First in a three-part series.
An oft-ignored avenue to give your business a boost is to do work for the government. Just like any business, government departments and agencies have to purchase products and services for all sorts of needs.
According to James Gambarbella, deputy area director for government contracting for the Small Business Administration in San Francisco, the federal government spends about $415 billion a year on procurements. Small businesses are supposed to get about 23 percent of that. Moreover, if you own a business that provides a service, take note: Gambarbella said that 60 percent of the federal government spending in procurements over the last six years has been in the service area. In short, it can be a lucrative source of income if you do your homework.
In order to get involved with doing business with the government there are certain procedures you need to follow. Moreover, you need to register your company, provide information about it, and obtain certain certifications and/or classifications, etc.
What follows is a primer on how to evaluate your company to determine:
-- If you can do government work;
-- How to go about classifying your company: registering it, determining what classification you are, and what categories of set aside businesses you may engage in;
-- How to find out what contracts are open for bidding,
-- How to bid for contracts; and
-- Basically, what to expect as you work through the maze of doing business for the government.
To tell the story we have enlisted the help of James Gambarbella of the Small Business Administration as well as Michael Balsam, vice president product and services for Onvia, a private-sector company that assists clients in getting government contracts. Balsam has been with Onvia, which he says has 9,500 clients, since June 2001.
James Gambarbella has been in the San Francisco office of the SBA since 1999. Prior to that he was program manager in the office of government contracts for a variety of programs for the SBA in Washington, D.C. Before joining the SBA, Gambarbella was a contract officer and contract specialist for NASA and the Department of Defense. The San Francisco office of the SBA oversees SBA programs in 11 western states.
The first thing you need to do is evaluate your business. What service and/or products set do you offer and is it something that a government department or agency would need? This is important because you will need to include the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Federal Supply Classification (FSC) codes for your product or service when you bid for a contract.
What certifications do you have that are needed for you to perform your business? Is the majority owner of the business a woman, a minority, a veteran? These are important points, as government contract bidding process includes set-asides that are meant to encourage companies that are minority, women or veteran-owned to participate in bidding.
Moreover, the selection process on bids that call for set-asides have been enhanced to provide a level playing field for these companies as they compete for contracts with larger companies. Usually, if 51 percent or more of the company is owned by a woman or women, minority or minorities, a veteran or veterans, then that would satisfy the requirement of being classification as a minority-owned or women-owned or veteran-owned business.
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