The first step in doing business with the federal government is to get a D-U-N-S number from Dun and Bradstreet. Next, every business doing business with the federal government has to be in a database called the CCR – Central Contractor Registry. It’s clearly laid out, but it may take you awhile to complete the steps. Don’t worry, though – as soon as you start the process, you’ll get a temporary registration so that you can leave and come back to finish filling in the different screens.
One of the fields you’ll have to fill in is your North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) code(s). This is the system of classification that federal government agencies use to find businesses that provide a particular service. As well, each NAICS code tells you how big that particular type of business can get and still be considered a small business.
You may have more than one NAICS code, for example under information technology there’s a code 541-512 for systems design, and there’s another one 541-513 for system implementation. TAPE, LLC is listed in both of those. Initially there is space to register 10 codes, and you can add more later.
When you’re done with the Central Contractor Registry process, you will get a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code. This code will uniquely identify you as ONE company entity that encompasses all of your locations, divisions, etc.
We’ll talk more about CAGE codes, maintenance dates and ORCA. No, not ORCA the whale – stay tuned!
Update, February 20, 2013: The SAM website (System for Award Management) has consolidated the registration tools at CCR/FedReg, ORCA, and EPLS. To find out how to register your business in SAM, check out the podcast and presentation put together by my friends at WIPP (Women in Public Policy).
The purpose of this blog is to provide an experienced perspective to companies that are trying to do business with the federal government, amidst a very difficult economic marketplace of declining federal budgets.
Who am I to be offering this experience? I'm Bill Jaffe, a co-founder and the Senior Vice President/General Manager for TAPE, LLC. Prior to TAPE, I had more than 25 years of consulting, management and commercial executive-level industry experience, with more than 20 years in the federal sector as a program and project manager, business developer, and senior division executive.
You can read more about me on the TAPE website, but what you really need to know is that I've taken three different companies to the top 5 of the Washington Technology Fastest Growing Companies list. I've learned a thing or two about success, and I want to share them with you via this blog.
We'll cover some of the most basic steps in doing business with the federal government. We'll also look at some of the more sophisticated processes that the most successful companies are using to stay out in front.
The money is out there, but the fish won't jump in the boat
The underlying message I want you to get is that just because you're eligible to do business with the federal government, it doesn't mean they're going to start throwing money at you.
Yes, it's true that small businesses get special acquisition consideration from the government. 23% of federal contracting dollars are earmarked for small businesses, including those with the additional special status, whether it be an 8(a) business (socially and economically disadvantaged), a service-disabled veteran-owned business, a woman-owned business or a HUBZone business (located in a traditionally underutilized business area).
That's great news for small businesses, right? It is until you consider the fact that there are more than 600,000 other small businesses who qualify and are doing business with the federal government, from the guys who cut the grass on military bases to the folks who clean the offices in federal buildings, to companies providing highly sophisticated technical or engineering services.
There are many ways that people get business from the federal government, and we'll talk about them on this blog. But the bottom line is that they all DO something.
Stop trying to fill your freezer and just put some dinner on the table
Successful government contractors know who THEIR customers are, and what value they offer these customers. They don't try to catch a freezer full of fish by being everything to everybody. They hone in on their specific skill set and work to find the open bids for those related jobs.
The bonus is that you no longer have to think about those other 600,000 businesses as your competitors. In reality, there are only a small percentage of them who are competing for the same contracts that you are.
Instead of thinking about doing business with "the government," pare that down to ask: Who is your actual customer?
Once you're clear about that, we can get down to the work of how to do business with them.