You might think government contracting is only for big businesses. Think again. Small businesses CAN really excel in this space.  

When you think of government contracting - especially defense contracting - you probably think of gigantic corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or General Dynamics. But small businesses can play a big role as government contractors, too. In fact, in some cases, government decision makers prefer small businesses because they are more nimble, innovative, and can move more quickly than the behemoths.

There are many ways you can leverage your status to secure contracts successfully.   

As an African American woman technology entrepreneur, I have always obtained the Minority Woman Business Enterprise (MWBE) certification for every business I've founded. It helped present me as a "validated" solution to a new channel, group of large customers, or large defense contractors.

Here are some keys to success in government contracting:

1. Know the rules - most of them anyway

Government contracting is loaded with rules and regulations. You'll never know them all, so don't be intimidated, but you do need to do your homework.

A great example of a successful technology government contractor is G2 Software Systems (G2), led by Georgia Griffith, founder and CEO, who has steered the business for nearly 30 years and has grown it to over $50 million in annual revenues.

"There's a lot of rules and regulations," Griffith said during a discussion I had with her about the insights she's gained over the years. "But you have be courageous and know you'll never know all the rules and do the best you can. It takes a little nerve. You can't know everything, but you can't let that stop you either. Many large government agencies have experienced experts such as small business procurement advisors on their team to assist small business owners with gaining access to the latest regulations."

2. Get certifications when you need them

Government contracts require different certifications. If you don't have them, you probably won't be  competitive as competitive as you could be. One of the most common is the 8A certification, which is required to access federal contracts.

In software, Griffith said you need a CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) certification in process improvement (like Six Sigma Black Belt).

The government also typically requires you use a Certified Cost Plus Accounting System, which can be set up in QuickBooks. And later, when you're a prime contractor on deals worth more than $20 million, you'll need a Certified Purchasing System.

3. Audits are standard operating process

Know that getting audited is just part of the job. When you're under audit, make sure you have someone who speaks the government's language. And keep all your documentation.

In summary, it never hurts to go by the book, especially when you're new to government contracting. You don't know what you don't know, so keep asking questions from those more experienced in this business. That will help ensure you get all the certifications you need and set you up to pass an audit with flying colors.  

Look out for Part 2 of this blog for 3 more valuable insights next month.

About the author:

Kim Folsom is the founder of LIFT Development Enterprises, a not-for-profit, community development organization with a mission to help underserved, underrepresented small-business owners thrive. She is also the co-founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, LLC, a small business growth accelerator and revenue-based venture fund. To learn more about Kim and her company's mission to help grow and fund 1000 underserved and underrepresented small businesses by 2026 via their Founders Business Growth Bootcamp program, visit