Think paperwork and red tape. Qualifying for government contracts is the business equivalent of boot camp. But once it’s done, you’re in “the system” and can start beating those bushes for the right opportunities.
Register With the Federal Government
- Find out if you qualify as a small business. All federal agencies are required to use SBA standards for contracts directed to small businesses. You’ll need to find out the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) codes for your industry. You can connect with the SBA’s Size Standards Tool to get started. Many states, cities, and other jurisdictions, as well as public entities like airports and hospitals, use or adapt SBA’s size standards based on NAICS in their own bid solicitation processes.
- Get a D-U-N-S Number. Short for Dun & Bradstreet Number, this is a unique nine-digit ID number that will be assigned to each physical location of your business. It’s free for all businesses required to register with Uncle Sam for contracts.
- Register your business with SAM. SAM is the federal governments’ System for Award Management. It’s the main database of vendors that do business with the federal government, including contracting.
As part of the registration process with SAM, you’ll be asked to certify information about special attributes of your business’s ownership and/or location that may qualify your business for special set-asides. This includes women-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses, those owned by qualifying disadvantaged people, and those located in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone.
SAM is also a marketing engine, enabling government agencies and contractors to search for companies based on their abilities, size, location, experience, and other attributes.
If you’re interested in working with the GSA (U.S. General Services Administration), you’ll also need to obtain past performance evaluations of your company. The end result is a rating achieved through an independent audit by Open Ratings, Inc., a Dun & Bradstreet Company.
Now, You’re Ready to Work on Those IFBs
The government and other public agencies you choose to focus on for potential contracts all issue formal Invitations for Bid (IFBs). Each will have its own list of requirements that your business will need to meet to qualify for a contract. Your bids should clearly address each qualification, and emphasize the value of what your company offers. You should definitely highlight your company’s stability, along with its experience and successes in performing similar work.