Written by JULIANNE GEIGER
Monday, February 28, 2011
GUAM - Doing business with the federal government can seem a daunting task to many small businesses, but federal opportunities are available now more than ever with the Department of Defense's Guam buildup underway. Once a business has established itself as a federal contractor, businesses can enjoy stable work, prompt payments, and well-defined project parameters.
Small businesses can find assistance in navigating the federal contracting waters with the Department of Defense (DoD) from GuamBuildupNews.com's continuing Federal Contracting 101 series for small business.
Volume 9: Doing Business with the Department of Defense
Many small businesses on island have a history competing for commercial and Government of Guam contracts. But businesses now have an expanding market during the buildup with ample federal contracting opportunities through the DoD.
The first thing a small business must have to become a federal contractor is a willingness to sift through the regulations and follow specific qualification instructions. The good news for Guam business is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. The road to becoming a federal contractor is well-paved and well-traveled, and many larger contractors and even the government itself offer a multitude of services designed to ease small businesses through the process of becoming a federal contractor.
Following the steps below is a great place for Guam businesses to start the federal contracting process.
1) Identify your service or product. Before embarking on your federal contracting journey, a small business must first identify its Federal Supply Class Codes (FSC) or Service Code (SVC), as well as its North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Codes. Small businesses can search the Defense Logistics Agency's Logistics Information Service database by federal supply group, federal supply class, or simply by keyword search. Small businesses can find the correct NAICS code at the U.S. Census Bureau's website by searching by keyword. These codes form the foundation of any federal contracting relationship, and serve as the primary method for identifying which contracts are available to which businesses.
2) Obtain a DUNS Number. This is a unique nine-character number that is assigned to a business for identification purposes and tracked in a worldwide database. Generally speaking, any business that wishes to qualify as a federal contractor must have a DUNS number. Registering for a DUNS number is free, and the whole process takes less than five minutes through the Dun & Bradstreet website. Small businesses must first have a Tax Identification Number to register. A DUNS number will be provided via e-mail between 48 and 72 hours after registering.
3) Register with Central Contract Registration (CCR). This is a database that holds information on procurement and financial transactions, and offers small businesses the opportunity for prompt electronic invoice payments. Businesses looking to do business with the DoD must register with the CCR. Businesses must already have a DUNS number to register with the CCR. The registration process takes five minutes or less, and approvals will be sent via e-mail within three to five days.
4) Register with FedBizOpps. This is where the government posts all available public-bid contracts. Would-be contractors can register on FebBizOpps.gov by filling out a brief online registration form, which will ask for your assigned DUNS number. The website comes with a tutorial for browsing open contract opportunities. Businesses can search by location, set-aside code, post date, or keyword.
5) Know your FAR. Small businesses will benefit greatly by familiarizing themselves with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), which is essentially the federal guidebook for contracting. The documents detail—quite thoroughly—all regulations, rules, procedures, and processes that govern a project. At first glance, these lengthy documents may seem intimidating, but having a general idea of the FAR and DFARS goes a long way in saving headaches and misunderstandings down the road that could cost you a contracting opportunity.
6) Explore subcontracting opportunities. Subcontracting is a major market for small businesses. Subcontracting provides some of the benefits of doing business with the federal government with less hassle and risk. Small businesses can search subcontracting opportunities on the SBA's SUB-Net directory, which provides a list of solicitations or notices from prime contractors and government entities.
7) Get help. It is never too late to ask for help navigating the process of becoming a defense contractor, but sooner is better. Knowing what you are doing before you stick that toe in the water may save you time and money in the long run. Many organizations and businesses offer assistance to small businesses looking to get into the federal market. For information or advice on the federal contracting process, there are many sources available to the proactive small business owner.
Guam Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) – Partially funded by the DoD to provide information to small businesses concerning DoD contracting, the PTAC offers training, counseling, and workshops geared to educate small businesses on marketing, finance, and contracting issues.
Guam SBA Office – A branch of the Small Business Administration, the Guam SBA district office offers information on financial assistance as well as the contracting process. Local businesses can speak directly to an SBA representative at 671.472.7419.
Joint Ventures – Several joint ventures and other prime contractors offer programs to walk small businesses through the federal contracting process. Small businesses looking to partner with a prime contractor can find help at many major contractors' websites. For more information on this opportunity, see Federal Contracting 101: Joint Ventures in Military Buildup Reach Out to Small Business on Guam.
Steps 1 through 4 are essential for any small business wishing to do business with the federal government. And despite what some may initially think, the whole process can take 30 minutes and can be completed in little over a week.
GuamBuildupNews.com will continue to offer insight on the federal contracting process in the multi-part series, Federal Contracting 101.
Image used in this article courtesy Jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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