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Illinois District Office
500 W. Madison Street, Suite 1150
Chicago, IL 60661
United States
Phone: 312-353-4528
Fax: 312-886-5688
Government Contracting 101: Five Winning Tips!

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By Marianne Markowitz, SBA Chicago Regional Administrator

Can you imagine your small business providing that key product or service to the Department of Navy, the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Agriculture?

All of this can be a reality!  The federal government spends more than $500 billion a year in contracts, making it the largest purchaser of goods in the world. Small businesses throughout the country CAN and should take advantage of contracting opportunities so that they can grow, innovate and create jobs!  At SBA we have a variety of resources to assist small firms in navigating government contracting.

Chicago businesswoman Lynn Sutton, founder and managing principal of Kairos Consulting Worldwide, LLC took advantage of our government contracting programs. She began her path with SBA’s 8(a) certification program and counseling services.  These avenues opened the door to several government contracting opportunities.  To date, she has secured contracts with the Department of Energy, Department of the Navy and more in the works!

I recently asked Lynn about her company’s experience with government contracting.  She told me, “Our experience in government contracting has been a real ‘game changer’ in Kairos' business development.  With the help of the SBA, we have been able to develop a very solid presence in the federal agencies, winning longer contracts. This has allowed us to develop a very solid workforce, and it lays a good foundation for growth.”

We want to help entrepreneurs navigate government contracting like Lynn Sutton.  Here are five winning tips:

  • Get a counselor. You can find counselors in 68 SBA district offices, 885 Small Business Development Centers, 110 Women’s Business Centers, 350 SCORE chapters, and 300 Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) across the country. These professionals are standing by to help you get in the contracting game, and most of their services are free. Visit
  • Get certified. A number of certification programs can increase your chances of winning a contract. SBA’s 8(a) program provides counseling, mentoring and access to set-aside and sole-source contracts. Service-disabled veteran-owned businesses and small companies in Historically Underutilized Businesses Zones (HUBZones) are also eligible for set-asides.SBA recently launched the Women’s Federal Contract Program which opens up contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses in more than 300 industries where they are underrepresented. Find out more at
  • Be targeted. The most successful contractors have a specific product or service that federal agencies need. Decide what you have to offer and target your efforts at the federal agencies that need it most.
  • Market your business. Get your foot in the door by attending matchmaking events with agency contracting officers, or by reaching out to agencies’ Offices of Small and Disadvantage Business Utilization (OSDBUs). Visit to find out more.
  • Identify contracting opportunities. Be proactive! Once you’ve determined the agencies most likely to buy from you, you need to find contracts to bid on. Stay in close contact with the agency’s OSDBU and contracting officers you have met, and visit the Federal Business Opportunities Web site (, which has a list of all contracts available for bid. Also, look for new tools like, an online portal that houses all of the clean-energy small-business opportunities across the federal government.

Winning a government contract is hard work, but small business owners are not in it alone. Contact us today to learn how government contracting can benefit your small business.

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