How does a small busi­ness land that gi­ant fed­eral con­tract?

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS -

This week, an ex­pert at the D.C. chap­ter of the busi­ness men­tor­ing non­profit SCORE of­fers ad­vice on en­ter­ing the fed­eral pro­cure­ment process.

— Dan Bey­ers

The en­tre­pre­neur: When Maxie Gluck­man was work­ing as an ele­men­tary school teacher with Teach for Amer­ica and in­tern­ing for a spell at the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment, she strug­gled with how she could bridge the gap be­tween pol­icy and prac­tice to ad­dress the ed­u­ca­tional in­equities fac­ing His­panic stu­dents. The fam­i­lies she en­gaged in her class­room de­sired to get more in­volved in their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tions. How­ever, the lin­guis­tic bar­rier — most had no English back­ground — hin­dered their op­por­tu­ni­ties to do so.

“Many par­ents with whom I built strong re­la­tion­ships would ask me to teach them English and ex­pressed their dis­com­fort with walk­ing into their child’s school with­out it,” she said. “They were un­able to at­tend the free classes pro­vided at lo­cal com­mu­nity cen­ters due to com­plex work and child-care sched­ules. I knew that cre­at­ing a holis­tic fam­ily sup­port struc­ture for stu­dents would lead to their ac­cel­er­ated aca­demic growth, and I wanted to find away to do so and sup­port these fam­i­lies.”

To ad­dress this need for a flex­i­ble lan­guage train­ing so­lu­tion, in 2014 Gluck­man founded

In­struc­tural. This Ar­ling­ton­based com­pany grew from her de­sire to im­prove the qual­ity of global lan­guage in­struc­tion as well as to sup­port bilin­gual­ism as a tool for aca­demic and pro­fes­sional growth.

The chal­lenge, Maxie Gluck­man, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of In­struc­tural: “In­struc­tural is a la­bor of love. How­ever, to sup­port the com­mu­nity in a mean­ing­ful way, there ex­ists the press­ing need to ob­tain pro­gram fund­ing. How can I as a small­busi­ness owner ma­neu­ver the fed­eral pro­cure­ment process to take ad­van­tage of fed­eral con­tract­ing and grant op­por­tu­ni­ties?”

“Busi­nesses that want to work with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment

must fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with acronyms such as SAM, NAICS codes, and DUNS num­bers, which can be in­tim­i­dat­ing when just start­ing. Mi­nor­ity busi­ness own­ers must also learn how they can cap­i­tal­ize on set-aside re­quire­ments that gov­ern­ment and large busi­nesses are re­quired to up­hold.”

The ad­vice, Karen Wil­liams,

SCORE men­tor: The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s pro­cure­ment process can in­deed be over­whelm­ing for a new­comer. Here are some steps to get you started.

Step 1: Es­tab­lish­ing your firm’s cor­po­rate qual­i­fi­ca­tions (past per­for­mance) in the pri­vate sec­tor helps demon­strate to po­ten­tial fed­eral cus­tomers and/or prime con­trac­tor team­mates that there would be a low risk in se­lect­ing your firm.

Step 2: Register in the Sys­tem for Award Man­age­ment (af­fec­tion­ately known as SAM) where in­for­ma­tion about your firm will be avail­able to all gov­ern­ment users and prime con­trac­tors.

Step 3: Re­search fed­eral con­tract­ing his­tor­i­cal data to help iden­tify which fed­eral agen­cies buy what you sell. Use the Fed­eral Pro­cure­ment Data­base Sys­tem — Next Gen­er­a­tion (FPDS) and USAspend­ing.gov.

Step 4: Clas­sify your com­pany based on the es­tab­lished Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion size stan­dards to in­crease your com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion for small­busi­ness pref­er­ence pro­grams.

Step 5: De­velop what’s known as a Fed­eral Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Plan. Fo­cus ini­tially on no more than three gov­ern­ment of­fices that have posted con­tract op­por­tu­ni­ties for your prod­uct or ser­vices on www.fbo.gov or the agency Web site.

Step 6: Set up ap­point­ments with the Of­fice of Small and Dis­ad­van­taged Busi­ness Uti­liza­tion (OSDBU) that sup­port the agen­cies you have iden­ti­fied.

Step 7: Sub­con­tract­ing to a large or mid­size firm is a good way to de­velop past per­for­mance ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the fed­eral sec­tor and of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties for team­ing. Most of the large firms have an out­reach of­fice fo­cused on find­ing qual­i­fied small, woman-

SDB, HubZone and vet­eran-owned firms.

The re­ac­tion, Gluck­man: “I ap­pre­ci­ate the de­tailed out­line of steps you pro­vided as they have laid out an easy to fol­low path to suc­cess. In my ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, I have found that it re­quires pa­tience and per­sis­tence, check­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties con­stantly on fbo.gov and SubNet through SBA.gov. I signed up for alerts di­rectly re­lated to my in­dus­try and have also reached out to in­di­vid­ual gov­ern­ment agen­cies to get fore­casts for op­por­tu­ni­ties com­ing down the pipeline. Bid­ding on an re­quest for pro­pos­als re­quires a lot of prepa­ra­tion; there­fore, the sooner you know, the bet­ter.

“For In­struc­tural, the key has been build­ing strong part­ner­ships in the ed­u­ca­tion space. As a cer­ti­fied small, eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged, women-owned busi­ness, I look to be a sub­con­trac­tor when online lan­guage train­ing is a part of the so­lic­i­ta­tion’s re­quire­ments. Fo­cus­ing on part­ner­ships al­lows for In­struc­tural to reach a wider au­di­ence. We are con­fi­dent that what we are pro­vid­ing will lead to ef­fec­tive and ac­cel­er­ated lan­guage learn­ing — we look for part­ners that have the same vi­sion and mis­sion of pro­vid­ing high-qual­ity and flex­i­ble ser­vice.” SCORE is a non­profit as­so­ci­a­tion ded­i­cated to en­tre­pre­neur ed­u­ca­tion. Look­ing for some ad­vice on a new busi­ness, or need help fix­ing an ex­ist­ing one? Con­tact us at cap­biznews@wash­post.com or re­quest a men­tor at www.wash­ing­tondc.score.org.

COUR­TESY OF THE SCORE FOUN­DA­TION

Maxie Gluck­man founded In­struc­tural, an Ar­ling­ton-based com­pany for lan­guage train­ing.

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