Consultants help companies win lucrative public contractsAs the anemic economy slows consumer spending, more small- and medium-sized companies are hoping to do business with the federal, state and local government. The agencies have an enormous appetite for a variety of goods and services, and thanks to taxpayers, the government also has cash to pay for their purchases.
But there are three basic challenges to overcome when doing business with this dream customer: qualifying to become a government supplier, finding out about specific opportunities, and getting in touch with an official that can actually close a deal.
ÂThe state government sets aside 25 percent of its contracts for small businesses, but many business owners have trouble finding out about the opportunities that are there for them,Â said Debbie Gideon, manager of the state TreasuryÂs Office of Supplier Diversity, who addressed business owners at a New Jersey Chamber of Commerce meeting in May.
Consultants like Henry Savelli help business owners identify, register and bid for projects. He served as assistant director of the state TreasuryÂs Division of Purchase and Property before launching Henry Savelli & Associates, in Trenton.
ÂThereÂs really no single central site for all government contracts,Â Savelli said. ÂMany opportunities are never even publicly advertised, although a good consultant can identify the deals and help you through the registration process.Â
The infusion of federal stimulus money means jobs are being bid out for road and bridge construction in New Jersey, Savelli said. But the state also is looking for furniture, computer services and myriad other commercial products.
ÂThe good thing is that you know youÂll get paid,Â Savelli said. ÂMy business has jumped in this recession. But most small businesses are not used to the formal registration and bidding thatÂs involved in government work.Â
Another consulting firm, BH Sky Associates LLC, in the Mercerville section of Hamilton, also helps financial, janitorial, construction and other businesses identify, secure, negotiate and manage government contracts.
ÂWe can help a firm to get a [General Services Administration] schedule contract,Â said BH Sky founder Michelle Hermelee, referring to the federal agency that prescreens vendors that supply goods to federal agencies, and also constructs, manages and leases the governmentÂs hundreds of buildings all over America.
ÂWhen a company gets a GSA contract, the federal government can place orders with the firm for up to 20 years without going through a public bidding contract,Â Hermelee said.
Supti Putatunda, an entrepreneur from the Marlton section of Evesham, said she Âhad no idea how to get government workÂ until she signed up with BH Sky.
ÂSince 2004, I was looking for government work, but didnÂt have the time to dig through the details,Â said Putatunda, co-founder of Eastmed Enterprises Inc., a medical supplies manufacturer and distributor. ÂThe problem is that each government department has its own system. So you may get in one system, but when you try to market to another agency, youÂve got to start the process all over again.Â
After contracting with HermeleeÂs firm in 2008, Eastmed has snared two U.S. Army contracts and also supplies a state medical school in Wisconsin, Putatunda said.
ÂMichelle finds the opportunities, forwards them to me and then helps me fill out the paperwork,Â Putatunda said. ÂThe new business is great, but IÂm even happier because now IÂm in multiple systems, so I have more exposure to opportunities.Â
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