Every year we go through the same cycle: requirements turn into requests, requests mature to budgets, budgets execute to spending and then we start all over again. Of the hundreds of federal organizations out there, each goes through this process at their own pace every single year. The overarching fiscal year (October through September) keeps everyone at least on the same 12 month clock.
So this begs the questions, when and how do I get started?
NOW!! Whether you are reading this in January, June or September, any month is a good time to start. Sure, some are more strategic then others. Some agencies with established programs can execute as soon as the budget is authorized by Congress. Others are developing requirements right up until their Contracting Office closes the door. As a business owner, you have to step back and then jump right in. don't wait for the Springs conferences, or Summer busy season. You have to pick up the phone, send the email, attend the networking event, respond to the request for information or whatever. The time truly is now.
The lesson to be learned is pipeline management. As many theories as there are Motivational Speakers, but from this humble blogger's experience, a methodical, disciplined approach will win out every time. I was the kid who cheered for the tortoise! The hare may get the faster car and win some flashy contracts. It's the grunt work that builds longer term stability. To each their own.
Consider this, GSA suggests having at least one full time dedicated staff for tracking and responding to government bids. Entrepreneur recommended in 2010 to budget 18-24 months to sign that first contract. Not much has changed with that timeline in the past 12 years.
The time is now. Get started and here's how:
Know Yourself - Identify your business's core strengths and competencies. Translate those product and service offerings to something the government customer has expressed interest in.
Do your research - Set up your filters in SAM.gov and read through some results. begin to pick up on the offices and agencies you keep coming back to. Are there patterns or common themes?
Pick you Responses - Do NOT try to cram your business into every requirement that comes along. Be selective and pick your responses. It takes time to develop a response, so be picky.
Read, Understand, Respond - Plan ahead and take your time. Read everything and respond how they tell you to respond.
Follow up - If a Request for Information is turned in and you do not hear anything for a month, follow up. Proposals, same thing. Contracting Officers are busy. Give them time and do not call every hour or day. Let them do their work, but follow up.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Photo by Gelgas Airlangga
Photo by cottonbro