Label: Small Business IQ

Scott Bellows, procurement specialist at the USC Small Business Development Center, discusses getting government contracts

Regardless of how good a company is, there's a learning curve to becoming qualified to compete for government contracts. And without a little advice, you're likely to waste a lot of time - and some money. The keys to success: doing your homework, starting small, building relationships and providing solutions:

Read. Get a book to determine whether you are even prepared to compete in this arena. "Win Government Contracts for Your Small Business" by John D. Giacomo is a good primer.

Get Help. Most states have Procurement Technical Assistance Centers ( that offer free or low-cost procurement assistance. S.C.'s is embedded in the state's 16-office Small Business Development Center ( network. There are a host of other support services available to small businesses at

Get registered. Working directly with the federal government requires that you first register on the Central Contractor Registration ( Beyond that, you should also complete applications for the Business Partner Network (, Online Representations and Certifications Application ( and the Small Business Administration's General Log-In System (

Get certified. Many small businesses are eligible to apply for certifications based on geographic location or social and economic disadvantage. These certifications offer a competitive advantage. Quality certifications (such as ISO 9000) can also be important during the evaluation process.

Identify government buyers/opportunities. As with the private sector, knowing whom you are trying to sell to can make a world of difference. Networking should be considered part of this process.

Learn contracting procedures. Reading a typical government solicitation can be, well, daunting. If you're curious, visit ( and see for yourself. There are something like 2,000 pages in the Federal Procurement Regulations ( Just be patient and wade through the regs.

Market your firm. Those that make it through the steps above all-to-often wait for the government to contact them. While this can and does happen, the really successful firms market to the government just as they would in the private sector.