Not so fast – things aren’t rosy for all small businesses looking for government contracts.

The SBA regularly takes victory laps about how well the government is doing in meeting its goals to award contracts to small businesses.

Just because the government “met” their small business goals, it doesn’t mean that the field is open for small businesses at large. Yes I know that they failed to meet their HUBZone goals and their WOSB goals, yet their scorecards look rosy to the naked eye. And while the dollar value of awards made to small businesses has increased, the number of small businesses in the market continues to fall year after year. There are three primary reasons for this.

Many in government won’t acknowledge the reality of today’s environment.

Visit with your average small business rep and they will tell you the same thing they’ve always told you.

  • You need a capability statement
  • Watch for opportunities that you can bid on
  • Register for a bid match service with your PTAC
  • Review agency forecasts
  • Attend matchmaker events so you can start out as subcontractor

None of these tips are technically wrong. But they only scratch the surface of what a company has to do to win contracts today.

And while it is NOT the job of the OSDBU to train companies to win government contracts, I can’t help but think that giving them the full picture could improve results.

Below I examine two reasons why.


Category Management changed the game – maybe forever.

I was speaking with a company this week that remembers the good old days of GovCon. When was that you may ask? Well there was a time when a small business really could grow without strategically teaming to win Best In Class multiple award contracts in order to even have a chance to compete. Believe it or not – not that long ago a small business simply had to review forecasts and FBO to locate things that they could bid on. The numbers game worked for companies who knew how to win. And the companies who knew how to perform after the win grew. Not anymore. These days you have to have a vehicle – even when you have self-marketed yourself and the client wants you.

The company I mentioned above nearly lost an opportunity to benefit from their good and innovative work. You see, the government liked what they were doing and wanted to buy MORE of their services. The deal almost got away though because they didn’t have a “vehicle” that made it EASY for the government to make the purchase. It seems that agencies only go through to find vendors as a last resort in many cases.

Over reliance on Past Performance

A good performance record has always led to a good reputation which gave businesses an edge in competing in multiple agencies. But once past performance became required, many agencies forgot how to use their good common sense and look at things other than CPARS to determine if a company can do what they say they can do. Many of these same agencies complain that they can’t find new suppliers. Do the math. If you require past performance and limit the definition of past performance to mean past performance with the government or past performance with a specific agency you’ll get the same pool of companies competing.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We have a workshop coming up in October focusing on how to win without past performance. In this workshop we’ll talk about what the government CAN consider and ways to help them realize they have more flexibility in assessing past performance than they may realize.