Business people frequently ask Counselors with the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC) how they can figure out whether it’s worth their while to go after a GSA Schedule. Here are a few pointers to guide your decision-making.
First of all, it’s important to understand what a GSA Schedule is … and is not.
A GSA Schedule is a contract awarded by a federal agency, the General Services Administration, to firms with established track-records of selling products or services. A Schedule contract is long-term (a base term of 5 years, with renewal options to a maximum of 20 years). Schedule contracts cover a wide array of products and services. Contract awards are based on “most favored customer pricing.” While issued by the GSA, a Schedule contract can be used by any federal agency and, in some cases, by units of state and local governments. Since everything is pre-negotiated, government agencies benefit from using Schedule contracts because acquisition lead-times are shorter, administrative costs are lower, and administrative steps are fewer.
From a business point-of-view it’s very important to remember that a Schedule contract is not an order. In other words, once you are awarded a Schedule contract, you must be prepared to actively market yourself to government buyers. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for a Schedule contract to be referred to as “a license to hunt.”
Your initial step in pursuing one of these contracts should be to examine the entire list of 39 Schedules, including nine Schedules administered by the Veterans Administration. You can search for details inside particular Schedules by conducting a key word search at http://www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov/ElibMain/scheduleList.do. Look for the Schedule that most closely fits your line of business. Subcategories within each Schedule are called SINs — Special Item Numbers. Remember, there is not a Schedule for everything. You eventually may conclude that there is not a Schedule that’s a good fit for your business.
If and when you find a relevant Schedule, GTPAC recommends you look at spending reports on individual Schedules at http://ssq.gsa.gov. This will give you some ideas about what kind of money is being spent on individual Schedules and who the prominent, winning Schedule contractors are.
You should do further market research on your potential competitors. Use the GSA eLibrary at http://www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov to identify existing Schedule contractors, their contract terms and conditions, their product and service offerings, and their pricing. Remember, too, that today’s competitors may be tomorrow’s business partners; GSA Schedule contractors are allowed to team-up with one another to execute government contracts.
Once you’re ready to proceed, use the link in the GSA eLibrary for the Schedule you’ve identified to go to FedBizOpps — the central repository of virtually all government bid and proposal solicitation documents — so you can download the Schedule solicitation. Look for the link in the eLibrary that reads: “Click here to view the current solicitation on FedBizOpps.” An alternate way to find a solicitation is by using the links from this page: www.gsa.gov/schedulesolicitations.
The solicitation will consist of several different documents, so be sure to download them all. Collectively, we’re talking about hundreds of pages here, so the real work now begins — you must read, and re-read, everything. Only you can make a serious and accurate assessment of the impact of GSA’s terms and conditions on your business. Particularly pay attention to the instructions in the solicitation — you will need to follow these “to the letter” to ensure that GSA accepts your proposal.
Note, too, that many Schedules solicitations allow you to submit your proposal in an electronic format rather than on paper. These Schedules are designated as “eOffers.”
Does all this sound too daunting for you at this point? Take heart! After all, there are lots of ways to do business with the government, not just through a Schedule contract. In fact, GSA itself contracts extensively with vendors outside of the Schedule process. You can take a look at a forecast of GSA’s acquisition needs at www.gsa.gov/smbusforecast. This forecast can help you plan your approach. And don’t neglect to consider possible subcontracting opportunities with GSA contractors; you can find the major ones listed at www.gsa.gov/subdirectory. Your GTPAC Procurement Counselor can help you find many other government contracting opportunities at the federal, state and local levels.
Oh, and one more thing. If you do decide to to pursue a GSA Schedule contract, be sure to register for and attend GTPAC’s class entitled “Understanding the GSA Schedule Process.” Just click on the TRAINING tab on our website to identify the dates and locations of this class.
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