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MED Week Begins With Government Contracting 101

In these tough economic times, federal contracting can provide the perfect opportunity for small businesses to grow and create jobs. To assist small businesses with this benefit, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) kicked off this year’s Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week conference with a plenary session on winning government contracts.

“There’s never been a better time to do business with the federal government than right now. It does take some work and planning, but it’s very feasible for your business to enter this $400 billion to $500 billion industry,” said Joseph Jordan, an SBA associate administrator of government contracting and development. “Inexperience or lack of government contracting knowledge are no longer reasons to keep you from sharing in this opportunity market.”

The session was led by John DiGiacomo, author of  Win Government Contracts for Your Small Business (Toolkit Media Group; $24.95) and James Kleckner, who works for the  Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Program at the College of DuPage Center. Sheila Thomas, director of the Small Business Administration’s Office of Program Review, also was on hand to offer advice.

DiGiacomo advised entrepreneurs about the importance of following all of the rules when bidding for contracts and giving the government exactly what it asks for. “There are no shortcuts and there’s no magic bullet. You have to follow the boxes the government wants,” he said.

He also discussed the need for entrepreneurs to be competitive in seeking opportunities even though they may be participating in set-aside programs such as the SBA’s 8(a) and HUBZone initiatives. “A lot of people think that if you’re in one of the set aside programs you don’t have to be competitive. It’s not something where they’re going to give you a contract just because you are there,” DiGiacomo warned.

Businesses must also look at which agencies are spending the most contracting dollars and on what sorts of products and services they’re spending them to identify prospective customers and determine where to direct their marketing efforts. The defense and energy departments, as well as NASA and the General Services Administration, are among the biggest spenders.

DiGiacomo and Kleckner directed attendees to Wingov.com, where they can find more detailed information about contracting opportunities and other helpful resources and provided free copies of DiGiacomo’s book.
Thomas stressed the importance of building relationships with federal buyers. On Thursday, the MBDA will host an expo at which entrepreneurs can meet buyers and begin the process of relationship building.

“You’ll get them out of their offices where they’re more relaxed, and get to network and give them your card. But more importantly, don’t let it end there. You’ve got to follow it up. It’s almost like the squeaky wheel kind of thing. You also have to network with one another,” she said. Some contracting opportunities may be too big for a single small business to handle, so firms should join forces to bid for some of the larger contracts. The conference will also include a session on forming strategic alliances.