Houston Chronicle:

Q: Does a small business really have a chance of winning a big government contract? I’ve submitted several proposals that each took a great deal of time and effort, but I haven’t been successful yet.

A: Small businesses win government contracts all the time. You might not have the same resources in terms of time, personnel and budget as a large business, but there are steps you can take to better manage the proposal writing process and increase your chance of success.

Start by evaluating each bid opportunity to make sure it’s appropriate for your company. Don’t bid on jobs that you don’t have the experience or the core staff to perform. Don’t bid on jobs that you can’t afford to manage.

Be sure that you qualify if you decide to bid on a job that is set aside for a particular group, such as small disadvantaged businesses. Understand the difference between “cost plus fee” and “firm fixed price” contracts, and the levels of risk involved in each.

When you find an opportunity to bid that’s right for you, separate the request-for-proposal into sections, put them in a binder with tabs and read through everything several times. If there’s a pre-proposal conference, plan to attend. Pay particular attention to what is said about proposal evaluation factors.

Also be sure you understand how the proposal should be organized, how many copies you need to submit, and when it is due.

The technical, management and cost components of your proposal are critical. Your narrative must demonstrate that you know how to do what is required in the Statement of Work, and that you have hired or can hire the key personnel to manage the contract.

Since past experience can be a plus, discuss how you have successfully handled other similar work. You may be required to submit a list of previous job references.

Look at all your costs for labor, materials, equipment, supplies, travel, payroll taxes, benefits and overhead to make sure they are realistic and justifiable. Don’t forget to work in a reasonable profit.

Photo by MSDesigns.

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