How to succeed at the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
By Mark Amtower:

At a recent networking function I attended, representatives from several companies had an opportunity to stand up and introduce their respective firms. Three of them talked for their allotted 30 seconds about their socio-economic status.

What was missing? Not one of those three speakers mentioned what their company did as a business.

For years I have been talking to officials from federal Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization about this topic, and the fact is many companies have unrealistic expectations.

Every official I spoke with had the same complaint: many of the company representatives coming in to see them had not done their homework, did not know whether or not their products or services fit the agency’s needs, did not understand the agency’s mission and often expected to leave with a contract based on the socio-economic status of their company.

In order to ensure a first visit that is worthwhile for all, start with these tips.

 Before your visit:

  • Go through the agency website to learn as much as you can about the agency and its mission.
  • See what contracts the agency prefers. Does it have its own contracts?
  • Does what you provide match with what that agency needs?
  • Prepare a one-page document to leave behind that details your company information, your area(s) of expertise, NAICS codes, experience and key personnel bios.

During your visit:

  • Do not go in talking about “me” or “my company” – be prepared to ask intelligent questions that will give you background info.
  • Do not expect a contract by visiting an OSDBU; they do not make acquisition decisions.
  • Do not think you are entitled to a contract simply because you are a HUBZone, 8a, women-owned, or service-disabled veteran-owned business.
  • Do expect to be treated fairly and with respect.
  • Do expect to learn about the agency’s mission and challenges
  • Do expect to learn where you might fit into its mission.
  • Do expect to learn who the decision-makers are.
  • Do expect to learn how to get access to them.
  • Do expect to learn what contract vehicles the agency prefers.
  • Do expect to learn who the good and bad incumbents are.
  • Do expect to learn which large prime contractors are working there and who their small business liaisons are.
  • Do expect to get access to the agency’s Forecast of Contract Opportunities.

After your visit:

  • If the agency is a good target for your services, stay in touch and do what was suggested.
  • Send a “thank you” email.
  • See if the OSDBU is on LinkedIn, GovLoop or Facebook and make a connection.
  • The successful first visit to an OSDBU is not for giving hand-outs. It is to listen and learn. You have to be proactive, know your niche and know where it fits for this agency, and ask good questions.