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Former SBA advisor Terry Budge has tips on how small businesses can be more attractive to prime contractors and federal government agencies.
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Terry Budge is the president and owner of Interlinked Resources LLC. He retired from the U.S. Small Business Administration after a 34-year career with the Federal Government. At SBA, he worked with everyone from start-ups to major corporations that are still considered small. He also worked with large prime contractors, as the auditor that reviewed their business plans to meet diversity goals.

With IRG, Terry continues to advise large businesses on how to make sure they’re giving a percentage of their subcontracting work to small and specially certified businesses. He also works closely with small businesses to help them work successfully with government activities. I thought he would have great insights for small businesses who are hoping to fill those needs.

What is the first thing a small business should do if they want to do business with the Federal Government?

There are some key issues to review. The first is how new is your business? If you are within two years of startup, then you should be working closely with the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) in your local area. If more than two years, then go to your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Both of these organizations can get you started to work with the Government and they are free. You can find them via the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.

Next, register your firm on the Systems Award Management (SAM) site at www.sam.gov. Through your PTAC contact, get a listing of federal agencies and find out which agency may have a need for your service or product. Once you have this, go to the Small Business Offices (OSDBUs) of these agencies for advice on how to deal with that particular agency. Also, seek advice from a competitor or other business that is very active in government contracting.

What is the most important step that most businesses miss?

Not being prepared to deal with the federal agency or a prime contractor before they try and bid a job. They don’t have a “Capabilities Sheet” ready and have not listed their business under the Dynamic Small Business area at www.sam.gov.

They have not done what we call going on a “fact-finding mission” to research each client to see what they need in order to qualify to do business. Start talking to these agencies before trying to bid a job. You must understand all the requirements of a government solicitation, and know that your business can meet these requirements.

What do prime contractors wish more small businesses would do?

Be prepared before coming to them to get work. Pick a prime, then go to the prime and discuss their requirements before asking for a contract (another fact-finding mission). Let them do some mentoring or provide you with guidance. Establish a relationship after you insure that they may have work for you now or in the future.

How can small businesses communicate their value to prime contractors?

Research the prime contractor first via their website and your local PTAC. Look at the types of contracts that the prime has; understand what the firm does. From that understanding, develop a good “Capabilities Sheet” on your firm, with expanded details on your company website and available as a PDF file. Always use a professional company e-mail address. Most primes will not even give you consideration if they see an address from @hotmail.com or @yahoo.com.

Give good references from other businesses you have current or past contracts with. If you cannot do this, go back to the prime and find out what is needed to deal with them either now or in the future. Be persistent. When you have prepared all the prime’s requirements, start a follow-up process through phone and email. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Polite follow-ups keep your business on their radar.

What are the top three benefits of working as a subcontractor rather than directly for the client (federal agency)?

  1. You will find it easier to communicate with a prime buyer than with a government entity, and requirements like pre- and post-award surveys, FAR requirements in the contracts, and pay system requirements will usually be less onerous.
  2. The prime contractor usually has flow-down requirements that are passed down to the small business – contract requirements that may also be levied to you. If you have a good relationship with the contractor, you will learn about other available government contract requirements.
  3. Once you start getting a track record with dealing with several primes, it certainly helps as a reference when dealing with the Government. Your experience with these prime contracts should be listed in the Dynamic Small Business area of www.sam.gov when you register and keep it updated each year.

Terry can be reached at 267-549-4689 or http://www.irgroup.net.

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