Finding local contracting opportunities is a real challenge for virtually every small business owner in America. It's sometimes difficult to make your way through the labyrinth of resources that list opportunities and find marketing contacts. Even when dealing with the local government, there is a confusing network of departments and directors to navigate and schmooze. However, there are some standard things you can do to maximize your exposure, get leads ahead of your competition, and successfully win both commercial and local government contracts.
Commercial Business Opportunities
Advertise in key media outlets. To attract the attention of local procurement officers and other small business owners, it is essential to place advertisements in areas where your potential customers will most likely--and most frequently--see or hear about your company and products. The local yellow pages have served as an asset to many businesses who serve local service and product needs.
Introduce yourself--it's all in who you know. In local business dealings, there are few, if any, formal procurement rules. In virtually all cases, the successful bidder has networked his/her way into the award. In most cases, the price and quality of a vendor's services or products isn't as important as friendship and kinship. Get out and meet people, and befriend as many decision makers and networking contacts as possible.
Approach large corporate purchasing agents. Large companies have a specific department that is responsible for procurement, contracting, and contract management. The use of newspapers and television to advertise contracting opportunities is becoming increasingly rare. However, make a list of large companies that have a local presence. Then, go online and visit their web sites in order to view business registration and qualification requirements along with current teaming and sub-contract opportunities.
Join local organizations. Being a member of local civic organizations such as the Rotary Club, and business groups such as the local Chamber of Commerce, provides excellent networking and direct interaction opportunities. There are a plethora of business success stories that include networking through civic and industrial groups as an essential element.
Local Government Contracting
Be aware that there are two local governments in virtually every area. No matter where you are in the United States, two different local governments will be at work. (This includes of non-state-chartered or unincorporated townships). Many businessmen overlook the fact that both the municipal (city) government and county government are local. Each needs services and products in order to continue to function effectively. In order to maximize marketing efforts you should be sure to visit the key contacts and procurement decision makers for both your county and city governments.
Remember that there is no standardization between local government procurement processes as there are for the federal and state governments. What one city does may not be done by another city or the county. Be prepared to feel your way through a confusing maze of offices and officers when initially approaching local governments.
Become familiar with department heads. Although contracts are hardly ever managed and awarded by individual departments, the people who make the award decision are the ones who are in charge of the division of government that will benefit from the contract. For the businessman who seeks to do business with the city or county, this means that frequent meetings with key department heads can lead to contracts.
Keep your name in the mind of the procurement officer. In most local governments, bid opportunities, evaluation, and contract awards are made by a sub-division of the finance department. Sometimes it is called the "Purchasing Office." Visit the procurement or contracting specialist frequently so they will think of you, ahead of the competition, anytime a department issues a memorandum to the purchasing office for a particular service or product offered by you or your company. This is also the office that publishes Requests for Proposal (RFP) and Requests for Quote (RFQ).
Frequently visit the local government's business opportunity website. Cities and counties are beginning to use the internet to annopunce RFPs and other business opportunities. For some large municipalities, not only can you find the opportunity but you can also submit your bid online.
John M. Duffey was ordained a priest in 2005. His work has been published in the books "Hampton Roads: A Contemporary Portrait," "Boise: Jewel of the West" and "Lessons Learned: The Anneliesse Michel Exorcism." Duffey also has more than 16 years of experience in law enforcement and anti-terrorism intelligence.