You DO NOT have to have a consultant!!
All too often marketing and advertising leads company owners in this world to think they must have a consultant to be successful. Hard stop. You DO NOT have to have a consultant. There are several resources available for no cost. You do not have to pay in order to play.
First, the web. Government information is taxpayer information. Many sites are available with various levels of detail about an amazing amount of procurement information. The fee links below are all TOTALLY FREE!!
In a previous blog I discussed the move to beta.sam.gov. Mixed reviews of the new government site so far but it is the consolidation of multiple government sites. Plus it's the default publication site for solicitations now.
Federal Procurement Data System - Next Generation (FPDS) is another great site for historical research.
USA Spending is another way to visualize how our tax dollars are spent.
Small Business Data and Trends is and SBA site that has great NAICS information and spending patterns.
The annual SBA Scorecard shows how each agency is meeting their small business objectives. This can be useful when doing your strategic planning.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great source when looking for salary details for services contracts. Yes, SCA Rates are good but this will show what the competitive rates are by field and geography.
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) - these are physical offices that are also commonly overlapping with local business centers. Their primary objective is to help local companies navigate commerce in general. The PTAC office might be combined with your city, town or even state business resource center. Some local universities also have business outreach resources and expertise. The people staffing these centers are typically local business owners themselves. Quite often they are on stipend or salary, but are not consultants that you have to pay for. They are experts in their fields or have knowledge of the particular area they provide assistance. Your "user experience" will vary from office to office but from personal experience these are professionals who have good intent, access to a wealth of information and can help you make connections. Again, they are free of charge. I recommend using them as a sounding board and jumping off point. Do not expect them to hand you contracts or do the legwork for you. That is not their role.
Small Business Advocates - the Small Business Administration is an independent agency that does not report to anyone other than the President. From a government perspective perspective they are your advocates. They ensure the interest and importance of small businesses are not lost. The mechanism by which they do this is small business utilization. Each agency and even down to the contract office level are graded on how well they use small businesses. Each of the major categories are tracked. For example Minority-Owned, Woman-Owned, Veteran-Owned and HUB Zone. The small business administration produces a report every year showing how well each agency it's small business objectives. Certain thresholds are defined by law, but for the most part agencies drive to improve about that number. The SBA is a wonderful resource whether you end up doing business with the government or stay in the commercial sector. Their resources are free and most are accessible online.
Separate from the SBA, most units or organizations have small business advocates or small business utilization offices. These offices are staffed by employees of that specific agency. I like to think of these people as wearing the same hat as the customers you are dealing with. Their objectives are to be a conduit between small businesses and their own agencies contracting officers. Contracting officers must meet their small business utilization objectives. If the contracting officers do not have enough small business participation or quotes for their requirements, it is almost impossible for that contracting officer to meet their objectives. Small business utilization offices serve as a gathering point and initial point of contact conducting outreach two small businesses. They are a wonderful resource matchmaker for you to meet contracting officers.
Navigating these waters can prove challenging. The infrastructure is there to help make you successful...but no one is going to do it for you. Multiple offices for each customer are motivated by law and regulation to work with you or companies like yours. You just have to spend the time and effort to find them.