The film War Dogs (2016) told the story of two young men that were able to secure government contracts for providing the military with many guns. The movie exaggerated a few things, like a lot of “based on a true story” films produced by Hollywood, but they got the basics right. Two young men with basically no previous experience in government contracts were able to land lucrative multi-million dollar deals. These men were just average guys, and it showed a bit of the process on how simple it could be to get these contracts.
Many corporations and businesses make a living off of government contracts. The government pays good money for their services and products. And if you know anything about the United States government, they often overpay for things that most people could get accomplished much cheaper. You can see why this would be attractive to so many companies.
The United Technologies Corporation (UTC), a company currently ranked at number 50 on the most up to date Fortune 500 list, has always completed quite a bit of work for the government. They began working with the government almost 80 years ago, and have built a strong relationship with them. Originally an aerospace aviation manufacturer, UTC provided aircraft, engines, and other similar products to the United States during World War II. They continue to this day providing the government products and services with a bit more than ten percent of their total business being completed through government contracts.
Louis Chenevert, former CEO and president of UTC until his retirement in 2014, helped develop aircraft, engines, and other products that he knew the government would need. It is a billion dollar industry, so having established connections in the government is worth its weight in gold. Louis Chenevert realized it was beneficial to have a good balance of government work and having business to do with the public as well. It balances one another out so there is less of a chance of recession.
Tips for Doing Business with the Government
The United States government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the world. They literally spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year. It is very easy to see why procuring a contract with the government could be extremely lucrative for your business. However, getting your foot in the door is the problem. Once a relationship is established it will be much easier to acquire contracts, but until then, your goal should be landing that first contract.
Small businesses will often find difficulty in landing that first federal contract with the government because the government tends to use their companies that they have done business with in the past. While that certainly does not help you now, it will once you have a couple deals under your belt.
The very first step should be to register as a federal government vendor. It is called obtaining a D&B number from Dunn and Bradstreet’s website. If you follow the directions exactly, it should only take a day or two to receive your number. That number will come in handy when you register as a vendor with the federal government in the Central Contractor Registry. However, you will have to provide some pertinent information with them besides your D&B number. You will have to share your revenue numbers for the last few years, your tax identification number for your business, and perhaps a couple old tax records. But after all that is completed, it only takes a couple weeks to receive your approval.
Once this is all completed, it is time to offer your products or the services that your business can furnish. By figuring out what the federal government currently needs is quite essential. Consulting with a SBA Procurement Center Representative could definitely help you out with this. They could put you in contact with a small business specialist that will help guide you during this time. Every federal agency has a small business specialist. Set up a meeting with them in person if possible. Exchanging emails and phone calls often do not get things done. Meeting in person could help expedite the process of it all.
During this meeting, take as many notes as you can. Ask if they could put you in contact with the right person from the different federal agencies that will actually make the contracts. Make sure that they realize how important this is to your business, but at the same time, do not be overbearing or too aggressive. No one wants to do business with someone that appears to be desperate.
It may take some time to land the first contract. The government tends to move at their own pace. This is something that we all have experienced in the United States. If you are offering a product that you believe they can use, it might not be a bad idea to provide them with a couple samples that they can share with the bigwigs who make the decisions. Often times, telling them about the product is just not good enough.
You will essentially win a government contract based on the quality of the work you do or the product that you offer. Of course, competitive pricing will help as well. Many times they just go with the lowest bid as long as there is not a huge discrepancy in quality between the competing businesses. Don’t commit yourself to a contract that you will have no chance to complete. In doing so, you would be essentially eliminating yourself from future consideration for other contracts. Follow the steps carefully and do not be deterred from adding to your own business. This could be a huge boom for your small company, and taking the time to make everything perfect will ensure you future business down the road.
Read more of our thoughts on Louis here!