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You need to have a strategy before you start all of this

Today, we’re going to talk about federal contracting and help demystify the idea that winning a federal contract by a small business is difficult.  I’m not suggesting that it’s easy just like everything else that appears to be complex, but if you understand how it works and what resources are available, then it’s not so daunting to get a piece of the massive federal spending that occurs every day. I had a chance to interview a good friend of mine, Robert, regarding federal contracting business.  I wanted to get some insights on how this all worked as it was a mystery to me, especially from a small business perspective.  I wanted an insider’s perspective with real experience and something that you can’t read about on the federal government websites. Robert is a retired senior Coast Guard officer who proudly served our country for over 20 years and is now helping companies win federal contracts that range from $10 million to $100+ million dollars.  He also advises veterans on how to get started in federal contracting and he always starts their conversation with this:

“What do you want to do?”

Surprisingly, many answer with:

“What do you think I should do?”

And that’s where Robert made this simple yet powerful statement to me.

You need to have a strategy before you start all of this.  Determine what you are selling and to whom within the Federal Government.  Are you selling a product or service?  Do you have a niche in the market?  Understanding these simple questions is important because it’ll help you focus on what Federal opportunities are worth pursuing.”
Robert L.

For businesses trying to get into a big government contract, e.g. Department of Homeland Security might have a $100 million-dollar contract opportunity, it doesn’t mean that you might be able to win all of the $100 million-dollar contract.  You really need to understand what part of the $100 million-dollar contract that your business is relevant to when trying to sell your product or service.  Your pie of the $100 million-dollars can become very small when digging into the contract requirements and might not be a good use of your time and effort so it’s important to know what your strategy is and what you’re targeting.

Above is an example of how $2.1 billion dollars for General Services Administration carved from the $5.1 trillion dollar 2019 Federal Budget is allocated across long list of government contractors.

Robert also added something that can really help someone have an advantage in winning contracts and that is:  
“Know who you are.  Are you a minority owned, women owned, services disabled veteran, in a rural or disadvantaged geographic area? If you fall in to any of these categories, you have an advantage in winning contracts that are set aside for small businesses.”
Robert L.

He added that there is an advocate within each of the federal agencies that focus on ensuring that small businesses have an opportunity to bid on the contracts. He also suggested that is a great resource for someone wanting to learn more about federal contracting and can provide more details on government contracts set aside for small businesses that meet certain socio-economic categories.

Other important subject that Robert shared with me is understanding the seasonality of contracting and when to pay close attention.  Federal government operates on fiscal year that starts on October 1st and ends in September 30th. Because of this schedule, summer months are when many of the government agencies are scrambling to unload their budget that they haven’t spent.  The fear of losing their budget the following year because they didn’t spend it in the current year drives increase in opportunities for contracts during the summer so plan accordingly. Holiday season can be busy as well and you should pay special attention to RFPs that require quick response time. 

Also, if you are brand new, sometimes the best opportunity is for you to work as a sub-contractor for a prime contractor.  In some cases, this is the best way to gain experience, knowledge and reduce risk until you are ready to go out on your own.

If you do pursue an opportunity, Robert added that it is critical that you understand specifics about the opportunity. As an example, is it a task order belonging to an existing contract or a brand-new contract?  If it’s under an existing contract, then most likely you won’t be able to bid as a prime contractor unless you are already a vendor under that contract.  Some opportunities can be small and specific in the requirements so it’s easier to understand if it’s worth your time pursuing it but if the contract is new with large set of complex requirements with short response time, it’s most likely the government already has a type of business in mind that they want to work with.  If you find a contract opportunity that mirrors something like this, you might want to look for other opportunities.  Chances are pretty slim that you’ll be in the running. It’s also important to note that the Federal Government provides tools that you can sign up for and be notified of when a federal contract opportunity is available to bid on.

You can either sign up directly through each government agencies or go through Other subject that we’ll cover next that Robert shared with me is what to watch out for when it comes to prime contracts and sub-prime contracts. If you’re eager about getting started with Federal Contracting and need steps on how to get started, you can learn more on our Find Start Grow platform and we’ll list out what you need to do and the resources that’s available to get you going. Until then, I encourage you to Find your passion, Start your journey, and Grow your dream.



Founder & CEO

Entrepreneur, father, husband, golfer, little league baseball coach, and a landlocked surfer.


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