Whether you’re a newcomer trying to establish industry credibility or a seasoned veteran ready for your next challenge, government contracts can be a tremendous opportunity to grow your pipeline rehabilitation business. Engaging with government contracting can be intimidating and time consuming, but when successful it can be a lucrative revenue source.
Navigating the process to win a government contract is half the battle. It’s important to
- Understand the different types of contracts available
- Determine if your company is eligible to submit a bid and if a contract is a good fit for your business
- Register with the appropriate agencies to become eligible to do business with the government
- Write a quality bid and accurately complete all required paperwork
- Build and maintain relationships with industry stakeholders
If you approach bidding on government contacts strategically―and are patient―your efforts will pay off. Start by researching your state, county and city websites, where contract solicitations are published for various projects. There are a few different types of solicitations, but they primarily fall under three categories:
- Invitation for Bid (IFB), which are contracts primarily awarded based on the company that quotes the lowest price
- Request for Quotation (RFQ), which are used to gauge the necessary budget for a project and are often precursors to an RFP
- Request for Proposal (RFP), which are used when a more strenuous evaluation process is needed
There are also a few different types of contracts, but ones that are “set aside” may be the best opportunity for small businesses. When a contract is “set aside,” it means the government is limiting who can bid on the contract to small businesses or businesses in certain socioeconomic categories such as veteran-, disabled- or woman-owned companies.
Once you understand the type of solicitation and if your company is eligible to bid on the contract, ask yourself if your company has the bandwidth to execute the deliverables. If you say you can deliver, be sure you have the infrastructure, resources, staff and experience to complete the project successfully. There are legal ramifications for breaking a contract, and your reputation is on the line.
When you identify a contract you’d like to bid on, you’ll have to register with a few agencies first. This includes applying for a DUNS number (a nine-digit number to identify your company and establish a credit profile), establishing a profile with the System for Award Management (required to do business with the government), and obtaining a CAGE code (a five-character, legal identification number).
Once you’ve navigated the pre-bid requirements, it’s time to write your proposal. Every solicitation is accompanied by several forms outlining the requirements so that you understand what to include in your proposal. And every solicitation and government entity is different, so be sure to follow the instructions exactly. Otherwise you risk losing out on a contract because you missed a deadline or didn’t complete the paperwork properly.
Your submission should include a cover letter; required forms; a bid guarantee (essentially insurance for the government that your bid is accurately priced and that you take responsibility for delivering on your promises); addendums and addendum acknowledgments (acknowledging updates or clarifying info from the original solicitation); resumes of key staff who work with you and will execute the contract; and the proposal itself. Have your entire package closely proofread and triple-checked to ensure it is error-free and formatted correctly per the solicitation guidelines.
In addition to submitting a quality bid, fostering relationships with industry stakeholders will help position you and your company to win government contracts. And many contracts lump several projects together, so larger companies will look to subcontractors to complete a portion of the project. Building and maintaining relationships with industry stakeholders opens you up to these opportunities, which can also lead to future contracts and bolster your reputation. If you aren’t already, become a member of your local American Public Works Association (APWA) or American Water Works Association (AWWA) chapter so that you can network and stay apprised of the latest news and happenings affecting the industry.
Even if you’ve made all the right connections and written a competitive proposal, securing a government contract can be elusive. But don’t give up! Keep submitting quality bids, learning, networking and subcontracting, and your persistence will be rewarded. Being consistent and tenacious will make a strong, memorable, positive impression that will elevate your reputation and lead to new opportunities.
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