When trying to win government contracts, one of the best resources for small businesses are actually a part of the agencies they’re trying to contract with. Established by an amendment to the Small Business Act, the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, or OSDBU, acts as an advocate for small businesses within each Federal agency. They promote maximum practicable utilization of small businesses in Federal acquisition processes and ensure that all Federal agencies and prime vendors comply with federal laws and regulations designed to give small businesses the same opportunities to participate in government contracting.
Every small business interested in government contracting should make use of this extremely beneficial resource. A few of the things government contractors can expect from the OSDBU are:
- Candid counseling regarding whether the small business’s capabilities match the agency’s needs and, if not, contact with the appropriate OSDBU or prime contractor’s small business liaison officer, with a personal introduction if possible.
- Information on relevant laws that benefit them, such as set asides for small businesses, 8(a) and HUBZones, and how to take advantage of these laws to maximize their opportunities.
- Contact with appropriate staff at the agency if the small business is selling what the OSDBU’s agency is buying.
- Act as an information broker and facilitator to the small business and give them insider information to help them do business with the OSDBU’s agency, such as the agency’s unwritten policies and cultural climate.
While the OSDBU will give you valuable information to help you market your products or services to their agency, they expect that you will be prepared upon your meeting with them. Understanding their agency’s mission, what they buy and why they should use your business as opposed to your competitors are all important prerequisites. They will also expect that you know that CCR registration, ORCA filing or participation in 8(a), HUBZone or other set aside programs does not guarantee your firm will be awarded a government contract. You should also keep in mind that the OSDBU is not the buyer or end user; while it’s important to make your case as to your company can meet their agency’s needs better than other small businesses, they do not need all the technical details in your marketing pitch, cannot award you a contract or otherwise act as an agent of your business.
The OSDBU is there to give you advice and information but cannot help you write a proposal, disclose proprietary information or encourage any other agency or prime contractor to award a contract to you. However, the information they impart to you can make the difference between a losing and winning proposal. Knowing what their agency buys, how they evaluate proposals from vendors and what their past acquisitions and programs have been are essential to success. Contractors can get help finding this information by calling the Contractor Helpline at (877) 252-2700 ext 1.
When you meet with the OSDBU, they will schedule a set amount of time for your meeting. Be on time and try to wrap up your discussion within the time frame allotted. If they do not have answers to your questions immediately, they will set a designated due date by which to follow up with you. If they offer recommendations, remember that it is in your best interests to follow them. Not only can these recommendations help you to win government contracts but failure to follow through can tarnish your reputation within that agency and create additional obstacles to overcome.