Why Consider Starting a Veteran-Owned Contracting Business?
The military mindset – understanding what needs to be done and getting it done with the resources available – usually translates into success as a Veteran business owner. This resourcefulness, together with resilience and mission focus, is critical to being successful in the federal government contracting business. There are over 80,000 Veteran-owned federal government contracting businesses in the U.S. This data comes from an April 2017 report by the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy, which identified the federal government as a major customer of 3.2 percent of Veteran-owned firms.
With federal contract spending in fiscal year 2019 reaching $594 billion, the attraction for becoming a Government Contracting Vetrepreneur is not surprising. According to Bloomberg Government, this is the
the highest amount of contracting obligations on record, with $402 billion spent by DOD alone. The enduring need for national security provides an ideal entrepreneurial opportunity for Veteran-owned contracting businesses, which are well suited to deliver solutions to DOD. Veteran-owned DOD contracting firms have an inherent understanding of the customer environment, which is the biggest key to winning any contract. Vetrepreneurs are also eligible to compete for small business and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) “set-aside” contracts.
While a seemingly worthwhile venture, government contracting can also be a complex and competitive business. Even the jargon used in the contracting industry can be overwhelming. NAICS, Sections L and M, DD254, DCAA, and IDIQs are essential terms in the contracting lingo. But if you try reading the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) as an introduction to government contracting, then chances are you will never give another waking thought to starting a Veteran-owned contracting firm. Fortunately, there are several free or low cost books to help you learn the key terms and concepts of federal government contracting and to understand the requirements for entry into this industry. Whether you are preparing early for your military transition, or have already separated and are considering becoming your own boss as a government contracting business owner, reading these books will quickly help you decide if you want to start a Veteran-owned contracting firm and take the necessary steps to be successful.
The Government Contractor’s Handbook for Veteran Business Owners is a free PDF download specifically written for Government Contracting Vetrepreneurs. Offering an easy to read overview of federal contracting, this handbook incorporates Veteran-specific resources and advice. StreetShares teamed with several other business-to-business companies to write the handbook, so it’s sprinkled with shameless plugs for business loans and other services and products. Still, it’s easy to see through the advertising and gain an understanding of the key concepts of contract business financing. The handbook includes some outdated information regarding the government’s contracting opportunity website, FedBizOpps (FBO), which recently migrated to a new website (beta.SAM.gov). All in all, though, this is a great introduction to government contracting. Together with the Procurement Readiness Reference Guide, published by the VA, this handbook provides an overview of the basic steps required to register and become certified as a Veteran-owned federal government contracting firm.
Government Contracting for Dummies is a free PDF download written by Deltek, a software firm providing government contracting intelligence. This book focuses on contract execution, and is a must-read for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), Chief Operating Officers (COOs), and Program / Project Managers. It explains the various types of contracts and focuses on finance and accounting requirements, including in-depth information on compliance and audits. The book introduces the important concepts of scope, cost, and schedule management, as well as project management best practices, including contract reporting (referred to as contract deliverables). Like all books in the Wiley Dummies series, this book makes the complex concepts of government contract execution easy to understand. The standard Dummies icons are used throughout the book to help the reader focus on important tips and compliance information. The glossary provides a great reference to many of the complex terms that are part of the contractual and project management lingo.
Written by Christoph Mlinarchik, a former contracting officer and Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) acquisitions attorney, Government Contracts in Plain English is a new book that provides a concise guide to winning and managing government contracts. It’s available for purchase on Amazon.com in Kindle ($9.99) and paperback ($19.99) formats. The first section of the book provides simple, clearly written explanations of very complex contractual concepts, including relevant FAR clauses. Section 2 focuses on Business Development (BD), describing the process of competing for contracts. The final section of the book focuses on contract execution. Mlinarchik’s advice as a former contracting officer is indispensable. This book should be required reading for CFOs and COOs, as well as Program / Project Managers, the BD team, and Contracts Managers. By reading this book, you and your staff will have a common understanding of government contracts, enabling your firm to work within a common and integrated framework across Operations and BD.
A self-described “She-Geek,” Linda Rawson began her career at Hill AFB, UT, as a software developer. In 2006, she started her own government contracting firm and shares all the lessons learned on how she won over $1 billion in DOD contracts. The Minority and Woman-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started is a complete guide, detailing the basic steps to start a government contracting business and how to win and manage contracts. It also covers the important topics of accounting, marketing, human resources (HR), and teaming, including mentor-protégé and joint venture relationships. If your Veteran-owned business is also a minority and/or woman-owned, then this book will show you how to get certified for these socioeconomic categories to be eligible for additional contract set-asides. The Kindle format is free with Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.com, or available for purchase via Kindle download ($2.99) or paperback format ($16.95)
Game Changers for Government Contractors is a new collaborative effort by over two dozen contributing authors who are experts in various aspects of federal government contracting. Michael Lejeune and Joshua Frank have assembled the collective experience from these experts to provide insights on over 30 specific, advanced topics related to government contracting. Each topic is addressed in its own stand-alone chapter. These chapters address topics relevant to Veterans such as “Top 10 Veteran Owned Business Must Dos for Success.” Other chapters address more general areas of interest such as contract novation, past performance, proposal management, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contracts, and sole source contracts. It is both informative and entertaining based on the different perspectives and writing styles from the various contributors. The book is available on Amazon.com in Kindle format, free with Kindle Unlimited or available for purchase as a download ($9.95), as well as in paperback format ($18.95).
In the spirit of lifelong learning, Vetrepreneurs with established contracting firms can gain valuable tips from these recommended books, focusing on more advanced topics, such as growth strategy, capture planning, and proposal development. In addition to these books, social media and the Internet provide a steady source of on-line learning to keep informed about ever-changing government contracting rules and regulations. For example, following the #GovCon hashtag on LinkedIn provides access to the latest government and industry news. Many of the reading list’s authors provide free articles, blogs, and subscription-based newsletters with timely information and advice to help you succeed in the government contracting industry. In addition, the SBA’s Federal Contracting website contains a free Contracting Guide that provides simplified explanations of the basic requirements and opportunities available to small businesses in the federal government contracting industry. And the General Services Administration (GSA) Vendor Support Center website provides free Education on various topics related to becoming a GSA vendor and Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contract holder.
In addition to these books and on-line materials, other resources such as training programs, advisory services, networking organizations, and mentors are also vital to succeeding in the government contracting business. The National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) is a veteran entrepreneurship program tailored for Government Contracting Vetrepreneurs. The training is free, but the program has eligibility requirements and requires an application available on the VIP website. The SBA offers advisory support through their Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs), District Offices, and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs). Most PTACs are co-located with Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) located across the country, which provide no-cost business consulting and low-cost training to small businesses. Finally, the National Veteran Small Business Coalition (NVSBC) provides opportunities to network with Veteran-owned small businesses in the federal government contracting industry, as well as advocacy, training resources, and a source of industry mentors for new start-ups.
While federal government contracting is a lucrative market, focusing your business on providing products or services to the government requires a significant investment of time and resources. By reading the books on this reading list and taking advantage of these recommended resources, an aspiring Government Contracting Vetrepreneur can quickly determine if starting a contracting business is a viable opportunity. Once you’ve made the decision to establish a Veteran-owned contracting firm, you can use these books to help shape your business plan and establish the necessary business processes and infrastructure to successfully win and manage government contracts.
Deb Yeagle is President of Plan To Win, Inc., an independent business development, capture and proposal consulting firm supporting federal government contractors. Deb can be reached via Linked In and email. Deb has nearly 40 years of experience in the federal government contracting community. She served as a DOD civilian for over 25 years, leaving civil service as a GS-15 to join the government contracting industry. During her 12 year career in industry, Deb has held a wide variety of business development and operational leadership roles in the Defense, Intelligence, and Federal Civilian markets. Since working in the BD field and submitting her first winning proposal in 2009, Deb has been responsible for over $5.3B in contract awards. She volunteers for numerous organizations to support transitioning military and Veterans in starting successful businesses. Deb has also held the toughest job in the Navy: Navy wife.
Copyright 2020 by Deb Yeagle. As the article author, Deb Yeagle agrees to allow DODReads.com to reproduce and distribute the article, so long as proper attribution to the author is included, and agrees to transfer copyright of the final published version of the article to DODReads.com. As the article author, Deb Yeagle retains rights to reproduce, distribute, and revise the draft version of the article.