10 Steps to Kickstart your Government Contracting Business – Part I

Apr 1, 2024

The US federal government is the world’s largest purchaser of products and services. In FY 2023, the government spent $6.13 trillion. For businesses, working with the federal government is a lucrative opportunity. Securing contracts and working with the government opens a steady revenue stream for businesses, provides access to a wide range of projects, and gives an opportunity to make a significant impact through innovative solutions.

The federal contracting sector is a dynamic realm, encompassing a wide range of businesses, from large corporations to small enterprises. Competition is intense, and navigating regulations can be daunting. However, with a strategic mindset and a comprehensive grasp of the processes, engaging with the federal government can yield both rewards and profits.

In this first part of the blog, we will guide you through 5 out of 10 essential steps to help you kickstart your journey in federal contracting. These steps are based on the SBA’s business plan for new contractors.

10 Essential Steps to Get Started in Government Contracting – Part I

1. Conduct Market Research and Competitive Analysis

Market research forms the first and the most crucial step in starting your business. As a contractor, you must perform market research and competitive analysis to find the right customers for your business and help you make your business unique. You must understand your consumer base from the outset, and market research helps you gather demographic information to understand opportunities and limitations better. While conducting market research, you must ask precise questions to understand the market. These questions can include – is there a demand for your product or service? How large is the potential audience for your offering? Where does most of the spending occur in this sector? And what is the level of competition with similar alternatives?

Utilize publicly accessible government data and sources to accomplish this task. This approach enhances your understanding of the industry you aim to venture into. Performing competitive analysis will help you find a market advantage. You should understand what your competition looks like and assess the characteristics of the competitive landscape, such as Market Share, Strengths and Weaknesses, Window of Opportunity, Barriers to Entry in the Market, and so on.

2. Write your Business Plan

A good business plan will help you through each stage of starting and managing your business. A business plan provides a roadmap on how to structure, run, and grow your business. A business plan focuses on the critical elements of your business. Two prevalent and effective business plan creation methods are the Traditional Business Plan Format and the Lean Startup Format.

Traditional Business Plan Format
A Traditional Business Plan is generally a detail-oriented plan that focuses on all the elements of the business. Here are the elements of a traditional business plan:

  • Executive summary: It explains your business and why it will succeed. It includes a mission statement, products and services, company leadership, location, and a high-level growth plan.
  • Company description: This section has a detailed description of your company. It explains the problems your business solves. It can include a list of potential sectors and agencies your company plans to serve.
  • Market analysis: This section explains the competitive landscape in the market, what others are doing, and your strengths.
  • Organization and management: This section enlists how and who will run the business. An organization chart is also included in this section.
  • Service or product line: This section will describe your products and services. It explains how your product/service benefits the customer.
  • Marketing and sales: In this section, you must explain your marketing and sales strategy – how you will acquire and retain customers.
  • Financial projections: In this section, provide your financial outlook for future years.
  • Appendix: In this section, you can add supporting documents or materials like product pictures, letters of reference, permits, licenses, patents, resumes, etc.

Lean Startup Format

Lean startup format uses several elements to describe your company’s value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances. Following are the elements of a model lean startup business format:

  • Key partnerships: In this section, list all the key business partners you’ll work with to run your business, like suppliers, manufacturers, logistical partners, and other similar strategic partners.
  • Key activities: In this section, you must mention the activities you perform that give your business a competitive advantage.
  • Key resources: This section will contain the resources you will leverage to create customer value. These resources can include any key licenses, permits, patents, etc.
  • Value proposition: Here, you must make a clear and compelling statement about the unique value your company brings to the market.
  • Customer relationships: In this section, you must describe how customers will interact with your business – the methods can be automated, personal, or both.
  • Customer segments: In this section, you will add the sectors and segments of customers you will target. In the case of small businesses, you can have a set of agencies that procure your product or service.
  • Channels: This will include the methods of interacting with your customers; it can consist of direct interactions, attending events, responding to bids, and so on.
  • Cost structure: In this section, you will list your main costs and where you incur most of your financial costs.
  • Revenue streams: In this section, you will explain how you will make money.

3. Fund your Business

Like all other markets, federal contracting also requires an investment and capital to get started. You need to assess the required funding, depending on your financial situation and your vision for your business. Some of the ways you can fund your business are listed below:

  • Self-funding: Also known as bootstrapping; self-funding lets you utilize your own financial resources to support your business. Self-funding can come from family and friends for capital, using your savings accounts.
  • Venture capital from investors: Investors can also fund your business in exchange for an ownership share and active role in the company. Venture capital is in return on equity rather than debt. To get venture capital funding, you can look for an investor, share your business plan, go through a due diligence review, work out the business terms, and finally get an investment.
  • Get a small business loan: If you want to retain complete control of your business but need more funds, you can consider a small business loan. You need to present specific documentation like business plan, expense sheets, and so on to the bank to increase your chances of securing a loan. You can contact banks or credit unions and request a loan. Be mindful of comparing interest rates and terms in various loans.
  • Use Lender Match to find lenders who offer SBA-guaranteed loans: You can also look for SBA-guaranteed loans. When a bank thinks your business is too risky to lend money to, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can agree to guarantee your loan. This way, the bank has less risk and is more willing to provide a loan. You can use Lender Match to find lenders who offer SBA-guaranteed loans.

In addition to the above, if you are a research-oriented company, you can apply for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

4. Pick your Business Location

Picking a business location needs proper research about taxes, zoning laws, and regulations your business will be subjected to. You must understand your target market and the customers to make this strategic choice. For federal contractors, selecting the place of business where multiple contracts in your domain have been awarded is best practice. You should also consider different government agencies’ costs, benefits, and restrictions. Also, you need to be aware that salaries, wage rates, expenses, property values, and business insurance rates also depend on the location.

State and local taxes and incentives: As a contractor, you must consider the tax landscape for the state, county, and city where you plan to operate. Some states are well known for creating environments that are very friendly to certain companies. Some states and local governments also offer special tax credits for small businesses. You might also find state-specific small business loans or other financial incentives.

The Federal Government offers benefits to small businesses that work with the government and are based in underutilized areas. This specific set-aside, known as the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program in contracts, helps businesses in these underutilized areas get on contracts.

5. Choose a Business Structure

Your business structure influences many critical functions, such as taxes, liabilities, and regular operations. It affects how much you pay in taxes, your ability to raise money, the paperwork you need to file, and your personal liability. In order to register your business, you must choose a business structure, get a tax ID number, and file for the appropriate licenses and permits. You can also get support or advice from business counselors or attorneys to choose the best fit for your business structure. Here is a comparative view of different business structures based on ownership, liability, and taxes:

business structures based on ownership, liability, and taxes

Read Part II of this Blog Here

 

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