As a veteran, you never really leave the service of our country. I know – I’m a veteran, too.
Once you are no longer actively serving, however, becoming a government contractor is a great way to serve the government community in a different capacity. In fact, there can be great advantages in being a small veteran-owned business selling to the government.
The key to success is to make sure you have all the pieces in place before you start selling yourself as a veteran-owned business. In other words, you may get the government’s attention by being a VOB, but you also want to keep their attention by focusing on your services and products as well as your socioeconomic status.
Step One: Get a GSA Schedule
I probably say this in every post, if not I should, but it’s worth repeating: getting a GSA Schedule contract is the lowest cost entry into government contracting – particularly for a veteran-owned business. Getting onto the GSA Schedule means you’ve passed the government’s “credibility test”; it means the government has certified that your prices are fair and reasonable.
For more information on getting onto the GSA Schedule, and for basic information on how to get started as a government contractor, read my earlier post: Your First Five Steps in Government Contracting.
Step Two: Prove Yourself
Your first step is to get that GSA Schedule “seal of approval”, so the government understands that you’re a legitimate business. Your next step is to demonstrate that you have services and products worth buying.
Focus your efforts on what you’re selling, not on the fact that you’re a veteran.
The best way to show that you can do what you say you can do is to prepare your case. Prepare a solid history of satisfied customers who would be willing to serve as a reference to your government prospects. If you have had any experience working with government, even on the state and local level, give those case studies highest priority.
Remember, government buyers are smart. They will pick up quickly on your level of commitment – or lack of commitment. Government buyers are looking for a provider that can be trusted, not simply to hire a veteran-owned business. Show your government contacts that you’ve made a commitment to them.
Step Three: Tout your VOB Status
Once you have a GSA Schedule contract and once you have your case studies in place, then you can start discussing your veteran-owned business status.
Agency procurement officers have certain socioeconomic goals to meet in terms of the number of veteran-owned, woman-owned, disadvantaged, and small businesses they work with. So, for example, if you’re a veteran-owned, disadvantaged small business you offer three socioeconomic “points” to any agency that hires you.
You should certainly discuss your VOB status in conversations and through relationships. Your VOB status will also make a difference in some of the eTools offered through GSA, such as GSA eLibrary and GSA Advantage!®.
GSA Advantage!®, according to GSA, is: “the online shopping and ordering system that provides access to thousands of contractors and millions of supplies (products) and services. Anyone may browse on GSA Advantage!® to view and compare the variety of products and services offered.”
eTools, according to GSA, is a: “Web portal [that] provides a one-stop resource where federal and private customers can quickly learn about an array of GSA products and services. From buying paper clips to leasing public buildings, e-Tools allow GSA to better serve its customers by providing an efficient and cost-effective way to do business.”
With both GSA Advantage!®and eTools, government customers looking to buy here will often search specifically for companies with a socioeconomic status that can help them meet their goals. Make sure your information is up to date. And, make sure your profile on these sites specifically notes that your company is a veteran-owned business.
Having a veteran-owned business can work to your advantage when you’re selling to the government. That said, being a VOB can’t be your only differentiator. You’ve got to have the services, products, and commitment to back you up.
Get the government’s attention with your superior services and products, and then tell them your socioeconomic status – not the other way around.
- The ABCs of Government Contracting: Understanding the Acronyms
- Help for Small Businesses Looking for Government Contracts
- Government Contracting: Explaining the Process in 5 Steps
- Identifying and Capturing Government Year-end Dollars
- Top 5 Small Business Opportunities in Government for 2011