Many veterans choose to start their own businesses when leaving the service. If you are considering Government Contracting. Dennis and Kathy Demolet of Demolet Consulting have outlined some basic guidelines.
Unlike working in the private sector, doing business with the government necessitates a couple of extra steps when you first begin. These mainly consist of registering your company in government databases so that prospective buyers can figure out what you do and how to find you.
1) Select the proper NAICS Code(s) for your specialty. These are both product/services based and size related. You can find several lists, google “NAICS CODES” to find the site most friendly to the way you like to work. In most instances, a government buyer will begin searching for a supplier is entering the NAICS.
2) Get your DUNS number. (Duns: http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform) If you are truly a neophyte, please read the FAQ area before you begin. DUNS numbers typically take several days to be assigned . You must have a DUNS number before registering in SAM.
3) Register your business in SAM (System for Awards Management). (www.sam.gov) This system will also assign your CAGE code as part of your registration process. SAM is where most government organizations will use to get background information on your company.
4) Eventually you will need your EIN number (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS but you can start your business using your social security number.
5) You can begin as a sole proprietor which requires no up-front legalities. Eventually you will want to decide which form of business entity suits you best, Partnership, LLC, Type of Incorporation, etc
You’re Registered; Now What?
Fortunately the government helps all companies whether marketing to the public or private sectors. You need to be familiar with sba.gov. The Small Business Administration was formed to help you, take advantage of the free services offered. Locally there are also small business representatives; drill down in the main sba website to find yours. PTAC’s (Procurement Technical Assistance Center’s) have also been formed to help you.
If you are near a military installation, there are also small business assistance offices to help contractors learn how to work within the confines of the installation. They will help identify the best target audience for your company and also suggest government prime contractors who may be motivated to work with you. Both the various government agencies and large businesses have small business goals to meet. Based on your socio-economic group, the percentages will vary.
This is the step where you also need to target professional organizations to join and volunteer. Networking within these organizations is of utmost importance. It helps government buyers and prime contractors know you and your business. Government selling, like the private sector is relationship based. You are your business; this is where you sell yourself and become more familiar with your audience and they with you. This may sound time-consuming. It will pay off.
Marketing Materials; What is of Most Value?
You will need information about your company to leave with prospective buyers and prime contractors. Most often, a simple trifold will be the best and most cost-effective piece of marketing you can leave behind. Make absolutely certain however, it has no grammar or spelling errors. Information should contain all your NAICS, DUNS and cage information.
The government customer is also interested in your capability statement. This states what you do and your previous experience. It really helps to specifically say what you’ve done and give examples. Don’t just say ‘ help desk’. Say help desk: closed x number of tickets in x time or give good examples of difficulties you’ve solved. If you are a software developer, give an example of programs or solutions you’ve fixed, applications written and what/how the customer is using them.
Certifications gained or other distinctions you’ve earned are important; they are a discriminator and will help you gain business.
Have an effective website. Look at other companies that have similar capabilities or who market to the same space and see how they present themselves. It is worth the cost to have a professional appearing site.
Business cards; a must. Develop ‘your’ brand including your logo and keep all marketing material similar in appearance.
Personal Appearance; Always be Professional
Remember to always dress for the occasion. Professional appearance is important. When in doubt, opt for a blazer or sport coat. You should have a suit and wear it for important meetings. Women should also dress professionally; stylish and classical dress will always work. Never wear ill-fitting attire. The message you’re sending will negate written material every time. Business casual almost always works. When you’ve had a meeting with someone important, always send a handwritten “Thank You’ note. They will remember this and it will discriminate you from the rest. One of your self-improvement aids should always be a book on etiquette. Leaving a lasting good impression is your goal.
Our thanks to Dennis and Kathy Demolet of DeMolet Consulting (www.demoletconsulting.com) who help companies shorten their learning curve to government contracting and identifying and targeting their best customer market (agency).
Go to www.TADPGS.com to view our job openings and join our LinkedIn group, Veterans Hiring Solutions for Veterans and Companies at http://linkd.in/Sg346w. If you have specific questions about issues affecting you, your benefits, your dependents etc., feel free to send them to me personally and I will try to help you. If you have questions about compensation and disability benefits or VA health care benefits, ask the First Sergeant at firstname.lastname@example.org