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Sara Jensen

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The Advantages of Disadvantaged Partners

Businesses looking to claim their share of the highly lucrative government contracting market know that success requires the 3 P’s: thorough preparation, a winning proposal, and finally, the right partners. As any successful government contractor can tell you, strategic partnerships with diverse suppliers (such as small, minority, veteran, disabled, or woman-owned companies) can be a highly effective way to ensure your proposal is competitive when it comes time to submit your bid.

Workplace diversity is now widely regarded as a business strategy that maximizes productivity, leads to long-term organizational success, and creates opportunity – and the U.S. government is one of its strongest advocates. In an effort to eliminate marketplace barriers and encourage maximum participation for these businesses during the procurement process, the government has created supplier diversity programs in which portions of government contract budgets are reserved for those companies designated as “diverse.” Federal contractors who elect to subcontract portions of their business processes to these suppliers have a clear-cut advantage when being considered for a contract award, and should therefore give serious consideration to which portions of their business processes they might be willing or able to outsource to a diverse supply partner.

Step One: Decide Which Functions to Outsource

Establishing a business partnership for the purpose of winning contracts can be a relatively simple process. First, decide which portions of your core business processes can be outsourced most easily and affordably. Consider starting with portions of your business that are unrelated to your primary service offering. For example, administering payroll and/or benefits for employees working on government contracts is a time-consuming but necessary process that can be simply and easily outsourced to a third-party vendor with minimal interruption or impact on your core business functions. This can be an especially advantageous partnership for a couple of additional reasons:

  • It expands your company’s geographic reach – without added time, expense or hassle: If the contract in question requires you to do business in a state where your company isn’t currently licensed, using a nationwide payroll provider saves you the time, hassle, and legal risks of setting up to do business out of state.
  • It makes it easier and less risky to hire additional staff just for the contract: Using a payroll partner to hire specialized talent only for the duration of the contract eliminates the risk of handling unemployment claims when the work ends and the employee is no longer needed.

Step 2: Find the Right Teammates

Once you’ve decided which processes can be outsourced to partners, you can begin the search for a certified diverse company to provide those products or services. One easy way to locate a pool of diverse suppliers is to begin by searching for woman-owned businesses. More than 30% of nonfarm businesses in the United States are now woman-owned, yet a woman-owned business is still considered “disadvantaged” by many key government players. Such a large number of woman-owned businesses in operation makes it relatively easy to locate them across a wide range of industries. It’s important to note, however, that not all woman-owned companies are officially recognized by the government’s supplier diversity programs. For a business to qualify as “woman-owned,” it must be certified by a third-party entity who has confirmed that the company in question is owned, managed and controlled by a woman or women. The leading certifier of woman-owned businesses is the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), whose website can be an excellent resource for locating potential woman-owned suppliers and vendors. Similar certification programs exist for Small, Veteran-Owned, Minority-Owned, and other disadvantaged businesses. These certification organizations often provide matchmaking services designed to facilitate partnerships between prospective government contractors and certified disadvantaged businesses.

By finding and partnering with the right diverse businesses, you can add lasting value and marketability to your business when approaching the government sector: value that will hopefully result in a lucrative share of contract and/or subcontract awards.