Post by Liz Cullen, contributing Women On Business writer
The WPEO recently held a workshop for our certified WBEs on how to position themselves for success in the government contracting market. One request I’ve heard from women business owners has been “How do I access government contracts?” There is a perception, in some cases correctly, that there are a pile of contracts with government agencies and contractors that are just waiting for small, women, minority, and service disabled vets to fulfill them. Since government contracting is not the main focus of the WPEO efforts, we looked to an expert to provide some insight to our women on next steps.
There are several resources that can offer more experience and expertise on how to access government contracts such as Doña Storey, of Govtips.biz, who gave the WPEO’s workshops, or the national organization wipp.org. What interested me were the messages from the workshops that were useful regardless of the size of one’s business and whether the products and services were targeted to the public or private sector.
Here are a few of the lessons I learned from our workshop:
- Stick to your core capabilities: We all know it is better to do one thing and do it well than say your company can do everything from clean the floors to manage IT and not do anything convincingly. Being the absolute best at your niche is the best value you can add.
- Keep your ears open: The best way to learn a new market or industry is to listen, listen, listen. It is for this reason that we turned to an expert to address this topic in a workshop. Listening and learning from others is the way to find out what customers are looking for, what they don’t even know they need, and what your competitors may be providing.
- Commit time and resources to your goals: Ms. Storey made it clear that “you do not dabble in the Federal Government.” This can be said of any new venture or market. If you are not willing to spend the required time and energy to learn the space and build relationships, then any time spent will have been wasted.
The federal contracting environment is highly competitive and constantly changing. Just because now is a good time to diversify private sector clients with public sector clients, business owners should not lose sight of their niche, their goals, and what the costs and benefits are of achieving those goals.