Are you already a successful government contractor? If so, you may be ready to grow your business globally while contracting with the U.S. government abroad. Although expanding your business internationally may seem daunting, doing so via international federal contracts can help reduce common risks, such as differing payment methods or currencies, as well as language barriers with decision-makers.
Mihir Desai, founder and CEO of Dexis Consulting, shared his experiences in regards to growing globally through government contracting at the 2016 American Express OPEN for Government Contracting: Success Series event held in Washington, D.C. Dexis Consulting provides monitoring and evaluation, learning and program management and support services for the federal government abroad. According to Desai, his company has grown quickly over the past 18 months due to an increase in government contracting abroad.
Desai is no stranger to the challenges faced by small-business owners. As a child in India, he watched his mother work as a dress designer. He learned how to take a product from conception to production, and he aspired to be in business for himself. After moving to the U.S. in the early '90s to attend college, Desai founded Dexis in 2001 and has been a prime contractor for the past seven years.
“The payoffs of […] growing your business globally in general are spectacular. There are a lot of resources and government programs in place to help small businesses succeed globally," says Desai. One of the initiatives, spearheaded by President Obama to spur growth overseas, is the National Export Initiative. According to whitehouse.gov, within the first year of its launch in 2010, more than 5,500 businesses entered the overseas market. Over eighty-five percent of those businesses were small or medium-sized.
Here are a few steps Desai recommends to help you assess whether your business is ready to bid for a global federal government contract.
1. Adjust your expectations.
Not every small-business owner is ready to make the step toward a global government contract. To be successful at global government contracts, says Desai, small-business owners must be willing to have patience and take the long-term view. Expect to put in a lot of work now in the hopes of a large payoff later.
2. Evaluate your company's readiness.
Next, determine if your business is ready to go global. Ask yourself:
- Do I have something of value that I can sell overseas?
- Can I meet the global demand?
- If I am a subcontractor, is my prime contractor listening to me?
According to Desai, the barriers to the global level are more contractual than technical. Having the technical expertise to do the work is expected within the federal marketplace, but understanding the contract is generally what trips up small-business owners, says Desai. Entrepreneurs must understand the complexities of the federal government before expanding their reach globally—the risks of getting it wrong overseas are higher than when contracting inside of the U.S. Entrepreneurs must know the laws and regulations when working abroad. Having a good compliance manager on your team can be the key to your success, adds Desai.
—Mihir Desai, founder and CEO, Dexis Consulting
Desai believes that government agencies want to work with small businesses. “The government wants fresh blood. It is rooting for us. More small-business owners makes the process more competitive and improves quality," Desai explains.
3. Take advantage of online resources.
If you are serious about government contracting globally, Desai suggests looking at government agencies that specialize in your field. For example, Export.gov assists small-business owners in procuring overseas contracts and can help connect you with a buyer overseas.
Another agency is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a government agency that works to end global poverty. According to Joseph Terrazas, foreign service officer at USAID and Government Contracting: Success Series panel speaker, he believes there is room for many more. Terrazas suggests reviewing the opportunities at USAID.gov to discover how your company can support the agency's global initiatives. There are also resources on the site to help you navigate the contracting process.
4. Hire smart people.
Desai attributes his success to his staff and suggests that entrepreneurs hire people with financial, human resource and government compliance expertise, those who can support your global growth initiatives and help you navigate the complex maze of government contracting. Since working in international and potentially dangerous regions doesn't allow for mistakes, Desai believes that hiring people who are willing to speak up and solve problems is pivotal to his success as a global contractor. “CEOs should not be afraid of hiring someone who is smarter than them," he says.
For more tips on expanding your business, access Business Growth: How to Survive and Thrive, from MSNBC’s Your Business.
For more government contracting resources, visit openforum.com/governmentcontracting.