As a remote e-learning company, we serve broadly and are always looking for opportunities. Last Fall, we registered to do business with the U.S. government. In our October newsletter, we noted that the government buys many different types of products and services. They aim to spend 23% of prime contract dollars on small businesses, and they’ve met that federal contracting goal five years in a row.
The opportunities are there, but so are the many procurement rules. The government wants to guard against corruption, so it’s good that they have regulations in place. They advertise in advance, have strict review processes and aim to level the playing field. However, we’ve attempted to navigate those waters recently, and can say without a doubt that sifting through government Requests for Proposals (RFP) and following procurement protocols can be a challenge.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when responding to government RFPs:
- They want to hear from you – Under certain circumstances, they are obligated by law to work with small businesses. So, they want individuals to find and respond to their requests. The people we’ve contacted are excited to hear from us and open to addressing questions as a way to encourage qualified organizations to submit proposals.
- Responding to RFPs is time consuming – Have a plan of attack and be organized. Aside from having a template on the ready, make sure your content, tools and teams are identified and prepared. If multiple individuals are working on a request, make sure task assignments are clear. Proposal management software can help automate tasks, keep content accessible and provide insights.
- Following rules and being on time is important – Once an RFP’s due date has expired and the solicitation is closed, often the first step in the evaluation process is to account for all proposals and make sure they adhere to certain standards. Submitting proposals on time, in the correct format and with all required documents is imperative. You will not move along in the process without meeting the minimums.
- Qualifications and financial fitness matters – Having an eye for details is critical when responding to any RFP. Make sure you understand the specifications and can meet them. Buyers will want to know that you are able to deliver high-quality work in cost-effective ways, and are also fiscally sound. Accounts payable can be slow with the government…often 30-60 days out. They will want to be certain that vendors can cover payroll and other expenses while invoices are being processed and paid.
If you need online training for your government project, we’re happy to partner. If you are interested in learning more about how to work with federal, state and local government, your local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) is a good place to start. Per the Small Business Administration, PTAC’s charge is to provide in-person counseling and training services for small business owners.
Colorado PTAC was a wonderful resource when we began to inquire about working with the government. They have multiple locations in Colorado and offer many services. They helped us register, pointed us to online information and also provided system training free of charge.