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How to be a successful small business working for the federal government

Posted 11/15/2010   Updated 11/15/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by James Mastin
Small Business Program Manager

11/15/2010 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- When you are looking for small business ideas, whether it is because you want to invest in a small business or because you want to start a small business of your own, the state of the economy will play a significant role in your decision to proceed with a new business venture. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, creating 60 to 80 percent of our nation's new jobs each year. However, the last two years have been especially challenging for small businesses. For this reason, this is an opportunity for small private businesses to share best practices. For that reason, one way to minimize the risk associated with starting a new business, and working with the federal government, you should take advantage of lessons learned from the ones that have gone before you. The following is a short list of recommendations for you when attempting to start a business and obtain a Government contract.

1. Choosing the right business structure: Usually, the best business for you is the one in which you are most skilled and interested. As you review your options, you may wish to consult local experts and businesspersons about the growth potential of various businesses in your area. Matching your background with the local market will increase your chance of success. Past Performance is also very important, so make sure your product/service is able to be delivered on time and you perform as promised. Lastly, give good quality at a fair price.

2. Financing: Committing your own funds is often the first financing step. It is certainly the best indicator of how serious you are about your business. Risking your own money gives confidence for others to invest in your business. You may want to consider a partner for additional financing. Banks are an obvious source of funds. Other loan sources include commercial finance companies, venture capital firms, local development companies and life insurance companies.

3. Marketing: Marketing encompasses much more than just advertising or selling. For example, a major part of marketing involves researching and targeting your customers: What do they want? What can they afford? Who buys your product? How do they buy? When do they buy? Consequently, your understanding of the questions and application of the answers play a major role in the success or failure of your business.

4. Maximize Technology: All small businesses share some common functions such as sales, purchasing, financing, operations and administration. Depending on your individual business, telecommunications and Information Technology can support your objectives in any or all of these areas. In its basic form the telephone and IT equipment, along with the internet, makes up the basic components. These are effective tools that can easily change with seasonality and growth. How you use these processes can affect how efficiently and profitably your company grows in the future.

5. SBA Assistance: A recent survey shows that approximately 95 percent of all businesses are eligible for SBA assistance in some form or fashion. Size standards vary widely depending upon the industry. In making a detailed definition, SBA may use a number of criteria, including the number of employees, annual receipts, affiliates, or other applicable factors. These specific criteria are set forth in the SBA Small Business Size Regulations, Title 13, Part 121 of the Code of Federal Regulations and the North American Industry Classification System codes.

6. Registration: In order to obtain any Government contract, a business must be registered in Central Contractor Registration database and keep current on your certification. This should be updated yearly at minimum. There is much more to learn about the Small Business program and if you would you like to improve on your understanding of the Federal Small Business program, then the Vandenberg AFB Small Business office is the place to go.

The elements identified above are just a few of the areas that any start-up small business should consider, and prior to launching into the unchartered territories of small business ownership and Government contracting. If you are interested in learning more about small business programs and opportunities at Vandenberg, please contact the Small Business Program Manager to set up a meeting and/or to drop off your company's business information. The Vandenberg AFB Small Business Program manager is available for meetings and training. To make an appointment please contact Mr. James Mastin at 805-605-7265.

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