Government Contract Awards

Getting a US government contract is hard work, but can quite rewarding for an ambitious small business.
Getting a US government contract is hard work, but can quite rewarding for an ambitious small business.

Government Contract Awards for Small Business

Federal contract awards are not limited to large government contractors. Small businesses can also pursue United States federal government contracts also. Indeed, there are many programs that try to assist small businesses to secure such contracts. The federal government has determined that a portion of its business is to be done with small businesses. Along with that there are programs like the SBA 8(a) and HUBZone programs, which help small businesses acquire government contracts.

The Process
Civil purchases of the US federal government above $25,000 are to be bid competitively through the Federal Business Opportunity bid process (there are exceptions). FedBizOpps.gov is the government's web site listing opportunities to do business with the federal government. There are a number of steps involved with registering to become a vendor for the federal government and to respond to the FedBizOpps listings, but these are mostly functionary. Catching these listings early is key, as developing a response packet could take a significant amount of time.

Awarding Contracts
The award process is not a simple affair. Assuring a business's compliance in submitting all that is required is a necessity and can be difficult when Request For Proposals (RFP) could be a couple of hundred or more pages long. Missing a dotted i or a crossed t can eliminate all the hard work put into a proposal. Then, after overcoming that hurdle, the award selection is not as simple as low bid. The federal government likes to use an award process called Best Value.

Best value is used to determine government contract awards by taking a number of values into account rather than simply cost. Values like past performance factors along with cost are scored and placed in an evaluation rubric to determine who can provide the government the best value. Why not low bid? The government has gotten burned by vendors who bid low to get the contract then do sub-par work or look for contract changes for more money after the awards are given.

Loyalty
One can ask with all the regulations and the sluggishness in response times, why do business with the government? The simple answer is that the contracting and purchasing personnel are very loyal to their current vendors. They do all they can to keep them working because finding new vendors is a problematic process for them. First, doing a solicitation is a significant task in the life of contracting personnel. Multiple departments have to sign-off on a RFP and then there will still be amendments that could cause problems later. Many times a RFP is just a dust-off of the previous RFP with new dates. Second, working with new vendors can be problematic. They may not be aware of reporting requirements and are unsure what information is being sought after. This will take handholding of the new vendor to get ingrained into the government process. Using a current vendor makes the life of purchasing and contracting personnel easier. Need proof? Notice most government RFPs will have an option to extend the contract on a yearly basis beyond the contract period.

Again, why bother pursuing government contracting awards? Once a business is considered a solid performer by the purchasing and contracting, they will do all they can to keep that business with them. Getting in is a long and hard process but once a business is in, they are in.

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