Developing and cultivating relationships with the small business community and supporting their goals to grow their business are important in the federal space. How can larger private companies help their smaller counterparts? By developing a program that supports these small businesses through the development, engagement, and enablement of an ecosystem of companies.
I know that private enterprise is thought of as highly competitive, and the creation of a program where larger companies incubate smaller ones may seem like a pipe dream, but many familiar large organizations already do, including Booz Allen, CACI and Leidos.
What’s Government Got to Do with Small Business?
The U.S. government and its agencies recognize the challenges that small businesses face in terms of resources, funding and know-how to work in the government contracting market. The SBA created the 8 (a) Business Development Program to help small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. Under this program, participants can receive sole-source contracts up to a ceiling of $4 million for goods and services. In addition, the Federal government offers a number of different Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs) for small businesses. Individual agencies have also increased the number of procurements with small business set aside requirements on specific program/project procurements.
Why Start a Small Business Program?
Small businesses tend to be agile, adaptive, and flexible, in some instances, even more so than larger organizations (even mine). They are also more likely to be able to go after the smaller/incremental opportunities that larger SIs may not be able to pursue. But, many of them are not able to invest the money to acquire the technology or training to become skilled on the latest technology advancements. Creating a symbiotic environment between larger and smaller businesses benefits our economy and our government.
How Can Larger Private Enterprise Grow Small Business?
Larger organizations can easily help small businesses and provide a complete solution to federal agencies. Here are three important steps in creating an amazing program that facilitates the continued adoption of next gen technology and systems in government and encourages healthy growth in our economy:
- Find great candidates
First and foremost, engage with companies that are seeking to build skills and expertise to develop services related business with U.S. federal customers based on your company’s skill set. We conduct outreach at many events and industry tradeshows to identify such small businesses. We also ensure the company is registered with the SBA as a small business concern and meets the definition of ‘small business’ according to the size standards based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).
- Offer tangible benefits
Be creative when it comes to incentives for small businesses to partner with your organization. At my company, we offer monthly technical training sessions on our software and a sale ‘bootcamp’ at no cost to help small businesses develop new solutions and services offerings they can bring to the federal market. Partners who are interested in a sandbox environment for prototyping and testing can also gain access to our development software. We also plan to provide office space dedicated to small businesses so they can conduct business, including access to conference rooms. This easy access to technology and our solutions engineers make it very easy to train their staff, and help with issues as they arise.
- Help with Marketing
Marketing is a luxury a lot of small businesses just can’t afford. Offering to list a small business on your company website; featuring a small business exhibit section at your organization’s user events; highlighting them in the press and social media; and providing opportunities to network at different events can help make a small business successful.
I’ve enjoyed helping small businesses connect with government and primes and learn how they can provide their expertise and innovate in the federal space. I think we have learned as much as they have in our program. Our smaller partners have kept us up-to-date with innovation and continue to provide a fresh perspective to challenges we face every day in the marketplace. Perhaps they can do the same for you.