For many years, each federal agency has designated certain personnel as Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Specialists, or SADBUS for short. In the past couple of years, many government agencies have changed the titles of these officials to simply Small Business Specialists.
Based on feedback from clients of the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC), there are a lot of misconceptions about what SADBUS and Small Business Specialists do … and don’t do. We hope to clear up things here.
What, specifically, do Small Business Specialists do? Small Business Specialists should act as small business advocates and interface on behalf of small businesses with government contracting officers (COs), contract specialists, and end-users. Small Business Specialists should support small businesses in preparing to successfully integrate themselves into the contracting process and obtain awards with their respective organizations. Small Business Specialists also should guide marketing efforts such as Industry Days to assist in locating additional small businesses as well as help the CO bridge the gap and find small businesses that can successfully perform the task. Typically, Small Business Specialists are a part of each agency’s small business office (or Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization — OSDBU). They are present at the agency’s headquarters location and often at the regional level as well as any location with significant contracting activity. While our discussion here primarily focuses on federal contracting, it is important to note that state and local governments often designate personnel as small business advocates, too, and they have similar responsibilities.
Are Small Business Specialist positions full-time jobs or are they filled by personnel who have other duties? Just like in industry, downsizing has occurred in the government sector as well. In some agencies job duties have been combined, thus the Small Business Specialist may wear more than one hat. The responsibilities of a Small Business Specialist really do constitute a full-time job.
Before I meet with a Small Business Specialist how should I prepare? Great Question! Before trying to schedule a meeting, do as much research as you can about the particular agency or unit of government. Most government websites offer a good deal of information about how to do business with them and list upcoming contracting opportunities. You don’t want to waste valuable time asking the Small Business Specialist questions, the answers to which are on the agency’s website. Once you schedule a meeting with the Small Business Specialist in the agency with which you wish to do business, make sure you prepare yourself by having a succinct, written capability statement and by being prepared to explain your capabilities as well as your capacity. Be prepared to expound on your past performance — and make sure it’s relevant to what the agency purchases. Think about how you are going to take the initial steps in establishing a good relationship with the Small Business Specialist. Put yourself in the shoes of the Small Business Specialist, and you’ll realize that he or she can afford to advocate on behalf of only those vendors who prove themselves to be credible and trustworthy. When you do meet, be sure to ask to be considered for future contracts. No matter how bad you may need the business, don’t show signs of desperation. Demonstrate that you have done your homework, by being familiar with the agency’s annual forecast and envisioning how you can mesh with their requirements. Inquire of the Small Business Specialist about his/her needs and what problems he/she is facing in meeting any particular small business goals contractually. Position yourself as a resource for technical input or solutions.
How can Small Business Specialists assist me? These are very powerful individuals, who can pass your information — and impressions about you — on to the Contracting Officer and internal customers. Remember, government agencies are looking for best value, and if the Small Business Specialist can represent you as credible solutions provider, that will eliminate the CO’s anxiety about “taking a chance” by using your business on an upcoming contract or project.
How can I identify Small Business Specialists within federal agencies? We’ve made that simple for you. Just click here and scroll down to the section entitled “Knowing the Right People.” There, you’ll find links to Small Business Specialists and the OSDBU offices they work within.
Remember, some government agencies really support their Small Business Specialists while others may not. However, it can pay big dividends if you can establish a trusting relationship with them. Attend GTPAC classes for more ideas about how to develop good relationships with government officials, and be sure to ask your GTPAC Procurement Counselor for more insights and advice.
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