Realigning for Success: Tips to Elevate Your Business in 2021
Channel that New Year energy boost into improving your business’s position in the government contracting marketplace!
Last year presented major setbacks to many entrepreneurs. If you didn’t take that time to reset your business goals and immerse yourself in online training and virtual conferences, it’s not too late. Spend some time this month reviewing your business position, watching and reading latest trends, and looking for future opportunities to strengthen your capacities. Our staff gathered a few tips to get you started.
Review Your Readiness
If you are a newly minted business owner who wants to start bidding on government contracts, you must have all your general business essentials secured before diving into the government marketplace. Acquire necessary licenses, a DBA (Doing Business As) banking account (never mix your personal finances with your business affairs), and Tax ID number—you will need these to register for various procurement portals and apply for business certifications. Take some time to research industry codes relevant to your products or services, and look up past procurement purchases of similar items. Good formal record keeping is also vital for your contracting success as it establishes credit and credibility for successful money management. QuickBooks is very user-friendly software; it is inexpensive and used by thousands of startup companies. The basic version is all you need when starting out. For general business advice, reach out to your local SBDC, SCORE, or Builders’ Exchange. When you’re ready to explore government contracting opportunities, contact Norcal PTAC to speak with a Procurement Specialist.
Written by Ed Duarte, Public works/Construction Specialist, Norcal PTAC
Maintain a Professional Appearance
When breaking into the government market it’s important to have clear, informative, and compelling marketing materials and tools. Business cards, capability statements, and websites are instrumental in putting your information into the right hands, but make sure you represent yourself professionally because small things like your email handle can work for you or against you in big ways. If your personal email address is something like eatmyshorts @ gmail.com or 49ersfan @ gmail.com, you may not be taken seriously. Similarly, nothing will turn off a client faster than calling your company and having it answered by a child, spouse or someone not connected with your company operations. Set up a separate phone line for the business and use that number exclusively when conducting business. Google Voice offers a free dedicated line solution that also includes voicemail transcription via email! Make sure your website is functional, linked properly, and mobile friendly. There should be a page on your website dedicated solely to government contracting that features your DUNS number, CAGE Code, NAICS Codes, UNSPSC Codes, certification information, past performance, etc. Invest in a domain name for your website and create a corresponding email account like email@example.com. Google Sites offer free simple websites and there are many other low budget solutions online. If you need to be extremely thrifty, set up an account like johnJones@gmail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Slowly make your way into social networking, starting with Linkedin where you can connect with many Small Business Advocates and Buyers directly.
Written by Lilach Assayag, Graphics & Marketing Specialist, Norcal PTAC
Plan Ahead Strategically
Assess your business and develop actions to pursue government opportunities that fit in your wheelhouse. Complete an annual SWOT analysis to define your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Go beyond self-assessment—bring in trusted friends and business advisors to assist you with this task. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal to your company as it is today. These are the things that are in your control and things you can change. Take the view of what it would take to serve government customers. Opportunities and Threats are external to your company. These are things that you cannot control. They are based on your (and others’) observations of the business environment, customer base, competition, and market factors that affect your prospects’ ability and interest in doing business with you. List the Key Factors that you can and must do to: (1) play from your strengths, (2) address weaknesses, (3) find opportunities that offer potential for success, (4) develop ideas and actions to overcome obstacles, and (5) ensure profitability. Develop an action plan and gain acceptance from your advisory team to ensure you are working on the right things and not wasting precious resources.
Written by Lenny Bean, Procurement Specialist, Norcal PTAC
Eliminate the Competition
California allows its contracting officers and other decision makers to buy goods without having to go through the normal lowest bidder process when the purchase is less than $5,000 (tier 1) or less than $50,000 (tier 2). These are considered informal micro purchases and they allow the contracting officer to simply ask a few firms to give them quotes on a product (this process does not apply to services). The contracting officer is then free to select the best price and make the purchase. The key here is finding the contracting officers who can make micro purchases, and then finding those who are responsible for buying the products that you sell. Making contact with the right state agencies that can make micro purchases can help you get your foot in the door and yield results.
Here are four great links to help you get started. Links: (1) Find-a-SB_DVBE-Advocate, (2) List of State Departments with Approved Purchasing Authority (ca.gov), (3) PAAL Tier 1 060619.pdf, (4) PAAL Tier 2 060619.pdf. In addition, we encourage you to join our webinar on how to connect with California State agencies buyers using the SB option, on February 25 (find it on our Calendar page later this month).
Written by Thomas Burns, Procurement Specialist, Norcal PTAC
Stay Current and Visible
The government marketplace is always changing – people come and go, regulations change, processes and requirements are updated. Make sure your contact information is correct on procurement and resource portals so you receive timely notifications on regulations, bids, and training opportunities. Stay on top of trends by actively seeking out information and advice through reliable news outlets and regular meetings with business/procurement specialists. Review and complete your vendor/supplier profiles on procurement portals. Having a complete Small Business Administration (SBA) profile in their Small Dynamic Search Database, for example, will help your chances of being found by federal buyers and prime contractors looking for subcontractors to meet their small business goals. The Capabilities Narrative is what the federal buyers and prime contractors see during their search for small businesses. You may be passed over on current opportunities if you do not have this information complete. Work with your Norcal PTAC counselor to discover ways to make your business stand out above your competitors.
Written by Mary Jo Juarez, Procurement Specialist, Norcal PTAC
Consider Contracting with Caltrans
The California Department of Transportation’s (Caltrans) transportation infrastructure projects and programs could hold contracting potential for your business. The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB1) invests $54 billion over the next decade to fix California’s transportation system. Roughly half of the SB1 revenue will be spent to maintain California’s larger transportation infrastructure, the other half will go to local roads, transit, and expand pedestrian and bicycle routes. For more information on public works contracts visit the Caltrans Contractor’s Corner at DES-PPM&OE – Contractor’s Corner (ca.gov) or for Architecture and Engineering contracts visit A&E Advertisements | Caltrans and/or California eProcurement Portal. Plenty of subcontracting opportunities are available. Additionally, Caltrans small business advocates and buyers can also purchase a variety of products up to $10K via credit card payment as a part of their CalCard program. This option could be worth exploring for your business as well.
Written by Liz Brazil, Procurement Specialist, Norcal PTAC
Empower Your Woman-Owned Business
The Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) are federal certifications available for qualified woman-owned small businesses through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Each fiscal year the SBA establishes a small business goal that all federal agencies must meet. The annual goal for WOSB/EDWOSB has historically been 5%. In fiscal year 2019, WOSB/EDWOSB certified firms were awarded $26 billion in government contracts! Certification has a definite advantage for any WOSB/EDWOSB wanting to expand into government contracting. The SBA recently transitioned from self-certification to an application program (on their website below). If you are a woman-owned business, and considering breaking into the federal marketplace, you should consider getting certified to take advantage of this federal set-aside program. You can find more information about the program at beta.certify.sba.gov and click on the “Knowledge Base” tab or contact your PTAC Counselor to walk you through the application.
Written by Nanci Pigeon, Procurement Specialist, Norcal PTAC
Contract with Local Government
Did you know that in recent years local governments – cities, counties, school districts, etc. spent roughly $1.4 trillion on goods and services, exceeding the spend of the federal government? Selling to your local cities and counties is a great way to get your feet wet, and gain some past performance experience with government contracting. In many counties and cities there are also local business certification processes and preferences. Visit our Local Contracting page to find a list of procurement sites for all the counties and most of the cities in our service area. Generally, each website posts their open opportunities and you can subscribe to receive announcements. You will need to subscribe individually to each local government’s bid service. Join our upcoming Local Government Contracting webinar to discover the opportunities and requirements of the local government marketplace (specifically Shasta County and the City of Redding, CA, but the webinar will contain valuable information applicable to all local contracting).
Written by Christina Jones, Sr./Lead Procurement Specialist, Norcal PTAC
Understand State vs. Federal Marketplaces
It is important to understand how to do business with each level of government and who your target market is. If your business is only interested in local or state contracting, you shouldn’t waste your valuable time and resources obtaining federal certifications and vice versa. Know exactly what registrations and certifications you need in order to meet your contracting goals and then focus your attention on those. For State of California contracting you’ll need to register your business at www.CaleProcure.ca.gov and choose the UNSPSC Codes that best represent the products or services you sell. Your options for certifications at the state level are Small Business Enterprise (SB, SBE or SB-PW), Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE), or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). For federal contracting you’ll need to obtain a DUNS Number from www.dnb.com, register in the System for Award Management (SAM) at www.beta.sam.gov, and use NAICS (instead of UNSPSC) Codes to describe the products or services your business sells. Your options for federal certifications include Small Business or Small Disadvantaged Business (SB or SDB), Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDVOB), Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB or EDWOSB), HUBZone, and 8(a).
Written by Taylor Bowes, Assistant Program Director, Norcal PTAC
Don’t Go It Alone
If you’ve read this far then you’ve received a wealth of information and leads; now it’s time to put them all together in practice. If this feels overwhelming just remember: you don’t have to go it alone. Norcal PTAC Procurement Specialists are available for one-on-one remote sessions designed to coach you through the many obstacles of the government marketplace—all at no cost to you. If you are not yet a client, you can apply for services. If you have any questions about the process you can reach our friendly Program Coordinator at 707-267-7561 or email@example.com. “The one-on-one coaching over zoom has been priceless,” said one of our clients. “The Procurement Specialist is my “go to” person when I get stuck.” We look forward to working with you!
Written by James Forrest, Program Coordinator
Happy New Year!