The U.S. government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). More than $425 billion in purchases each year means plenty of opportunity for small-business contractors who wish to bid on federal contracts. In fact, federal agencies are required to target at least 23 percent of their contracts to small businesses.
The SBA offers would-be government contractors a wealth of resources. The most important is information. It’s vital that small business owners understand the standardized procedure, referred to as Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), federal agencies must use to purchase products and services. Sealed bidding, contract negotiation and other aspects of the process can be rather intimidating for the uninitiated. Business owners must also register with Central Contractor Registration (CCR), a database of companies interested in bidding on federal contracts. The SBA has detailed explanations of FAR and CCR and other resources, and it serves as a portal to their Web sites.
The SBA partners with a number of public and private sector entities to offer prospective contractors and other small business owners counseling, training and development services. These partners include SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, as well as small business, women’s business, U.S. export and veterans outreach centers. In addition, the Small Business Training Network provides an online campus that offers self-paced classes in topics that run the gamut from accounting to business planning to marketing and advertising.
Contractors also have the option of reaching out to the SBA in person. The agency maintains full-service district offices in each state.