Benjamin Franklin dollar bill The Federal Government awarded over $105B in contracts to small businesses in FY 2017, and the final number is expected to climb in 2018. It’s the perfect time for you to engage your small or medium-sized business (SMB) in the Government market. But how do you compete, if you’re completely new to Government contract work and all of its requirements? Though it can be burdensome to enter the Government Market, including the need to re-structure pricing models, and create and auditing system, the GSA Schedules (also called Multi Award Schedules, or MAS) can be an excellent place for SMBs to get started. Read below for some things to consider.

What are the GSA Schedules or MAS?

“The key benefit to the GSA is those small competitive pools. You go from a big pool of competitors in the commercial world to a very small pool. It’s very comfortable, not hyper-competitive, and it’s good business.”–GSA Contractor

We might note that while the above statement is true for commodity-type businesses, for service-centric businesses, it is still highly competitive.

The GSA Schedules are long-term, government-wide contracts with commercial businesses designed to streamline the procurement process, give the government easy access to commercial products and services, and provide the government with volume discount pricing.

Only certain small businesses qualify for the GSA Schedules, but you can take advantage of many resources to help. The good news is, qualifying isn’t expensive; the bad news is that it does cost you time. If you want to read all about how to qualify, visit the GSA website and make use of the resources the Office of Small Business Utilization (OSBU) has for you.

Choosing the Right Schedule in the GSA

“People win and lose for no reason in the GSA Schedules under certain SINs (Special Item Numbers). Their prices can even be higher than usual, and they will still win because there is nobody else in the pool competing.” –GSA Contractor

The GSA Schedules are divided up by different classifications, according to the types of products and services they provide. For example, if you sell IT services, you would be listed under IT Schedule 70 (this has slightly different qualifications than the other Schedules). Under each Schedule are SINs that specify each service or item. If you register under one Schedule, you can also use multiple SIN codes, providing what you offer matches up. You can also register for as many Schedules you want if you have experience within that line of work. Here are some things to consider when you register under a Schedule:

  • Look at Schedules that drive your primary source of business.
  • Look at Schedules where your past performance was strong.
  • Look at Schedules that are relevant and current to your business.
  • Look at Schedules that provide the highest amount of opportunity.

Bidding on Opportunities in the GSA

“Being on the GSA Schedule is NOT a guarantee of a sale or a work order.”—GSA Website

One contractor, the founder of a service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and small disadvantaged business (SDB) learned a hard lesson when he attempted, as a newbie, to win traditional government solicitations and didn’t have any luck. He pivoted. By partnering as a VAR (Value Added Reseller) with larger Prime Contractors, he was able to gain the experience and high ratings he needed to qualify for the GSA Schedules. Now, he sells his own products and services under two different Schedules.

To compete, you also must submit a response that lays out fair and reasonable pricing. This is tricky because the biggest challenge for SMBs is to preserve your profit while trying to get your foot in the door. When you price your goods and services, base them upon what the commercial market has paid you in the past. You will have to show your financials to prove your worth, so be transparent. The GSA will enter into negation with you on the accepted rate.

As a final consideration, while the GSA Schedule makes it much easier to identify opportunities, it does not guarantee you will win business. To pursue bids and win, you still need a strong plan for capturing and executing on that opportunity. Don’t miss out on a piece of that $105 million by taking this process for granted.