FLGOVCON01- Getting Started In Federal Contracting - Solvability
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What do I need to know to get started as a Federal Contractor?  

  • Established business – something you are good at and realize that you might be able to sell to federal government.
  • Assume you already have business set up
  • Registered to do business in that state
  • Have credible experience and expertise

Do I just go and meet with prime contractors? 

Start talking to potential clients – most people start by talking to prime contractors who are working in that space and find out what some opportunities may be for subcontracting
Start building relationships – keep showing up – it takes a while to meet people and get momentum

Where do I go to find the basics? 

Look at Small Business Administration website (SBA.gov) and find out what kind of programs are out there
You should have all the checklist items listed under startup – but also research the government contracting area

I’m on the SBA website – is there a specific place to look?

Go to Contracting Tab, Getting Started as a contractor
Set up in SAMS at www.sam.gov– System for Award Management – register to start doing business with the government – set up a login, add company profile, list what you do, your NAICS codes, your banking information, tax ids, takes time and you are the only one that can really do it – because they are all your codes and somewhat confidential.
Select NAICS code –  North American Industry Classification System
Get a DUNS number – Data Universal Numbering System – Dun and Bradstreet has become the standard

I’ve heard I should consider being certified as a Veteran Owned Small Business – is that something I should pursue?

Those are set-aside programs that may limit competition to be among similar companies.
They may be described as certifications, statuses or TICKETS.
Some of these certifications require special procedures to complete, programs put in place to prevent people from claiming statuses that they don’t qualify for.
Examples are

  • Veteran Owned Small Business
  • Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business
  • Woman Owned Small Business
  • Hubzones – historically underutilized business zones

First you have to get registered in SAMS, then you can look at those
But you really need to offer a valued service or product, differentiate yourself, these certifications may help but they are useless if your product or service isn’t something needed.
Do some basic research to find out if you qualify to be certified under special programs such as 8A, Woman-owned, Veteran owned, service disabled veteran owned, hubzone
Complete and submit paperwork
Takes time to figure out where to go – to get credentials issued – to fill out the forms

I’ve heard I need to get a Trifold – what is that?

Capability Statement along with your own professional resume
NAICs codes
Contact Information
Your Website
About your company leadership, what you do, how you have solved problems for companies.

How do people keep all this organized?

Documents with your Tax ID, incorporation data, etc – you end up using those over and over as you complete forms.
Binder on the shelf for important information –
Need to think overall about where to save this – think about how to do with growth
Be sure to save the links and the logins

I’ve been talking to Lockheed, Raytheon and L-3 and they told me to complete the vendor information on their websites  – is that my next step?

Identify some potential prime contractors
Go onto their websites and complete Vendor Certifications
Save your logins and IDs – because you’ll need to update periodically
They will be happy for you to find a contract and add them as a subcontractor – no one really wants to do the hard work of finding complex programs.
You will have lots of forms to fill out – be sure to save as you go – may want to put key info into your own Word Document and do Cut and Paste – keep building it.
Have a clear description of what you do – that will come up over and over

How do I find out what agencies are buying my services and where?

Go to USA Spending.gov – research for similar projects and your competitors – there is a great video on you tube by Kevin Jans of Skyway Acquisition Solutions on how to use Advanced Search (http://bit.ly/TargetUSASpending)
Play around with it – sometimes I find a competitor and see how their info is organized and use that information to find similar stuff.

There is so much activity out there – it’s overwhelming!  How do I narrow it down? 

Spend some time thinking about what AGENCIES and where they are located –
I recommend that you be in a location where decision makers are – consider civilian agencies too.
Find out what your competitors or teammates are doing to qualify

Since I have a military background, should I just be looking at Department of Defense Contracts?

Biggest $ in DOD but lots of competition.
Consider whether you’ll need security clearances and how to get them.
Defense Security Services – DSS.mil

What is a GSA Schedule and how do I get one?

GSA Schedules – GSA.gov — you can pay someone to help you but they have to get the info first- just like you have to pay a recruiter but first define the job requirements.
Have to have a couple of years’ experience in the field, established pricing (billing rates) – effectively a master ordering schedule or blanket purchase order;
You have to pay fees called industrial funding fees – think of it as a commission you pay GSA that is built into your pricing.
Basically it’s a way that once you identify a potential client that they can put you on a task
Many call it a Hunting License – you still have to go out and find the customers with needs.
You have to get some work on it in the 2 years or you’ll lose it.

How do I get on one of those big contracts – like SeaPortE or AMCOM Express?

Large contracts – Bundled contracts – Agency Wide Contracts – GWACS
Usually have an “open season” where people can be added
If you aren’t on them you can’t get to the work – that is a barrier

If I do all these things, I should be able to get some work going in the next three or four months or so, right?

You can’t do all these things at once

Lots of activity over time – takes time for response, etc.

Takes time to do all of these things – especially if you are doing for the first time
Need teammates, people with govcon experience for some guidance
Take advantage of free resources where you can.

How do people get something like this going without having any money coming in?

Don’t give up your day job
Minimum 18 months
Try to get a small subcontract or consulting agreement to cover you while you work nights and weekends on growth.

What else should I do to be prepared?

Lots more bureaucracy
Have to be really good at paperwork and patience
Large opportunities
Uncertainty – funding, sequestration,
Has to be in the federal budget – not like they can just add a line under “jenny wants a contract now” –

Where can I develop relationships?

Industry Briefings
Small business liaison
Conferences- usually local to the command or decision maker
Join industry organizations
Get known by Primes: Lots of phone calls and meetings, Small Business liaisons, but you have to get to the Program managers who understand your unique capabilities and what you can bring

What do I need to know about accounting, cost and pricing?

Basic rules for federal contracting –
Defense Contract Audit Agency
Planning toward a system that will meet requirements – don’t want to revamp your entire system today based on possible future work –
Expect it will take 6 months to a year = must train your people and have documentation
You wouldn’t hire an engineer today – you’d wait until the contract starts – but you have to recruit, submit resumes, have a resume database, hiring process, DOCUMENTATION

How do I filter the advice you’ll get from other people

Ask LOTS of people
Fallacy: Don’t pay yourself, you’ll pay more in taxes – BAD advice – you can’t support your pricing if your labor is not included
Profit too low – it is – 3% to 5% — but large and longer term contracts which give stability; have to LOVE the mission
Hire a business development person – not until you have developed some work yourself or have a good idea of what to go after
Hire experts – kind of – but make sure they know government contracting – that is true of Accounting, of Proposals, etc – cheaper to get people who have already been in the industry and trained by large primes.

Don’t forget the free resources

PTAC – Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACS)  – go to SBA.gov
Florida Small Business Development Center SBDC – connected with universities – very helpful
Incubators – not that many that are federal contracting focused except with universities like UCF – look at what kind of work those contractors do – UCF is training and simulation –  Optics and Photonics (CREOL)