For small businesses not quite ready or capable of performing as a prime contractor, subcontracts can be an excellent way to break into the Federal contracting market. While searching for subcontracting opportunities is in some ways similar to searching for prime contracts, business owners will need to adopt a few different strategies and visit a couple specialized databases in order to stay on top of subcontracting leads.
Federal Subcontracting Databases
There are a couple databases maintained by the Federal Government which list the subcontracting opportunities available. First, the SBA’s SUB-Net database lists subcontracting solicitations and opportunities posted by large prime contractors and non-federal agencies. While this directory is perhaps the most direct and easiest to use, it is limited because it depends on the prime contractor posting a listing to the database. Many prime contractors choose not to submit listings to such voluntary databases in order to avoid being overwhelmed by inquiries from small businesses. For this reason, SUB-Net should be considered just one tool when looking for subcontracting jobs. The GSA Subcontracting Directory also lists GSA prime contractors who have submitted a subcontracting plan to GSA in accordance with their contractual obligations. The GSA database does have the advantage that the contractors’ information is listed by the government; however it is a little difficult to navigate and contains limited information. The companies are listed according to their geographical region. While the firm’s primary industry is listed, there appears to be no method of searching or filtering by this information. Contact and contract information is provided, but no information about what kind of work is available to subcontractors is available in the directory. This makes the GSA Subcontracting Directory a useful but somewhat inefficient tool for subcontractors.
FBO.gov and Award Databases
Another method of searching for subcontracting opportunities is to search for contract awards. The easiest way to find these is to use the advanced search on the FedBizOpps.gov website for recent contract awards. FBO.gov is a powerful contract search engine that allows users to search by a number of criteria in order to find upcoming, current or awarded Federal solicitations over $25,000. By checking the award notices, you can find the prime contractor’s DUNS number and contact them to inquire about subcontracting opportunities. It may also be useful to check individual department and agency websites for award notices and subcontracting opportunities. Some, such as the Department of Defense, list contract award notices in order to facilitate subcontracting to small businesses.
Networking and Industry Events
Many prime contractors refrain from voluntarily advertising subcontracting opportunities, instead opting to offer such opportunities to their inner circle of friends and contacts. With this in mind, it benefits you to build a relationship with larger companies in your industry. By networking and helping larger firms grow familiar with your capabilities and talents, you increase the likelihood of receiving a call the next time they’re awarded a big contract and need subcontractors. For similar reasons, it is important to attend contracting and industry related events, seminars and matchmaking functions. Relationship building is the key to success in government contracting and should not be neglected.