The Rule of Two – Small Business Set-Aside

The opportunity arises to pursue a Government contract where the previous acquisition strategy was full and open. Your objective is to change this opportunity from a full and open to a small business set-aside. 

In order to accomplish this, you have to go through a certain process to ensure that happens.  

The Government requires you to leverage what the industry calls, “The Rule of Two.”  Essentially, this means if two small businesses demonstrate they have the required past performance, qualifications and capabilities to perform the work it must go small business set aside.

Let’s talk about how to ensure you transform the opportunity into a small business set aside.

Step One:

Make sure an RFI or a Market Survey is released.  

An RFI is used by the Government to evaluate the competitive landscape in an ultimate effort to develop an acquisition approach that provides the most competition. It is also used as a tool for the Government to identify if two or more qualified small businesses can execute the work.

You would think that they do this every time. Not true.  Often times this isn’t done.  

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the Government KO or customer to make sure the RFI is released.  

What the Government needs from the RFI response is to have two small business companies that have the capabilities to meet the requirement. So, your goal is to make sure that the Government is aware of these qualified small businesses by ensuring that the government pushes out an RFI or market survey for businesses to respond to.

Step Two:

Once the RFI is out, make sure that two small businesses submit a viable RFI response demonstrating that they have the qualifications.

Here is a mistake that many small businesses make. They get so focused on ensuring they write a great RFI response they forget about the end goal, which is to ensure two businesses submit great RFI responses. It’s important to remember that you’re not in this alone and your primary objective is to get the work set aside for small business.

You need to form an alliance with another small business who has the qualifications to meet the requirements as well.  WHY? Because “The Rule of Two.”  

This is called a strategic arrangement. You’re going to utilize this teammate to submit an RFI response next to yours, with their own capabilities being highlighted.  You may even work with them on the RFI response to make sure they meet all the qualifications.  

Your end goal is to make sure the competition goes small business.  

Remember, you’re not in competition with small businesses at this point.  You want to eliminate the big business competitors from having the opportunity to compete.  

In the end, every small business wins from using this approach.  

Another approach is to reach out to your small business competitors, the other companies that are most likely to prime if it does go small business and go after the work against you.

Remember the first goal is to work with small businesses to eliminate the big companies from competing and ensure that the RFI is released as a small business set-aside. So pick up the phone, call other small business and suggest that you both submit two solid RFI responses. Let them know you are willing to share information and help them out so that both companies can submit two solid RFI responses, ultimately forcing the opportunity to be released as a small business set-aside.

Let’s wrap up and recap.  

Step One:

Make sure you get the RFI released. Bug the KO and customer to ensure that this happens.

Step Two:

Form alliances regardless of if it’s with your competition, your own teammate, or any other company with the qualifications to submit an RFI response that demonstrates to the customer that you have two small businesses with qualifications that can meet the requirements.


Do you want to know what RFI’s are coming out? Or better yet, do you want the information that can help you determine which RFI’s will be released, who the incumbent is, and if the opportunity was originally full and open? With Capture 2 Proposal, you can do all of your research in one place reducing the time and resources you spend determining which deal you want to pursue and which deals you should pass on.