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Mentor-Protege Program Offers Small Businesses Gov't Contracting Opportunities

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Mentor-Protege Program Offers Small Businesses Gov't Contracting Opportunities

Published: June 3, 2010

There are few things more valuable in business than a mentor; someone wh-s-been there, done tha'.

A mentor can provide valuable advice and business guidance, which can be particularly useful when yo're doing business with the government. As 've discussed before, the government market is unique, with its own set of rules, regulations, and business processes.

A mentor that has traveled the same path as the protégé' someone who has, quiet literally, been there, done that' can also use his/her own company as an actual example of how to operate to success. The mentor can point to things his/her company did to secure a particular government bid, or recommend pricing strategies based on actual experience.

Few companies can provide better advice than one that has already been down the path yo're going down today. You can probably tell, 'm a big fan of the mentor-protégé relationship.

The General Services Administration (GSA) offers a Mentor-Protégé Program that is specifically designed to encourage prime contractors to help small businesses be more successful in government contracting and enhance their ability to perform successfully on government contracts and subcontracts.

The program focuses on companies selling their services and products through the GSA Schedules Program (read about GSA within my previous post'The ABCs of Government Contracting: Understanding the Acronyms). The program is intended to encourage large and small companies to foster and establish long-term relationships and, ultimately, increase the number of small businesses that receive GSA prime contract and subcontract awards.

If you're a small business, then you're eligible to be a protégé. According to GSA, you're eligible if you're a small business, small disadvantaged business, women-owned business, HUBZone small business, veteran-owned small business, or service-disabled veteran-owned small business.

You also have to be a current or newly selected subcontractor on a GSA Schedule contract.

Finding a Mentor, Making it Work

Here's how the program works.

Eligible small businesses provide services or products for any prime contractor with an approved subcontracting plan negotiated with GSA. In other words, the small business (protégé) and the larger business (mentor) agree to work on a contract together (one as prime contractor, one as subcontractor).

The small business and mentor then draft an agreement, which must contain things such as:

  • An eligibility statement from the protégé confirming that it is a small business (and providing further details along these lines)

  • A description of the type of assistance the mentor firm will provide to the protégé firm, milestones for providing the assistance, and factors to assess the protégé firm's progress under the program

  • The anticipated dollar value and type of subcontracts that may be awarded to the protégé firm, and the period of time over which they may be awarded

In addition, the protégé must agree to provide information for the semi-annual reports the mentor is required to submit to GSA detailing the assistance provided to the protégé and the cost incurred in supporting protégés. The protégé must submit a Lessons Learned evaluation along with the mentor at the conclusion of the Mentor-Protégé agreement.

How do you find a mentor? Technically, the mentor finds you. The larger company selects a smaller company with which to do business, and with which to establish a Mentor-Protégé relationship.

That said, you can certainly do some digging around to see who would be a good mentor, and make your presence known. You can search the GSA Office of Small Business Utilization Subcontracting Directory, or the GSA eLibrary for potential mentors. Then, market yourself.

Signing Up

If you're not sure what to make of the program, you can see an overview of the program on the GSA website here.

You can also take a look at the application here, to get a better understanding of what will be asked and what kind of information you'll have to provide. You can, of course, fill out the application if you're ready to dive in and have all your ducks in a row. The signed application must be submitted to the GSA's Office of Small Business Utilization (OSBU) for approval.

Additional Resources

Bill Gormley is president and CEO of Washington Management Group and FedSources, and chairman of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

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