Government contracting can be highly rewarding. However, the competition is often fierce. To become and remain competitive, businesses need to focus on tangible benefits for the government. If you cannot compete on product, price or performance, you will quickly be left behind. Similarly, you must be able to work within the government bureaucracy and adhere to necessary regulations. However, there are certain intangible elements that, while not strictly necessary, greatly improve your chances of becoming a successful government contractor. Of these elements, one of the most important is to build a network specifically geared toward contracting.
One of the best places to start your networking approach is inside a government agency itself. Get in touch with the liaison officers at your agency of choice. These individuals can help put you in touch with decision-makers and can serve as a great introduction point into the organization. Similarly, working with procurement officers can be useful, particularly if you have an innovative product to offer. You can encounter them at procurement conferences and other events sponsored by government agencies. If you manage to get your product into a procurement officer’s hands and build a relationship based on the quality of your offering, they may become a strong advocate to higher-ups.
You can also look to your professional network, especially among people who offer products or services that complement your own. If they have worked with the government before, all the better. One of the best ways to break into government contracting is by entering as a co-contractor or sub-contractor. If you have managed to forge and maintain a quality professional relationship with someone who can enter contracting with you, or whom you can serve under as a sub-contractor, you can gain a quick boost on the road to becoming an established contracting entity.
There are numerous ways to get side-tracked before you find success as a contractor, so before you begin building a network make sure your house is in order and that you have the ability to enter into the field. Once you are sure that you have the manpower, time and resources to dedicate to contracting, you should determine who is best positioned to help you break into the field, and pursue those relationships diligently. Even if it is only to get advice regarding a certain agency’s preferences, in a field as competitive as government contracting, you should accept any advantage you can get.