For all women business owners who have secured, or are seeking federal contracts, the first order of business is remembering the incredible effort it took to get the Women-Owned Small Business Procurement Program in place. WIPP and thousands of women across the country pushed for this program and as a result, today women are awarded
nearly $18 billion in contracts through the program. As part of that 13-year effort, I have had the privilege to gain insights on successful strategies.
Last month, the Department of Treasury held a women’s history month event organized by Lisa Jenkins, who heads the small business office and is an incredible advocate for women-owned businesses. I thought I would share my five tips for being successful in the federal marketplace I presented at the event. PS: If you do not know Lisa Jenkins, make it your business to do so.
Since the federal government just received its FY18 money, expect spending to be fast and furious until the end of the fiscal year—September 30. Think about the strategies you have in place to respond to a myriad of requests for information and Sources Sought notices. Remember to ask agencies to consider setting aside the contract for women-owned companies and familiarize yourself with the WOSB sole source rules.
- Know more than the person you are meeting with.
Dig deep—read the Small Business part of the FAR (https://www.acquisition.gov/far/html/FARTOCP19.html) and all the government contracting articles/news. you can get your hands on. Look up WIPP’s Give Me Five http://www.giveme5.com program and take classes that are applicable to building your knowledge base. Look up the agency’s FY18 funding and understand their focus (Give Me Five: Follow the Money Webinar).
- Seek to establish relationships in unconventional ways—go to events where the person you are trying to meet is speaking and get creative about getting an introduction to them through your networks. Follow them on social media. Only ask for meetings when you have all your ducks in a row and you have a specific ask.
- Join organizations that work with agencies and become a leader. It is not enough to join an organization at the lowest level. The real benefit comes from being a leader. Organizations feature their leaders, give them opportunities to introduce speakers and assist their leaders in connections that are helpful in the federal contracting arena.
- Learn how to use the SBA set-aside programs, such as the WOSB procurement program and be prepared to educate agency contracting officers on the benefits of using the program. Don’t be offended that contracting officers don’t know your program—you can be the educator. That’s a good place to be.
Understand the budget process—it’s all public information. Know how your programs are funded. Look up the agency’s funding and understand their focus (Check out Give Me Five: Follow the Money Webinar). Although this can be complicated, understanding this process and using it to your advantage will give you a huge leg up on the competition.