Expert Advice

Doing Business with the Federal Government

Key areas a small business needs to establish before entering the federal government marketplace.
By Nanci R. Pigeon

The U.S. Government is the world’s largest buyer, spending over $500 billion a year in goods and services.  The Small Business Administration sets a goal each fiscal year to set aside a percentage of the government’s spend to small businesses. In fiscal year 2020, the SBA’s small business goal was 23%. The government exceeded that goal and awarded 25.6% of total dollars to small businesses for a total of $143.6 billion. 

Each year the government needs more small businesses like yours to enter the marketplace to renew the pool of opportunities available, especially as some small businesses mature and become large businesses. New businesses also introduce new products and services to the marketplace which help the economy and ensure a strong industrial base.

It is the mission of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers to help small businesses enter and compete in the government marketplace. 

But, doing business with the Federal Government isn’t easy. You and your small business need to make sure you’re prepared to enter into this very competitive market. 

Four key areas a small business needs to establish before entering the federal government marketplace.  

  1. Have an established business that meets all regulatory and licensing requirements with state and local governments. In addition, insurance and, where required, surety bonding are essential if you plan to do business with government agencies.

  2. Have a business plan that includes and addresses specifics for the business to enter the government marketplace. This will require doing market research and analysis to determine if the government buys the product or service your business sells and including those results in your business plan.

  3. Have an established business with a history of sales and performance. You should be comfortable with conducting business in your industry on a commercial level as well as have a solid record of performance. Once established on the commercial level, next consider doing business with local and state government agencies to build up confidence and experience prior to jumping into the federal arena.  

  4. Have sufficient financial resources and cash flow to handle current obligations as well as those encountered under a government contract. Government agencies do not pay in advance or ‘finance’ contract awards. It can take up to 45 days or longer to receive payment from the government after receipt of goods or services. 


Market research to focus your efforts

Once your business meets these criteria, and you’re ready for the federal marketplace, it’s time to do additional market research to focus your efforts. 

The federal marketplace is very large and it is best to hone in on the agencies that routinely purchase the products or services your business sells. It is a waste of your time and money to market to agencies that don’t buy the products or services of your business. 

Once you know the agencies to market to, you’ll want to market yourself to their small business specialists, review their forecast of opportunities and search for their current solicitations in Contract Opportunities. If the solicitations seem to be more than you are comfortable performing on, a good option for gaining experience and building your federal profile is to look for subcontracting opportunities or teaming/venture opportunities.


PTACs are here to help you 

PTACs help small businesses like yours do business with the federal government. PTACs offer a full spectrum of services such as determining readiness for government contracting, help registering to be a government entity, small business and socio-economic certifications, bid matching services, solicitation review and bid/proposal reviews and help with contract administration.


Outreach events are a terrific way for small businesses to meet with government agencies. These events allow your business to market themselves in real time with an agency that is looking to purchase your products/services. 

Start Today

Norcal PTAC is hosting a Virtual Gov2Biz Matchmaker on July 20. 

This unique opportunity allows you to meet virtually with government agency buyers and representatives, as well as large prime contractors.  Each business that registers will have the chance to request one-on-one meetings with government agencies and prime contractors based on percentage match fits, calculated by sophisticated matchmaking software.

Before the event, Norcal PTAC is offering pre-matchmaker webinars to help you prepare to meet the agencies/primes you are matched with. 

Are you a small business owner or government agency interested in this opportunity?  Click here to register today for pre-event webinars and the Matchmaker.