The Journey to Government Contracting

By Sue Crotts, NC PTAC Advisor, Triad Region

When I meet with a new PTAC Client, I love to learn about their interests and goals.  For many, getting government contracts is on the top of their list.  Whether the business already has federal government contract experience, state or local experience or only private sector experience, it is my goal to help them map out a strategic plan and draft a timeline to follow on their journey to reach their goals.

I introduce a diagram of a mountain, with a path leading to the top. The path looks easy at the bottom but becomes steeper and windier closer to the top. At the top is a flag that symbolizes government contracts.  With this diagram, we look at three vehicles for getting to the top of the mountain. One is a rocket ship, another is a runner, and the third is a donkey.  It seems that the less experience a business has in government contracting, the more likely they are to be thinking of taking a rocket ship to the top.  This would actually result in missing the top entirely, so we focus on the runner, who can readily handle certain tasks and functions and vary their pace to a walk as the terrain gets more difficult.  Then we focus on the donkey, who slowly goes up the hardest section of the course to the finish.

Along the mountain path, we mark goals in sequence and assign target dates.  The early goals are achieved by the runner: Getting a DUNS Number, finding NAICS codes, completing SAM registration, and registering for bid notifications in are a few examples.  As the mountain increases in steepness, the runner slows to a walk.  They pursue Small Business Certifications, develop a capability statement, assess their web site and do market research to see who are their competitors, potential agencies for contracting, what set aside opportunities may exist and when bid opportunities will be coming up in the future. As they get closer to the top, the walker climbs onto the donkey and begins pursuing bid opportunities, which may begin with State and local governments.  One of the most challenging goals to fulfill is developing relationships with prime contractors for subcontracts and with contracting officers for prime contracts.

It is not uncommon to take a minimum of two years to get a federal contract award, though some businesses have success sooner.  A company’s resources, experience, pricing and added value impact the timeline.  I get great satisfaction from supporting businesses as they work through these various stages to reach their goals and this perspective helps them to visualize the journey ahead.  Some businesses are just beginning, and others are already riding the donkey to the top. I am there to help each step of the way to educate, navigate, adjust goals and priorities and celebrate when a Client reaches that mountain top.

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