Breaking through the complex, massive, and lucrative defense market is perhaps one of the most challenging business endeavors. Regardless of the products and services you offer, expect to comply with stringent rules and standards not only for your offerings but for your business operations as well.
While it may sound intimidating to snag a defense contracting deal with the government, it is possible. Small businesses can become United States Department of Defense (DOD) contractors through the Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), which promotes inclusivity.
If you’re interested in becoming a DOD contractor, take a look at the steps below and study how you can have access and eventually gain a foothold in the industry.
1. Check If Your Business Qualifies
There are two ways an entity may qualify as a contractor; as a prime contractor or as a subcontractor. Prime contractors can bid on and get awarded defense contracts from DOD. Subcontractors work with prime contractors in providing a product or service required in a project. Depending on the nature of the agreement, contractors may be subject to strict regulatory rules and compliance. Contractors often rely on assistance from third parties with these services offered.
Check with the Small Business Administration if you qualify as a federal contractor. Additionally, check the North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) to describe your company and industry. Women, military veterans, and minority-owned enterprises are preferred in specific defense projects.
2. Study The Basics Of The Sector
Before applying as a DOD contractor, you must know how contracting works. Take note that defense projects vary wildly, and every transaction will have different requirements, funding sources, proposal formats, and awarding and contract methods. Do your homework and understand the basics of how contracting works in the department to assess whether your business can keep up with the challenges.
3. Register Your Business
Once you’ve decided to apply as a DOD contractor and have been pre-qualified by the SBA, register and get a data universal numbering system or DUNS number. This system developed by Dun & Bradstreet features a nine-digit identification number for your business. Though initially designed to streamline credit reporting activities, the federal government uses this number to determine how federal money is allocated and to monitor financial transactions globally.
Besides DUNS, contractors must register before the Federal Contractor Registry, Central Contractor Registration, and System for Award Management. All contractors will have to create an account in these databases before being granted access to defense contracts bidding.
4. Find Your Niche
Now that your business is registered as a contractor, start looking at contracting opportunities on the DOD website and study the emerging technologies in the global defense industry. Big-ticket defense contracts are posted on the federal website, too, so do check out all reputable online sources. While browsing these sites, you will know the most in-demand products, technologies, and services.
The defense sector is constantly evolving and is one of the most critical elements in a state. The needs are boundless, and the gap isn’t always readily fulfilled. For your business to be competitive, you have to find a niche. Identifying the most sought-after items is a good start. But finding a way to offer something that the DOD must-have, and more affordably than their current procurement prices will give you the edge over other contractors, perhaps even the better-established ones.
5. Seek Further Assistance For Contracting Issues
As a beginner, you’ll probably need all the help you can get. Apart from the DOD’s OSBP and the SBA, you can also approach other government entities, particularly if you’re having issues getting a military contract.
Look for Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, or PTACs, for further help. They assist in creating a business profile or organizing matchmaking events between businesses and agencies. PTAC also offers marketing or any business advice based on your business needs.
6. Submit And Present Your Proposal To The DOD
Once you’ve decided how to position your business, it’s time to create a proposal to highlight your business offer. It’s essential to have a staff who understands DOD guidelines and the project’s requirements well to craft a compelling proposition.
A good rule of thumb is to establish how your offer can meet the project’s needs, per the requirements listed on the website. Your proposal should align with what the DOD is searching for. Be thorough and give justifications on how your business offers the best deal. The agency will assess your business for technical capabilities, project cost, and good business performance. Show and market your products and services well.
Preparing for accreditation to become a DOD contractor takes a lot of patience. But your hard work will pay off once you’re given the green light. With this article, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the steps involved in becoming a defense contractor. Knowing where to seek assistance and quickly adapting to the challenges will help shape your future as you take the first step in contracting with the defense department.