Breaking into federal contracting can feel like an uphill battle, and while it may be true that getting your foot in the door is far from easy, it’s definitely not impossible. As accountants who specialize in working with government contractors, we’ve seen what it takes to become a federal contractor, and understand the commitment required to land that first contract. If you’re looking to break into contracting for the federal government, here are a few tips that will help you win that first award.

Ensure You’re Fully Compliant

First and foremost, you should ensure that your business is fully compliant with government regulations and properly registered to begin placing bids on government contracts. The government has a number of different regulations that all contractors must abide by from day one of their contracting careers, so it’s a good idea to make sure you understand those requirements and are able to stay in compliance with them.

Of course, in order to start being awarded contracts, you’ll need to be able to bid on those contracts, and you can’t do so without first being registered on the government’s contractor database, known as SAM. The federal government chooses all of their contractors from this database, so you’ll need to register as a small business, gather your relevant company information, and input yourself into this system to begin placing bids.

Again, it’s a good idea to fully understand and become compliant with regulatory requirements before you register as a contractor on SAM. Audits a guaranteed part of being a government contractor, and if you fail an audit, you could lose that first contract you fought so hard to land.

Consider Subcontracting First

As we stated earlier, getting a foot in the door for government contracting can be difficult. What some businesses don’t realize, however, is that you don’t have to be the prime contractor on a federal contract in order to break into this field. Many contracts require the use of subcontractors, which will join a prime contractor’s team to provide specific goods or services required for the prime contractor to fulfill the contract.

These subcontracts can be a great way to start building connections and gaining experience in federal contracting without throwing yourself into the complexities that often come with prime contracting for the federal government. The prime contractor can also provide you with valuable knowledge and experience that can help you with your own prime contracts in the future. So, if this is your first time looking to work with the federal government, subcontracting for a prime contractor may be a good idea.

Understand Different Contract Types

When looking for contracts to bid on in the SAM database, it’s important to understand the different types of contracts available. Of course, there are many variations that will impact your ability to even bid on a specific contract, but the types we want to talk about here are single award contracts and multiple award contracts. As the name implies, a single award contract is one that is awarded to a single vendor; the government is looking for only one contractor to work with on that particular project.

Multiple award contracts, however, are awarded to multiple vendors. The task orders issued against a multiple award contract are then competed for amongst the pool of vendors who have been awarded the contract. It’s important to understand how these contracts work, and realize that being awarded a multiple award contract does not necessarily award you with the amount of work you were hoping for. However, multiple award contracts can be easier to receive and give you a good opportunity to build up a reputation as a reliable vendor for the federal government.

Look for Contracts Specifically for Small Businesses

Finally, be aware that the federal government reserves a significant number of contracts for small businesses. If you fall into this category (as most of our clients do), then be sure to take advantage of this by searching for contracts that are specifically reserved for small businesses. This can increase your odds of receiving that coveted first award. Additionally, make sure to note whether your business is woman-owned, minority-owned, or veteran-owned, as they also reserve a certain percentage of contracts for businesses that fall into these categories.

Whether you’re looking to land your first contract or just need help maintaining federal compliance as your business grows, Peter Witts CPA can help. We specialize in working with government contractors, and are intimately familiar with regulatory requirements for businesses in this field. Contact us today to learn more about our DCAA- and FAR-compliant accounting services.