The government spends billions of dollars each year on goods and services, and by tapping into this vast marketplace, small businesses can secure lucrative deals, gain steady income and heightened visibility. In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, host Marc Bautis and guest Richard C. Howard dive deep into the world of government contracts.
As a career military acquisitions officer, Howard oversaw $82B+ in DoD contracts, and has advised and trained over 400 companies as a consultant. He’s the CEO of DoD Contract – which guides, trains, and mentors small business owners and sales executives through the government sales process – and the host of DoD Contract Academy Podcast.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The benefits of selling to the US government as a small business.
- How small businesses can find opportunities to sell their products or services to the government.
- How small businesses can stand out in the government procurement process.
- How small businesses and startups can utilize the Small Business Innovation Research Program.
- And more!
www.dodcontract.com | DoD Contract Academy (Podcast) | Usaspending.gov | Sam.gov | Small Business Innovative Research Program | Bautis Financial: 7 N Mountain Ave Montclair, New Jersey 07042 (862) 205-5000 | Schedule an Introductory Call
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth. This is your host, Marc Bautis. I’m joined by a guest for today’s episode, Richard C. Howard. Richard is a leading authority on US federal government contracts. As a career military acquisitions officer, he oversaw $82B+ in DoD contracts, and has advised and trained over 400 companies as a consultant. Richard is the CEO of DoD Contract, which guides, trains, and mentors small business owners and sales executives through the government sales process.
Richard is the host of the DoD Contract Academy Podcast, and speaks extensively on the nuance of federal contracting strategy. Richard, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me on, Marc.
I don’t think people even realize that government contracts are out there. Can you start off by explaining this market size, and some of the benefits of selling to the government as a small business?
The Benefits of Selling to The US Government as a Small Business
The US government is the single biggest purchaser of goods and services in the world. When people think about government spending, most immediately think of big defense contractors. But in reality, the government buys just about anything you could think of – from defense and weapon-related spending, to tai chi instruction, to commodities, to food. Think about it like this: Every military base is basically a small town, or city in some cases. All of the infrastructure that goes into that town or city is paid for by the government. And they have a mandate to buy from small businesses.
So whether you’re in – cybersecurity, accounting, legal, you’re selling food, you have a franchise, you have a training business – the government is most likely buying in your area. It is very rare that I find an area where the government isn’t spending money, so the spending is vast.
The government has to buy from small businesses, yet less than half of 1% of US small businesses are actually participating in the government contracting process, despite the high spending levels.
Alright, so there’s a lot of opportunity here. How does a small business find the contracts?
How Small Businesses Can Find Opportunities to Sell to The Government
Because we’re talking about the government, there is a lot of regulation that exists to ensure there’s fairness and that the public can see what the government’s doing. So everything the government spends money on – with the exception of a couple classified contracting avenues – is public knowledge.
So, as a small business owner, you should ask, “Does the government buy what I sell?” To find your answer, go to a website like usaspending.gov and begin searching public records to find out what the government spends on.
Whatever you sell, it probably falls under something called a North American Industry Classification Code, or NAICS code. When you go into usaspending.gov, type in what you sell under NAICS – for example, accounting. The website will suggest different codes that you would fall under. You can click on that, and sort it by small business spending.
You can quickly see how much the government spends on small business contracts in your industry and area of focus.
Are these contracts location specific? Does it help if a business is located near a military base, for example, or does it not matter?
It depends on what you’re selling. By the way, government contracts certainly extend past the Department of Defense and military bases. There’s lots of different federal agencies that spend money.
Okay so once a business owner discovers how much the government is spending in their niche, what’s the next step?
Once you know that the government buys what you sell – if it’s local, they buy it in your state, or if not, you can work anywhere – the next step is to register your company. You can do that at sam.gov. That’s where all registering and most of the solicitations take place.
So when you go to sam.gov, you’ll find instructions on the screen for registering. Of course, you need to have a legal business in the United States, and come ready to register with your EIN number.
All in all, the process takes a couple weeks sometimes, but at the end of it you’ll get what they call a CAGE code and UEI number – these are federal identification numbers for your business. Once you have those, you can start bidding on contracts.
By bidding, do you mean writing proposals?
How Small Businesses Can Stand Out in the Government Procurement Process
What can a small business do to separate themselves from the others trying to do the same thing?
Good question. This is really where most companies fail in selling to the government…
Once your business is registered through sam.gov, you will begin to see what’s called a request for proposal, or RFP. At that point, a business can begin writing a proposal. But, the government is very regulated in how they buy products and services.
For instance, if I saw an RFP come out that the government is looking to buy a $3 million landscaping contract for base X, I can’t just pick up the phone and talk to someone to get my questions about the contract answered. Now, if it’s a big contract, the government will answer most questions publicly through sam.gov. In those cases, you might get some answers that can inform your proposal.
But otherwise, you won’t be able to set up a meeting with a government worker. You won’t be able to develop a relationship…
So, before the RFP comes out, there’s something called the market research phase. Let’s say you’re a software developer, and the government is putting a command and control platform together, and you have a great user interface for that. Well, it’s during the market research phase that you can engage with the government if you really want to have a shot at landing the contract later on. Meaning, before the RFP comes out, we want to know who is doing the purchase, and we want to know the details of the opportunity ahead of time.
If you want to differentiate yourself from the rest of the herd, you want to look for things like a request for information or sources sought. When those come out, they’re squarely in the market research phase. At that point, you can set up a meeting with the government.
I recommend small businesses to respond to requests for information. They’ll answer questions like:
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you have past performance?
- What do you think of the approach the government wants to take?
And, you’ll be able to suggest things. For instance, when you register your business, there are different certifications. Examples include:
- Small business certification
- Woman-owned small business certification
- Disabled Veteran-owned small business certification
If you happen to have one of those certifications, you do have a leg up, because the government needs to set aside a specific percentage of contracts to those certified businesses.
But, back to the market research phase, you can actually recommend that the government lists the contract for a specific certified group. So, you’re helping the government write the solicitation, and you can give yourself a leg-up if you suggest a certification you have.
Okay, so you’re trying to influence the decision a little bit. Have you ever seen a case where a small business had a product or service that the government isn’t spending on, but they propose it to them?
Yeah, there are a couple of ways to do that. I would say if you take away one tip on selling to the government, it’s to get meetings and build relationships with the people that actually buy what you sell. There’s a lot of ways to do that, but mainly through research.
If your business sells a product or service that the government is not actively looking for, but you want to sell to the government, the government needs two things: A requirement, and funding.
The Small Business Innovation Research Program
If it’s an innovative solution of some kind, for example a patent, you can go after something called the Small Business Innovative Research Program, or SBIR. Any government agency that spends a certain amount of money in research and development has got to contribute to this program. So, the SBIR program spends about $4 billion a year on innovative research and development contracts with small businesses.
This is a way to basically propose your product or service to the government, because they have funding in the SBIR program. If the review panel thinks that what you have is innovative, and that it would achieve a government need, you can win one of those contracts.
Phase one of SBIR is kind of low dollar. Let’s say, for example, you’re creating a VR training system. In that case, phase one might just be a feasibility study. You might propose that the government uses a VR or augmented reality training system to help maintain or fix aircrafts, for instance. Well, that might resonate with the board. That first phase one event is probably going to be somewhere around $100,000-$150,000, which is small for government contracts.
But, what you’re really doing is:
- You’re establishing past performance with the government, because now you have a contract.
- They’re now going to help you find people in the government that would potentially sponsor you.
Now you can’t totally rely on the government SBIR office, you also need to put yourself out there to find a sponsor. If you find somebody willing to sponsor, but they don’t necessarily have to have money, they just sign a memorandum of understanding for you to go to phase two.
Phase two is to develop a prototype, or set up a demonstration. There could be a lot of different things that you’re recommending, but that’s the phase two piece.
The Small Business Innovative Research Program is really great for getting your feet wet. Even if you have a developed product but you’re modifying it for government use, that would also qualify for the program.
Going back to finding these opportunities, my father actually had a government contract through a larger corporation. He created a pellet that went into 50 caliber ammunition. He wouldn’t get the government contract himself, but General Dynamics or Olin would go through him to create this component of their contracts with the government. Are there opportunities like that out there?
Yes. That’s a really good point. There is a variety of ways the government can buy things from a small or large business owner. For example:
- Sole source contracts.
As a business owner, you need to understand how the government is buying what you’re selling. That’s something that you can do pretty easily with the research tools the government offers.
Let’s say you own a company that is licensed to do HVAC. Over time, you’ve built a relationship with the government office that purchases contracts in construction. From that relationship, you learn that next year, Hanscom Air Force Base is going to be building an office building, and you have interest in installing the HVAC system. But, you aren’t able to take the full construction contract.
What I recommend you do is look through a website like usaspending.gov to see which construction companies have done that type of work with the government – illustrating past performance – and reach out to them about this upcoming opportunity. The fact that you’re bringing them this opportunity sweetened the pot for them to work with you, involving you in the project.
If you reach out to three companies like that, you’ll get at least one or two bites to form an agreement and go after a large contract together. That’s very helpful for a small business, because the big company can handle the proposal writing, and so on.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage right now. Do you see AI being used to uncover some of these opportunities, or to help small businesses in this process?
It’s interesting that you bring that up. Two of my recent episodes on the DoD Contract Academy Podcast were about AI in the government space.
One of them is called Govly, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable government contractors, OEMs, and distributors to accurately plan for government purchases years in advance
The other is called Rogue, which is an AI tool specifically designed to help businesses write proposals for government contracts. It kind of works like ChatGPT.
Business Financing and Government Contracts
What happens if a business needs financing to fulfill an order from the government?
First, it depends on the contract. If it’s a SBIR contract, where the business is developing something for the first time, then you can win the contract before you have to start development. But those are research and development contracts.
So let’s say you win a small services contract that involves employing 20 people. The small business will have to pay those individual employees before the government pays the small business. That’s because there’s about a 90 day turnaround time on invoicing to the government.
Now, there are certain financing houses set up specifically for government contractors. One thing to know is once you win that government contract, it’s one of the most secure contracts you’re going to have. So a lot of banks know they can count on the government paying the business.
That’s also one of the reasons companies go after government contracts – because it increases the value of your company.
Are Government Contracts Recession-Proof?
In addition to AI, the other thing that we’re constantly hearing about is this looming recession. At a high level, how is government spending compared to other industries?
Government spending is more stable. I always recommend that business owners – small or large – have one stream of income from commercial sales and another stream of income from government sector sales. The government is spending year over year, whether there’s a recession or not.
But I would say that the government experiences difficulties in different ways, and typically at different times.
Usually, if you have a three-year government contract, for example, you’ll receive that funding month over month. Now, there are times when the government shuts down, or when there is sequestration. The government can terminate a contract for convenience. But if they do, there are regulations to protect the companies that held the government contract.
That’s good. Well, we’re just about out of time. Richard, thank you for joining me today. You did a great job explaining how businesses can leverage government contracts as well as how to navigate the government procurement process. What’s the best way for our listeners to contact you or learn more about your advisory coaching services?
Your listeners can go to dodcontract.com to schedule a consultation. On the website, we also have courses available. And of course your listeners can check out my podcast, DoD Contract Academy, on whatever platform they like to listen on.
Great, we’ll link to those resources in the show notes. Thanks again, Richard. And thank you to everyone who tuned into today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review on the show.
In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, host Marc Bautis is joined by Victoria Volk, an Advanced Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, Usui and Karuna Reiki Master, YouMap® Certified Coach and End-of-Life Doula. She is also a self-published author and host of Grieving Voices Podcast. Victoria aims to use her strengths and skills through a variety of offerings to help those whose lives have been upended by grief and loss go from surviving to thriving.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The definition of grief, and how grief can be linked to money.
- Some of the ways that grief manifests in people’s lives.
- A variety of myths about grief.
- What grief recovery is.
- And more!
theunleashedheart.com | Schedule an Introductory Call | Bautis Financial: 7 N Mountain Ave Montclair, New Jersey 07042 (862) 205-5000
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth Podcast, this is your host Marc Bautis. On today’s show, we’re going to talk to Victoria Volk. Victoria is an Advanced Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, Reiki Master, YouMap® Certified Coach and End-of-Life Doula. She is also a self-published author and host of Grieving Voices Podcast. Victoria aims to use her strengths and skills through a variety of offerings to help those whose lives have been upended by grief and loss go from surviving to thriving. Victoria, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
I don’t think grief is spoken about nearly enough, and it’s fair to say that some people don’t know how to handle, or manage, their grief. So, I’m looking forward to our conversation today. Before we get started, how would you describe grief?
The Definition of Grief
Grief is the loss of hopes, dreams, and expectations, and anything we wish would be different, better, or more – about our lives, relationships, etc.
People listening might think, “What does grief have to do with money?” It really has everything to do with it.
For example, if all of a sudden you can’t work because of a mental or physical health challenge, you’ll experience grief related to income. Or if you took a big risk with your money and lost it all, there’s grief in that.
Yeah, I think one of the misconceptions is that grief only comes following death. But like you said, many things can bring grief on.
The nature of grief is that it’s cumulatively negative. If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced grief in many different forms, but you wouldn’t necessarily call yourself a griever. My passion lies in educating people that grief isn’t just about death.
Many people’s first experience with loss is when a childhood pet dies or runs away. In many cases, parents will say, “Don’t worry about it. We can go to the pet store or shelter and get a new one.” They never really acknowledge the relationship the child had with that pet, or how much that loss impacts them. Many parents haven’t addressed grief in their own lives or haven’t been taught the tools to do so. So, they resort to what they know and learned, which is usually unhealthy or unhelpful.
That makes sense. What’s the difference between grief and other emotions like anger, sadness, stress, anxiety or even depression?
Ways That Grief Manifests in People’s Lives
In my opinion, anger, sadness, stress and anxiety are feelings. Depression can be a legitimate condition – I’m not minimizing that – but what’s the root of the depression? These are all symptoms of a deeply rooted issue.
These feelings, including grief, manifest in many ways in our lives. If we don’t learn coping skills, it stacks up over time and eventually we either implode or explode. In those cases, we might exhibit behaviors that are unhealthy. Examples include angry outbursts; resorting to drugs or alcohol; workaholism; shopping or gambling. All of those behaviors help us to feel better for a short period of time, but don’t address the pain.
If we don’t outwardly express what we’re feeling, it can take a physical toll on our bodies. You might experience high blood pressure, sores on your skin, stomach ulcers, migraines, fibromyalgia, and so on.
Years ago, there was a period of time where I had overall, unexplainable pain in my body. I know now that it was my body’s response to everything that I was holding in. Children can experience the same thing.
We all grieve differently, but overall, we all have the same responses.
Myths About Grief
We’ve all learned a variety of myths about grief, such as:
- Keep busy.
- Grieve alone.
- Replace the loss.
- Time heals all wounds.
- Be strong – for yourself and for others.
These are things that we’ve all been taught, so when our backs are against the wall, we resort to them. It’s what we know. But these myths are really unhelpful.
Are different people more likely to recover from grief than others? What contributes to some individuals handling grief better than others?
That’s something I’ve often wondered about myself. How do some people seem to be more resilient? I’m personally interested in exploring that.
I can say that experiencing trauma and loss as a young child has shaped me into the adult I am today. But am I more resilient than someone who experiences trauma or loss as an adult? I’m unsure.
I think being able to handle grief better – being more resilient – tracks back to childhood/upbringing… There are so many factors that come into play.
You mentioned the myths of grief. If those aren’t ways to get over grief, what are?
Well, the goal is not to get over grief. The goal is to have enough self-awareness to recognize that you are not living to your fullest potential. The goal is to know yourself.
In our society, we’re so busy doing. We pour ourselves into work, friends, relationships, and we just sweep our feelings under the rug. But it manifests and shows up in different ways – you just don’t recognize it.
So, what do you do about grief? My last client said it perfectly herself: You have to do the work. Well, what’s the work? My program, Do Grieve Differently, is a 12-week one-on-one process. In it, we address the pain, looking at what’s happened in the past and recognizing the patterns that have repeated throughout life. The goal is to create change, to choose differently, to come to a place of forgiveness and move forward.
It’s not saying you’ll never feel grief again. But, if you address the pain, when it reappears it won’t derail you for the day, week or month. You won’t tailspin into a downward spiral of hopelessness and defeat. It’s empowering when you can look at your past, honor it and truly release what you’ve been holding onto. That’s what the program is about – it’s addressing what is emotionally incomplete.
We initially talked about grief relating to financial loss. That could be a lot of different things, like a job loss, someone not feeling they are in the right financial position, losing money in an investment… I’m sure there’s countless others. Is the approach to grief recovery any different for a financial loss?
The approach is not different. It is the same. But the recommendation is to actually work on relationships with at least two people before you work on intangible losses – like the loss of trust, safety, finances, self.
I can speak for myself, when you go through the process, you’ll always discover something more. It’s like peeling back an onion. There’s layers to grief.
In the program, we really dive deep into relationships, but there might be something else that comes up later down the road. This is a process for addressing that is continual – it isn’t a one and done.
As a society, we’re always looking for a magic pill. A quick fix. That’s not going to work… This is an ongoing process, and I know people don’t want to hear that.
Well, Victoria, we’re just about out of time. I’d like to thank you for being on The Agent of Wealth Podcast today. You provided some great information on grief recovery. How can my listeners reach out to you or find out more about what you do?
Your listeners can head over to my website theunleashedheart.com, which is where my social media links. There, you’ll also find free eBooks, an energy quiz, and more.
Perfect. We’ll link to all that in the show notes. Thanks again, Victoria. And thank you to everyone who tuned into today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review on the show.