My answer to How do I bid government contracts?
Answer by Ken Larson:
If you are a U.S. company, there are many agencies and government prime contractors to whom you may be able to sell your products or services.
Like any other customer, the government expects you to finance your business, meet your payroll, pay your expenses and submit a bill for products and services delivered or rendered. The federal payment cycle is often 60 to 90 days, depending on whether or not you are a subcontractor to a prime corporation.
Federal agencies form large-scale projects and use companies to service their needs by contracting specialized skills, sometimes bringing the contractors on site by labor category under time and material, cost plus or fixed rate contracts or by purchasing services or products at company facilities and remote sites.
In other cases, pre-established pricing and terms and conditions are negotiated with several suppliers in advance under omnibus contracts and separate delivery orders are issued competitively based on changing requirements. The General Services Administration (GSA) negotiates pricing and terms on multi-year schedules from which both federal and state agencies are permitted to buy.
One of the first steps that must be completed is registering your company to bid and become eligible for award of government contracts. Please visit the link below for the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and notice the tips to make sure your file is as complete as possible.
Also note the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) Codes. Please make sure your CCR has the maximum number of codes for which you qualify, since the whole federal procurement system rides on those codes.
Self-Certification as a Small Business, a Small/Disadvantaged Business, a HUB Zone-located enterprise, Woman-owned or Veteran-Owned Business is also part of the registration process. Also insure the narrative description of your services is complete.
You should develop a capability statement (CAPE) for government contracts that is short and hard-hitting. It should be 1 page and should highlight the salient points of your products and offerings, your personnel and your qualifications. It should also include the specific information a contracting officer needs to place an order, such as your D&B Number, your government registration numbers, your North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) codes and the like. These items are selected or provided by you or determined by the system when you register your company for government contracting.
The purpose of the capability statement is to respond to government postings requesting industry interest in forthcoming procurements. They are normally posted at the state and local sites referenced above and at FEDBIZOPPS, the federal government gateway to contracting:
A CAPE is useful in acquainting teaming partners with your expertise and government buyers with your small business designations and qualifications. It should be developed in PDF, JPG or similar formats that that can be emailed easily and readily opened.
The following link shows a typical capability statement by a small business government contractor: He may not be in exactly the same business as you are but you can get the idea of what a CAPE should look like and perhaps frame your own document by examining his:
UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS
To propose and win federal government contracts you must become familiar with federal contract marketing, proposal preparation, negotiations and terms and conditions. It is a huge market, but a competitive one. Part of developing the final version of your CAPE will be to examine the market and pinpoint what is out there in the way of typical government bid solicitations that fit your line of work and then frame your document presentation.
The following additional reading will provide background for your research:
Regarding larger government contracting corporations to whom you could subcontract – cover the waterfront. Find out what they are bidding and aggressively market a piece of the action as a small business. Determine the locations for the largest government contractors nearest you and register at their supplier business sites. Everything they buy for their facilities, their personnel and their operations counts toward the small business goals required contractually of them by their enormous government contracts.
Research their web sites and locate their small business liaison officers. Make appointments and visit them. While visiting, seek the names and titles of managers internal to their companies who manage prime contracts involving expertise your business can supply. Go after those managers.
Federal government contracting is different from the commercial marketplace in terms of business system requirements, marketing, teaming relationships, pricing and the duration of associated contracts. The topics in this discussion and further reading at the site links may assist you in your decision whether or not to include the federal market in your business plan.