Have you considered going after a government contract?  You might be wondering where to even start. These contracts offer the opportunity to work with the largest spender in the United States, and successful execution of a defense contract can result in a highly profitable relationship with the U.S. government. It can be daunting, for sure, but it can also be highly profitable and worth it to your business.

I spoke with Jim Hiles, managing director of National Security Solutions Business Development for MorganFranklin, to find out more about the current state of government contracting.  Hiles’ areas of expertise include proposals, negotiations, contracting and government acquisition. 

Hiles explained that it is harder to be a government contractor now than it was 10 or 15 years ago. 

“It is now more difficult to compete in government contracting based on compression of proposal response times in Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contracts (IDIQ) and Task Order environments,” said Hiles.  “Increased uncertainty of budgets and funding profiles, and prolonged operation under no-budget scenarios, such as continuing resolutions, also make things more difficult.  There are several levels of bureaucratic review and approval in the acquisition process, which may create difficulties for various teams to work in concert toward the best outcome for all.”

So it’s now more difficult to be a government contractor, but does that mean it’s also harder to get started in this industry?  Hiles says that starting brand new as a government contractor is actually easier than it was 10 or 15 years ago:

“In many ways, it is easier now because of the access to information on programs and Web-enabled processes, such as Dun & Bradstreet, Central Contractor Registrant and Tax Identification Number filings.  Additionally, an increased number of set-aside programs, such as Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business and Women-Owned Small Business, expands the universe of potential paths for new entrants to establish themselves in a protected status.”

If you are a veteran-owned or women-owned small business, you will have an advantage as the government actively seeks to fund these types of businesses.  In regards to the current state of the DCAA (Defense Contract Auditing Agency) auditing process, Hiles says that communication is essential:

“The ‘customers’ of DCAA feel there are areas in which it could improve.  An increased level of attention from senior staff would build an increased level of trust with companies in the auditing process.  Additional clarity and context in the written and oral communications would also speed the delivery and efficiency of information provided to the DCAA.  Improvement in these areas would decrease costs to our company, since it would provide a more clearly articulated audit process.”

Clear communication during the auditing process equals savings.  The need for increased communication directly results in collaboration technologies propelling government contracting forward. 

“The Department of Homeland Security has interactive industry sessions that include instant messaging between attendees as well as recordings and transcripts of events,” says Hiles. “The Army Acquisition Technical Interchange Liaison Office uses Army Single Face to Industry to post and organize presentation materials and keep them available long-term. The emergence and maturation of the use of collaboration technologies by industry teams are also propelling government contracting forward.”

There is an opportunity right now to cash in on available government contracts.  What are your best tips for winning a government contract? What pitfalls should businesses look out for?