Imagine a scene from Gulliver’s travels. The Lilliputians (ahem… small businesses) manage to capture Gulliver (the Federal Government) by banding together and tying him down. Individually, no small Lilliputian would have been able to capture the giant Gulliver, but by working together they do. A fanciful image, I know—and maybe you don’t see your business as “Lilliputian”—I meant no disrespect. But it’s the best metaphor I can come up with to convey the leverage that business teaming brings to small businesses.
What is Business Teaming?
“Business teaming” is a powerful technique in the area of government contracting. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: you team up with other businesses to go after, win and deliver government contracts.
The parties in a business teaming arrangement probably wouldn’t be able to secure the government contract on their own. Usually it’s a case where each one is missing some of the pieces needed to win the bid and deliver the contract. Perhaps the business doesn’t have enough staff or enough diversification to deliver the entire contract commitment. But by teaming together, all the missing pieces are brought together.
Teaming is especially powerful if you are new to government contracting. By teaming, you can learn the ropes from another party that is more experienced with government contracts. You also get your foot in the door and gain credibility that later you may be able to translate into contracts that you win on your own.
Business teaming was one of the topics discussed in some depth a few weeks ago at an event I attended called Victory in Procurement, put on by American Express OPEN. Judging from how often the speakers mentioned teaming, and how many teaming questions I observed being asked of the SCORE volunteers at the event, business teaming is a very popular strategy for small businesses to win government business.
What Business Teaming is NOT
You’ve probably heard of small businesses being subcontractors to participate in government contracts. Usually it’s with much larger corporations as the prime contractors.
Subcontracting in one sense could be considered a form of business teaming, I suppose. After all, subcontracting involves one or more businesses working together on a contract.
But business teaming more often describes two or more businesses that band together and bid on a contract to deliver different parts of it on more of an equal footing, not as subs. The dynamic is different from that of subcontractor to a prime contractor. There are even contractual and legal differences when it comes to your relationship with the Federal government and the other parties in a teaming arrangement, versus a subcontract.
Nor is business teaming about being a pass-through where you are asked to participate but add no value, says Theresa Daytner, CEO of Daytner Construction Group, in this video. Teaming implies taking charge of growing your business. Think long term and think about where you want to be in 5 years – you want to develop relationships and build on them. That’s where the power of a teaming strategy comes in.
So let’s assume you are as intrigued as I am about this concept of teaming, and you decide you want to find some teaming partners to go after those government contracts you’re sure will propel your business to the next level. How do you identify teaming partners?
Two teaming resources that I learned about at the Victory in Procurement event are excellent places to begin:
BusinessMatchMaking.com – This initiative features events, workshops and seminars that help businesses connect with government buyers. Be sure to get your business registered in the Small Business Directory, and check out the Buyer’s Portal for Federal, state and local government buyers.
TeamingUSA.com – This website is designed specifically to help small businesses find and connect with teaming partners. Be sure to set up your online profile. Then start searching for partners.
And if you want to learn more about how to go about teaming, please check out:
Team to Help Win Government Contracts -- This is a PDF ebook that OPEN has created which you can download. It’s a good starting point giving you an overview of business teaming. (Each of the participants at the event received a hard copy of this and some other Insight Guides – my copy is pictured.)
Please also see my earlier report from the Victory in Procurement event – it will put your approach to government contracting in context: Government Contracting Doesn’t Have to Be Mysterious – 3 Steps to Success.