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How to report work provided to the government
Summary of qualifications for the WOSB program
Ways that agencies can purchase items through the GSA
Questions for potential consultants
How to get a business listed on the GSA schedule
Cardmember profile: Rudy Ruiz of Interlex
It's a huge advantage to hire a consultant who has worked as a procurement professional for the federal government or, better yet, has worked at GSA.
Randy Ruiz, Interlex
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 continues to provide opportunities for small businesses to contract with the federal government. However, the act’s mandatory reporting rules present new challenges, too. If you become a prime contractor, you will need to clearly document all work provided to the government. An online reporting tool at federalreporting.gov can help you submit the following data within 10 days after the end of each calendar quarter:
Contract and order number.
The amount of Recovery Act funds invoiced for that reporting period.
A list of significant services performed or supplies delivered, including construction, for which you submitted invoices in the calendar quarter.
A description of the overall purpose and expected outcomes of the contract, including significant deliverables and, if appropriate, associated units of measure.
An assessment of your progress toward completion of the overall project and expected outcomes (i.e., not started, less than 50 percent completed, completed 50 percent or more or fully completed).
If you use subcontractors, you also will need to collect and report the following data from your first-tier subcontractors receiving more than $25,000 in Recovery Act funds:
D-U-N-S® (Data Universal Numbering System) Number.
Subcontractor name, address and performance location.
Dollar amount of subcontract award.
Description of products or services.
Names and total compensation of the subcontractor’s most highly paid officers. (This information is required only if the subcontractor receives more than 80 percent of its annual revenues from the federal government and has more than $25 million in annual revenues from federal sources.)
For subcontracts under $25,000, you only need to report the number of first-tier subcontracts awarded in the quarter and their total dollar amount.
Qualifications for the WOSB Program have changed since the original program was announced to help decrease barriers to entry. In order to participate, a business and its owner must possess certain characteristics and follow government procedures. A summary of the qualifications include:
Participating companies must:
Be at least 51% owned, controlled and primarily managed by one or more women who are U.S. citizens. Joint ventures are eligible as long as the WOSB manages the contract and receives 51% of the profits.
Qualify under the SBA size standards. For most industries, the SBA defines a “small business” either in terms of the average number of employees over the past 12 months, or average annual receipts over the past three years. Details can be found at: sba.gov/content/table-small-business-size-standards.
Self-certify by submitting documents required by the program or be certified by a third party, including government entities and private certification groups that are approved by the SBA.
Small business certifications are like professional certifications; they document a special capability or status that will help you compete in the marketplace.
The program focuses on businesses in underrepresented and substantially underrepresented categories. To be eligible to compete in these categories, a WOSB may need to prove economic disadvantage by showing:
Income of business owner of less than $350,000 (averaged over previous three years).
Personal net worth of business owner less than $750,000.
Fair market value of all assets equaling less than $6 million.
A spouse’s finances may also be considered if the spouse has a role in the business or has loaned money, provided credit support or guaranteed a loan for the business.
The program only applies to certain contracts. Contracts must:
Not exceed $5 million for manufacturing contracts or $3 million for all other contracts.
Be in an industry category with at least two WOSBs competing for the contract.
State a price deemed to be fair and reasonable.
Be performed by a business not under the 8(a) Business Development Program.
This program was established to help small and disadvantaged businesses compete more effectively for government contracts. Learn more about the program at sba.gov/content/8a-business-development.
GSA includes two departments with separate buying needs. The Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) establishes contracts for commercial products and services, and the Public Buildings Service (PBS) establishes contracts for construction, architecture and interior design products and services. Here are four of the ways that agencies can purchase items, according to the GSA's website:
Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) are used to fulfill repetitive needs for supplies and/or services.
Contractor Team Arrangements (CTAs) are agreements in which two or more contractors join together to provide a total solution to meet an agency’s needs.
GSA Advantage! is an online shopping service for all government customers. Once a business is put on the GSA Schedule, adding company and pricing information to GSA Advantage! is a requirement. This gives the business the potential to be seen by hundreds of agencies that may be in need of its offerings.
eBuy (www.ebuy.gsa.gov) is an online system within GSA Advantage! that allows government agencies to prepare and post requests for quotes and receive responses from vendors. By receiving open requests, businesses can save time and money in finding new government contracts.
There is no legal requirement to hire someone to help prepare and negotiate your offer to GSA, but some businesses choose this route because they don’t want to dedicate their own time and resources. Because of their experience, consultants might also help avoid costly or damaging errors. To find a consultant, search online for ones that specialize in government contracting and the GSA Schedule and review lists from professional societies. Here are some questions to ask potential consultants:
Who are your current clients?
How long have you worked for these clients?
What types of services do you offer?
What was the extent of your role?
What is your success rate in helping clients get on the GSA Schedule?
May I contact your current clients for a reference?
GSA’s purpose is to provide faster contracting services at lower prices so government agencies can focus on their core missions. Getting on the GSA Schedule is a multi-step process, but the opportunities in generating new sales can more than make up the effort for many businesses.
GSA awards several types of contracts, including:
Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Program Contracts are among the largest of GSA’s purchasing agreements. Contracts are awarded to multiple vendors with similar products or services to enable more choice for government buyers. When a business has a MAS contract, it can sell to any government agency with one source instead of having separate contracts with each agency.
Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts (GWAC) are similar to the MAS program but are used exclusively for purchasing information technology solutions. For example, the 8(a) Streamlined Technology Acquisition Resources for Services (STARS) GWAC is a contract set aside to promote small business utilization for IT purchases.
Among the ways agencies can make purchases include:
Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) — fulfill repetitive needs for supplies and/or services
Contractor Team Arrangements (CTAs) — two or more contractors join together to provide a solution
GSA Advantage! an online shopping service for all government customers
eBuy an online system within GSA Advantage!
Source: GSA website, Getting on Schedule
GSA manages more than 25% of the government’s total procurement dollars and negotiates contracts that account for $40 billion of goods and services bought annually from the private sector. It also influences the management of $500 billion in government assets, including 9,300 government-owned or leased buildings and 213,000 vehicles. Following are some of the organizations that currently purchase from the GSA Schedule:
All federal and executive agencies
Most Department of Defense agencies
Government contractors authorized to spend federal dollars, such as fixed-price contractors that purchase security equipment
Some institutions, such as Howard University and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and international organizations
State and local agencies that are eligible to participate in cooperative purchasing, disaster recovery purchasing and some law enforcement purchases.
For the list of eligible GSA Schedule users, download the PDF at gsa.federalschedules.com/Resource-Center/Resources/Eligible-GSA-Schedule-Users.aspx.
To become an approved supplier under a GSA Schedule, a business must go through the application process, which can take months to complete and be approved by GSA. Once a contract is successfully negotiated, the business is assigned a GSA contract number and placed on a list of approved suppliers for that Schedule contract vehicle, which helps avoid the usual process of bidding on individual government contracts. The GSA Schedules Program is broken down by categories; for example, Schedule 66 – Scientific Equipment and Services. Businesses then use the prices listed in their GSA contracts to price orders received from agencies. This is known as the GSA Price List or GSA Advantage! Catalog/Price List
To begin, you need to identify the GSA Schedule that covers your supplies or services. Go to the GSA Schedules eLibrary (www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov/ElibMain/home.do) and see which companies sell similar products or services. Then, you will need to start filling out paperwork. For a more detailed look at the process, see the second guide in this series, Government Contracting: Getting the Most from the GSA Schedule.
by Lourdes Martin-Rosa
The Small Business Administration (SBA) strongly supports the participation of small businesses in the GSA Schedules Program. The dollar value of orders expected to be placed against GSA Schedule contracts allows government agencies to include these purchases in their acquisition base and goals.
With the government increasing its spending, agencies are seeking more small businesses to contract. Because of their small business status, those contractors on the GSA Schedule can have an edge over other small businesses because they are competing within a limited pool.
Though every government agency may purchase products and services from the GSA Schedule program, GSA is also a federal agency with its own acquisition goals. In fiscal year 2009, it was the only federal agency to meet all of its small business contracting goals. According to the SBA’s annual small business procurement score card, GSA sent 14.48% of the agency’s contracting dollars to small and disadvantaged businesses and/or 8(a) certified small businesses. That’s nearly triple its 5% goal.
GSA also more than doubled its goals for contracting with small businesses in economically depressed areas, or Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZone), by reaching 6.45% on its 3% goal, totaling over 35% of contract awards to small businesses in FY 2009.
GSA Schedule contractors’ catalogs/pricelists, GSA Advantage! and GSA eLibrary contain valuable information on a range of products and services offered by small businesses. Agencies use this information to help meet their required small business goals.
Small business GSA Schedule contractors also have the opportunity to team with larger Schedule holders. Every contract greater than $550,000 (for products/services) or $1 million (for construction services) should have a small business subcontracting plan attached to it. Since businesses are able to view the GSA Advantage Pricing Catalog, they’re more easily able to find teaming partners.
Crystal Clear Technologies (CCT) of Gulfport, Florida, is one example of a successful GSA Schedule contractor. Owned by Joseph Culbertson, a service-disabled veteran and American Express OPEN Cardmember, CCT delivers IT products and services to commercial, federal, state and local government clients.
Frustrated with the traditional method of federal contracting, Culbertson decided to pursue the GSA Schedules Program and became a GSA Schedule contractor in 2007. CCT qualified for the GSA Schedule 70 for Information Technologies and Schedule 66 for Scientific Equipment and Services. Since the GSA Schedule was awarded, CCT’s government sales have increased from $130,000 in 2007 to more than $3 million in 2009.
Another successful contractor is Bluesky Mast of Tampa, Florida, which provides multi-purpose mast systems for military and commercial uses. Bluesky owner Scott Vanover, an American Express OPEN Cardmember, realized that a mast could be an invaluable tool to assist today’s mission-critical applications.
In 2005, Bluesky acquired its GSA Schedule 84 – Total Solutions for Law Enforcement contract. Annual sales have increased from $300,000 to more than $1.78 million in 2009. “Having the Schedule contract has increased our ability to offer the federal government quicker solutions to their contract requirements,” Vanover says.
Having worked with government agencies for several years, executives at Hispanic-owned ad agency Interlex realized that getting on the GSA Schedule was key to becoming a lead contractor for the federal government. After partnering with a consultant versed in the process, Interlex, which specializes in advocacy, cause-related and corporate social marketing, succeeded in getting on the GSA Schedule in August 2009.
In the agency’s early days, Ruiz and his team started out small, working with municipal and state government agencies. “For our first foray into federal contracts, we sought out prime contractors until we felt we had the experience — a track record — to compete for national opportunities,” he says.
Realizing that the government has its own language and culture, Ruiz and his team decided to bring in a consultant to advise them on the complex GSA Schedule application process. They looked for one who could translate their marketing information into the procurement terms the government understood.
“It’s a huge advantage to hire a consultant who has worked as a procurement professional for the federal government or, better yet, has worked at GSA, because they know what the agency is really looking for,” Ruiz says. “An experienced consultant can organize your responses, submit your application and help manage the phases of additional information requests in a timely manner.”
If you decide that you want to hire a consultant, make sure you interview potential candidates and ask for references, as well as their success rates with getting other businesses on the GSA Schedule.
Interlex created a new business team to regularly study government budgets and identify upcoming opportunities with target agencies. “It’s very labor-intensive, but it’s essential to identify where we should focus our resources,” Ruiz says.
Ruiz says GSA officials will send back applications if they find discrepancies in financial statements. Businesses have only a short window to respond to these queries. “If they miss the deadline, they have to start the process all over again. Avoid these problems by having your financial records reviewed by a CPA beforehand,” he says. “This way when you begin the GSA submission process, you know your documentation is in order.”
“Working with a company that’s already on the GSA Schedule is a great way to lay the groundwork,” Ruiz says. “You can learn a lot about the documentation that GSA requires and help set expectations. Plus, the government values strong partnerships that are put together to meet their needs.”
The GSA Schedule is the preferred purchasing method for most government agencies.2 Becoming an approved supplier on the GSA Schedule can be a complex process, but the opportunities in generating new government business can help make it a worthwhile effort.
To begin, you will need to determine if your business is government contract ready. Follow these eight steps to qualify.
Before you begin working with the government, you will need a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) number, which the government uses to categorize products and services. Find your NAICS code by going to www.census.gov/eos/www/naics and selecting the code that best describes your products or services. Various government agencies and organizations use NAICS as a basis for their procurement programs, requiring that a NAICS code be provided for each good or service to be procured.
You need a Data Universal Numbering System Number (D-U-N-S) to do business with the government. This is a business identification number, used much the same way as individuals use a Social Security number. You can receive a D-U-N-S Number for free by contacting the private organization Dun & Bradstreet® at 866-705-5711 or fedgov.dnb.com/webform.
This is a free five-digit code that identifies companies seeking to do business with the government. Go to this link on Forms.gov, the government’s official hub for federal forms, www.forms.gov/bgfPortal/docDetails.do?dId=11327.
This site (www.ccr.gov) is the primary source for government agencies to learn about prospective vendors. It lets agencies search based on each vendor’s abilities, size, ownership and other parameters. In most cases, you need to be registered in the CCR to win a contract from a government agency. It also can be used for setting up your invoices to be paid electronically once you are conducting business with the government.
The government sets aside money with the intent for contracts to go to certain businesses. This includes: majority-owned and run by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; those whose primary locations are in disadvantaged urban or rural communities; majority-owned by women; or majority-owned by service-disabled veterans. Visit the Small Business Administration (SBA) site (www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/gcbd/index.html) to determine if your business qualifies.
Visit the ORCA site (http://orca.bpn.gov) to record all of your company’s required representations and certifications as referenced in step 5 so they can be accessed by government purchasing agencies.
Before applying for a GSA Schedule contract, you will need to submit a past performance form to a private contractor named Open Ratings, which is owned by Dun & Bradstreet.
GSA expects businesses on the GSA Schedule to:
Exceed $25,000 in government sales within the first two years after the contract is awarded.
Attain annual sales of $25,000 each year after that.
Once you have all the information in the previous section in order, you can follow the steps to apply for inclusion in the GSA Schedules Program:
Identify the GSA Schedule for the correct product or service.
Download the corresponding GSA Schedule solicitation from the FedBizOpps site (www.fbo.gov). FedBizOpps lists contracting opportunities over $25,000, though not all opportunities are part of the GSA Schedule.
Complete the online registration and submit your “Past Performance” report.
Prepare, complete and sign the Schedule solicitation.
GSA Schedule contracting officers will then review and evaluate your prices, discounts, terms and conditions.
The GSA Schedule contracting officer will contact you to negotiate your offer to obtain the best value for the government.
Complete negotiations and submit a final proposal revision.
The GSA Schedule contracting officer can choose to accept or reject your offer.
If accepted, you will receive a GSA Schedule contract number and a copy of your awarded contract. According to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), any company with a rejected offer may request a debriefing immediately upon notification to determine why the offer was not acceptable for award by GSA.3 If rejected, you are also allowed to appeal your contract and resubmit.
Once accepted, go to GSA Advantage!® (www.gsaadvantage.gov) to upload your pricing and company information where agencies can find it in this online shopping and ordering system.
When reviewing your contract offer, Federal Acquisition Regulations require that GSA Schedule contracting officers consider three attributes of your business to ensure that it conforms to all solicitation requirements:
Viable product or service
History of satisfactory performance
Financial resources and stability
Demonstrated that all documents were read in their entirety
All parts of the GSA Schedule proposal were filled in completely
Fair and Reasonable Pricing
Provided “most favored customer pricing”; i.e., same or better pricing than what the vendor offers its preferred customers
To become a GSA Schedule contractor, a business must first submit an offer in response to the applicable GSA Schedule solicitation. According to the GSA website, this can be done electronically or by mail.7
eOffer (www.eoffer.gsa.gov) is a secure federal government web-based application you can use to prepare and submit contract proposals electronically. eOffer can be used to propose a variety of products and services, such as training aids, human resources, photo equipment and furnishings. A full list of products and services can be found on the site.
The eOffer site offers the following benefits:
Secure electronic signatures. You can sign documents electronically and create a legally binding contract.
Streamline submission process. The site enables transmission of data to the appropriate contracting offices.
Collaborative environment. The site fosters collaboration among your team members who are working together on a proposal.
According to the eOffer site, follow these six steps to submit an electronic proposal through eOffer:
Validate your site. Go to the eOffer site so it can check that your computer has a valid digital authentication certificate. If not, you will need to purchase a digital certificate from one of GSA’s industry partners. Depending on the vendor, this costs between $90 and $119. Once your digital certificate is verified, click the sign-in button.
Complete information. Fill in all sections of the eOffer and add supporting documents, such as price lists and your D-U-N-S Number. (Note: Once the offer is submitted electronically, it is “locked” in the system until GSA completes its review. The only information that may be changed before the completion of the review is the company point of contact and/or authorized negotiator.)
Submit offer and negotiate. Once the proposal has been assigned and reviewed by a GSA contracting official, they will contact you to begin negotiations.
Wait for notification. After the negotiation process is completed, the GSA contracting official will create the contract package (all the files that will make up the final contract) and notify you.
Sign the contract. Go to eOffer and sign the contract package. An email notification is generated for the GSA contracting officer to sign the documents.
Download documents. After the contracting officer signs the documents, a notification is emailed to both you and the contracting officer. You can then go into the eOffer site and download everything.
If you prefer, you can submit a hard copy of your proposal. To do this, submit one original and one copy of the entire offer, as well as two copies of a Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Express Program Vendor Checklist, which GSA uses to complete its initial review of vendor qualifications. On the checklist, indicate:
Yes, No or Not Applicable for all items
All offered Special Item Numbers (these numbers identify GSA products/services)
That there are no exceptions to the terms and conditions of the offer
GSA prefers eOffer submissions over paper because they are less cumbersome and easier to process, and usually receive a faster response. However, some categories don’t yet offer the eOffer option, so you will need to use the paper submission in these cases.
Once submitted, it takes one to two months for the contracting officer to begin reviewing your contract. If the contracting officer has questions, he or she will email or fax those to you. After all questions are answered, the contracting officer will conduct a final negotiations call to determine your best and final offer and go over terms and conditions. The contracting officer then issues a Final Proposal Revision (FPR) letter, which contains the final terms and conditions. The letter is then signed by a company representative and sent back to the GSA contracting officer, who then awards the GSA contract.
1GSA web site, eLibrary
2GSA website, Getting on Schedule
3Federal Acquisition Regulation 15.5
4Federal Acquisition Regulation 9
5Federal Acquisition Service Policy
6GSA website, FAQs
7GSA website, Getting on Schedule
8GSA website, FAQs
Determining a price that is reasonable to GSA Schedule contracting officers and still profitable for your company can seem confusing. According to the GSA Acquisition Manual (GSAM) (https://www.acquisition.gov/gsam/gsam.html), a GSA Schedule contracting officer considers the following factors when negotiating prices:
Aggregate volume of anticipated purchases
Purchase of a minimum quantity or a pattern of historic purchases
Discounts and concessions typically offered to commercial customers
Length of the contract period
Add-ons, such as warranties or training services, included in the purchase price
Ordering and delivery practices GSA determines whether prices are fair by comparing the prices and discounts that you offer the government with the prices and discounts that you offer to commercial customers. Though the government will seek to obtain the best price, it recognizes that there may be legitimate reasons why the best price is not achieved.
According to the manual, you may still be awarded a contract containing pricing that is less favorable than the best price if the following conditions exist:
The prices offered to the government are fair and reasonable, even though comparable discounts were not negotiated.
The award is otherwise in the best interest of the government. It’s possible to negotiate price increases at a later date based on relevant economic factors.
by Lourdes Martin-Rosa
A GSA Schedule contract can help increase your contracting opportunities with government agencies. Sales under the program are increasing because purchasing from a Schedule vendor can be quicker and more cost-effective. Buyers report that pre-negotiated pricing, the efficiency of the process and reduction in paperwork are factors to the program’s success.
In fiscal year 2009, $62 billion in products and services was purchased through GSA business lines or procurement vehicles managed by GSA.1 That number could increase since Congress is currently debating whether to expand the GSA program and allow state and local governments to buy from the GSA Schedule to prepare for a disaster.2 State and local agencies are currently eligible to participate in cooperative purchasing, disaster recovery purchasing and the 1122 Program. Section 1122 of the 1994 National Defense Authorization Act established the authority for states and units of local government to purchase law enforcement equipment through federal procurement channels.
GSA Schedule contracts provide a contracting vehicle for small businesses that cannot afford to obtain more than one multiple award schedule contract. Vendors like Schedule contracts for the same reasons that federal buyers do. More specifically, the program helps reduce competition, allows vendors to avoid public bids (thereby saving vast sums in proposal development costs) and allows contractors to close a deal within weeks instead of waiting months for the awarding of a public bid.
A small business GSA Schedule vendor has an opportunity to participate in the new GSA Mentor/Protégé program (www.gsa.gov/mentorprotege). This program is designed to develop small businesses so they become better positioned to contract with GSA. The Mentor/Protégé program includes contracts awarded under GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program.
(www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov/ElibMain/home.do) as “O” (other than small), are required to submit a small business subcontracting plan with their GSA Schedule contract for final approval. This offers an opportunity for small businesses to team with larger GSA Schedule vendors. The eLibrary includes the latest GSA contract award information. Small businesses also have the opportunity to view the larger firms’ prices via GSA Advantage! so they can position themselves to become attractive teaming partners pursuing federal contracts together.
1GSA FY 2009 Annual Performance Report and FY 2011 Performance Plan
2U.S. Senate Bill 2868
After more than 10 years of lobbying in Washington, DC, Lourdes Martin-Rosa founded Government Business Solutions (http://govbizsolutions.com). With over 40 years of combined government management consulting experience, she and her team help companies succeed in acquiring certifications, GSA Schedules and winning government marketing techniques. Martin-Rosa also serves as advisor on Government Contracting for American Express OPEN.
The WOSB Program has the potential to provide new government contracting opportunities for many women-owned businesses. To qualify for the program, your business must meet multiple specific government requirements. Use the following checklist to help determine if your company is eligible.
According to the SBA, only WOSBs are eligible to participate in this program. The following three items must pertain to your business:
My business meets the government-established criteria for women-owned business including, it’s at least 51% owned by one or more women, with day‐to‐day management and long‐term decisions made by one or more women. If my business is a joint venture, I must manage the contract and I must receive at least 51% of the profits.
My business meets SBA criteria for small business. For most industries, the SBA defines a small business either in terms of the average number of employees over the past 12 months, or average annual receipts over the past three years. Size details can be found at sba.gov/content/table-small-business-size-standards.
I am competing for a contract in an industry that is designated as “underrepresented” or “substantially underrepresented.”
If competing for a contract in a North American Industry Classification System industry that is designated as “underrepresented,” business owners also must meet the following four criteria to prove they are economically disadvantaged:
My personal net worth does not exceed $750,000.
My income does not exceed $350,000 averaged over the preceding three years.
The fair market value of all my assets does not exceed $6 million.
If my spouse has a role in the business (e.g., officer or employee) and/or has a financial interest in the business, his finances will also be considered.
The companies and organizations responsible for the websites listed on this page do not necessarily endorse American Express OPEN®. Prepared for American Express OPEN by Bredin Business Information.
Learn more about Government Contracting and grow your business by leveraging additional insights, events, and more.View all resources
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