Going After the Government

How—and why—to get into government contracting.

If your company isn’t already doing business with the government, you might want to think about changing that.

“The government is another avenue for increasing the revenue and success of your business,” says Dan Telep, a procurement specialist at the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center (FPTAC), located at Florida Gulf Coast University. “The federal government is the largest purchaser of supplies and services in the country. No matter what product or service you provide, a government entity will buy it.”

Telep says any company with a product or service to sell should consider doing business with the government, whether they’re a small or large firm, a mature business or a newer venture. And the federal government isn’t the only option. State and local governments make all kinds of purchases as well. “The opportunities are unlimited,” he says.

 

Want to get started?

Here are Telep’s top tips.

Register, register, register. After a company has a Dun and Bradstreet number (from dandb.com), a federal tax identification number (from irs.gov), and a Florida county business license, it needs to register at the federal government’s System for Award Management (sam.gov), then search the Federal Business Opportunities site (fbo. gov) for federal government contracting opportunities.

To do business with the state of Florida, a company needs to register with MyFloridaMarketPlace, the state’s eProcurement system, to learn about contracting opportunities. County and city government opportunities are found through local contracting offices.

Look for diversity opportunities. Veteran-owned, woman-owned and minority-owned businesses have access to specific contracting opportunities set aside for certain socio-economic categories. So if your business falls into one or more of those categories, make sure to register and certify it as such at SAM and MyFloridaMarketPlace.

Ask for help. The FPTAC at Florida Gulf Coast University offers free counseling and advice on government contracting. Over last 16 years, Telep—a retired U.S. Navy Reserve Supply Corps commander and former federal government contracting officer— has helped businesses get more than $254 million in contracts.

A company can contact the center and set up an in-person session with Telep or talk with him by phone or email. “I’ll do whatever they want,” he says. “After they find an opportunity, we help them with the technical proposals and the pricing to be successful. I help them streamline the process. The company is the expert in their product or service, but they haven’t been dealing with government paperwork for the last 44 years. I have.”

Follow instructions. Telep has seen many a bid fail because of a forgotten signature or information that wasn’t presented in the way desired by the government entity. When bidding for a government contract, a business must follow instructions to the letter. If not, they’ll be passed over, no matter how good their product or bid is. “Contract offices don’t have the time to coach somebody on how to fill out the paperwork,” says Telep.

Master the general process, but understand the differences. There are basic similarities in government contracting among the different agencies and levels of government. “But from my experience, every agency has got their uniqueness,” says Telep. So a bid for architecture services for an Army Corps of Engineers project, for example, will have different guidelines and requirements than a bid for handling the landscaping at an airport or other government facility.

Different government entities also operate under different budget cycles. For the federal government, the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. For the state of Florida, it starts July 1. Local governments might use either of those dates or operate by the calendar year. “Once a client says what they want to sell and who they want to target, I tell them they’ve got to be aware of budget cycles,” says Telep. One plus for Florida companies: Lots of federal and state contracting opportunities become available after high season has ended here, a time of year that can be slower for Florida businesses.

Don’t give up. If one bid isn’t successful, keep trying. “There have been people who call me once after they first register and never call me again,” says Telep. “But then some people call me every time they bid on something. You’ve got to have some enthusiasm or determination to win.”