If you are running a small business, you may have in fact started that business under the auspices of providing services to the federal government via their third party contractor programs. Even more specifically, the governments interest in gaining access to small business technological expertise.
At first, the thought of working with the government can be overwhelming. After all, it is the bureaucracy and regulation of government that you are trying to get away from as a small business owner. Paradoxically, this can work in your favor. While going it alone is in fact laborious, the best segue into government contracting might be to subcontract on the back of a large business already doing contract work with the federal government.
One must remember, that large companies are not getting government contracts in general because of any particular interest group, like woman-owned businesses, but are gaining access to procurements because of their size, cost structure and known ability to complete the work. In addition to the bribing that goes on at Capitol Hill. Just kidding. That is called lobbying.
According to Cynthia Eaton, federal small business liaison officer at Verizon, “Verizon is looking for small business subcontractors to help support its efforts to federal IT services, including backbone networks, 5G wireless and professional services.” Whether you go it alone, or ride along with big business, government contracting is a win-win for both sides.
Federal agencies have their small business set-aside budgets, but due to a myriad of reasons, including the difficulty in applying, and the length of time it takes to actually receive a procurement, small businesses would just assume not go through the hassle. According to David Loines, director or the Small Business Administration’s Office of Government Contracting’s Area II Office, “The government is spending more money, but we’re seeing fewer numbers of contracts.” Well, my guess is that most of these bureaucrats, like Mr. Loines, have never worked in the private sector, let alone run a small business, so they can’t appreciate what sacrifice it takes to get involved in the government procurement process.
It would make sense that once you are registered with the government as a small business, it might be easier to first gain access as a subcontractor. Large businesses will publish outreach events, notices of sources sought, and solicitations for subcontracting work to the federal government’s subcontracting database, in an effort to locate small business subcontractors.
Take a look at this and see if any of the contracts match your areas of expertise. In addition, the subcontracting reporting requirements are significantly less than those of the primary contractor. To track compliance with subcontracting requirements, large businesses are required to submit regular subcontract reports using the Electronic Subcontract Reporting System ESRS).
You’ll need to submit reports even if you don’t have any active subcontracts for the reporting period. There are ample sites that will give you all the information you need to get started, in addition to the ESRS. The SBA and the GSA websites are your first step. If it makes business sense, you can take it from there.