Making it Easier for Small Businesses to Succeed in GovCon

-As shared by Stephanie Alexander

I recently wrote an article about why it’s so freaking hard for small businesses to succeed in GovCon. It stirred up a lot of comments including a whole part 2 that we’ll write about in the future. But for today, let’s take the opposite approach. What can we do to make it easier for our small businesses to successfully compete and bid in the GovCon space?  

Here are some non-acquisition changes that we think would help: 

  • Stop handing out Kool-Aid. STOP telling every SDVOSB or minority-owned or woman-owned business out there that it’s the world’s largest market, they have contracts specifically set up just for your category, etc., etc. Let’s educate folks on how to utilize these socio-economic designations as tools in their arsenal, but let’s first make sure they have the business basics in place.
  • Past Performance. We put so much emphasis on whether we’ve done the job successfully before and how we demonstrate it to the government. While we agree this is important, let’s try to connect some dots on how doing work successfully in one area can lead to a higher probability of success in another. Let’s give some of our small businesses some latitude in how they can translate their capabilities into past performance.
  • Moola. It takes forever to get under contract and collect revenue in GovCon.  While we understand that bankers don’t want to take risks, how about being more willing to lend smaller amounts to keep people’s lights on? Business owners must also be educated on what that means….and be willing to take the risk associated with signing up for these loans.
  • Supporting bigger small businesses (size being relative). I think the SBA, PTAC, and SCORE all do a great job of educating newbies to the field. They provide endless resources and can offer excellent advice.  But where people fall down is after they have a few successful wins (say $5-15M in revenue). This is where growth comes into play. The CEO cannot continue to do everything, you are beyond hiring your friends and your relationships have yielded a couple subKs. What’s next??   Providing some next level resources targeted at these companies would be extremely useful as people are beholden to whatever advice that they receive, whether that be someone at a networking event or their trusted advisers. Sometimes it’s not always the best.
  • Transparency and Honesty. No one wants to dampen an individual’s enthusiasm for starting their own company. It’s the American Dream and we are here for it! But there are some folks that either aren’t ready, don’t have the connections, or quite frankly, would be much better players on someone else’s team than starting their own. Some days having the harder conversations or at least providing another point of view is the best gift you can give.  

These are just a few ideas on how we could make it a kinder, gentler place for small businesses within GovCon. This is not a place where you can “get rich quick,” but you can build a thriving, successful business if you have the right tools in place. Let’s open the conversation. What ideas do you have? What have you seen be successful?