What is the best strategy for getting involved with bidding for government contracts?

The short answer is: Get on someone’s team! How do you do that? Most, if not all, federal government opportunities are advertised in FedBizOps (fbo.gov), where architects can find all sorts of opportunities to pursue federal government work. The federal government issues many RFPs requests for proposals (RFPs) for contracts that are “small business set-asides,” which are good opportunities for small firms wishing to break into government work. Some of these are single projects, but many are also termed “indefinite delivery indefinite quantity” (IDIQ) contracts, where a firm can perform multiple “task order” projects over a period of 5 years.

Other teaming opportunities for government work include “design build” work, where you join a general contractor’s team for a project; or, as a small business, large architectural firms pursuing large projects often need to fulfill their small business plan requirements by hiring small consulting firms. Small architectural firms are ideal, local partners when the large firm is not located where the project is located. Government agencies will advertise “industry days,” intended to be networking events for teaming opportunities. FedBizOps even has a tab entitled “vendor collaboration” to encourage this involvement.

Most government projects are competitively bid and require a strong focus on cost control and efficiency.

This is a highly competitive marketplace that requires dedicated resources and a knack for making money. If a business is going to make a strategic commitment, they should consider dedicating resources to play in this environment. There are couple of reasons:

  • • Level of detail/Paperwork intensity—There are so many more requirements than a typical commercial project.
  • • Level of hierarchy—Depending on the project and customer, a contractor may be detailing with the end user, designer of record, construction manager, inspecting agencies, etc.
  • • Timelines—People get lulled to sleep on projects like this—they see months of mobilization and forget that mobilizing means more than setting up a trailer and moving earth.

Once again, this is an effective hedging strategy, but it requires a deep understanding of the risks, patience and a perseverance on issues. There is no room for passivity. It is imperative that the entire team—internal and external trade partners—communicate and understand every aspect of the project.

Large and small businesses interested in contracting opportunities with the army should start by registering with the System for Award Management website (sam.gov). Also, they should obtain a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number for identifying their business entity and a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code. Registration should be public and accurately reflect your business. Make sure to include the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) categories in which you are working.

The Mission and Installation Contracting Command actively seeks out small businesses to participate in the acquisition process as governed by federal acquisition policy. Work with the SBA to ensure your information is available on its Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS) and is accurate and updated. Set-asides are key for a new business hoping to compete in government bids. Check eligibility for historically underutilized business zone small business and 8(a) certifications. Your SAM and DSBS profiles should match perfectly. Monitor the Federal Business Opportunities website (fbo.gov) and other websites for your local contracting offices. A list of potential opportunities could give your company insight into upcoming opportunities.