Small business owners are usually eager to attract clients and customers who can provide a steady, ongoing source of income. One overlooked source of repeat business, often of a highly steady and consistent nature, can be found in local, state and federal governments. At the federal level, the General Services Administration is the agency charged with assisting other agencies and departments with procurement – that is, the process of purchasing necessary goods and services. GSA pricing refers to a company’s agreement with the GSA to offer those goods and services at agreed-upon prices to any qualified government agency or department. From the business’ perspective, winning a GSA Schedule Contract can mean increased purchases and profits over time.
About the GSA
The federal government created the General Services Administration in 1949. Since then, the GSA mandate has evolved to cover building and asset management for the government and administration of regulations and policies. However, its most prominent mission is the development and administration of the GSA Schedule or Multiple Award Schedule Contracts program. The aim of this program is to consolidate, streamline and simplify government procurement of certain types of goods and services. It aims to lower costs and reduce expenditures of public funds through the power of leverage. By entering into competitive contracts for goods and services for multiple users, such as federal agencies and departments, GSA enjoys greater bargaining power and can reduce prices for those goods and services overall.
GSA Schedule Contracts
Sometimes referred to as GSA Schedule, GSA contract, or Multiple Schedule Contract, a GSA Schedule Contract is designed to make it easier for federal employees to make necessary purchases to keep the government functioning. Items as diverse as furniture, office paper products and professional services can be the subject of a GSA Schedule Contract.
The GSA pricing for each contracted good or service is determined through negotiation, which also sets delivery, warranty periods and other terms that apply to the contracts. This helps save time, cuts down on duplicated effort and minimizes paperwork_._
Over $400 billion in sales of goods and services took place through Schedule Contracts in 2016. GSA Schedule Contracts are not the only way a private business can do business with the federal government. But this method does present a simplified purchasing approach that many agencies prefer. Consequently, if you plan to do a lot of business with the government, it’s probably a good idea to secure a Schedule Contract in order to simplify procedures for your company.
Benefits of GSA Schedule Contracts for Businesses
Securing a GSA Schedule Contract can yield a massive advantage to your business over competitors who forego this process. Obtaining a GSA contract offers a number of benefits. First, it is the most popular type of government procurement contract, responsible for billions of dollars in sales each year. It provides a competitive advantage to your business within the federal procurement market because it serves as a stepping stone to other competitive procurement opportunities, such as bidding and proposals.
As is generally the case with government procurement projects, GSA Schedule Contracts rely on a fully open competitive process. Negotiations take place to make certain GSA pricing is fair and reasonable, and all contracts and purchases made under them are subject to periodic review for objective evaluation.
Once your business has secured a Schedule Contract, agencies can then make purchases directly from that contract. This reduces bureaucratic paperwork and eliminates the need for drawn-out negotiating over pricing or other terms, which have already been set with the GSA. From the business owner’s perspective, however, this means less lead time between the purchase and close of the sale.
How to Obtain a GSA Schedule Contract
Although the GSA Schedule Contract and GSA pricing are designed to circumvent and reduce paperwork, the process can still be complex or even confusing, particularly for newcomers to the federal market. Remember that the process is not as simple as other individual interactions with government agencies. Your business is asking for permission to essentially become a preferred vendor for the federal government and to receive public funds in exchange for goods or services. Therefore, all businesses that want to secure a GSA contract start by submitting a proposal for GSA evaluation.
Preparing an application and proposal for a GSA Schedule Contract can itself be a lengthy process, especially if the business is wholly new to federal procurement contracts. GSA can take anywhere from a few months to over a year to review and evaluate your proposal, depending on the types of goods or services at issue. Depending on the type of good or service for which your business wishes to secure a contract, exact qualifications can vary. But as a general rule, all businesses seeking to obtain a GSA Schedule Contract must be able to demonstrate:
- Two or more years in business.
- Business is financially sound.
- Goods sold are compliant with all applicable laws, including the Trade Agreements Act –made or assembled primarily within the U.S. or a designated country.
Additionally, appropriations bills usually contain language pertaining to the award of GSA Schedule Contracts. Specifically, these provisions prohibit the inclusion on the schedule of any company with unpaid tax liabilities or felony convictions in the two years prior to award.
Some services and goods, such as ammunition and firearms, are not eligible for Schedule Contracts. A business must offer commercial off-the-shelf services and products in order to be considered successfully for the GSA Schedule Contracts program. This includes over 11 million specific types of goods or services, meaning companies in a wide variety of fields may be eligible.