Do my eyes deceive me? The government will grow my small business. How?
By becoming your customer. And if the government does do business with you, chances are it’s spending big with you. If the federal government is a customer, women-owned businesses are 23 times more likely to be million-dollar businesses, according to American Express OPEN research about government small business contracting.
Until recently, minority- and women-owned firms have only been able to compete for small contracts. Last year, the federal government removed that limitation and now New York City has, too. Legislation just passed means that contracts greater than $1 million will count towards the Minority and Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE) procurement goals for city agencies. M/WBEs will now be in demand on larger contracts, creating more opportunities for them.
All kinds of women-owned businesses now have a tremendous opportunity to enter into major contracts with the government. Federal, state, and local governments buy everything, from office supplies to construction services, from catering to janitorial services.
“For too long, minorities and women have been effectively shut out of City contracts. With today’s bill, we level the playing field to give these businesses the access that they deserve, said Christine C. Quinn, speaker of the New York City Council. “This legislation is important, not only because it provides fairness and equal opportunity to MWBEs, but because it will help grow businesses that will provide jobs, spur economic growth and diversify our economy, and because it will increase competition for City contracts, which will translate into lower costs and increased quality,” said Quinn.
“Mayor Bloomberg passed monumental legislation in 2005 to help increase opportunities for minority and women-owned small businesses. The new legislation goes even further to strengthen the program and expand opportunity. Removing the $1 million cap gives greater flexibility to City agencies to do business with M/WBEs, creating more demand for M/WBEs on larger contracts, and expanding opportunities available to M/WBE firms from $400 million to over $2.2 billion,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “We encourage minority and women-owned firms to certify with the City, and learn more about free City services that can help M/WBEs compete and grow.”
It’s not just the minority- and women-owned businesses that benefit. When minority- and women-owned businesses grow, they’re more likely to hire locally, according to Sandra Wilkin, president of Bradford Companies, a construction project management company. She is Co-Chair of The New Agenda, a coalition that identifies opportunities for M/WBEs and small businesses to fuel economic growth.
“Why should small businesses explore government contracting? Our [American Express OPEN] research shows that government contracting can help boost a small business to become a high-growth company; 47% of small businesses active in government contracting reach the $1M revenue mark, compared to just 5% of small business overall, and 1.8% of women-owned businesses” said Ben Stone, Director of Small Business and Start Up Development at American Express OPEN.
I’m not going to lie to you: Getting a government contract is hard work and, with budgets shrinking, it’s getting more competitive, but the reward is great. Here are five tips from Lourdes Martin-Rosa, American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting, to help put you in the fast lane.
1.) Register your business to get your business noticed by government agencies whether it’s for federal, state or city contracts. For example, register your company on System for Award Management (SAM) for federal contracts, the Office of General Services (OGS) Online Bidder Notification Service for New York State Vendor Enrollment Center. There are more than 5,000 purchasing sites nationwide.
2.) Certify your business to get greater access to and information about contracting opportunities. Check out thse links for information about certification at the federal level, New York state and New York City Minority & Women-Owned Business Enterprise Program.
3.) Learn which government agencies buy your type of products and services so you know where to look for contracts. For information on federal spending, visit USAspending, where you can find out who the federal government buys from and how much it spends, by agency.
4.) Use all available resources to find information that will save you time and money, including how-to articles, guides, videos, and tips on how to do business with the government on American Express OPEN Forum. You’ll also find free monthly webinars at Give Me 5, a website for women-owned businesses seeking federal contracts. The site was created by Women Impacting Public Policy and American Express OPEN. New York City provides free seminars to assist you through the process.
5.) Team with another small business owner to improve your chances of winning contracts. A study by American Express OPEN found that business owners who team with another business win 50% more contracts. Teaming can also help novice business owners gain the experience and credibility they need to win contracts on their own. To find teaming partners, visit USAspending and Federal Procurement Data System. These two websites offer a wealth of past-performance information that lets you see both buyers and competitors. Those competitors could become your teammate.
On second thought, it might not be as hard as starting and building your business in the first place. Much of the work boils down to filing the right papers and networking. We all know how to do both. Given the potential rewards, let’s start filling out those forms.