Onvia White Paper on how you can prepare your company for government contracting.
Onvia White Paper on how you can prepare your company for government contracting.
GET READY TO SELL TO THE GOVERNMENTBefore you can start pursuing government business, or gBusiness, you need to make sure thatyour business is ready to have the government as a customer. Here are the basics to help youprepare for government contracting.Take a Look at Your BusinessGovernment contracts are a great source of added revenue. The government is a very reliablecustomer – after all, a government agency can hardly skip town without paying your bill!However, due to the nature of government budgeting, it can take longer to get paid aftercompleting a job for the government than in the private sector. You will probably have to wait30-45 days, and perhaps even longer, after the work is completed before you receive payment.Make sure you have enough supplemental work (or a line of credit) to keep your business goingwhile you await payment.Establish Your Company’s IdentityAgencies will be looking for identification codes in your proposals to easily determine whetheryour business is a good fit for their contracts, and they won’t keep reading if they don’t findthem. In most government RFPs, identification codes are a requirement. Defining your businessin the government’s terms will also allow you to sign up for contractor registries and buyer-vendor matching services.DUNS NumbersDun & Bradstreet’s nine-digit DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number is a standardbusiness identifier for both the government and the private sector. In fact, since 1998 the federalgovernment has used DUNS numbers to identify contractors for all its procurement-relatedactivities. Each physical location of your business will need its own unique number. Registeringto receive a DUNS number will put your business in the Dun & Bradstreet database, which givesagencies and companies access to your company’s contact, financial and industry-relatedinformation. Dun & Bradstreet provide DUNS numbers free of charge. For more information andto request your DUNS number, go to http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/displayHomePage.do.NAICS CodesThe North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS, was developed by thegovernments of the United States, Canada and Mexico to easily classify businessestablishments and simplify trade. While NAICS codes were originally created for use incomparing statistical data, many federal, state and municipal government agencies use them toclassify potential vendors.1
A NAICS code is usually a six-digit number, with each successive digit narrowing down theclassification: First and second digit: Economic sector Third digit: Subsector Fourth digit: Industry group Fifth digit: NAICS industry Sixth digit: National industryThere is no official agency to assign NAICS codes to businesses. The Census Bureau willassign you one for its own purposes, based on the activity that generates the most revenue foryour business. Some government agencies may assign NAICS codes to their vendors based ona variety of criteria, while others will ask vendors to submit their own codes.You can find the NAICS code for your business by going to www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/and entering keywords related to your business in “2007 NAICS Search” until you find theNAICS code or codes that best fit your company. You can also download and browse thecomplete list of NAICS codes.Though the Census Bureau will classify a business with only one NAICS code, many agencieswill accept more than one code, and the Central Contracting Registration, discussed later in thiswhitepaper, will accept up to five or 10 NAICS codes depending on the business. For additionalinformation, call the Census Bureau’s resident expert on industry classification at 888.75NAICS.The FSCThe Federal Supply Classification, or FSC, was developed for the federal government and ischiefly used by the Department of Defense. If you’re not doing business at the federal level, youare less likely to encounter the FSC, but it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with the FSCcodes that apply to your business.The Federal Supply Classification is broken down into 104 groups: 78 groups for products(numbers 01-78), and 26 groups for services (letters A-Z). This group number or letter makes upthe first half of the FSC number. The second half identifies a sub-class within that group. Forexample, “Prefabricated Structures & Scaffolding” is group 54. “Bridges, Fixed and Floating” isclass 20 within that group, so the FSC code for fixed and floating bridges is 5420.To search for your FSC codes, go to http://www.dlis.dla.mil/H2/Register Your Company with the GovernmentNow that you know how your business is classified, it’s time to register to compete for (and win)government contracts.The CCRRather than having vendors register separately with each federal agency, the government’sCentral Contracting Registration, or CCR, allows vendors to register to bid on all federalcontracts. This eliminates a lot of costly and time-consuming administrative work for bothvendors and the government.2
You must be registered in the CCR before you can bid on or be awarded federal contracts.Registering will place your business information in a centralized vendor database, and you willnot need to supply that information separately to federal agencies for future bids. Wheneveryour business information changes, you can update it in the CCR and know that the agenciesyou’re targeting will have your up-to-date company profile.The CCR Users Guide outlines the information you’ll need to provide in detail, but here aresome examples from the CCR FAQ page: General Information – Includes, but is not limited to, DUNS number, CAGE Code, company name, Federal Tax Identification Number (TIN), location, receipts, employee numbers, and website address. Corporate Information Includes, but is not limited to, organization or business type and SBA-defined socioeconomic characteristics. Goods and Services Information – Includes, but is not limited to, NAICS code, SIC code, Product Service (PSC) code, and Federal Supply Classification (FSC) code. Financial Information – Includes, but is not limited to, financial institution, American Banking Association (ABA) routing number, account number, remittance address, lock box number, automated clearing house (ACH) information, and credit card information. Point of Contact (POC) Information – Includes, but is not limited to, the primary and alternate points of contact and the electronic business, past performance, and government points of contact. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Information* – Includes, but is not limited to, the EDI point of contact and his or her telephone, e-mail, and physical address. (*Note: EDI Information is optional and may be provided only for businesses interested in conducting transactions through EDI.) Source: https://www.bpn.gov/ccr/FAQ.aspxIf you’re a small business, take the time to complete the CCR’s Dynamic Small Business Searchfunction in the supplemental information section. It’s an extra step that will get your businessmore exposure – federal agencies often use the Small Business Search to find vendors thatprovide exactly what they’re looking for. The Small Business Administration also monitors theSmall Business Search. Much of the information you’ll enter will be similar to the information youenter in ORCA (covered below), but having it in two places helps the SBA notify you if you’veaccidentally entered incorrect information.Upon completing the CCR registration, you’ll create a Marketing Partner Identification Number,which will be your password for various other government systems, including ORCA.3
CAGE CODESYou may have noticed that a CAGE code is one of the listed requirements in the CCR. TheCommercial and Government Entity, or CAGE, code is a five-character ID number that identifiescontractors. Although originated by the Department of Defense, CAGE codes are also used bysuch other agencies as the Department of Transportation and NASA.To get a CAGE code, you must first complete registration in the CCR. Youll be assigned yourCAGE code as part of the CCR validation process, and as soon as your CCR registration isactive, you can view your CAGE code online when you log in to your CCR account.ORCALike the CCR, ORCA (the Online Representations and Certifications Application) wasdeveloped to reduce the amount of paperwork involved in federal contracting. This database ofgovernment vendors online representations and certifications applications (hence the ORCAacronym) is the web-based replacement for the paper-based "Reps and Certs" applications thatbusinesses previously were required to include with their proposals for large governmentcontracts.With the ORCA system, you submit your application only once electronically, instead of havingto complete a separate paper application for each contract bid. Government contracting officialscan then quickly and easily review your vendor information online whenever they want.Once your company is in the database, you can access and update your information any time athttp://orca.bpn.gov. When responding to a solicitation, you either certify that your ORCArepresentations and certifications are current or make any necessary changes. You’ll need toregister in ORCA if the solicitation requires your company to be listed in the CCR. Be aware,however, that because ORCA records are considered public information, anyone who knows aregistrant’s DUNS number and has access to the Internet can search for the registrantsrecords.Before you register with ORCA, you will need two items active in the CCR: a record and anMPin. An MPin gives a CCR registrant access to the Past Performance Information RetrievalSystem (PPIRS), ORCA, and grants.gov.For more details about ORCA and how to complete your ORCA application, considerdownloading the ORCA handbook, which contains instructions on how to register with andsearch ORCA as well as a glossary of the terms used in the ORCA questionnaire.Start Bidding on Government ContractsContract work can be found at all levels of government, in a wide variety of industries. Here aresome places new government contractors go to look for work.GSA SchedulesThe GSA (General Services Administration) awards contracts to companies offering reasonablypriced commercial items. The GSA Schedules program initiates long-term contracts that, ratherthan placing a specific order for a company’s products or services, merely list the prices that thefederal government has agreed to pay for such goods or services. These contracts serve as amenu of sorts, from which federal agencies can order what they need.4
To get on a GSA schedule, you must first respond to a GSA Schedule Solicitation, which can befound on the GSA website at http://www.gsa/gov. The GSA will decide whether the prices yourcompany offers to the federal government are reasonable, compared to the prices yourcompany charges commercial customers. The federal government prefers to be a “most favoredcustomer,” so offering a discount on a GSA Schedule is a good idea.The GSA’s Center for Acquisition Excellence (www.gsa.gov/cae) offers an excellent onlinecourse, “How to Become a Contractor – GSA Schedules Program,” that walks contractorsthrough the GSA Schedules process.It’s important to remember that getting on a GSA Schedule may not bring you any work at all. AGSA contract only means is that the federal government has agreed to pay certain prices for thegoods or services you provide. Many new contractors are thrilled get on a GSA Schedule, onlyto have their hopes dashed when no new orders arrive. Still, inclusion on a Schedule is a goodfirst step in doing business with the government.FedBizOppsFedBizOpps is an online resource for federal government contracts worth more than $25,000.This portal was created by the government to help commercial vendors and government buyersfind each other. As a commercial vendor, you can browse opportunities in your area as well asthose from specific agencies. Opportunities are posted to FedBizOpps directly by federalagencies. For more information, visit http://www.fbo.gov.Increase Your Chances for Success with Market ResearchBecause the GSA Schedules program and FedBizOpps are run by the U.S. government, they’rehigh-profile and attract a large number of contractors, which means there’s major competitionfor the contracts listed by these sources. FedBizOpps also has the added disadvantage of notincluding state or local government contracts, or those worth under $25,000.Many companies find it difficult to track all of the opportunities in their industry and area. Youcan hire someone to locate these opportunities for you (as well as monitor them for changesand addenda). This daunting task will require this person to continually search through thewebsites of thousands of government agencies.As an alternative, you can simplify the process by having a business intelligence company suchas Onvia deliver relevant government contract opportunities directly to your email Inbox everyday. This way, instead of going directly to FedBizOpps to track down government contractingleads, you can receive an email containing those FedBizOpps-listed leads as well as listings ofstate and local bids and RFPs.For more information on how to win in the gBusiness market, call Onvia at 800-575-1736 or visitwww.onvia.com. An Onvia representative can arrange for a free sample of opportunitiesspecific to your business needs and market areas.5