Subcontracting Opportunities and How to Find Them

Did you know that locating and securing subcontracting opportunities can be just as, if not more valuable, than receiving direct contract awards?

It is also a great initial step to more direct opportunities with the Government and a way to gain past performance experience within the Government market, without the responsibility of the prime contractor.

Just as federal agencies have small business preference program goals (such as small business, HUBZone, Service Disabled Veteran, Women etc), prime contractors performing work on federal contracts valued over certain dollar thresholds have similar goals built in to their contracts. In addition to marketing to the right Government agencies, marketing to other larger target government contractors will maximize your opportunities and allow you to leverage your business ownership status.

What can you do?

1. Identify the major prime contractors that do significant work for Federal agencies where there may be a logical fit for the services you provide. For instance, a concrete company may want to identify larger construction companies working as general contractors and/or just being awarded Federal contracts. There are a number of ways to identify these potential targets; you will need to look beyond just the companies you know in your geographic area. is a great place to start, as it is the single posting site for all solicitations over $3,000. Your local PTAC counselor can teach you how to use this site and others to get the information you need.

2. Research the company and identify not only the contracts they have performed but also their main mission, vision, and market. Identify their specific company goals, as well as company successes.

3. Research their small business and diversity initiatives. Do they actively engage with the small business community? Do they have specific online tools and resources for companies looking to do business with them? Do they require other third party certifications OTHER than the Federal Government self-certification? (i.e. WBE)

4. Identify the Small Business Liaison Officer or Diversity Officer within the company. You can also ask for the small business subcontracting plan administrator within the company. This is normally the person or office responsible for managing the subcontracting plans, engaging and sourcing small businesses, and in larger companies, managing the company diversity/small business plan. This representative is similar in function to the small business specialists at federal agencies.

5. Contact the small business person you have identified. Realize that they may also wear other hats within the company, and therefore it may take some effort to really engage them. But once you do, use the same marketing tactics you would for a Government customer. Have a targeted capabilities statement ready, identify the areas that you believe you could assist with, note specific projects that they worked on (based on your research) and discuss where you would be an asset, and ensure you are active in the System for Award Management, and that your SBA Dynamic Small Business profile is completed. You will not want to lead with your specific small business status, but rather include that as the “icing on the cake”. Ask specific questions about identifying bidding opportunities.

6. Follow up. Remember that marketing is an investment, and your return will depend upon what you put into it. Just as with a government agency, there is one of them and thousands of you, so you have to make sure you do what it takes to make them know YOU.

Anything else you can do?? Why yes there is!!

1. Follow the company on Linkedin and link with employees of the firm. This will not only build your network specific to these companies and increase your communication possibilities, it will assist you with your research and company “intelligence”. Look at your current contact list and see if you have any shared contacts that you can ask for introductions. (PS- Is your profile and company profile up to date??)

2. Many large companies really feel strongly about giving small businesses the opportunity to market their goods and services, and this is one reason a consortium of large companies (including AT&T, John Deere, CAT, DuPont, IBM) built a free web based portal called “Supplier Connection. Supplier Connection provides small business in specific industries with a standard and streamlined way to register company information, share business practices and connect with both large AND small business to maximize growth opportunities. Small businesses are able to register, build a company profile, and reach out to a number of businesses at one time, but it’s also for way for large businesses to find them. Click here to learn about Supplier Connection, and if your business is involved in any of the following industries, please consider this as an additional way to market your business for subcontracting opportunities:

  • Facilities support
  • Food and Beverage Manufacturing
  • Industrial Manufacturing
  • Lab Supplies and Equipment
  • Logistics
  • Professional, Marketing and Technical Services
  • Service Parts
  • Software

This is just a broad overview. To discuss how to build your potential target list, how to best approach the companies, how to best utilize LinkedIn or anything else related to marketing please don’t hesitate to contact your local PTAC!

SAM Registration is Free; Be careful what you pay for

No need to pay high fees for government contracting registration – free help is available!

The first step in pursuing government contracts is registering in the System for Award Management (SAM), the federal government’s vendor database. Some agencies – such as FEMA – have their own databases as well. Small businesses contractors may also seek special certifications, such as 8(a), Woman-owned, Veteran-owned and/or HUBZone, or want to explore the potential for a GSA Schedule contract.

A number of for-profit assistance providers target small business owners unfamiliar with – or confused by – the various government registration and certification processes. They market their services energetically, sending official-sounding emails directing small business owners to sign-up for their services to be registered/certified, etc – for a hefty fee, of course. Commercial websites (.com websites, in other words) are just that — commercial. When a commercial website advertises to help you with the process of registering to do business with the government, there’s almost always going to be a fee involved. By contrast, government websites (designated as .gov) offer free advice and registration.

Remember: There is NEVER a fee to register as a government contractor. Repeat – there is NEVER a fee to register as a government contractor. And there is free and low-cost help available to get you through the process.

Some commercial enterprises target companies as soon as they begin a government registration process.  Because SAM and other vendor databases are public, for-profit providers can  obtain contact information almost as soon as it is entered and send automated emails with messages like “Your registration is not complete.  Contact us immediately,”  which can be mistaken for a government notice.  When the small business clicks the link – or calls the number provided – they are prompted to sign-up for assistance, usually at a cost of hundreds of dollars.

One commercial website ran an aggressive advertising campaign directed at businesses, soliciting vendors to fill out a “FEMA Contract Registration Form.” Once the form was filled out and submitted on-line, applicants received the following message: “Thank you for submitting your information. We will be in contact with you shortly. Click below to make a payment of $500.00 for this service.” By clicking on the “Buy Now” button, they were directed to a site to pay $500.00 via a PayPal account for “FEMA Registration.” Other marketing campaigns by similar outfits have targeted Veteran business owners, etc.

Please know that neither SAM, FEMA or any other government agency charges money to register as a vendor.

Free help with SAM Registration

Many business owners can navigate SAM, FEMA and other registrations quite successfully on their own. For those who’d like help with registrations, certification applications or any other government contracting issue, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) provide and free and low-cost expert assistance with registrations, certifications and all other aspects of government contracting, offering classes, one-on-one counseling, bid-matching services, advice on proposal preparation, matchmaking/networking opportunities and much more. Many PTAC counselors have backgrounds in government acquisition offices or prime contractor government contracting departments, so they bring real world experience to help you.

For those companies that need more basic business assistance, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide the same kind of hands-on, personalized help for general business operation topics. Because small companies must make every dollar count, it’s smart to leverage these services that are provided through non-profit, federal-local partnerships for the specific purpose of supporting small businesses.

Of course there are circumstances in which it makes sense for a small business to pay a consultant for specialized legal or financial help or for intensive project development, and there are many qualified professionals to choose from. As with any business decision, thorough research into qualifications, costs and realistic expectations and deliverables are key to determining the right solution for your business. Never let yourself be pressured into a hasty decision or enticed by an “easy fix”. Careful due diligence is always the best investment you can make.

Success in government contracting requires a long-term strategy and ongoing commitment. The U.S. government wants the government marketplace to be accessible to all capable small businesses and has put in place resources to help you. There is NEVER a fee to register as a government vendor.

To receive assistance with any aspect of vendor registration with any government agency at no cost, please feel free to contact a PTAC near you.