldiers scored badly on questions that measured optimism, while 48 percent reported having little satisfaction or commitment to their job.

Veterans bring these issues home and find a civilian employment environment that does not have a focus on combat life and death, but rather an emphasis on long term thinking, collaboration, viewing actions with respect to the impact on internal and external customers and politically correct human resource considerations.

The assumption on the part of the employer is that the strength and training of the individual coming out of the military environment permits a reasonable transition. It does not.

We Must Educate and Develop Programs to Bridge the Gap from Both Ends.

A transition partnership between the veteran and the company is necessary. Expectations must be adjusted to reflect the differences in both venues.

Military core values such as – oaths, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a culture of direct command, and a narrow focus on the task at hand are no longer available when the veteran leaves the military. 

In the civilian environment political correctness, strategic group awareness, tact, organization factors, and a broad view of mission and achievement are required.

A veteran is therefore is not so much entitled to a job as he or she is entitled to be understood, and to be allowed to understand the civilian job environment, growing into it.

Professional Roles are Vital

There are two important types of professional roles to consider when hiring and managing military veterans in the business venue.

As a veteran who made the transition to civilian professional work and ultimately owned a small enterprise, and as a counselor who supports veterans in becoming business owners, my experience over several decades indicates military men and women do well in Role 1 below. They have the most challenges with Role 2.

Role 1 Technical - Scientific, engineering, logistics, electronics, design and similar skill sets where direct supervision, team building, corporate policy compliance and human resource planning and utilization are not major factors.


Role 2- ManagementFunctional process capacities responsible for hiring, evaluation, supervision, compliance with civilian law and department activities involving group dynamics, customer relations and sensitive human factors.

Image: The Military Wallet

I came out of the military having had a leadership role in engineering, base development planning and combat support. I served in war zones in Southeast Asia and on highly classified missions. I was not a manager. I was a military leader in specialized skill sets under Role 1 above.

I knew how to direct people who followed orders without question because the Uniform Code of Military Justice to which we swore an oath said they must do so.

I felt uncomfortable in jobs involving Role 2 above because they were foreign to me. I later adjusted, learned the venue and became skilled as a manager in the corporate world. I preferred staff assignments, however for most of my career.

The corporate venue seemed enormously political and bureaucratic to a former war fighter like me. I was not that tactful. I cut to the chase often and did not always take everyone with me when I made a decision.

Once I grew into a Role 2 performer, I found in interviewing, hiring, evaluating and managing young veterans, even seasoned ones, who had retired and joined the civilian work force, that almost all were better suited for Role 1. It took years and effort on my part to fit them into Role 2 and some never made it.

Management Analysis  and Moving Forward

The principal reason for the logic conveyed above is that the military environment may seem to be structured in a way that fits Role 2, but the military does not turn out individuals who are suited in the knowledge and experience necessary in the civilian environment and they are not very good at it without extensive training and adaptation.

Enterprises have multiple-faceted challenges and they require multiple- faceted people. Even though individuals may hold a specific position job title, success in the civilian work force demands avenues where the human resource can contribute in multiple ways.

If a contributor has experience and training in several areas the business can utilize, that makes him or her a valuable resource and it is likely they will be professionally fulfilled and rewarded from doing so. Military personnel have specialty training and focus; few have a wide view of what is in front of them, particularly with respect to military vs. civilian professional settings.

It all comes down to the workers having an element of control in the future success for both themselves and the company and having the opportunity to realize their potential in that regard.

If the professional is in a narrow, technical discipline and his or her expectations are to have others support them in that role or if they are more comfortable in a "Stove-piped" professional setting and not attuned to group dynamics and the often politically correct nature of the civilian organization, they perhaps belong in technical roles and they do not belong in management roles at the onset of their employ.


In fairness to veterans and to our hopes for them in the future, we must understand these above distinctions, build on Role 1, understand the risk in Role 2 and assist wherever possible.Above all,  a respectful partnership and realistic expectations must evolve between the veteran and the company for success in transitioning  former military personnel into the civilian work force. This must be achieved through education, training, communication and assessment of both the veteran and the company personnel.

About the Author: 

Ken Larson is a 2 Tour US Army Vietnam Veteran, retired after 36 Years in the Defense Industrial Complex, having worked on 25 major weapons systems, many of which are in use today in the Middle East. He concluded his career with his own consulting firm. As a  MicroMentor Volunteer Counselor Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting. 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Your Federal Government Contracting Past Performance Record

FAR 42.1501

“Relevant information for future source selection purposes, regarding a contractor’s actions under previously awarded contracts. It includes, for example, the contractor’s record of conforming to contract requirements and to standards of good workmanship; the contractor’s record of forecasting and controlling costs; the contractor’s adherence to contract schedules, including the administrative aspects of performance; the contractor’s history of reasonable and cooperative behavior and commitment to customer satisfaction; and generally, the contractor’s business-like concern for the interest of the customer.” 

As a small enterprise enters the government contracting venue, the phrase “Past Performance” almost immediately comes to the fore. When examining government Requests for Proposal (RFP’s) a section of the award criteria is almost always specified for past performance ratings on previous similar government work.

We have discussed meeting the initial past performance challenge for companies new to government contracting in the following discussion:

The Small Business Government Contracting Past Performance Challenge

The primary purpose of past performance evaluations is to ensure that accurate data on contractor performance is current and available for use in source selections. A past performance evaluation report provides a record of a contractor’s performance, both positive and negative, on a given contract during a specified period of time.
This article will focus on accessing your past performance record, and explain how the government rates a contractor’s past performance:


The following is an extract from the Contractor Past Performance Information Retrieval Web Site on obtaining information on your company information there:  Contractor Past Performance Assessment Reporting System



Below are the key assessment elements required for contractor reviews of major procurement sectors in federal government contracting. 

Assessment Elements for the Systems Sector

Technical (Quality of Product) —This element is comprised of an overall rating and six sub elements.

Activity critical to successfully complying with contract requirements must be assessed within one or more of these sub-elements. The overall rating at the element level is the Program Manager's integrated assessment as to what most accurately depicts the contractor's technical performance or progress toward meeting requirements. It is not a predetermined roll-up of the sub-element assessments.

Product Performance—Assess the achieved product performance relative to performance
parameters required by the contract.

Systems Engineering—Assess the contractor's effort to transform operational needs and
requirements into an integrated system design solution.

Software Engineering—Assess the contractor's success in meeting contract requirements for software development, modification, or maintenance. Results from Software Capability Evaluations (SCEs) (using the Software Engineering Institute {SEI's} Capability Maturity Model {CMM} as a means of measurement), Software Development Capability Evaluations (SDCEs), or similar software assessments may be used as a source of information to support this evaluation.

Logistic Support/Sustainment—Assess the success of the contractor's performance in accomplishing logistics planning.

Product Assurance—Assess how successfully the contractor meets program quality objectives (e.g., producibility, reliability, maintainability, inspectability, testability, system safety) and controls the overall manufacturing process.

Other Technical Performance—Assess all the other technical activity critical to successful contract performance. Identify any additional assessment aspects that are unique to the contract or that cannot be captured in another sub-element
SCHEDULE—Assess the timeliness of the contractor against the completion of the contract, task orders, milestones, delivery schedules, administrative requirements, etc.

COST CONTROL—(Not required for firm-fixed-price or firm-fixed-price with economic price adjustment contracts.) Assess the contractor's effectiveness in forecasting, managing, and controlling contract cost, including reporting and analyzing variances.

 Management—This element is comprised of an overall rating and three sub-elements. Activity critical to successfully executing the contract must be assessed within one or more of these sub-elements. This overall rating at the element level is the Program Manager's integrated assessment as to what most accurately depicts the contractor's performance in managing the contracted effort. It is not a predetermined roll-up of the sub-element assessments.

 Management Responsiveness—Assess the timeliness, completeness, and quality of problem identification, corrective action plans, proposal submittals (especially responses to change orders, engineering change proposals, or other undefinitized contract actions), the contractor's history of reasonable and cooperative behavior, effective business relations, and customer satisfaction.

Subcontract Management—Assess the contractor's success with timely award and management of subcontracts, including whether the contractor met or exceeded small business, small disadvantaged business, small business HUBZone, veteran-owned small business, service disabled veteran-owned small business, and women-owned small business participation and subcontracting goals.

Program Management and Other Management—Assess the extent to which the contractor discharges its responsibility for integration and coordination of all activity needed to execute the contract, identifies and applies resources required to meet schedule requirements, assigns responsibility for tasks/actions required by contract, and communicates appropriate information to affected program elements in a timely manner. Assess the contractor's risk management practices, especially the ability to identify risks and formulate and implement risk mitigation plans. If applicable, identify and assess any other areas that are unique to the contract or that cannot be captured elsewhere under the Management element.
Assessment Elements for the Services, Information Technology, and Operations Support Sectors

QUALITY OF PRODUCT OR SERVICE—Assess the contractor's conformance to contract requirements, specifications, quality of software product and development, and standards of good workmanship (e.g., commonly accepted technical, professional, environmental, or safety and health standards).

SCHEDULE—Assess the contractor’s timeliness against the completion of the contract, task orders, milestones, delivery schedules, and administrative requirements (e.g., efforts that contribute to or effect the schedule variance).

COST CONTROL—(Not required for firm-fixed-price or firm-fixed-price with economic price adjustment contracts.) Assess the contractor's effectiveness in forecasting, managing, and controlling contract cost, including reporting and analyzing variances.

 BUSINESS RELATIONS—Assess the integration and coordination of all activity needed to execute the contract, specifically the timeliness, completeness, and quality of problem identification, corrective action plans, proposal submittals, the contractor's history of reasonable and cooperative behavior, customer satisfaction, timely award and management of subcontracts, and whether the contractor met small business, small disadvantaged business, small business HUBZone, veteran-owned small business, service disabled veteran-owned small business, and women-owned small business participation and subcontracting goals.

MANAGEMENT OF KEY PERSONNEL (for Services and Information Technology business sectors only)—Assess the contractor's performance in selecting, retaining, supporting, and replacing—when necessary—key personnel.


Regular review of your past performance information system data is vital to your future marketing efforts. Please feel free to download the Guide to the Past Performance Retrieval System in the second, vertical Box Net "References" cube in the left margin of this site.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Federal Government Contract Terminations

On occasion the government finds it necessary to terminate contractual arrangements with contractors. FAR Sub-part 49.5 governs such actions. There are  two common forms of contract termination that you should know about and how to manage them.


Certain conditions are usually present when contact termination is on the horizon. These factors range from product and services obsolescence to developments that change the direction and amount of agency funding. They may also include customer relations difficulties or changes in the mission of an agency.

It is best to manage the risks associated with terminations by viewing them in the light of funding and performance liability. We have previously discussed limitation of funds and funding exposure in the following articles:

Limitation of Funds and Funding Exposure

Contract Baseline Management

If it is generally known, for instance, that if the government is having funding challenges in terms of justifying the next phase of a program, your company should carefully monitor incurred costs and commitments so they do not exceed the existing funding on the contract.

Moreover, if performance on a particular contract has been sub-par, deliveries have been late and corrective action has not remedied the situation, the reality of a termination for default should be assessed from a liability perspective; particularly concerning costs the government may bill the contractor for inconvenience. Receipt of "Show Cause" notices or "Cure Letters" are signs the government is positioning a justification for contract termination.

Terminations for default are particularly harmful to a contractor's past performance rating on federal government contracts:

Contract Past Performance Record

The remainder of this article will focus on each of the two major types of terminations and how to manage each.


This form of termination arises from standard clause(s) in your government contract that give the government the right to unilaterally terminate the contract at any time with or without giving any reason. The contractor is generally entitled to a negotiated settlement for an equitable recovery of costs and losses incurred. Please see the following link for applicable clauses:

Subpart 49.5 Termination Clauses

A termination for convenience is the least risky form of termination to the contractor. Although receiving a notice that your contract is being terminated for convenience is never good news, it does offer the opportunity to recover costs you have incurred and those you estimate will impact your business due to the termination.

Actions necessary:

1. First, insure your costs to date, plus commitments have not exceeded the funding level of the contract. If they have, consider asking for a funds amendment to your contact to cover the overrun. It may not be granted by the government. Next, immediately notify departments internal to the company with regard to the termination and inform them that their charge numbers for the program have been closed. Close all charge numbers. 

2. Notify all suppliers and subcontractors with respect to the contract termination, direct that they cease work, discontinue deliveries and submit to you a termination proposal containing itemization and costs associated with terminating their order or contract. You will negotiate with your supply chain and include their costs in your termination settlement proposal to the government.

3. Open a contract termination charge number for selected use by those who are associated with the termination to charge related time and expenses for ceasing work, inventorying material, supporting a termination proposal, dealing with suppliers, handling special requests or other direct efforts to cease work. It makes no difference whether the individuals are direct or indirect in their normal time keeping. This special accounting charge number will be utilized to record the cost to your firm for terminating the contract and proposing a settlement to the government. 

4. Complete your contract termination settlement proposal and submit it to the agency contracting officer to meet the date specified by the agency for same.

5. When the contract termination settlement proposal has been negotiated and formalized with an amendment to closeout the contract in accordance with the following government approved practices:

Government Contract Closeout


A termination for default rises from standard clause(s) in your contract that give the government the right to unilaterally terminate the contractor if the contractor fails to perform according to the specified terms. The contractor is generally not entitled to any payment for the unfinished part of the contract and, instead, may be liable for (1) repayment of monies advanced, (2) liquidated and other damages and (3) excess cost incurred by the government in completing the contact under a new contractor. Please see the following link for applicable clauses:

Subpart 49.5 Termination Clauses

The Government contracting officer will terminate a contract for default when he or she determines that the contractor has failed to adequately perform in accordance with the contract. The Default clause applicable to fixed-price contracts limits the Government's liability for unaccepted work, subjects the contractor to actual (or liquidated) damages, and may subject the contractor for the excess cost of re-procurement. Moreover, the default becomes part of the contractor's past performance record which will harm the contractor's ability to compete on future contracts. Because the Government is not liable for work not accepted, the termination for default has a greater adverse consequence on supply contracts than service and construction contracts.

The government may terminate all or part of a contract for anything that was done that was not in the interest of the government, including:
  • Attempted fraud
  • Failure to meet quality requirements
  • Failure to deliver the supplies or perform the services within the time specified in the contract
  • Failure to make progress and that failure endangers performance of the contract
  • Failure to perform any other provisions of the contract.

Cure Notice

Before terminating a contract for default because of your failure to make progress or to perform, the contracting officer will usually give you a written notice, called a "cure notice." That notice allows you at least 10 days to cure any defects. Unless the failure to perform is cured within the 10 days, the contracting officer may issue a notice of termination for default.

Show-Cause Notice 

If there is not sufficient time for a cure, the contracting officer will usually send a show-cause notice. That notice directs you to show why your contract should not be terminated for default. It ensures that you understand your predicament, and your answer can be used in evaluating whether circumstances justify default action.

If a contractor succeeds in appealing the termination for default, the default is usually converted into one for the convenience of the Government.

Actions Necessary:

1. When a termination for default is at hand, contact a law firm that specializes in government contract terminations and proceed within the guidance offered by them in pursuing any part of the termination that could be converted to a termination for convenience or other form of relief with respect to conditions over which you may not have had control or for which you may be entitled to a request for equitable adjustment or contact claim.

2.  You should also proceed in accordance with paragraphs 1 through 3 of the Terminations for Convenience section above to limit your internal and supplier liability as well as isolate costs associated with the termination for a potential settlement or claim.  

When the contract has been amended by termination for default, close out the contract in accordance with the following government approved practices:

Government Contract Closeout


Contract terminations should be avoided if at all possible. They are expensive on the part of both the government and the contractor. The negative aspects of a termination for default, in particular, can last for years in government contractor past performance data bases.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Are Startups Missing Out By Not Bidding On Federal Contracts?

By Kayleigh Alexandra

It isn’t easy to acquire a government contract, especially if your business is just getting started, but it isn’t impossible, and the benefits can be substantial.

If it’s an option you’d like to pursue in the future, make an effort to begin preparing your organizational structure to meet federal requirements, and seek out subcontracting work to help you establish the connections that could help you in the right direction.”

If you run a startup, the thought might never have crossed your mind to seek out contract work with the government. After all, it isn’t the conventional way forward, and you might well figure that federal contracts will invariably go to companies with well-established government links.

But are you missing out by not making an effort to seek out federal contract work? Let’s go through some reasons why you might want to give it more consideration.

You can’t get what you don’t apply for

The notion that government contracts will always go to giant corporations is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it spurs small enterprises to hold back from applying for them. Despite this impression, it’s generally quite viable, especially since the Federal Government sets a goal every fiscal year for contracting a percentage of its work to small businesses.

In 2020, the Federal Government awarded 26.01 percent or  $145.7 billion in contract work to small businesses, exceeding the yearly goal of 23%  and at a $13 billion increase from the previous fiscal year.

Given this ongoing commitment to diversifying the awarding of government work, now is as good a time as any to pitch for available contracts. If you succeed in getting one, you may be able to parlay it into an ongoing working relationship.

The field is becoming more open

The main difficulties with landing federal contracts are not technical but procedural and organizational, and the problem with high-level bureaucracy is that it’s incredibly difficult to dislodge. The flexibility in approach, then, must stem from the applicants.

While this is undoubtedly a frustrating notion to small businesses everywhere, consider that it also wards off a lot of possible competition, and that the benefits of securing federal work are extensive.

Another thing worth noting for programs set aside for small business is that medium and large businesses are both precluded from assuming prime roles and limited in their participation as subcontractors. The government’s mandate for a small business set-aside contract caps participation by firms other than the small business prime awardee at 49% of the project effort (factoring in work scope, cost, and time). While this does mean that a small business must demonstrate (during the proposal and site survey phases) the ability to carry out 51% of the work internally to win a contract, it does ensure that a majority of the work genuinely goes to small business workers.

The advantages of government work

Even disregarding the intimidating process involved in securing government work, a lot of startups may well think that it isn’t the right fit for them, particularly given the common perception that federal contracts are dull, expensive, or overly complicated. Brand image is very important in the social media age and pitching to popular brands might feel like a better option.

The big advantage to working on government contracts is that it lends your company a great deal of credibility and cache. People understand that it’s a difficult marketplace to operate in, and will view your ability to do so as an indication of your professionalism.

Here are some more advantages:

●     Scheduling Consistency

○     A lot of contract work extends to substantial periods of time, meaning you plan your financial year around it and allocate your resources efficiently.

●     Industry Networking

○     You’ll have the chance to meet people in very important positions in your industry, providing you with the opportunity to network and establish useful contacts.

●     Financial Certainty

○     Government payments will always be issued on time and in accordance with the agreed terms. You will never face the prospect of chasing them for payment.

Meeting the requirements for contractors

There are specific requirements that prospective contract work suppliers must meet in order to be granted consideration, and meeting those requirements is the most challenging part of the process (with the possible exception of formulating the pitch).

Typically, you’ll need to ensure that your business system meets government standards for job cost accounting (each job is unique and must be costed accurately), be fully prepared to deal with thorough audit requests, and have the capacity to produce project proposals of a sufficiently-high quality and that your business system meets government standards

You’ll also want to make sure your company has adequate insurance. Basic likely won’t cut it— you should pursue a suitable custom policy that covers everything needed, such as Defense Base Act insurance if you use overseas employees. The government is very risk-averse in awarding contracts and you won’t stand a chance if your proposition seems a little rocky.

To navigate those murky waters, it’s generally best to consult a specialist. This website offers a great deal of information for free, but there are also paid consultants you can hire to help get your business ready to be viable for contract bidding. Here are a couple you may wish to consider:

●     Judy Bradt

     Mark Amtower:

Working with a prime contractor

Given the complexity and expense involved in becoming a government contractor, it’s often worth considering the option of working as a subcontractor for a prime contractor, which is a business that has been granted full control of a government contract, allowing it to delegate parts of the work should it wish to.

If your startup isn’t ready to battle with much larger companies for huge contracts, subcontracting work could be a great first step to take. Most of the advantages we covered earlier still apply, as well, so it gives you the chance to make some influential contacts.

In summary

It isn’t easy to acquire a government contract, especially if your business is just getting started, but it isn’t impossible, and the benefits can be substantial.

If it’s an option you’d like to pursue in the future, make an effort to begin preparing your organizational structure to meet federal requirements, and seek out subcontracting work to help you establish the connections that could help you in the right direction.”


Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Registering Your Business For Federal Government Contracting

Note:  For companies registered at SAM, please note effective April 4, 2022, a government Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) replaces the D&B Number in SAM registrations.    

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.


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. Register Your Company With Your State And with the IRS:

Incorporation is fairly inexpensive and can be done yourself via the WEB for either a non-profit or a for-profit business. 
You may download free instructions to register a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in your state from the BOX in the right margin of this site.  

B. Register at the System For Award Management Web Site:

C. For application in the SBA Small, Disadvantaged Business (SDB) Program:

SBA 8(a) 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:

SBA Hub Zone Program

Note that Hub Zone qualification is based on where the business is located and where the personnel in the business reside as well.

For information on additional set aside designations such as those for women-owned business, veterans and disabled veterans please see:

Federal Government Contracting Set Aside Designations

E. For Searches on Federal Buys:

Contract Opportunities 
 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.