On Wednesday, August 14th, NASA Small Business Specialists and Liaisons from large prime contractors came to Lawrence to connect with small businesses and to inform and inspire Kansas entrepreneurs and educators about small business contracting opportunities on large government jobs, particularly focusing on NASA Procurement. It was an interesting and educational day!
Examples of needs that were discussed are general R & D, engineering, resource development, robotics, calibration, custom software, communications systems, multi-media, machining, facilities management, pest control, protective services and human resources.
A few themes that were emphasized at the event are that the demands and locations are diverse, sub-contracting is the main avenue for small business involvement on large jobs, and that contracting requires long-term effort. Given the effort and difficulties that can be involved, being a sub is nevertheless rewarding for many small businesses because it gives them access to big jobs and because they gain experience, contacts and opportunities to grow their companies – and in some cases for their companies to be acquired. For small businesses, interested in pursuing work on large government jobs, here are some tips.
Tips for Small Businesses:
(1) Know your capabilities and where they end. Be very specific. Do not bid for jobs that you don’t have the capability to perform well and know ahead of time what assistance you might need. Be prepared to demonstrate prior experience. Do not lie. It is in your interest to get good performance ratings if you accept government contracts.
(2) Monitor your cash flow and profitability to make sure that you are financially stable. A large prime will review your financial records because it will want to know that you are not going to run into cash flow problems that would block timely performance of your expected functions.
(4) Utilize your Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Work with a PTAC Advisor to get set up in SAM and other systems, to keep your registrations up-to-date, to prepare your capability statement and to help you look for potential opportunities. Attend PTAC contracting workshops and networking events. Learn more about Kansas PTAC GoTopeka Office, Johnson County Community College Office and Wichita State University Office.
(5) Learn more about sub-contracting through the SBA Contracting Guide or through an SBA Business Opportunity Specialist. Attend SBA contracting and networking events. Learn about SBA Wichita District Office and Kansas City District Office events and services.
(6) Do your research and make connections. For example, read acquisitions forecasts, go to www.fbo.gov, check agency websites, etc. Look for networking events hosted by government contracting agencies and installations.
(7) Before reaching out to a large prime’s Small Business Liaison to request a courtesy visit, do research on the company. If you can, talk with other subs about what companies are good to work for. Checkout the company’s website and learn about their products, technologies and services. Learn about their needs and other interests. Many large prime contracts are also looking for innovations that they can acquire and/or move forward along with.
(8) If you are able to schedule a meeting, show up early and prepared. Know what you are pursuing. In preparing your Capability Statement and other materials, make sure that your capabilities and NAICS code(s) align with the needed services.
(9) Understand the length of contracting relationships. Most contracts last for several years and, so, though there may not be one opening up right away for which you are the right fit, once you have one, the work will last a while.
(10) Keep open channels of communication and be responsive to the large prime’s demands. Don’t think that once you have a contract, you can go off in your own direction. Be prepared for a prime contractor to be demanding, even monopolizing, of your time and energy.
(11) Be aware that you may need an attorney that specializes in government contracting clients to assist you with contracts, protect your interests and understand compliance issues.
At the Kansas SBDC, we work with multiple resource partners to stay informed and connected in order to help promote the growth of small businesses in Kansas. Our participation in the NASA contracting training and networking event last week is an interesting example of how our SBDC advisors work to develop and maintain these relationships.
If you are a small business wanting to learn more about how we might be able to help you grow your business, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.
Washburn University SBDC
America’s SBDC Kansas