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How to Take Advantage of the SBA’s Women’s Procurement Program

by Guest Contributor on February 9, 2011

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Lourdes Martin-Rosa has over two decades of experience in helping small businesses navigate the government procurement landscape and serves as American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting. She recently spoke to us about what the SBA’s Women’s Procurement Program, which took effect last week, could mean for women entrepreneurs.

What does the SBA’s Women’s Procurement Program mean for women-owned businesses?

The SBA’s Women’s Procurement Program – which took effect on February 4 – is great news for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and will boost the federal government’s efforts to finally reach its procurement goal to award 5% of all contracts to WOSB.

In 2009, over $16 billion in contracts was awarded to WOSB’s, but the federal government still missed its 5% mark.

The program will permit an increase in contracting opportunities and fair competition, allowing WOSB’s to capture the full $30 billion of the federal procurement pie.

What advantages can women-owned businesses expect now that the program is in effect?

Now that the program is in effect, it will allocate contracts to WOSB’s within 83 NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) codes, giving WOSB’s within these industries an edge in government contracting.

As the federal government begins seeking WOSB’s to fulfill their federal procurement goal, WOSB’s will become an attractive commodity for teaming and subcontracting opportunities with other non-WOSB firms.

For example: if a large marketing firm (Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations are among the 83 NAICS codes) wanted to tap into the federal procurement market for the first time, they could team with a WOSB within the same industry. Both companies would share the contracting opportunity creating a win-win situation for everyone.

The WOSB wins because they have the backing and guidance of a large corporation. The federal agency wins because they’ve met their WOSB procurement goal and have a larger firm mentoring the smaller firm.

The prime contractor is the WOSB, so she will be handling all of the finances and submitting payments to the larger firm. However, in most NAICS categories the WOSB must self perform at least 51% of the contract’s value.

How many women-owned businesses are currently doing business with the federal government?

There are nearly 80,000 WOSB registered to do business with the federal government. While this does not mean that all of these WOSB’s are currently contracting with the federal government, it does mean that each of the 79,800 registered WOSB’s are eligible to apply and receive a contract.

Why should women businesses owners jump into government contracting?

The federal government is a solid business partner for any company wanting to secure a stable long-term customer. The chances of the federal government bouncing a check, paying late and/or not paying at all are very unlikely.

Most government contracts are one year contracts with 4 year options to renew, meaning woman-owned businesses will have the opportunity to win a 5-year contract.  In today’s economy, a 5-year contract represents stability, constant cash flow and an opportunity to plan and grow for any small business.

With the Women’s Procurement Program now in effect, contracting officers will be able to set aside specific federal contract requirements to be competed only among WOSB’s. The business opportunities are enormous and WOSB’s should not miss out on this opportunity.

What is your top tip for women business owners to become successful government contractors?

Doing business with the federal government is very similar to the corporate world.

Create a strong strategic marketing plan and build relationships with small business specialists, contracting officers and other key buying officials.

Similar to any corporate entity, the federal government also prefers to do business with people they like and people they trust.  Deliver a good product/service, on time and within budget and the good word will be spread quickly among the federal market.

Here are some useful tips to get started:

  1. Register your firm with the CCR
  2. View the American Express OPEN Insight Guide: Prepare Your Business for Government Sales (www.openforum.com/special-feature/insights)
  3. Do your homework:
  • Visit the SBA website to become as educated as possible about the Women’s Procurement Program and familiarize yourself with the new rules. An educated contractor is a successful contractor.
  • Build a strong Capability Statement (business resume of products/services, offerings, etc.).
  • Get to know your potential customer by visiting the agencies’ websites, learning their missions and assessing what you can offer to help them fulfill their missions.
  • Dedicate time to a variety of tasks associated with pursuing government contracts:  research, development, marketing, proposal preparations, etc.  Treat that time like a client meeting, and specifically allocate time blocks into your schedule.

Without these blocks of time, your strategy becomes a hope or wish and with inconsistent effort, it will be extremely difficult to effectively attract the new business. For example, one successful woman contractor sets up weekly time dedicated to government contracting pursuits.

Where can women go for more information and resources?

American Express OPEN and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) have embarked in a partnership to educate women-owned small businesses across the country on how they can grow their business with the federal government.

Together they created the Give Me 5 program, which offers valuable information to WOSB’s wanting to tap into the federal market. Here WOSB’s will be able to attend free webinars, download helpful information pertaining to the WOSB’s Procurement Program and learn more about regional events.

Interested business owners should also check out American Express OPEN’s Victory in Procurement (VIP) program, where they can download Insight Guides offering a wealth of guidance and education on how to become a successful government contractor. They will also find out about upcoming VIP events where they will have an opportunity to speak with experts, government advisors, federal procurement officials and fellow business owners on how to successfully navigate and WIN government contracts. These are available to everyone for free!

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Image: Alvaro Canivell via Flickr, Creative Commons

Lourdes Martin-Rosa has over two decades of experience in helping small businesses navigate the federal procurement landscape. In addition to being an American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting, she is also the president of Government Business Solutions and can be reached at lourdes [a] govbizsolutions [dot] com.

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