Government Contracting Q/A: Getting Started
I am in the Army, I would like some information on how to get started on a government contracting business?
Thanks for contacting me personally.
You are taking the most important first step on your way to getting involved in government contracting: searching out colleagues and experts to better your understanding. I know first-hand how difficult it is to struggle at the beginning without a mentor. None of us can know everything; we must seek out the subject-matter experts and ask them for help. I am here for you.
I am a firm believer of collaborative networks for government contracting BizDev. That is the only way to augment (or in lieu of) investing hard-earned money. These mutual BizDev efforts frequently start out as reactive person-to-person info sharing amongst colleagues and friends (like you and I), and then can later become a proactive informal and formal agreement to work together for mutual benefit. It is always easier to get started together when the entities share a similar mission, scope of work, and aspirations, since both companies are on fairly equal footing. However, this can still be accomplished when one of the organizations is much larger/broader in nature than the other, and established mentor/protege formats can help individuals and small start-up companies.
The key is to be creative, innovative, aggressive in marketing, and realize that you do not have to know everything...you just have to learn where to seek the info and make the contacts with the experts who do understand the particular project. You do not have to know how spaghetti is manufactured to become a good cook, for example.
My e-book entitled 'So You Want To Be A Government Contractor' (available through the links on the side of this article) is a step-by-step guide to all the essentials that any individual or small business will need to get themselves setup and start chasing U.S. government contracts within a minimum amount of time and at the minimal cost. However, just like Techniques of Military Instruction (TMI), I want to answer your specific question, with specific semi-detailed answers. To get started on government contracting, you must:
1. Incorporate yourself or your company. I recommend Delaware, since they make it so easy to fully protect yourself, and conduct business around the USA and worldwide, without really having your office located there. You will need a Registered Agent in Delaware (since you most likely do not live there), but that can be contracted for at a very tiny yearly cost. That is the easiest part of the process. Read my book for a reference to one such Registered Agent, DelCorp, who handles all those functions.
2. Next, you need to do a little soul-searching, and quantify things such as: Who am I? What are my skillsets? What experience or past performance do I have to offer? What scope of work do I want to start out offering to the government ? What size contracts do I want to focus on initially? What location do I want to investigate opportunities in? What tools (like my e-book) will I need to learn more of the essentials? All of these elements will then form your strategic business plan.
3. You will then need to create your initial marketing tools: a company Business Plan; Capabilities Statement; a Resume for the principal Project Manager; electronic document flyers; business cards to hand out at conferences; etc. You must NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. You should build up a database of customers, industry contacts, and like-minded individuals in the government contracting sector.
4. Then you must create a company website - in my book one web hosting company I recommend is HostGator. Make sure that you use the Discount Coupon Code SYWTBAGC55.
5. You will need to create your start-up office, which can be out of your home, or some other economical location. You must be ever-mindful and conserve your startup capital until you get your business up and running.
6. You should get your company registered for government business. This starts with the Central Contractors Registry (CCR), ORCA-Certification, etc. In my book, I provide a complete step-by-step tutorial on government registrations, how to identify all the categories of business you want to pursue, and so on. Although the tutorial looks daunting because of the many steps detailed, the whole end-to-end process of federal government registrations can be accomplished from the Internet, and finished in 10-14 days (I have tutored many American & foreign companies to get them up and running in 2-weeks).
7. You should next investigate potential Small Business Funding Sources might be available to you at the Federal, State, and Local level. As a former military serviceperson, you should qualify for several (I am a military retiree, and I did likewise). I have outlined many of the small business funding sources in my SYWTBAGC book.
8. You must understand What Is A Government Contract and the Process Required. You have to do some research on topics such as: Government Procurement Categories; Contract Types; Competition Requirements; Contract Methods; Federal Business Opportunities Announcements and formats; Business Size Standards; etc. My book provides you with all of the Reference Sources for better understanding of topics not covered in the book.
9. The next step is to investigate particular Government Agencies and make contact with their respective Small Business Development Unit (SBDU). At each Agency, they will give you more arrows for your 'Knowledge Quiver', and tell you about how they announce their project opportunities. They will also tell you about their bidding process. In my SYWTBAGC e-book, I have listed almost every major Federal Agency in the entire USA, and provided the Contact Info for their SBDUs.
10. Now you are finally ready to begin searching for Contract Announcements. In my book, I inform you of how to get registered for automatic distribution lists of Federal Contract Opportunities (e.g. www.FBO.gov), so that the info will come into your mailbox on a daily/weekly basis. The more auto-lists you sign up for, the easier it is to find out about opportunities in advance.
11. My book will tell you how to prepare a typical (and strong) set of proposals, identify what key elements are needed, and how to answer-the-mail in your proposal with regard to government specifications.
The important thing is not to get discouraged by the whole start-up process. If you look at it all, you will become daunted. Instead, look at each methodical step individually, accomplish that step, and then move on.
Remember, there are government regulations at almost all federal (and most state) government agencies that mandate small business participation goals that must be achieved in awarding fiscal year contracts. As such, certain percentages of government contracts in aggregate must be awarded to the various small and disadvantaged/Minority-owned categories of businesses. Further, even when there is not a mandate to award specific government contracts to small/disadvantaged businesses acting as prime contractors, there is frequently still dollar and scope of work threshholds that trigger requirements for small/disadvantaged business participation or involvement in the open competition contracts awarded to large corporations.
Hope some of my commentary here in this e-mail helps stir your brainstorming a little. Please keep in contact and let me hear how you are progressing with your preparations for government contracting pursuits.
Michael J. Erickson
President, Aviation Management Inc., LLC (AMI)