Beware of ‘government vendor registration’ websites that charge a fee

July 22, 2014 by

We’ve previously alerted you to the existence of websites which unnecessarily lead businesses to pay a fee to be registered in government databases such as SAM, the System for Award Management (see, for example, http://gtpac.org/?p=7326).

Now, we want to make you aware of other websites that purport to get businesses registered to do business with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — for a hefty fee, of course.

Please be aware of the fact that commercial websites (.com websites, in other words) are just that — commercial.  When a commercial website advertises to help you with the process of registering to do business with the government, there’s almost always going to be a fee involved.  On the other hand, government websites (designated as .gov) offer free advice and registration.

One commercial website — currently running an aggressive advertising campaign directed at businesses — solicits vendors to fill out a “FEMA Contract Registration Form.”  Once the form is filled out and submitted on-line, applicants receive the following message: “Thank you for submitting your information. We will be in contact with you shortly. Click below to make a payment of $500.00 for this service.”   By clicking on the “Buy Now” button, you’ll be directed to a site to pay $500.00 via a PayPal account for “FEMA Registration.”

Please know that FEMA does not charge any money to register as a vendor to do business with them.  And neither does any other federal agency.

In order to register as a potential vendor to FEMA, we recommend you:

  1. Visit FEMA’s official website at http://www.fema.gov/doing-business-fema.  There, you are given instructions to register in SAM (www.sam.gov) and then download FEMA’s Vendor Profile Form at http://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/29748?id=6679.
  2. Read the instructions for submitting FEMA’s Vendor Profile Form for free.  The instructions are located at: http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1858-25045-7342/ilp_factsheet.pdf.

To receive assistance with any aspect of vendor registration with any government agency at no cost, please feel free to contact the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center.  Our contact information is at: http://gtpac.org team-directory.

If your business is located outside the state of Georgia, you can get free help from the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) nearest you.  For a map of locations and complete contact information for PTACs nationwide, please visit: http://www.aptac-us.org.

 

Business owner says soliciting government business worth the hassle

April 14, 2014 by

[Note: This article was written by Michelle Shoultz, president of Florida-based Frazier Engineering.]

For more than 20 years, Frazier Engineering had a strong commercial and municipal/county government customer base that comfortably sustained our small business.

But as the economy changed, we knew we had to change.

We decided to pursue unique certifications that would enable us to compete for federal work in a smaller competitive pool certifications such as 8(a), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/DBE and Minority Business Enterprise/MBE).

Through the Small Business Administration 8(a) program, we were given opportunities that we would not have had before. However, if we did not already have the knowledge and manpower to support the requirements of those opportunities, our certification would only have been as good as the paper it was printed on. Our success to date has been the result of a solid team, being financially and technically sound, having a strong work history, and being actively responsive.

I’d like to share some lessons we’ve learned over time.

As a small-to-midsize, growing business leader, I would definitely recommend the time and effort involved in pursuing government contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.floridatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/04/01/business-money-edge-chamber/7146529/ 

 

GTPAC receives full funding for another year of service to Georgia businesses

December 24, 2013 by

It’s like a Christmas present delivered early.

On Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) received confirmation from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) that full funding would be made available to Georgia Tech to ensure another year of procurement technical assistance center (PTAC) operations in the state of Georgia.

GTPAC’s operations are funded on the basis of a 50-50 match between DLA and state funding made available through Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2).   GTPAC is one of 98 PTACs operating in the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

With 29 years of financial support from Georgia Tech and DLA, GTPAC is one of the longest, continuously operating PTAC’s in the nation.  GTPAC also has one of the strongest track records.  In the past 10 years, for example, GTPAC has supported Georgia businesses in winning between $500 million and $1 billion in government contracts annually.

In calendar year 2012, GTPAC’s clients won 5,462 government prime contracts and 740 subcontracts worth a total of $668 million.  GTPAC counseled, instructed, and provided bid opportunities to 3,094 businesses across the State of Georgia last year.  GTPAC also conducted 161 classes and participated in 61 events state-wide where more than 5,900 business people received instruction on how to effectively compete for government contracts.  In all, GTPAC staff members conducted 9,249 counseling sessions with Georgia-based small businesses in 2012 as well as 520 counseling sessions with large businesses.

“We are proud to serve Georgia businesses,” states GTPAC program director Joe Beaulieu.  “More importantly, we are proud of our clients’ achievements in the government contracting arena.  It’s a real testament to the tenacity and hard work on the part of our clients that so much success has been achieved.  Those that use our services to the fullest tend to be those who win contracts.”

“We’re thankful,” continues Beaulieu, “that DLA evaluates our results positively and continues to provide funding.  And, without Georgia Tech’s financial and management support, we couldn’t operate as effectively as we do.  In these tough economic times, full funding is not to be taken for granted, so we appreciate the support of all of our stakeholders — EI2′s top management, DLA, federal and state elected officials, and, of course, the businesses we serve.”

GTPAC operates offices in Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Carrollton, Savannah and Warner Robins.  The program provides Georgia businesses with counseling, training, and a complete set of tools to research and identify government contracting opportunities.  For contact information, and to register for any GTPAC class statewide, visit the program’s web site at www.gtpac.org.

 

SAM.gov registration is free, and help with SAM is free, too

November 11, 2013 by

Businesses interested in Federal contracting must, as an initial step, register in the Government’s vendor database known as System for Award Management (SAM).   Registration at the official SAM web site — www.sam.gov – is free.

The good news is that SAM registration is something that any vendor can take care of by themselves.  And if any vendor needs instruction, help is readily available at no charge.

Here are three important tips:

    1. Don’t be confused by look-alike web sites.  There is only one SAM database, and it’s a secure web site operated by the Federal Government.  It’s located at https://www.sam.gov.  You also can navigate to SAM by simply typing sam.gov or www.sam.gov in your web browser.  Either of these variations will redirect to SAM’s secure web site.  The key thing to know is that the official Federal SAM website is a “.gov” website, not a commercial website, so SAM.com is not an option if you’re trying to navigate to a Government web site.
    2. There are helpful videos now available on-line to help you with the SAM registration process.  If your business previously had a file set-up in Central Contractor Registration (CCR), you’ll need to migrate your old vendor record over to SAM; for instruction on how to do this, view the instructional video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuFGM9H0gPI&feature=c4-overview&list=UUGYKiouhiBpijT51CplQZ-w.    If your business was never registered in CCR, then your starting point is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VPGVYPvch4&list=UUGYKiouhiBpijT51CplQZ-w.
    3. If you need advice on how to organize your records in order to register in SAM — or you need help with the SAM registration process itself – expert assistance is available free of charge to all vendors, small and large.  Just contact the Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) nearest you.  PTACs have produced a SAM instructional video, too, and it’s available here:  https://netforum.avectra.com/eWeb/DynamicPage.aspx?Site=APTAC&WebCode=SAM.  A complete list of all PTACs across the nation is available at http://www.aptac-us.org/new/Govt_Contracting/find.php.    In Georgia, you can contact any of the nine PTAC offices located across the state — all contact information can be found at: http://gtpac.org/team-directory.

Remember, SAM registration is necessary if you want to do business with Federal agencies.  Remember, too, SAM registration is something you can tackle yourself.  There is never a charge to register at sam.gov, and help with the SAM registration process is readily available, at no charge, from your nearest PTAC.

New video offers expert instruction on registering in SAM

August 28, 2013 by

As you may know, one of the prerequisites for doing business with the federal government is registering in SAM — the System for Award Management.  Among other things, SAM is the government’s vendor data base — a way for government buyers (and prime contractors) to find you and pay you once you’re under contract.  The SAM database also serves many other purposes, all important to the acquisition process.

When SAM was created about a year ago, it aggressively combined several large, stand-alone databases and merged them into one.  The “data migration” challenge was great, and glitches emerged.  As a result, many vendors have experienced problems both in getting existing vendor files to move over to SAM (i.e., migrate) as well as with creating a new vendor registration from scratch.

Since SAM’s launch, the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) and GTPAC’s counterparts across the country have spent countless hours assisting businesses with SAM.  Our professional development association, the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC), has drawn upon what we’ve learned nationally and has created a new video that explains the SAM registration process.

The SAM instructional video is now available for viewing at: https://netforum.avectra.com/eWeb/DynamicPage.aspx?Site=APTAC&WebCode=SAM.

If you are tackling SAM anytime soon, you’ll want to view the video for many helpful hints and tips.  For further help, contact a GTPAC counselor.  If you are located outside Georgia, contact a counselor with a procurement technical assistance center (PTAC) near you.  To find the nearest PTAC, please visit: http://www.aptac-us.org/new/Govt_Contracting/find.php.

Government agencies offer advice on avoiding contracting mistakes

June 13, 2013 by

[Editor's Note: The Raleigh, NC News Observer's "Shop Talk" reporter Virginia Bridges attended Marketplace, a local workshop and networking opportunity to help small businesses identify government contracting opportunities, and asked representatives from various agencies about common mistakes small-business owners make when seeking government contracts.  Below is a list of tips offered.]

•  “One of the major components is small-business owners fail to actually understand what the city really needs,” said Luther Williams, Raleigh’s Business Assistance Program manager. “I think this could be solved if individuals would just look at the request that the city has out there and do a little research on the city’s request to determine if their product is compatible with the city’s needs.”

•  “They haven’t made the internal decision as to whether or not they really want to do business with the federal government,” said Bruce Osborne, a customer service director with U.S. General Services Administration. “Seventy-five percent of them have not asked themselves that question and afforded the opportunity to debate it with their organization.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/06/10/2953923/government-agencies-offer-advice.html 

GTPAC earns recognition for hosting national conference

May 18, 2013 by

Over 300 business counselors, representing programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico traveled to Atlanta last week (April 21-25, 2013) to participate in a comprehensive training conference hosted by the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC).

The conference was held by the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC) which is the trade association representing the 90+ PTACs across the country.  GTPAC is one of the original PTACs, having been established in 1985 and operating continuously ever since.  PTACs are funded by the Defense Logistics Agency, supplemented by funding matches from local sponsors such as Georgia Tech, to assist businesses identify, compete for, and win government contracts at the federal, state and local government levels.

“Holding the annual training meeting in Atlanta enabled us to showcase the nation’s best practices in procurement counseling, and highlight the innovative efforts we’re spearheading right here in Georgia,” pointed out Chuck Schadl, group manager for government contracting services within Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.  Schadl also serves as APTAC’s vice president for education and was responsible for vetting the 30 speakers at the conference.  “The conference was the result of a year-long effort to identify experts across the country, from both public and private sectors, who were willing to share techniques that have proven to be successful in helping businesses grow through government contracts.”

Joe Beaulieu, GTPAC’s program manager, oversaw many of the conference’s details and personally moderated a session on the inner-workings of the System for Award Management (SAM), the federal database launched last fall that contains vendor registration, payment, and performance information.  “There have been many problems with the implementation of SAM, and we took this opportunity to provide instruction on the ‘work-arounds’ we’ve developed that would benefit our colleagues and their clients,” commented Beaulieu.

Another highlight of the conference stemmed from a special four-hour educational workshop on the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) conducted by The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech (The Academy).  More than half of the conference’s total attendees signed-up for this pre-conference workshop, held on Sunday afternoon, April 21, at the downtown Hyatt.   The Academy’s program manager, Donna Bertrand, worked with Schadl to develop the workshop which was entitled “The Complete FAR Guide for PTAC Counselors.”

In a special presentation at APTAC’s awards dinner,  GTPAC’s statewide staff was formally recognized for their educational efforts in support of PTACs nationwide.

Chuck Schadl (center) accepts award on behalf of GTPAC from APTAC's immediate past president Gunnar Schalin and new president Juanita Beauford.

Chuck Schadl (center) accepts award on behalf of GTPAC from APTAC’s immediate past president Gunnar Schalin and president-elect Juanita Beauford.

 

Looking for help with government contracts, but not located in Georgia? There’s help available

January 29, 2013 by

The Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center provides help to businesses located in Georgia.  But what if your business is loacted in another state — is there help available for you, too?

The answer is yes!   There are what are known as Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) located in all 50 states, and each one is in business to provide assistance to businesses on how to identify, compete for, and win government contracts.

You can find the complete list of PTACs nationwide at http://www.aptac-us.org/new/Govt_Contracting/find.php.  On this web site, just select a state or click on the map to find complete details on the PTAC nearest you.

Small-biz set-asides may harm firms, expert says

November 15, 2011 by

There may already be too many set-aside categories for small businesses, according to at least one expert. The sheer number of categories, and the targets set for agencies to award certain numbers of contracts to each, has the unintended consequence of squeezing some small businesses out of the game, he said.

The plethora of small business programs “has disenfranchised many of those who are not eligible to the extent that they no longer back the very programs they once were glad to support,” Scott Bellows, a program manager at the South Carolina Procurement Technical Assistance Center in Columbia, S.C., said Nov. 7.

And yet, the government is now considering creating yet another category, for businesses that employ military veterans.

During a hearing, Bellows told the House Small Business Committee’s Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee that the small-business programs, such as those helping companies owned by service-disabled veteran and women, and the 8(a) companies, don’t do as much as most people think to help small businesses at large.

Many of the same contractors tend to get the work over and over. That makes it hard for other small companies to break into the market, he said.

To break in, business owners “soon realize that it’s a long, uphill battle,” he said.

Bellows said the government, along with the Small Business Administration’s annual small business score card, should take a different look at the awarded set-aside contracts.

“If one asks how many ‘unique’ vendor contracts were awarded during a certain period of time, you might just come away with a different impression of how these programs are promoting small business development and helping to revitalize our economy,” he said.

The score card gave the government overall a B in awarding contracts to small businesses in fiscal 2010. The government has a goal to award 23 percent of contracts to small companies. In 2010, it reached 22.7 percent. It missed many of its goals for the specific categories of small businesses.

President Barack Obama’s Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development has recommended the government should consider giving companies with at least 35 percent of its employees as veterans a special status in federal contracting. They likened the new category to the Historically Underutilized Business Zone small business program. For HUBZone status, 35 percent of a small firm’s employees must live in an economically depressed zone.

The task force said the new small-business category would not take too much regulatory efforts. The task force wants the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, as well as SBA and the Office of Management and Budget, to further explore the idea.

The task force is interested in the hiring aspect of creating the new category.

About the Author: Matthew Weigelt is a senior writer covering acquisition and procurement at Federal Computer Week. Published Nov. 9, 2011 at http://fcw.com/articles/2011/11/09/set-aside-small-business-programs-other-small-business-effects.aspx.

How to work with government contract consultants

November 17, 2010 by

In tough economic times, competition for government contracts heats up. Here’s how working with a consultant can give you an advantage to land a huge deal.

What makes a good client? A firm that’s established, has deep pockets, and will be around for a long time, right?

Right. So it’s hard to argue—regardless of your personal politics—that the federal government isn’t one of the biggest (and best) potential clients for your business. For many, the federal government isn’t just a source for political debate or theoretical discourse—it’s a significant source of income.

“As you know, federal government is one of the few potential clients that are spending money,” says Bill Lennett, the CEO of Government Contract Associates, a government-contract consulting firm based in California. “So as you can imagine, everybody wants to do business with the government.”

Dig Deeper: Two Ways to Win More Federal Contracts

Working With Government Contract Consultants: Why Work With a Consultant?

Unfortunately, working for the federal government is not always that simple. With an aggressive audit system, many small businesses seek out government contract consultants to aid in the federal procurement process. These consultants assist in registering a small business as a contractor, help it write the proposal, and most of all, assist with the accounting processes that are vital to winning bids. While this guide is meant to give you some insight into what government contract consultants can offer, you should know that there are alternatives, too.

If you’re not interested in working with a consultant or you don’t have the cash on hand, you can visit a Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), which are located throughout the country. The centers help businesses market their services or products to the government, by matching a firm’s strengths and offers with procurement opportunities.

The first step to obtaining a federal contract, according to Dean Koppel, the Assistant Director for Policy and Research at the U.S. Small Business Administration, is to consult the local chapter of the Small Business Administrator.  “Any small business that wants to do business with the federal government either as a prime or subcontractor should look at the SBA contracting offices,” he says. The office will supply a business with information to get you started, as well as give  more information about current solicitations for contracts.  

Dig Deeper: 4 Tips for Bidding on Your First Government Contract

Working With Government Contract Consultants: Starting Out

Last year, the federal government purchased nearly $100 billion worth of goods and services from small businesses through prime contracting procurements, according to the Small Business Administration. That’s nearly 25 percent of the $400 billion overall federal marketplace. Thousands of small businesses across the country have been winning contracts for years. 

It’s especially a great time to be a technology or service company. “The trends [of federal procurement] have been towards services rather than hardware,” says Mike Steen, a senior managing consultant at Beason & Nalley, a consulting group in Huntsville, Alabama, that specializes in government contract consulting. “The federal government has really flip-flopped in terms of what they’re buying. They’re not buying airplanes as much as they’re buying services, and IT fits into that very heavily.”

Before you hire a consultant, though, to become a federal contractor, you’ll need to register your firm in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database. While the government contract consultant can assist you in this process, it’s easy enough to do on your own. The CCR is a portal that gives businesses a chance to market their goods and services to the federal government.

Then, you must renew your registration every 12 months from the date you initially registered. An invalid registration will diminish your chances to receive contract awards or payments, so it’s important to stay up to date.

Dig Deeper: How to Become a Government Contractor

Working With Government Contract Consultants: Accounting, Costs, Proposals

  • Accounting:

When you’re doing business with the federal government you have to submit proposals and invoice the government using adequate accounting practices, says Linnett: “My area of specialty is a knowledge of specific accounting requirements, and helping contractors prepare proposals and make sure their accountings proposals are consistent with those requirements.”

Having what the government calls ‘adequate accounting’ practices is essential. Many small businesses have accounting methods that are outdated or non-existent. This won’t fly with the federal government. “A company needs to have an accounting system that’s operational,” Steen says. “It can’t be sitting in a box somewhere on a shelf that’ll be implemented if they get the contract.” In other words, you have to be able to prove to the government that your accounting practices are consistent with general ledger accounting.

“It becomes very difficult to get government contracts where billing and proposals are based on costs,” says Linnett. “So if they can show the government that ‘hey our accounting practices are adequate rather than inadequate, that gives them a significant competitive advantage over most companies that don’t. That’s when they contact somebody like me to say ‘Hey, help us make sure that our accounting practices are considered adequate.’”

In general, a consultant will review your practices and recommend certain changes to make sure you get positive feedback from your audit.

  • Costs:

What can you charge to the government? What can’t you charge? These are the questions you’ll be working with a consultant to determine. The government puts forth certain requirements that distinguish between “allowable” and “unallowable” costs in your proposal. If you try to get reimbursed for unallowable costs, it could cost you the job, or you could face penalty charges or interest.

Categorically, they’re called ‘cost principles,’ says Steen. “Those cost principles take selected elements of cost such as advertising and interest expense, etc., and tells the government contractor which is allowed,” Steen says. Essentially, it’s a government regulation that defines unallowable costs.

So for example, a consultant will help a business distinguish between direct and indirect costs, remove any unallowable costs, implement processes for compensation and labor charges, and analyze even the small details on a financial statements, like uncompensated overtime.

You’re allowed to charge the government both direct and indirect costs, says Linnet, but there are rules to follow. This is where a consultant like Linnnett might be able to give your company a competitive advantage. “My ability is to be able to structure the way they charge indirect costs to be consistent with their pricing strategy,” he says. “If they’re a sole source and there’s not a lot of competition for their services, they may want to maximize the amount of costs. More often, they’re in a competitive market and so they want to minimize costs charged to the government but still be consistent with the rules.”

  • Proposals:

First, you have to determine the style or the format, says Robert Horejsh, a government contract consultant and owner of Federal Contract Consultants, LLC, which is based in Wisconsin. “Just about every contract officer has a little different style. Sometimes they tell you exactly what they want and you have to follow their outline.” Other times, there are no guidelines at all.

The government uses the proposals to filter out a lot of potential contractors, Horejsh notes. “If they get something that doesn’t look quite right, they might throw it away. I have heard stories of contract officers throwing away proposals because of an unwritten rule that proposals are not supposed to be stapled.”

Dig Deeper: Winning a Government Contract

How to Work with Government Contract Consultants: The value of patience

Government contracting is not going to happen over night, says Jorejsh. “I tell my clients that I’m not sure if it will take three weeks, three months, or three years,” he says. But the value of consultant is clear: They are working on your behalf to ensure you have the best opportunity to grab a lucrative federal contract. “A consultant hangs in there and looks at what your chances are of actually getting the contract,” he says.

Dig Deeper: Big Corp’s Snatch Small-Business Contracts