Recognizing that government contracting represents an enormous growth opportunity for our small business customers, American Express OPEN, along with Business Matchmaking, Women Impacting Public Policy, and SCORE have been producing a series of events to help educate business owners - from novice through experienced levels - navigate and succeed in government contracting.
Our first event was in March in New York City (visit openforum.com/governmentcontracting for video from the event's sessions); our next event will be in the Fall.
These events offer educational tracks that include what government contracting is and how to tap into the more than $500 billion the U.S. government spends each year (23 percent of which is required to be fulfilled by small businesses), how teaming with other small businesses or even corporations can help you secure larger government contracts, and other steps you should take toward winning contracts, like registering on the GSA Schedule.
The General Services Administration, or GSA, is the federal government's purchasing agent, streamlining the buying process for government agencies and ensuring they get the best value for their money. The GSA secures long-term contracts with commercial businesses pre-approved to provide products and services at established rates. Through the GSA schedule, you have an opportunity to win business from the agencies that rely on it, which can lead to increased revenue. Dr. Garnett Newcombe, founder and CEO of the California-based job training and placement agency Human Potential Consultants (HPC), found that the GSA Schedule helped her gain a 6 percent increase in federal contracts - to approximately $3.5 million.
"I registered on the GSA schedule approximately 5 years ago, but didn't really pursue opportunities until I learned through the Make Mine a Million $ Business program just how much this could help me build my business. That was in 2006, and since then, it's been a steady increase."Getting on the GSA Schedule can also help save your business time. It may take more time up front to become registered, but once registered, you can save time with established pricing versus traditional bidding and when it comes to issuing contracts (14 days compared to an average of 268 days for a conventional government contract). Plus, schedule contracts last as long as five years, with up to three five-year options to renew, giving you up to 20 years on the Schedule.
"It is time-consuming to complete the registration, but it's not difficult," Dr. Newcombe said. "And I find it very helpful. Deciding what you want to offer helps you focus your strengths. I recommend to anyone registering to do it themselves, rather than hiring an agency to do it."
If you're still not convinced that your business could benefit, think about the $40 billion of goods and services bought and sold annually through GSA, including advertising, automotive equipment, building materials, computer hardware and software, management consulting, medical and pharmaceutical supplies, office supplies and furniture, and staffing, among others.
For a full list of the 44 categories of products and services, visit GSA's eLibrary site (www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov), which also includes a listing of contractors on the GSA Schedule - 80 percent of whom are small businesses.To learn more about the GSA Schedule and steps toward registering, read these Insight Guides: "GSA Schedule: A Tool to Help Win Government Contracts" available at openforum.com/governmentcontracts.
You can also learn more about government contracting at OPEN for Government Contracts: Victory in Procurement (VIP) for Small Business.
For more information on our partners in the VIP program, you can visit: Business Matchmaking, SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business", and Women Impacting Public Policy.