Federal Government Contracts for Small Businesses

Government contracts are available for small businesses to secure at all levels of government from local to federal. The U.S. Government is required by law to provide opportunities for small businesses to use small businesses to acquire some of the products and services it seeks to fill by through contracts. And, the government has regulations for federal contracts to ensure specific objectives. 

General Guidelines

According to the Small Business Administration, SBA, the process of requesting proposals, evaluating bids and selecting businesses must be fair and open. Products and services should be competitively priced, and that the government receives what it pays for according to the terms and conditions of the contract. Most importantly both the government and contractors must comply with the laws that apply to different types of purchases.

Small Business Federal Contract Step-by-Step

Step 1: In order to qualify for the federal contracts that are set aside for small businesses, each business has to define its size based on their North American Industry Classification System, NAICS, code. If you are unsure what your NAICS code is you can search for it on the 2017 NAICS table through the US Census Bureau. That same website allows you to search by keyword as well. For instance, typing in ‘hotel’ into the 2017 NAICS Search will bring up all the codes that mention ‘hotel’. The federal government identifies the NAICS code that describes the principal purpose of that procurement, but businesses can bid on the procurement even if that is not their primary NAICS

Step 2: After learning your NAICS code, visit the SBA’s Table of Small Business Size Standards to determine if your business meets small business size parameters.  For further instructions  for how to determine your business’ size as well as background information about size standards continue reading SBA’s Guide.

Step 3: Next, obtain your D-U-N-S Number, or Dun & Bradstreet Number. This is a nine-digit identification number used for each of your business’ locations. It is free for businesses required to register with the federal government for contracts or grants. Here is a checklist of the items that you will need when registering for your D-U-N-S. Then, visit the Dun & Bradstreet website to request your number.

Step 4: Then, register with the System of Award Management (SAM), the primary vendor database for the federal government. Registration is required by the Federal Acquisitions Regulations for all prospective vendors before being awarded any type of contract or agreement. You will need a DUNS number and Taxpayer ID Number, TIN, which is usually your Employer Identification Number, EIN, and Taxpayer Name (as it appears on your most recent tax return).

Visit the SAM User Guides section and click on the ‘Full User Guides’ or ‘Quick User Guides’ for Contract Registrations.  According to the quick guide, there are ten parts to complete, and you should allow 10-12 business days after your submission before your registration is active in SAM. The Federal Service Desk can help you register in SAM. Their SAM Learning Center has guides, videos and a user manual to further assist you with SAM registration in addition to a phone number and extended operating hours from 8 am – 8 pm ET.

Searching for Contracts

Since you have registered, SAM is useful for marketing your business. Government agencies and contractors can search for your company based on various factors including size, location, ability and ownership. But, you can also search active opportunities online with Federal Business Opportunities, FedBizOpps, or USA.gov ‘s Contract Opportunities.

Do not hesitate to ask a Business Specialist on the 5th floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library for more information about the Dallas B.R.A.I.N. Be sure to check the B.R.A.I.N. Calendar for workshops and events that can assist your small business. The 6th floor of the Central Library hosts government information and may direct you to more detailed information about particular government agencies.