Considering that the U.S. government does the bulk of purchasing in the country, many companies start the journey of becoming a government contractor.

Federal contracts can help to boost growth of small businesses, but the steps to securing a government contract can seem quite daunting. Especially since you’ll be competing with some of the big dogs in the defense contracting game, who have a long list of capabilities and past performance.

After asking questions like, ‘are my products / services needed’ or walking through all of the required legal items, you may ask ‘what’s next?’ Like a candidate and recruiter making a meaningful connection to secure a contract billet, a small business needs to develop a solid relationship with a potential customer. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sets the perfect stage for something like this with Small Business Vendor Outreach Sessions.

Sponsored by the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Vendor Outreach Sessions (VOS’s) are a series of pre-arranged 15-minute appointments with Small Business Specialists from DHS components, plus several prime contractors who currently have contracts with DHS. These sessions provide the small business community opportunities to discuss their capabilities and to learn more about doing business with DHS.

Vendor Outreach Sessions (VOS) are held ten times per year in the following months:  January, February, March, May, June, July, August, October, November and December.  Each session has different eligibility guidelines for what type of small business is able to attend.

Scheduled participants from DHS include representatives from DHS Headquarters Office of Procurement Operations, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Science & Technology Directorate’s Small Business Innovative Research Program.

Additionally, several large business prime contractors attend the sessions to discuss subcontracting opportunities and mentor-protégé relationships.

The DHS Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) is designed to motivate and encourage large business prime contractors to provide mutually beneficial developmental assistance to small businesses. The MPP is aimed at increasing small business capabilities and for a protégé, the benefits to participation are pretty obvious: so long as the mentor lives up to its end of the bargain, the protege should gain increased capabilities, become more competitive in the federal space, and build on their branding. That being said, a protégé won’t be considered to be affiliated with its mentor simply because of the relationship.

Tips for the 15 min:

Know your industry’s six-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. You can use this code into a search to see what contracts have been awarded to members of your industry in the past with DHS.

The federal government tries to level the playing field by awarding a considerable amount of federal government contracting dollars to small businesses. Look what opportunities are available under pre solicitation and know the contracts that are set aside to small businesses like yours.

Come prepared to discuss how your company can support DHS and the prime contractors meet their specific mission needs in the future.

Have marketing materials handy! Include a brief capabilities statement, providing an overview of your firm’s capabilities and past performance. Have those electronic documents ready to roll with whatever contacts you make at the outreach session. Above all else, know your company identity and make that known.

The next VOS is Thursday, February 27, 2020 9:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. 90 K St., NE Washington, DC 20002

Access the full calendar to peruse the other upcoming sessions.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 7+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸