By Cindy Bates
On my way home from the office late last week I heard an interesting story on NPR about why women lag in winning government contracts. I paused to turn up the volume because the host was speaking about two of my favorite topics – successful women in business and unique business opportunities. While listening, I found one statistic particularly jarring: In the 20 years since the government set a goal of awarding five percent of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses, it has never met that goal.
I’ve met with countless SMB owners who have earned federal contracts and I know the impact it can give a business – opening doors, building connections and fast-tracking growth. The question is how can we help level the playing field for women who now comprise a third of all U.S. small business owners? Below, I’ve listed five practical tips to offer women a jumpstart on taking their businesses to the next level.
• Start locally – Find the military bases and government agencies in your area and ask what products they’ve purchased before and who does the purchasing. Once you’ve made that determination, PTACs (Procurement Technical Assistance Centers) as well as SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers) are the best resources locally for all of the “How–Tos”. (more…)
As you continue building your one-page business Capability Statement, remember that your primary goal is demonstrating your best value and creating lasting impressions, i.e., branding your business. Secondly, target reducing the amount of time that buyers will need to research your company by highlighting key information about your capabilities, products and services. Provide critical need-to-know information up front, make it easy to read and, always remember that more is not necessarily better, never over-embellish and, leave nothing to interpretation!
So, after completing your “What sets (your company name) apart from the competition” section, focus on demonstrating how you are “qualified” to offer/sell your products or services to government agencies (federal, state or local) and/or their authorized prime contractors. In my example, I have chosen “products” rather than “services” but you can merely substitute the appropriate information for whatever it is that your company offers. As stated above, making the buyers’ job easier is one of our main goals, so in this section include specific information about your company that gets that job done. (more…)
Do you know the difference between being responsive and being responsible? When it comes to government contracting, you have to be both.
Being responsive means giving the government exactly what it wants. When a government buying agency invites vendors to submit a bid, it has very specific requirements in mind. If the agency is looking for paper drinking cups, don’t submit a bid for plastic cups, even if you think the plastic ones would be better.
If the government wants the cups shipped in quantities of one hundred packaged in poly bags, don’t propose to send batches of five hundred in cardboard cartons. The time to offer alternatives is before the invitation to bid is issued. (more…)
Anyone who has invested hours of time and precious manpower into writing a proposal – and has not been successful in winning the contract award — knows the frustration involved. You wonder what you did wrong, what you did right, and what you should do differently next time. Sometimes it just takes a few tries before you’re able to get your foot in the door, but there are steps you can take to better position yourself for when the next time rolls around.
The first thing you should do is ask the buyer for a debriefing to provide you with an overview of your unsuccessful proposal’s strengths and weaknesses. If possible, arrange for a face-to-face meeting so you can ask questions; otherwise, request a written report. When you’re working on your next submission, take all the feedback you receive to heart.
Proposal preparation takes a lot of time and effort, and you want to expend your energies wisely. Assign someone the task of searching for opportunities and have a mechanism in place to quickly determine if the opportunity is right for your company. Only go after work that you know your company can handle well, and that includes having the time and resources to prepare a winning proposal as well as being able to meet both the specifications and the schedule. (more…)
I have been writing about building a one-page Capability Statement for your business to optimize your marketing strategy. Personally, I consider it a “best practice” for branding your business and creating solid lasting impressions. As mentioned previously, there’s nothing “sacred” about my format or content. Both are merely based on personal preferences from my experience with government/prime contractor procurement. Keep them simple and easy to read. Besides conveying the limited amount of information on a business card, it needs to clearly set you apart from your competition.
I suggested that using a logo is good, but it’s wise to keep it small to conserve valuable space. Underneath the logo, I added “the usual” general contact information followed by a concise (3-4 sentences) “Capabilities Statement”. This is where you begin branding your business. Always highlight your business type, describe what exactly it is that you “bring to the table”, value-added and, years of experience. How you state it though is critical. You want it to trigger the reader’s interest to keep him/her reading! (more…)