Guest post by Julie Crosby (learn more about Julie at the end of this post)
When it comes to pretty much anything government related, confusion is a common issue, and the GSA Schedule program is no different. The GSA Schedule offers huge opportunities to businesses of all sizes and industries, but unfortunately, many companies are either unaware or misinformed about how the program works.
Here are seven of the biggest misconceptions about the GSA Schedule program:
1. You can’t work with the government unless you have a GSA Schedule – While a GSA Schedule Contract plays an important role in any government sales strategy, your company can get started without one. However, you are first required to complete three steps: get a D&B number, register on the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) website to get a CAGE code, and create an Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA). Once these steps have been completed, your company can begin bidding on opportunities that aren’t restricted to the GSA Schedules. Having established a work history with government agencies may help your company when it comes time to pursue a GSA Schedule.
2. You have to be a huge company – While the U.S. government may be the largest consumer in the world, that doesn’t mean you have to be a Fortune 500 company to meet their product/service needs. In fact, over 80% of GSA Schedule holders are small businesses. Federal agencies are actually required to set aside contracts exclusively for small businesses, providing a unique opportunity for such companies. Another thing to keep in mind, your company is not required to fill massive orders – government entities of all sizes use the GSA Schedule and for all types of orders. You can find the ones suited to your business by using various GSA websites and can build slowly to bigger ones.
3. You have to slash your prices – A GSA Schedule does involve negotiating discounted rates, and you will need to create a price list. However, your company is not required to offer rock bottom prices, and is certainly not to do anything at-cost. Working with government entities can be a very profitable venture, especially considering the size of some orders.
4. The GSA Schedule is only for product-oriented companies – While there are a large number of companies that provide products, many businesses in the program are exclusively service oriented. For example, there is a large demand for both IT and management consulting services in the government sector.
5. Working with the government is a slow, paperwork-heavy process – GSA Schedule Contracts simplify the government procurement process, so orders placed through the GSA Schedule save your company time and money. Once you have a Schedule, GSA has already inspected your business and financials, so the majority of the work is complete by the time your company is ready to bid.
6. All you have to do is fill out an application, and you’re put on the list – Many companies are under the misconception that they will receive a GSA number and be put on “the list” after submitting an application. The word ‘application’ brings to mind a fill-in-the-blank form which is misleading. The process to obtain a GSA Schedule Contract involves developing a proposal that includes information such as: financials, commercial price lists, discounting policies, past performance, technical narratives, and labor category descriptions. While it is not a simple process, having a GSA Schedule opens up new opportunities and streamlines government sales, saving time in the long run.
7. Only certain industries can get a GSA Schedule – Nearly any industry can get a GSA Schedule Contract, from engineering to office imaging/document solutions, IT, and more. If there is a government entity that needs the service, chances are there is a GSA Schedule to cover it.
Misunderstandings and partial-truths abound about the Federal Supply Schedule program, and the seven items above are some of the most prevalent. However, the truth about the program is that for many companies, it is an exceptionally profitable venture and reliable source of revenue.
About the Author
Julie Crosby serves as the President of Federal Schedules, a GSA consulting company that focuses on helping businesses obtain and maintain their GSA Contracts.