Government Contracts Transcript
Season 1 Episode 27

This is a written Transcription for the episode: How To Get Government Contracts Of The Midwest Mindset podcast.

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Matt Tompkins: How would you like to have a new client who always paid on time, always paid in full, always had regular steady work for you, and was legally required to give a certain percentage of their work to small businesses just like yours.

This client is real. It does exist, and this client is the United States government. Hello and welcome to the Omaha podcast Midwest Marketing Mindset, where small businesses get the big agency secrets of marketing for free so that you can feel proud of your marketing. I’m your host, Matt Tompkins of Two Brothers Creative. And in today’s episode, we’re going to learn how your business can get government contracts.

I remember our grandma. She always used to tell us, Don’t cheat, don’t lie, and don’t steal. When my brother Ben and I would ask her why, she would say, The government hates competition. Now I know it would be easy to fill this episode with bad political jokes, but we’ve seen far too many of them get elected. So I’ll stop. In this episode, we are actually joined by two government experts, Veronica Doga and Harold Sagas from the Nebraska Business Development Center. And they specialize in helping small businesses with government contracting.

Matt Tompkins: Now for me, the image that comes to mind when you say the government or is my Uncle Merv likes to call it the government, the image that comes to mind is that scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where you have the Ark of the Covenant, which is like one of the most cherished treasures in the history of the world. And it’s in this plain wooden box.

You can’t just you can’t distinguish it from the infinite number of other plain wooden boxes in this just endless storage facility. It’s being wheeled away by this this old guy in a cart. And I think the line is, you know, who’s going to be keeping an eye on this? We have top men. It’s just left open ended, mysterious. And yes, the government, it is bloated in many ways.

That’s the image that comes to mind for me. And it may have its legitimate issues. But in today’s episode, we want to focus on some of the big benefits for small businesses like yours and mine, specifically, because the government is actually one of the best clients that your business could ever hope for.

Veronica Doga: A lot of businesses don’t think about government contracting as a market, as just another channel to increase their sales, and that’s really what it is. It’s just not putting all of your eggs in one basket. It’s diversifying and government is on time and pays what they owe you, and that’s the stability that a business wants. In my mind, when when you said, you know, your little scene in my mind when I think government contracting, I think man in black. Okay, that’s my idea.

Matt Tompkins: So aliens are real. We’re you know, Harold kind of got the black look, gray suit, but he’s kind of got some black look going on today.

Veronica Doga: Yeah, Yeah, but but just to demystify a little bit, the government, it does buy everything that you can think of. Federal government is the largest, largest buyer in the world. It buys over a value of over $600 billion every year.

Matt Tompkins: So that’s where the government spends so much money on us with small businesses. The truth is that you are either in the conversation or you are not. And you have to ask yourself, is it worth it for your business to miss out on an entirely new market like this?

But getting government contracts, it isn’t easy or as easy as I may have been making it sound so far. No, it actually it does take some work. And you want trusted experts and advisors like Veronica and Harold at the Nebraska Business Development Center. So let’s go back to step one. What is the starting point?

Harold Sargus: The starting point is to make sure that government contracting is a part of your strategic plan. And I think one of the things people feel that you can’t make money if you do government work and that’s not true.

You can make profit. It doesn’t do the government any good. If you can’t, then no one would bid so you can make money. There is a learning curve, but once you’re in, once you get your first contract, the chances increase greatly that you’ll get another one and you’ll be and you’ll get another one. Now you have to provide value. You have to perform. The worst thing you can do is bid low to try to get it. You get.

Matt Tompkins: It now.

Harold Sargus: You’re stuck with it and you lose money on.

Matt Tompkins: It. Yeah. I want to jump in quick here because this is a mistake that I know I have made personally. I don’t know how many times and it can be crushing to your businesses growth. So don’t say yes to everything. No, your value set your value.

Commit to your value and hold out for the right thing to say yes to. Because I know I’ve done this where you say yes to everything, including super low bids. Not only is it going to cost you money, as Harold points out, it can set your business back years, if not.

Harold Sargus: Decades, and that can set you back a decade or more in the government market space. If you don’t perform, that blemish is on your record. It’ll be hard for you to get back in. Yeah, it’s different in the private.

Veronica Doga: Sector and it can take you out of business. Actually, there are. Are horror stories about small businesses that bid bid too low and they were losing money and they just went out of business because they were it was not sustainable for the business.

Matt Tompkins: Now, believe it or not, they actually made a movie about government contracts. Yes, they’ll they’ll make anything these days. It was actually a pretty good movie, entertaining. It’s a depiction of government contracting in the world of weapons. It’s called war dogs.

Yeah, War Dogs is a movie where two friends played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, discovered that anyone can apply to get government contracts and they get one receiving a US Army contract to supply ammunitions for the Afghan National Army. It’s worth, you know, just a little bit of money, $300 million. Now, the movie is highly dramatized. They add a lot of fictional elements to this, as Hollywood does. But Veronica points out that there is actually a very important lesson for businesses to take away from this movie.

Veronica Doga: I did enjoy the movie and I would actually recommend watching it. And that’s what you don’t want to do, because I did a really good example of what you do not want to do if you don’t want to go to jail, because that’s that’s what happened and you don’t want to go that path. If you are in the business of trying to play the government, yeah, it will bite you. Yeah, maybe not at the beginning, but eventually it will.

Matt Tompkins: Now we want to be very clear here. We are not encouraging you to try and scam the government. That usually doesn’t end well. In fact, it didn’t end well for the two guys, the two real guys that the movie War Dogs is based on. But what that movie did do for me at least, was it sparked the idea that big mega corporations, you know, the big ones like Boeing, they aren’t the only ones getting government contracts. Small businesses like yours and mine are eligible just the same.

Veronica Doga: We see so many businesses or startups that are coming through our door and they are asking us, what does the government buy? That’s what I want to sell and it does not work that way. You have to have a business, you have to have an idea, you have to have some kind of prior experience in in selling whatever you’re selling. And then that is when we can help businesses channel and actually focus on who is buying what they’re selling.

Harold Sargus: To be successful in the government space, you have to be successful whatever you’re doing now, architectural engineering, construction information services, whatever it is you do, real estate, Hey, I am successful. What I’m doing and the government does buy what I sell. I think I’m going to spend some time and dig a little bit deeper and find out is it the VA? Is it the Corps of Engineers? Who is the agency I should focus on?

Matt Tompkins: Every business should start out by knowing what specific problem they’re solving for their customers. If you can’t do that, you need to figure that step out first. When you do know what it is that you do, when you clearly know what problem you’re solving for your customers, you’ve been doing it and you know you’ve been doing it successfully and you know who your ideal customer is. Then you can find out, is there a government agency buying your product or services? And let me tell you, the government buys everything.

Our company two Brothers Creative, we produce video podcast, we produce videos for clients and we handle marketing for clients and the government contracts all of that. So talk to the Nbtc to find out if you’re ready and only when you’re ready.

Veronica Doga: Government is an obscure term a lot of people don’t know. You know, as we talked about, it’s the black box. Who do you call? Do you call your person here in Omaha representing that agency? Do you even know what agency you’re targeting? A lot of those questions are what pops up in in a business mind. And what we help with is give it a structure and focus. Who is the agency that you want to go after? And we do that by researching previous purchases by that particular agency or actually government-wide.

And then we’re narrowing it down to one or two agencies and then to one or to offices. Maybe if it’s a more local type of service or product that the business is selling and then setting them up to understand this agency’s goals, what are they trying to achieve? Why are they buying the services or products that the business is selling? And then giving them some maybe contacts to who to call, finding open opportunities currently that exists if they don’t exist currently.

Maybe what were previous in the past three years that were solicitations that were put out by that particular office or agency and really understanding your customer. So defining who is your customer at the government? How do they look like and what are they buying?

Matt Tompkins: Okay, so you need to be a real business. This sounds weird in business though. You need to be a real existing business, doing business and preferably doing it successfully. I don’t want to be just starting out and kind of learning your way through things because you don’t want to. You don’t want to burn this bridge with the government.

You don’t want to take the leap until you’re ready, because that is hard to undo with the government. They will see you as I don’t know, they’re not ready. No, thank you. And then ignore future bids from you. So you only want to do this when you are ready. And then there are other things you’ll need to be aware of that the NDDC will walk you through that. Harald shared with us things like registration and certification.

Harold Sargus: There’s a database that you have to be and it’s a minimal requirement. You have to the government needs to know that you’re a real business and you have a physical address. You upload, you put in some information and they verify that you exist and you have a physical address. It can be a two to 4 to 6 week process. It’s very it’s the very basic thing you have to do.

Matt Tompkins: Is done online then or.

Harold Sargus: It’s done online. And we help customers. We have instructions somebody can follow to do it themselves. We can help them do it. We can do it virtually in person at their office, at our office. We’re very flexible. There’s a hub zone certification. The government has identified certain areas of the cities throughout the country that are historically underutilized businesses that the government hasn’t worked with businesses in those areas much over the years.

So it’s map, it’s geography based. There’s a minority owned certification called ADA, a veteran owned or a service disabled veteran owned. We help with the certification process and what that does. The federal government puts aside percentage goals to do business with small business. So they’ll say only a veteran owned small business can apply, can, can bid. I’m sorry. So that shrinks your competition.

Matt Tompkins: And this next statement really sums up the fact that you should not have any hesitation to put yourself in the conversation. At the very least, if you’re thinking to yourself, I don’t have a chance at government contracts, I don’t have time to do that. I got to do all these other things. And, you know, there’s probably millions of people competing for these contracts. Why even try we take ourselves out of of the game before we even have a chance to play. Listen to the call that Harold described that they got just recently.

Harold Sargus: And I got to tell you. So just this morning, your last night, we got an email from a federal agency that said, hey, we had no small business show up to this walkthrough, this project that we need to know. Small business showed up. Can you help us? We’re going to reschedule it, put the word out. Here’s the industry that we’re looking for. So and I think that’s happened maybe three or four times in the last month. Different agencies are having they’re not getting small business to bid.

Matt Tompkins: If you don’t put yourself in the game, how on earth do you expect to have a chance at winning it? Government contracts, they aren’t handed out willy nilly like free Halloween candy. They’re not just handing it out. All right. You’ll have to earn these government contracts. And it’s no different than the work you’re already doing, the work you’re already earning for your business. This is just a brand new untapped market for you to consider for your business.

Veronica Doga: A lot of times, businesses will expect to just, you know, I’m going to get certified, I’m going to get into Sam. And then the opportunities were fall off into my lap and it will be great. It doesn’t happen that way. It’s just another market, right? Like we said, you have to market your business. You have to show what value you’re bringing to the table.

Government will not buy from you from your business just because you’re a woman owned or just because you’re a veteran owned or just because you’re small. These are very good certifications that you might have, and these are maybe some points you’ll get when they look at the competition. The set asides are great for that. It restricts the competition of the businesses that can bid for a particular opportunity. So that’s an advantage that you you can take advantage of. But it’s not going to just fall into your lap. And we’ve seen so many businesses that come to us and they say that they’ve done everything they could. They have everything, but nobody is knocking at their door. And it’s just not it doesn’t work this way.

Harold Sargus: The federal government’s a bureaucracy, and if you can’t deal with that, then maybe stay in the private sector. And we have these conversations. If somebody calls our office, we’re honest, we’re open. It’s all public information. If we will share what we have, we’ll tell them where else, where else to go to find more. And it is the government’s people. You know, there’s a purchasing agent, there’s a contract officer. Every federal agency has a small business liaison office, and that’s one of the things you’ll want to.

Matt Tompkins: Do, whether it’s federal, state, local, all governments contract work. It’s up to you if you want work for your business or not, maybe you don’t. I don’t know. It’s your business. You decide. We wrap things up with Harold and Veronica by talking about some of the industries that are actually really hot right now for government contracting work. That just sounds weird. These are the hot government contracts of the week. Okay, That sounded even worse. Sorry.

Veronica Doga: There are some industries that are very hot and that’s great business. That’s a great industry to be in right now. Construction, as you mentioned. But not everybody is in construction.

Harold Sargus: The infrastructure bill that came down.

Matt Tompkins: Yeah.

Veronica Doga: Yeah.

Matt Tompkins: So what are some of the hot industries right now?

Harold Sargus: Well, construction.

Veronica Doga: Construction is a big one and.

Harold Sargus: Anything related to it. So whether you’re concrete or metal.

Veronica Doga: Or and trades.

Harold Sargus: Drywall, trade.

Veronica Doga: For.

Matt Tompkins: Construction.

Harold Sargus: Architects, engineers. But the they eat, you know, the government buys.

Matt Tompkins: Food, you.

Harold Sargus: Know, the government buys clothes, they need beds, they need furniture, they need everything. Paper and information services.

Veronica Doga: I it is a big one, too. Cybersecurity-related activities. Everything is hackable. And there should be layers that protect not only the government but also the small businesses. And services in that area are are super hot right now as well. A lot of opportunities.

Harold Sargus: One thing that won’t happen in addition is we’re not your employee. We’d like to be, but we you know, we have to help all businesses and that come to us. So we will we will do as much as we can for you and get you to the point where you’re starting to take the initiative. We’re not your employee. We’d like to be again, but we can’t be that. So that’s one thing. Won’t be. Don’t expect us to be your part time staff.

Veronica Doga: So we will help a business guide them through the process, teach them how to do it. But we will not do it for them.

Matt Tompkins: They can teach you how to fish, but they won’t do the fishing for you. Man, I sound like a philosophy user. Thank you so much to the NRDC’s Veronica and Harold for joining us today on the podcast. You can contact them directly with all of the government contracting assistance that you could ask for in the show notes of this episode. Scroll down and we got the links for you there. Just click away and get yourself in the game.

In the Running for Government Contracts, the Omaha podcast Midwest Marketing Mindset is a production of Two Brothers Creative.

Thanks so much for joining us, and we’ll see you next time.