by Karen Medina
When small business owners often think about selling their goods and services in the government arena, federal government often comes to mind. But some business owners may not be aware that their local city, county, college, university and school districts need area small businesses to supply them with maintenance, tires, construction, food supplies and other goods and services, especially if they are located in rural areas.
Obtaining that first contract with your local government is also a good way to get your feet wet before going after that big federal contract, which will require more paperwork, more stringent rules and regulations, and more accountability, whether you’re the prime contractor or subcontractor.
If you’re looking at tapping that first toe into government contracting or at least looking at the possibilities, here are some tips to get you started:
Do Your Homework
If you have an established business and you’re looking to win your first contract with a local or state government, do some research to see what good and services each organization is seeking. The City of Las Cruces Purchasing Section, for example, has a pamphlet on how to do business with the city and a website with a lot of great information. You can also contact each organization’s purchasing office and ask questions.
Resources Are Available to Help You Set Your Cost
One of the biggest questions that arise when submitting a proposal is: How much do I charge? You want to be competitive with your competition but you also want to make enough money to cover your costs and not lose money. If you’re unsure what to charge, contact your tax person or accountant to help give you insights on overall costs. Our sister organization, the New Mexico Small Business Development Center, a free resource for New Mexico entrepreneurs across the state, also can help you in finding those numbers. PTAP was created to help businesses become contract ready but we don’t give advice on determining what cost or price to charge for goods or services.
It’s OK to Knock on Doors
It’s OK to make appointments with purchasing departments in government organizations to introduce yourself and your company. Be aware that if the organization has open solicitations currently advertised and ‘on the street’ for which you have questions, you are not allowed to contact any other employees of the organization outside the purchasing department. You can also inquire about previous bids or requests for proposals (RFP) that have already been awarded because once an award is made, the documents become public information. Remember, too, that bid openings are open to the public. RFP closings, on the other hand, are not.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take that First Step
If you’ve never considered government contracting, you might be missing out on some great opportunities. There could be multi-year contracts available for the goods or services you provide.
PTAP is also available to look over your proposal and walk you through the process. Submitting a responsive proposal does not have to be overwhelming. It can be done.
Don’t forget: sometimes it’s easier to do business locally. So remember when looking to grow your business, don’t overlook your state and local governments.