With the recent passage of the Stimulus package, a lot of companies previously uninterested in federal government contracting are now looking to get in, particularly since the commercial market is still slow. But are you ready to be a government contractor? It is a time consuming endeavor that needs proper preparation and an understanding of the environment.

We often use the analogy of dating in context of government contracting. Dating is social activity performed with the aim of assessing another’s suitability for a relationship. Successful businesses cultivate long-term, mutually beneficial relationships – ergo, they date their clients and customers. They put their best foot forward and present their benefits as a long term partner. Before entering into or expanding a relationship with the government, management should determine if they are ready to “date the government.”

Steering a company into a new market always requires careful consideration and the government sector is no different. Companies who want to enter into government contracting or ways to expand current business lines should examine the qualities they bring to the table. Think of your clients and services in four quadrants:

Quadrant 1: providing current products/services to existing clients/customers
Quadrant 2: providing current products/services to new clients/customers — a good way to expand your client base.
Quadrant 3: providing new products/services to existing clients/customers — a good way to expand your business lines.
Quadrant 4: providing new products/services to new clients/customers — high risk because you have an unproven product/serice that you are marketing to potential clients you have never worked with. You do not want to be in the fourth quadrant.

Next ask yourself “do the qualities I have (e.g., your products and/or services) interest my prospective date (e.g., the government)?” Here are a few basic items to consider when considering whether to date the government:

  • Strategic Planning-You want to date someone with whom you have something in common and you won’t know that unless you have done your homework. Knowing your partner in advance improves your ability to create and sustain a successful relationship. Developing a well-researched strategic plan for entering the government space serves the same purpose. Strategic planning provides the information necessary to identify the right agencies for a company to pursue and to implement focused business development and marketing efforts.

  • Accessibility & Visibility-Being visible and accessible is a must in any relationship. Cultivating a relationship with the government is difficult if you can’t be found and/or don’t have the proper contracting vehicles in place. Being on the right contracting vehicles allows government customers to find you and provides access to your goods and/or services.

  • Contract Administration-Every successful relationship has ground rules that each party must understand and agree to follow. Government contractors must understand the policies and regulations governing the government contracting arena, as spelled out in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and agency supplements. A company’s ability or inability to adhere to these rules can dictate if it can operate in the government arena and which government opportunities it can pursue.

  • Personnel-Relationships are all about finding the right match. Government contracts often require contractors to provide specific personnel for a given contract. If your company does not have the personnel required by the government for the goods and/or services it provides, you may not be the right match. Or you may need to develop a plan for hiring the right personnel for each contract awarded.

While many commercial sectors face an uncertain future, more and more business owners are looking to the stability of government contracting as a way to grow their business. If you’re looking to get into or expand your government offerings, be sure to do so with a critical eye and be able to answer “Yes – I would want to date me.”