How Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses Win Federal Bids

Small businesses would love to win that federal bid. Unfortunately, when big, fancy corporations raise their hands, it can make you (as a small- or medium-sized business owner) feel like the “Homer Simpson in the bush” gif. Luckily, you don’t have to let responding to federal RFPs intimidate you! At The Bid Lab, we’ve helped hundreds of clients knock out that big incumbent they thought was untouchable. We’ve gathered our best practices into a few tips to help you win that next (or first!) large federal opportunity. 

Dip Your Toes into Federal Bidding Waters

With any large undertaking, it’s important to prepare yourself for a timely process that might require some fine-tuning. Federal bids can be large, demanding and complicated. Jumping right into one could leave you feeling exhausted and demoralized. Instead, you should ideally spend a few weeks, if not months, priming your company for a federal bid. Now is the time to tighten up operations, fine-tune communications, and gather your dream team to tackle the bid piece by piece. 

Start at the Local Level

Even Michael Phelps started on his varsity swim team before he made it to the Olympics. Unlike large corporations, small and medium businesses are more familiar with local regulations and the lay of the land. So, providing your goods and services to your local businesses can be a great place to garner those references and past performance capabilities that you will undoubtedly need. It gives you a firm foundation, providing you a leg up on the competition! For example, say your alma mater and local university published an RFP to update their IT network. In this case, as an alumnus, neighbor, and expert in your field, you’ll know exactly what the university needs. You can take advantage of the obstacles that big corporations will have to overcome. If you start local, you’ll not only gain more business, but you’ll also gain a fan where it matters most – your own backyard.

Make Sure You’re a Perfect Fit to Position Yourself for That Federal Bid

Any time you’re actively searching for RFPs, it’s important to be efficient in your search. Focusing on only the RFPs your organization fits well within is an art form in itself. You don’t want to use all your resources going for that big NASA Cafeteria RFP when your organization has more experience in special events catering. Then you’re stuck reconfiguring your business to fit the Scope of Work instead of the other way around. Find an RFP that feels like they wrote it just for you. If the RFP seeks an annual contract to cater the fundraising gala, and you have 10 years of special events catering under your belt, then it’s time to illustrate all your experience and satisfied customers. This undeniably positions you as the best organization for the project. 

Get In While the Gettin’ is Good

According to the Small Business Administration, in 2022, 27% of small businesses received federal contracts. However, the number of small businesses that have applied for these federal procurement opportunities has dropped by 40% in the past 10 years. In essence, small businesses received more federal dollars, even with fewer candidates. With the annual goal of 23% of federal bids awarded to small businesses, the market is ripe for those early birds that can jump in and shine in a less crowded pool. Moreso, if your small business is woman-owned, disadvantaged-owned, veteran-owned, or minority-owned, the federal government seeks, even more, to award these businesses with procurement contracts. 

Before Going for That Federal Bid, Become a Subcontractor First

Many federal procurements are large projects that require a comprehensive team to tackle. If you run an engineering business and would love to someday take on a federal highway project, start by first partnering with an experienced prime contractor going after a similar project. Responding to a federal bid first as a subcontractor will both get you familiar with how the process works and get your business name in front of the eyes that might come across your prime bid later. Even if your bid as a subcontractor is not selected, it serves as a bonus that your organization is “out there’” and can handle federal procurements. 

With the odds increasingly in favor of small- and medium-sized businesses to win federal bids, the barrier to entry has become lower than ever. This makes these once-white-whale contracts less intimidating and real options for expanding your business. 

Armed with all this information, the only thing left is the right team to get you started. The Bid Lab has assisted myriad clients through procuring a federal bid, and they have won! We can empower your organization and help them understand that small is mighty. We can help you achieve your expansion goals, or you can kick your feet up and let us take care of the whole kit and caboodle. However you need us, reach out! We’d be happy to help.