In response to the economic downturn, many small businesses are looking for new ways to grow sales. For some, government contracting may be an option to consider.
SCORE, the national association dedicated to helping grow America’s small businesses, has responded by launching new online resources. To find out more about such opportunities for small businesses, we checked in with Dick Leslie, a San Diego SCORE counselor and Gerry Sanz, of the Washington DC SCORE office.
MONSTER: What type of government contracts are available for small businesses?
SCORE: The government contracting space has been one of the few shining industries that has been able to continue expanding throughout the current recession. For this reason, and the nature of the industry, small businesses can benefit from stability and continued growth opportunities.
MONSTER: In what particular industries and markets are these opportunities taking place?
SCORE: Stimulus-related contracts in support of civilian agencies such as transportation and housing and urban development (HUD) are good targets.
On the defense side, contracts that require clearances and specialize in surveillance and information security are best bets. It’s also likely that defense spending will move toward research and development versus hardware development, due to the large price tags and significant fiscal pressures on military budgets.
Additionally, infrastructure as related to building and maintenance should continue to be strong, thanks not only to Economic Stimulus spending but to the overall pressing need.
MONSTER: What’s been the trend with first-time small businesses entering into government contracting?
SCORE: It's very rare for a first-time small businesses entering into government contracting to win a government contract as a prime. The odds of success will be much greater as a sub-contractor, so developing solid relationships with prime contractors with existing relationships with the agencies is a very important dimension to their marketing strategy.
Many small businesses have trouble gaining traction in the industry, although the government expends great efforts to include them in its contracting activities. This has much to do with the fact that small businesses that are new to the industry have to adapt to marketing themselves and securing contracts.
As well, new contracts take a very long time to compete and award. Most small businesses don’t have the resources necessary to pursue given the time required. If possible, businesses should anticipate this timeline and plan accordingly.
Some businesses are unaware of the specific requirements to do business with the Federal government, such as having a DUNS number, being registered in the CCR and having “past performance.”
MONSTER: As the Recovery begins to wind down, how can small businesses parlay their government contracting experience into long-term success?
SCORE: Many services and products translate well from the government sector to private industry. The biggest challenge is that private industry does business very differently from the government.
Businesses need to be prepared to be more agile, and aggressive on cost/value. For example, your marketing activities may be very different. Whereas government employees are barred from receiving gifts of any kind, marketing to private clients could very well include dinner meetings or other events. You also may need to be prepared to provide “free samples” of your products or services just to get your foot in the door. Selling overseas also will require that you become familiar with their business and social customs, which can be very different from our own. SCORE counselors possess broad experience in private sector and international business operations.
MONSTER: What other type of counsel can SCORE provide small businesses?
SCORE: We can provide a client with a personal business coach to help with every step of his/her business. Here are just a few ways that SCORE can help:
- Online mentoring and business advice. “ASK SCORE” is an online resource that connects the client with a personal advisor who can provide advice based on specific questions concerning a business. They are available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.
- Provide a mentor in the local community. Clients can visit their local SCORE office or set up an appointment with a SCORE mentor. SCORE offers both online and onsite workshops for business owners who are just starting their businesses, learning to market it, as well as provide help with managing the financial aspects.
- Connect clients with other SCORE volunteers. With a membership of over 12,000 volunteers, SCORE can refer clients to someone who offers a wide range of expertise -- from finance to branding and marketing. Use the SCORE office locator above to find a volunteer.
- Search Federal opportunities. The FedBizOpps page is a central location that allows you to track Federal procurements of all types.