Sequestration is a reality, but a small business can still grow despite spending cuts.
How? One effective way is through teaming – formally banding together with another business to go after a contract.
Teaming has become very valuable for small business owners in government contracting because it opens up more opportunities and enables small business owners to qualify for larger contracts.
I can personally attest that teaming can be a bullet-proof strategy for growth in this belt-tightening environment. All due to teaming, my small business has expanded our capabilities to include human capital, change management and information technology services.
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Developing strategic partners towards maximizing personnel and resources, my business has grown from six employees to 27 and experienced a 120% revenue increase. Not only do we go after larger contracts, we also work on them – including one valued at more than $50 million.
Yet, too few business owners take advantage of teaming. A survey by American Express OPEN found only 27 percent of small business owners engage in teaming and of those who participate, nearly half won contracts.
So how can you get started on the path to teaming? First, here are some key teaming considerations to note:
1. Consider developing a teaming approach to subcontract with businesses that already have IDIQs and BPAs– Indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contracts and blanket purchase agreements are usually awarded to a select group of qualified businesses with the capabilities to deliver products or services to the federal government.
In other words, these are businesses that have made the ordering process much easier for agencies to make a purchase, so these businesses make attractive teaming partners.
2. Don’t overlook GSA Schedule contractors – These contractors are approved vendors of the General Services Administration, which means that all agencies can purchase off-the-shelf catalog prices from these contractors.
Generally speaking, when agencies need to buy goods and/or services, established contract vehicles rate higher on the acquisition food chain than does the prospect of buying where pricing and other terms and conditions have not already been negotiated.
3. Incumbent contractors can also become a viable teaming partner, but do your homework to find out if the federal government client is satisfied with their services before approaching an incumbent.
4. Keep regular tabs on agencies’ small business procurement goals and find out how they are performing by visiting www.smallbusiness.data.gov. Since you can’t pursue every single agency (as there are hundreds!), your best bet is to go after ones with high scores and find incumbent contractors who currently do business with those agencies.
5. Teaming with certified small businesses can be a win-win for your business and government agencies. Why? Agencies need to fulfill certain socioeconomic goals, and teaming with a certified firm can help the agency achieve its small business goals while helping your business stand apart from the competition.
6. Last but not least, take note of the acquisition life-cycle. When is it the right time to approach an agency regarding a contract requirement?
The acquisition life-cycle has five key steps:
- Bona fide need – Simply put, there has to be a legitimate need from an agency before any purchasing can take place.
- Sources Sought – Also known as market research, this is one of the best times to approach a contracting official regarding an upcoming purchase. Because it is not a contract yet, you may call, email and contact the contracting officials to obtain information towards helping you to build an effective team. Also, contact the agency’s small business or OSDBU (Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization) office. These small business advocates will help you with key information and even introduce you to the program office for a possible “sole source” opportunity if you’re an 8(a) certified firm, and if the contract is less than $4 million (products and services) or less than $6 million (manufacturing).
- Acquisition set-aside – Once a contract is posted on FBO.gov, one of the first areas I look at is the “set-aside” section because every small business category is identified here. (If it has been designated for large businesses, it will say N/A or “Full and Open.”) For example, if a contract is set aside for an 8(a) small business, it will say “8(a) set aside.” If you are not certified but have the skills to fulfill the requirement, then go to the “interested vendors” section of the solicitation and seek a good teaming partner that is certified.
- Request for proposal – Also known as an RFP, these can be found on FBO.gov. There are more than 29,000 active federal opportunities posted on the site.
- Award – Remember, if you didn’t win the contract, request a formal debriefing. The debriefing allows you to get in front of the contracting officials and strengthen your opportunities next time.
Second, the following is a list of places where you can find viable teaming partner
- FBO.gov – Federal Business Opportunities is the single source of entry for most contracts over $25,000. Every contract posted offers an opportunity for an “interested party” to click on the “Interested Vendor” section of the solicitation page. Here, you will find teaming partners ranging from small to large in different geographical areas. Remember, this information is populated from your “Dynamic Small Business Search” profile, so make sure all the information is up to date.
- GSA e-Library – This is an excellent resource to learn how much the government is paying for products and services and a great place to find local teaming partners.
- FPDS-NG – The Federal Procurement Data System, Next Generation website stores all contract award history information and can help you find out who the incumbent is on an existing contract and how much the contract was previously awarded for.
- Vendor outreach and networking events – visit vipgovtcontracting.com for free events hosted by American Express OPEN, and FBO.gov to sign up to receive vendor outreach or small business event notifications. These events are sponsored nationwide and are a great venue for small businesses to meet local federal government contractors seeking local small businesses. The site also offers “best practice” advice from successful small business owners.
Are you ready to go out and find a teaming partner? Doing nothing should no longer be an option.