Last fiscal year, many agencies failed to meet their small business contracting goals, according to Data.gov.
The Administration has turned up the heat to pressure agencies to make small businesses a bigger priority.
That will affect larger companies that don’t qualify for small business set-asides. What qualities should you look for in a small business partner?
Missing small business contracting goals brings attention to the need for more small business contracts in FY13
The government as a whole came in at only 3.98 percent of its 5-percent woman-owned small business (WOSB) contracting goal in FY12. The Social Security Administration was one of the worst offenders, missing its overall goal by about six percentage points. The U.S. Department of Energy didn’t fare much better, missing its overall goal and hitting only 1.18 percent of its 5-percent WOSB goal and only 0.38 percent of its 3-percent service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) goal.
As agencies rush to make FY13 a better year, large businesses find themselves in a crunch to identify credible, process-oriented small business partners with good references and plenty of government agency past performance.
Finding the right small business partnership match
There are four key areas that make working with a small business easier and more effective:
- The right qualifications to win business — Certified small businesses with designations to win set-aside work and contract vehicles (GSA Schedule, BPAs, etc.) to make it happen
- Mature business development unit — Actively seeks opportunities for partners and leverages customer relationships and professional networks to constantly identify new business
- A partner in proposal writing — Understands and has a history of responding to and winning government contracts, including knowledge of requirements analysis, developing win themes, forming work breakdowns and calculating competitive pricing
- Past performance that resonates — Has good references and a robust portfolio of government agency work across civilian and defense organizations, with previous projects that demonstrate an understanding of government’s needs in a digital era — you need a partner who speaks the language and knows the special requirements government faces in communicating to stakeholders both internally and externally
Getting started with your potential partner
Found someone who meets the criteria above? Great! There’s nothing like identifying a potential partner who can truly bring qualifications to the table, not just a designation. Your next steps could be to work with your partner on account planning, perhaps looking at government agencies that missed a specific segment of their contracting goal (such as WOSBs) by a large margin. Check out what contract vehicles might be right to pursue opportunities through first.
In my experience, it seems a lot of teaming partners pursue opportunities in areas such as IT or healthcare but that require a communication plan or outreach activities as one of the tasks or contract line item numbers (CLINs). Enlisting a small business partner whose specialty is communication is often a good way to strengthen your proposal in such cases. That way, you can satisfy requirements and lower program risk with effective communication while helping customers promote their capabilities, gain buy-in for their initiatives and use communication to manage change through strategy, planning and execution.
Sometimes, large businesses might have the bandwidth to support a large project but need specific subject matter expertise in government, energy and environment, healthcare, small business, human capital or IT communication. This is another great example of a chance to leverage a small business partner’s niche skills.