Pumped up and ready to sell to the federal government? If you think that the government is ready to purchase from you, here’s the real deal: government buyers are a discriminating bunch, and scoring a share of the contractual percentage allocated for small businesses isn’t so easy as you think.
After all, we entrust our confidence in them to make the right decisions on acquisitions that our taxpayer dollars would allow. Yet, in spite of the fact that official goals are in order to certify that small businesses earn their fair share of work within the federal government, that share of percentage contracts can be elusive.
Persuading government buyers that you’re a sustainable and eligible business owner who can aid them in accomplishing their goals need a unique approach, unlike the one you’re accustomed to in the commercial market.
Not to worry since the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has sufficient resources and information that can help you search and do business with the federal government. But in case you need a contingency plan, here are some extra tips to increase your chances of being chosen:
Getting a mentor
Small business owners know that having a mentor proves invaluable to their business goals. In the world of government contracting, mentors identify the difference between failure and success. If you want to establish connections in the industry, a mentor is someone who can assist you in navigating the marketplace.
Potential mentors are everywhere; you just have to know where to look such as networking events, seminars, even webinars, etc.
Here are some places where you can obtain mentorship assistance:
SBA 8(a) Business Development Program – Certain small businesses may qualify in SBA’s 8(a) program, a business development resource that provides contracting and technical assistance to help small disadvantaged businesses participate in the federal marketplace. The program also comprises of a mentor-protégé program that helps in making businesses compete for government contracts.
SCORE – or Service Corps of Retired Executives, works with and is co-funded by the SBA. SCORE, the country’s largest volunteer-based business mentoring and counseling service, pairs you with mentors across many areas of expertise for a low-cost fee or free of charge. Services also include government contracting.
ChallengeHER – SBA, along with Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), and American Express OPEN, has introduced the ChallengeHER initiative that delivers more women-owned businesses into the federal government’s commodity production. The ChallengeHer campaign hosts events around the country to connect women entrepreneurs with procurement officials, prime contractors, and decision-makers at federal agencies to receive direction on how best to sell their products and services to them.
Collaboration and partnerships are vital in government contracting. Collaboration needs meticulous preparation and management. The American Express OPEN has launched useful, downloadable guide: Team to Help Win Government Contracts , which features tips, best practices and networking resources to raise your business profile as well as establish potential connections.
A small business that wishes to compete in the federal contracting market must be certified in adherence to SBA’s requirements. Essentially, this means that your business is officially recognized and you can vie for small business contracts.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency that helps small businesses grow, expand and succeed. SBA offers small business grants, loans, counseling, and even surety bonds and venture capital programs for small business owners.
If you have decided to go for SBA loans, you need to know that each loan has its own application process and eligibility requirement. However, as you prepare to submit your application, you will need to collect and arrange for similar documentation (from old tax returns to your personal and business financial statements).
What is an SBA loan?
For starters, SBA doesn’t make direct loans to small business owners to finance their business needs. Instead, SBA offers a guarantee to lenders or banks for the amount of money they lend to entrepreneurs.
Interests of lenders are protected by the SBA guarantee through promises of paying the loan portion back if the business owner fails to make the loan repayment. So if a small business owner applies for an SBA loan, he or she is actually borrowing a commercial loan through an authorized SBA lender or a bank, which is measured according to SBA standards.
Basically, SBA loans assuage the risk linked to lending money to business owners who may not be eligible for traditional loans. This opens up lending opportunities to many entrepreneurs, expanding businesses, start-up, women-owned businesses, minorities and veterans.
Types of loans
There is a wide array of loans available to businesses that they can benefit from. Each of these loans are developed to fit the needs of every business owner, business type and business situation. For instance, SBA’s Low-Interest Disaster Loans can be used for the repair and replacement of disaster losses, and are available to all types of business.
SBA has also introduced Export-Assistance Loans, financing for seasonal working capital (CAPLine), and CDC/504 Loans (long-term, major fixed assets for buildings and real estate).
Furthermore, SBA can help you borrow smaller loan amounts (they’re usually less than $50,000) like the SBA Express program or its Microloan program. It’s also worth noting that SBA loan fees are extremely reasonable to veterans, which are set for loans under $150,000.
Loan that’s right for you
If you still don’t have an idea about the particular loan you need, you can check out BusinessUSA.gov where a loans wizard can guide you through the various loans available from the SBA.
If you’re not sure about your loan eligibility, you may seek the nearest SBA office to talk about your business profile and situation, as well as talk to an approved SBA lender. Lenders will consider credit factors such as your business income, collateral, equity investment, resource management and overall earnings, among others.
Plus, your working capital, which is the difference between your current assets and liabilities, is also evaluated in order for you to qualify for loans. Your working capital gauges what is remaining once you deduct your liabilities from your assets, and can result into a positive or negative amount. Working capital is available to fund existing business debts, and embodies the margin of protection you can afford your creditors.
Say you’ve established a small business and have an official website. You know the ins and outs of managing a business, recognize what you wish to accomplish, know what you’re selling, and have developed a business plan to help in reaching your business goals through the website you’re built. In fact, you’ve already collected some sales and gathered a following. You know the value of having customers, which are the determining factors if your business will succeed or fail. The more customers you have, the more successful you are and the more profits you gain. But in this modern age, how do you maintain a strong customer base? Through your website, of course. Having an interesting, clearly defined, user-friendly website can attract customers and drive traffic to your business. In turn, you’ll get to generate more leads and boost your brand supporters.
In this tech-savvy age, it’s the time to use online marketing wherein you can produce more leads and sales to your small business that reach a wider audience. Dabbling in this marketing strategy costs far less than traditional “in your face” marketing methods.
You go on line and view that some sites look dull and unappealing, even if it has interesting content. End users usually skip these sites they find lackluster. If your website isn’t properly marketed to your target audience, or if it appears draggy or uninspiring, it will just disappear into Internet oblivion. This means that your website will rank poorly among search engines where people wouldn’t know about your brand’s existence. A great-looking website wouldn’t matter if it also lacks traffic.
So how do you fashion an ideal site to be sought after by customers? For starters, all you would ever need is quality content. You may also need your site to be optimized so that search engines can simply index your information where people can also easily find you.
Search engines bask in fresh content served in daily doses. Great content is also the driving factor for promoting your brand presence and products on social media. You can write articles, e-books and blog posts, create paid advertising, or form podcasts, videos, and presentations.
After building your website comprising of fresh, high-quality content, you need to ensure that your efforts will deliver potential customers. You want anyone who finds you to make actual purchases from you.
Interesting product descriptions and compelling call-to-action phrases can be very persuasive in making buyers out of visitors. You can also attempt to provide something meaningful to them at no cost. Customers enjoy freebies especially when it’s pertinent to their interests.
If you have just discovered that your existing website lacks any of the aforementioned qualities, you may consider redesigning your page. It may take time, but it’s return on investment (ROI) if properly done. If you have the web design skills, then go for it. Otherwise, you may employ the services of a web designer or web developer to build your website from scratch.
Finally, using a great-looking website with piping-hot content can be an excellent tool to not only make profits, but to also forge customer relationships. Of course your products and services speak for themselves, but an ideally-designed website that targets your customer base is the extra icing on the cake.
Having a website is crucial for small business owners looking to kick-start their online careers. A website should not only be professional-looking, it should also be interesting to engage readers (as potential customers).
Don’t have coding know-how? Employing the services of a web designer is a good investment. In the process of creating your business website, arrange that all links are working. Include pertinent information on your products and services page. Your “About me” page should contain well-written and interesting nuggets about you and your business. Provide a “Contact us” page that includes your phone number, business address, email address, or better yet, a contact form, so that your potential customers know how to reach you to avail your services.
A website isn’t enough. You have to work on getting an audience for your products and services. Why not form a blog? There are many free blogging platforms that you could use. You may also opt to have a “Blog” page on your website. Update your content, preferably two to three times a week, with solutions and interesting facts about how your business can be able to help people.
To have more interesting content, try incorporating images or producing podcasts and videos that answer your customers’ questions. Quality content is key to optimizing readership and getting your business out there.
Establish social connections
Okay, you have a website and a blog. But how do you grow organic traffic to your website and blog? This is where you need to establish social connections by applying a social media strategy.
See where your target customers often hang out online. Top social media sites for business include Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In order to form real connections, you have to gain trust from your audience. Skip the generic written fluff; promote content that particularly addresses your target customers’ needs. You can also share other people’s posts, and see if they reciprocate by promoting yours. Use social media to respond to quickly customers’ questions and boost your online reputation as a wholesome business.
Create email lists
A mailing list is a way for Internet users to periodically keep up with resources and topics they’re engaged in. To build a mailing list, you can produce Ebooks or resource guides from your content in exchange for a customer’s email address. Don’t scrimp on your offer; provide the best stuff. If you furnish your subscribers well with a foretaste on what your products and services are all about, you will get to establish a loyal following and keep them interested about your online business.
Know if you’re getting traffic
It’s important to keep up with your traffic numbers to see what your target audience likes. You can use Google Analytics that provides detailed stats to help you determine your website’s traffic. While you can draw tons of traffic from your social media sites and website, if your readers come and quickly leave, you’re wasting your efforts.
Take time to evaluate your monthly Google Analytics and use that information to improve your site and content. From this, you can figure out what your readers really want.
In the throes of newly setup businesses, home business startups are rising with the desirable aspiration to make profits, as well as improve the quality of living among community folks.
Home businesses are practical endeavors that legitimately supply a service or product to the masses that are primarily managed from home.
The kind of business can be anything that area zoning laws would permit, which should be one of the initial elements to consider to see if it’s lawful to operate a business from home. Presuming that it’s allowed by the law, businesses that could be called home business would most likely mean low impact businesses such as accounting and tax, gardening and flower shops, hair salons, insurance brokers, legal counsel, and such. A trucking company or any large vehicle business venture would probably not work well in a neighborhood.
Many home business entrepreneurs run online businesses from home. Marketing products online has become real profitable opportunities. Companies such as Amazon, Craigslist, and eBay have allowed people the chance to sell their products or services online.
A virtual office setup or virtual outsourcing is another profession that can be operated from a home setting. This includes having a remote virtual assistant, secretary via telecommute, documents production, fax and answering services. There is great demand for this service as accountants, lawyers, insurance agents, and the like can benefit from such services.
In order to become successful in running a home business, you would also need sufficient funds to pay for all the needed expenses. Now, where to get those funds if you’re cash-strapped at the moment? Did you know there are federal grants available for businesses like yours? The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a myriad of programs designed to help small business owners. From business grants for women to business certification programs for veterans, the funding possibilities are just a click away. If you think you’re eligible, you need to go the SBA’s official site to download or fill out the application form.
You will need the funds to hire the right people, get your inventory going, and market your products and services through various media and channels.
In addition to obtaining the necessary funding, you must also have organizational ability. Distractions arise if other family or household members don’t appreciate the need to separate domestic duties from business operations. This causes major problems, which may result in sinking business ships. While there are concerns, there are also major advantages of running your small business at home. You see, you don’t have to pay for building rent since business spaces can be very costly. Having a business from home also makes obtainable an exceptional Federal income tax deduction for home business use.
Other business deductibles also include supplies, meals associated with the business, mileage for vehicles for business use, and other deductions.
Also, it cannot be reiterated enough that working from home allows the flexibility of having time for yourself, time for your family, and the time to actually perform heavy business management. You can enlist the assistance of other family members or friends to help with the business. If you have kids, they can gain positive learning experiences by contributing to the operations of the business.