Selling Goods and Services to the Federal Government
The federal government buyers spend billions of dollars annually through money set aside for Schedule contracts from the General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA Schedule is the most widely used government contracting vehicle thanks to its streamlined procurement process and ability to be used by any federal agency, making it the most lucrative part of government contracting. Government buyers prefer to make purchases through GSA certified vendors when possible. They do this because it’s an easy process, with low risk and better pricing. Learn more about the General Service Administration (GSA) and how to add your business to the GSA Schedule.
The federal government also uses special programs to help small businesses win at least at 23% of all federal contracting dollars each year. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides several programs to help small businesses win federal contracts. Participating in these programs helps small businesses:
- Win a fair share of federal contracts
- Qualify for exclusive set-aside and sole-source contracts
- Partner with established contractors to win contracts
- Get business mentoring and education to learn how federal contracting works
Tribal enterprises and businesses have participated in many of these programs; some of the most popular ones are:
- 8(a) Business Development Program – SBA’s 8(a) program helps provide a level playing field for small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities. Before you can participate in the 8(a) Business Development program, you must be certified. To apply for the 8(a) Business Development program, simply use the certify.SBA.gov website.
- SBA Mentor-Protégé Program – Small businesses can learn from an experienced government contractor through the SBA Mentor-Protégé program. The program helps eligible small businesses (protégés) gain capacity and win government contracts through partnerships with more experienced companies (mentors).
- Joint Ventures – As a part of SBA’s Mentor-Protégé Program, businesses in certain SBA socio-economic categories can form joint ventures, which allow them to compete together for government contracts reserved for small business, including contracts set aside for 8(a), veteran-owned, women-owned, and HUBZone businesses. Joint venture agreements must be in writing and follow SBA requirements.
- HUBZone Program – The HUBZone program fuels small business growth in historically underutilized business zones by limiting competition for certain contracts to businesses in these zones. Businesses must be certified by the SBA to be eligible to compete for the program’s set-aside contracts. Learn more by reviewing the HUBZone fact sheet.
Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU assist the federal government in meeting their goals for contracting with small businesses. Like at the Department of the Interior, these offices implement policies, procedures, and training for federal programs to emphasize commitment to contracting with small businesses as well as outreach to small and disadvantaged business communities, including Indian economic enterprises, small disadvantaged, women-owned, veteran-owned, and service-disabled veteran owned. To learn more about these offices and find contact information, visit the federal Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Directors Interagency Council (OSDBU Council) website.
A partner resource to consider when preparing to sell goods and services to the federal government is your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Supported by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), PTACs help businesses pursue and perform under contracts with the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and with government prime contractors. Find your local PTAC. The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development American Indian Procurement Technical Assistance Center (The National Center PTAC) provides professional business consulting services and technical assistance to Native American-owned businesses regarding marketing and selling to the federal, state, local and large prime contractors in the Eastern region. Learn more about The National Center PTAC and upcoming events.
Buying Goods and Services
It is important to follow proper financial and business policies and protocols when purchasing necessary goods and services. In general, make sure to follow the following recommendations:
- Verify legitimate suppliers
- Independently verify the reference by calling the main number of the reference’s employer and asking to be connected with them.
- Ensure that the supplier is a legitimate company by looking them up on a business database such as Dun and Bradstreet.
- Keep an eye out for red flags
- The price is vastly below market prices.
- There is an unexplained urgency to transfer funds or a last-minute change in previously established wiring instructions.
- The seller initiates the contact with the buyer, especially from a difficult-to-verify channel such as by phone or personal email.
- The seller cannot clearly explain the origin of the items or how they are available given current high demand.
- The seller is unwilling or unable to provide concrete production numbers.
The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) developed a special website for Tribal Nations regarding the purchasing of necessary PPE equipment. Although the site is dedicated to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response, there are valued principles and lessons that can be applied to any purchasing need.
Another resource for purchasing is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Local Better Business Bureaus are valuable sources to verify vendors and their operations and read reviews from previous purchasers. Your local BBB is also a great resource to learn about local scams and nefarious actors that should be avoided.