MILTON — John DiGiacomo is a government-contracting specialist with the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of West Florida College of Business.
He helps small businesses, from Pensacola to Panama City, get local, state and federal government contracts through the Procurement Technical Assistance Center. The SBDC Procurement Center offers one-on-one consulting services along with workshops, classes and a no-cost bid search service that matches contract requirements with a company’s capabilities and 2,500 buying activities across the country.
Most of the services offered at the assistance center are at no cost. On Monday, Oct. 17, DiaGiacomo will host a workshop titled “Basic Government Contracting 101: Just Tell Me What I need to Know” at the Santa Rosa County Economic Development Office in Milton, located at 6491 Caroline St., in Suite 4. Seating is limited; visit http://bit.ly/2dROYfm to register at no cost.
DiGiacomo took the time to answer some questions regarding what small business owners need to know when seeking a government contract.
Are many small businesses in Santa Rosa County capable of getting a government contract?
DiGiacomo: "Yes, there are many businesses that can benefit from a contract. I have looked at the region and, so far, I have worked with manufacturers, individuals that are getting a contract for choir services and everything in between."
Are there misconceptions that small business owners have when attempting to get a government contract?
DiGiacomo: "There are many misconceptions about doing business with the federal government. One is getting paid; the federal government uses electronic payment to pay its contractors. Usually most contractors will be paid within 30 days of receiving their invoice. Another is that the government is this monster that has all these 'regulations' that a business must comply with. Many of those regulations do not apply to small business. A large business must comply, but the small business is not required by law to have too many burdensome regulations. there are still many things that a small business must comply with but that is what the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers are for: to assist contractors in doing business with the federal government."
From your experience, what kind of impact can a government contract have on a small business?
DiGiacomo: "There is an old saying, 'The best thing in the world is getting a government contract, it can also be the worst thing that can happen to a business.' If a company is prepared and has all of its ‘ducks in order,’ if they are prepared for it, a federal government contract is something that can make a company profitable and make it so that that business can expand and grow.
“It's a fact that small business is part of the backbone of the federal acquisition process; the feds want to do business with small, minority, woman-owned or veteran-owned businesses. They seek them out, they have goals that they must reach and when they find a business that is good, has the ability to get the job done, make a profit and deliver on time — that makes the procurement people very happy. This leads the government to want to do more business with (the business) and when that happens that business will grow."
What are common mistakes that small business owners make when pursuing and getting a government contract?
DiGiacomo: "Not being prepared, not reading the contract (and) thinking that the ‘bar stories’ they hear are true. The government writes millions of contracts every year; they have a problem with just a small percent of them.
“No one looks at the number of successes that the government and small business have together, they would rather look at the few failures. Can things go wrong? Yes, it happens; but for the most part every day thousands of small businesses are awarded contracts, they perform on them and are paid."
What can small business owners expect when pursuing a government contract?
DiGiacomo: "First off, it's not something that is going to happen in 30 days — it takes time and effort to be successful. They need to have everything ready — the government is not going to give you a contract unless you are ready.
“If you have never had a government contract, you will be inspected to see if you can comply with it. No one has been awarded a contract where they do not have everything ready to fulfill that specific contract. Doing business with the federal government is … a 10-step process that is really quite easy to do, if you're prepared.”
Here’s that process:
Step 1 -Think Like The Government
Step 2 -Identify Your Customers
Step 3- Get Registered
Step 4 - Find the bid opportunities
Step 5 - Get the bid package
Step 6- Review the bid package
Step 7- Price it out
Step 8- Write your proposal
Step 9 - Submit the proposal
For more information on the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of West Florida College of Business, contact John DiGiacomo by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sbdc.uwf.edu.