Success Strategy: Getting Government Contracts

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Government Contracts

Entre­pre­neur Lloyd Hawthorne launched his Bronx-based Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery in New York City in 1989, turn­ing it into a suc­cess­ful, nation­wide fran­chisor sell­ing pop­u­lar Jamaican fare. But his first really big break came in the 1990s, when he won con­tracts to sup­ply food to the prison at New York’s Rik­ers Island and the New York City pub­lic school system

The first thing is to get cer­ti­fied with the right program

Of course, land­ing such deals with munic­i­pal­i­ties requires more than a good prod­uct. It calls for an under­stand­ing of how to nav­i­gate the sys­tem. To learn more about the intra­ca­cies of man­ag­ing that process, writer Anne Field talked to Jean Kris­tensen, pres­i­dent of Jean Kristensen Asso­ciates, a New York City–based con­sult­ing firm that helps small busi­nesses wend their way through the local bureau­cracy and win con­tracts with city agencies.

The key is hav­ing a plan. The first part of that plan should involve find­ing out whose buy­ing what—pinpointing your tar­get audience.

Imm­pre­neur: Most small busi­nesses would love to strike the type of deals Golden Krust signed. But how do you even get started?

Kris­tensen: The first thing is to get cer­ti­fied with the right pro­gram. For exam­ple, most cities have pro­grams for women– and minority-owned busi­nesses. In New York, they’re offered through New York City Busi­ness Solu­tions. The pro­grams help gov­ern­ment buy­ers iden­tify women and minority-owned com­pa­nies they might want to do busi­ness with. But first you need to fill out an appli­ca­tion to be cer­ti­fied, includ­ing a his­tory of your busi­ness, ref­er­ences, and finan­cial information.

Ulti­mately, it’s a very valu­able mar­ket­ing tool that can dis­tin­guish you from other, larger com­pa­nies doing busi­ness with the city. Plus, most munic­i­pal­i­ties have sig­nif­i­cant amounts of money set aside specif­i­cally for minor­ity and women-owned businesses.

If you’re not women or minority-owned, you may be eli­gi­ble for other small busi­ness pro­grams your city might have.

Imm­pre­neur: What’s the next step?

Kris­tensen: The key is hav­ing a plan. The first part of that plan should involve find­ing out whose buy­ing what—pinpointing your tar­get audi­ence. Look at your city’s web­site—in New York, it’s nycity.gov—and find out who’s respon­si­ble for pro­cure­ment, as well as what they’re buy­ing. Munic­i­pal­i­ties are required to be trans­par­ent, so they all have such resources.

Say there are 50 buy­ers on the list. Some will include agen­cies that pro­vide a lot of infor­ma­tion about what they need and how to con­tact them; oth­ers will be less forth­com­ing. So, some will require more dig­ging than others.

No mat­ter what, it’s impor­tant to con­tact each one. You do that by mak­ing phone calls, send­ing e-mails, and fol­low­ing up with spe­cific questions.

*Are they inter­ested in buy­ing the type of prod­uct you sell?

*Who is in charge of pur­chas­ing that cat­e­gory of product?

*If you are a woman– or minority-owned busi­ness, make sure to iden­tify your­self that way.

For exam­ple, I’m work­ing with a com­pany sell­ing baked goods that’s inter­ested in sup­ply­ing to Rik­ers Island, like Golden Krust has done. So, I con­tacted the pro­cure­ment depart­ment for the New York City Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions and asked them to put us in touch with the per­son in charge of buy­ing bak­ery sup­plies. We’re now in the process of nego­ti­at­ing with them.

You need to develop a sales plan for the next year with events you’re going to attend, how you’re going to com­mu­ni­cate with buy­ers, and how you’re going to fol­low up.

Imm­pre­neur: What else should your plan include?

Kris­tensen: You need a com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­po­nent to your plan, with a blue­print for inter­act­ing with the appro­pri­ate agen­cies. It should include:

An account­abil­ity statement

* Con­tact information

* A descrip­tion of your business

* Codes the agency uses for your par­tic­u­lar type of product.

So, if you call and leave a mes­sage with a buyer, who doesn’t return the call, the next course of action is to send an e-mail with an account­abil­ity statement.

But also, you need to iden­tify ways to inter­act with buy­ers beyond send­ing e-mails. For exam­ple, make sure you go to events that buy­ers attend. In New York City, there are a num­ber of pro­cure­ment fairs each year where buy­ers from city agen­cies come to meet with small busi­nesses. And you need a plan for fol­low­ing up. Often, busi­nesses get busy and don’t do that.

The bot­tom line: You should develop a sales plan for the next year with events you’re going to attend, how you’re going to com­mu­ni­cate with buy­ers, and how you’re going to fol­low up.

Before you get started, make sure you have a good basic website.

Imm­pre­neur: Any­thing else to consider?

Kris­tensen: Before you get started, make sure you have a good website. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But you need a good way for peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate with you. And you should have a professional-sounding domain name and busi­ness cards.  All that can set you apart from other com­pa­nies just start­ing out.

RESOURCE: CHECK OUT WWW.BUSINESSMATCHMAKING.COM

 

 

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