Frequently asked questions
Are there rules to follow in doing business with the government?
The government spends billions of dollars each year purchasing products and services, some of which your company may be able to provide. However, doing business with the government can be a cumbersome process.
It is important to become familiar with the different policies and procedures with which vendors are expected to comply when selling to the government. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is the compilation of federal contracting principles and practices. State and local government agencies typically post their purchasing policies and practices on their own websites.
How do I find out which agencies buy products and/or services similar to mine?
The Federal Procurement Data Center reports statistics on procurement for more than 70 federal agencies. Some federal, state and local government agencies, military installations and prime contractors publish procurement directories and forecasts on their websites.
Where and how do government agencies publicize contracting opportunities and at what dollar threshold?
All federal agencies are required to publicize bidding opportunities on FedBizOpps when the purchase is expected to exceed $25,000, so anyone with Internet access can find out about these opportunities. The dollar-level requirements for state and local agencies vary, so it is important to research this on each entity's purchasing website.
Do I have to become a registered vendor with the government to win a contract?
Yes. The federal government requires the completion of a mandatory registration: the System for Award Management Registration (SAM). SAM is a free registration and must be renewed annually. Many state and local agencies require companies to become registered directly with them to be eligible vendors for contracting. This information typically can be found on individual agency websites.
What certifications does the government offer?
The federal government has socio-economic programs offering certifications for small businesses that could provide contract-bidding preferences. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) handles three certifications for federal government procurement programs: 8(a) Business Development, Woman Owned Small Business and HUBZone. While completing the above-mentioned SAM registration for federal contracting, businesses can self-certify that they are any of the following: small business, small disadvantaged business, women-owned business, veteran-owned business and service-disabled veteran-owned business.
State and local governments may offer their own certification programs. Typically, state and local certifications are Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). The certification programs offered also will be found on each government entity's website.
What resources are available to help me learn government contracting processes?
Many government agencies have in-house resources to provide contracting assistance. The General Services Administration's Office of Business Support assists businesses in determining who to market their products and services to in the federal government, and how they can get connected. The SBA provides oversight of the certification and business matchmaking programs.
The Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) are non-profit organizations created by Congress and partially funded by the Department of Defense to expand the supplier base and increase competition among government contractors, thus reducing the cost of maintaining a strong national security while generating employment and enhancing the economy.
The PTACs' role is to work with businesses to help them obtain and perform federal, state and local government contracts by educating the companies on the processes necessary for securing government contracts and by connecting businesses with government agencies seeking competitively priced products and services.
MO PTAC procurement specialists can set your business up for computerized bid matching, assist in preparing bids, provide access to procurement histories, help with various government registrations, determine if your business is eligible for special government certifications and provide one-to-one counseling in areas such as sales, finance, marketing and other general business practices.
What does it cost to use MO PTAC services?
MO PTAC provides counseling services at no cost to clients. MO PTAC offers additional training, seminars, procurement conferences and networking opportunities, as well as a bid match service. Nominal fees may be associated with some of these services.
Article originally appeared in the Kansas City Small Business Monthly. Used with permission.