Women-owned Business & the Feds: Teaming for Success

by Guest Contributor on July 22, 2011

AgreementsIn October 2010, after 10 years of trying and waiting, women-owned businesses nationwide finally celebrated when the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the passing of the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Program, also known as the 8(m) program.

With this program, the U.S. government acknowledged the important role that WOSBs play in federal contracting and the nation’s economy.

While the program is still in its infancy (it went into effect in February 2011) and isn’t yet perfect (it is limited to 83 industries), it is nonetheless a great accomplishment that provides untold opportunities for WOSBs. The federal government has finally been given the tools to set-aside procurement opportunities for certified WOSBs and Economically-Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSB).

The reality is that the much-anticipated rule comes at a time of shrinking budgets and the trend of contract consolidation. This trend responds to the administrative burden of unbundling of larger procurements to create opportunities for small businesses.

The end result is, in fact, fewer opportunities for small businesses.

A key strategy for business owners to overcome this challenge is teaming. 

Teaming is when a business works together with other companies that compliment or increase its capabilities and/or offerings. With enhanced services comes an increase in capacity for the type or amount of work that may be undertaken.

Plus, business owners who team up win 50% more contracts – according to an American Express OPEN survey of government contractors.

For example: You own a successful construction company, and you learn that the federal agency you are targeting no longer contracts for construction services separately but now requires design/build services. Teaming provides another road to take.

Instead of walking away from an opportunity, if you team with a design firm, the team now can respond to requirements for design/build services. Maybe you simply would like to undertake requirements that are outside of your financial capability or an interesting opportunity has arisen in a geographic location outside of your service area. Once again, teaming can be the solution.

The new WOSB program now joins the other certification programs as an important teaming consideration. These certifications create targeted opportunities, and teaming with a certified firm creates more opportunities for your firm.

Teaming basics

Common teaming arrangements include:

  • Partnership
  • Joint Venture
  • Mentor/Protégé
  • Contract Teaming Arrangement
  • Contractor/Sub-Contractor

1. Get ready for teaming by identifying what you bring to the table and be up front about your weaknesses.

Consider the following:

  • Unique skills, goods or services
  • Key contacts or established relationships
  • Financial stability/capital
  • Past performance and experience
  • Key personnel
  • Bonding capacity
  • Equipment
  • Certifications

2. Check out potential teaming partners – visit TeamingUSA.com to search for potential partners across industries and geographies.

Factors to consider:

  • Financial status
  • Past performance
  • Industry reputation
  • Dependability
  • Certifications

3. Once you’ve identified a potential partner, ask yourself these two important questions:

  • Are the core capabilities of this potential partner compatible with your core capabilities?
  • Is there a demand for what the team will offer?

4. Clearly define team roles:

  • How will the team respond to opportunities?
  • Who will serve as point of contact for the government?
  • What work will each team member be responsible for?
  • Who will do the invoicing?
  • How will payments be received?
  • How will payments be distributed?
  • How will the team respond to any problems?

5. Put it in writing:

  • Be clear
  • Be specific
  • If dealing with any proprietary information, include non-disclosure provisions

For WOSBs, the first order of business is to get certified. Business owners can go to www.sba.gov  and complete the online process.  While the 2007 Survey of Business Owners indicates that there are 7.8 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., less than 100,000 are registered to do business with the federal government. 

The time for WOSBs is now.

Image: Feri Macfričkins via Flickr, Creative Commons

Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, an attorney and former OSDBU Director for the U.S. Department of Transportation serves as an American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming and is also the President of her own federal procurement consulting firm, the KMJ Company.

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