The Veterans Administration and
other Federal Agencies buy a lot of stuff!
Although the Federal Government won’t ordinarily buy food from a McDonald’s or other retail food franchises, if you’re a Service Disabled Veteran you might be able to sell them food from your catering franchise. Or maybe you own a franchise which sells moving services? Or what if you want use your wheel chair ramp franchise to sell to older Veterans who are eligible for VA benefits? Yes there could be many opportunities but first you need to know how federal procurement processes work and how you qualify.
The fact is that many franchise distributed products and services from computer services to paper products are bought by the government every day. In 2013 alone the government purchased over $83 billion in goods and services from small business and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSB) received over $12 billion of those contracts. Many of these contracts are even set-a-side for only SDVOSB companies.
So what are they buying right now and how can you determine if you can compete? The government keeps a database of active opportunities at www.fedbizopps.gov. Currently there are over 28,000 listed but to drill down you need to know your NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) so you can search the database. Even if you find an opportunity, you then still need to be registered at SAM (The System for Award Management), the Official U.S. Government system to do business. This is getting complicated, right? If you need help, you can always contact one of the Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilizations (OSDBU) in every major federal agency. These offer many different avenues for federal procurement knowledge. The assistance is free but you should plan on a learning curve for mastering how to access and finally sell your product or service to the eventual “buyer”, a federal contracting officer. Many advise to become a subcontractor first before bidding on your own. However, if you do act as a prime bidder, at the end of the day it’s still about convincing the federal “customer” that your franchise offers the best value for the product or service the government needs.
So where do you go from here? How do you prove you’re eligible for contracts or set-a-sides? The highest standard for certification of a SDVOSB now rests with the Veterans Administration and is administered by its OSDBU Office. They have a wealth of information on their Entrepreneurial Portal including franchising opportunities and they offer detailed information about their SDVOSB verification process. A key element of certification is whether or not the franchise entrepreneur actually controls at least 51% of the company and all day-to-day decision making. Due to the level of control that can be contained in a Franchise Agreement, the Franchisor often can maintain significant amount of control over certain day-to-day activities as well as certain long term decisions of the Franchisee. That is the nature of a franchise. Nevertheless franchises do and will continue to qualify for certification. A recent success story was a Tutor Doctor franchisee that won a bid and secured a $3.25 million contract with the U.S. Veterans Administration for Veteran training and transition services.
The VA’s Center for Veteran Enterprise (CVE) reviews the business documents for each franchise company applicant to assess if it meets the requirements of 38 CFR Part 74, the federal regulation which governs SDVOSB certification. The CVE decision process can depend on the nature of the product or services, the length of franchise agreement and even access to tools of the trade.
The VA works hard to connect small businesses, especially SDVOSB, with government and commercial procurement decision makers. The 2014 National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) (Dec. 9-11) is VA’s premier event for the Veteran small business community interested in competing for and winning business. The NVSBE offers attendees an unprecedented level of engagement with procurement officials. Not a bad place for a SDVSOB to explore the federal marketplace!