March 1, 2005
In Step 2 we discussed finding bid opportunities. Before we dive in, it's important to note that recent statistics show that in 2003 the federal government wrote 10.9 million contracts; 23 percent went to small businesses, meaning small businesses actually got $3 billion more work than they thought they would.
So you've gone through the process of finding the bids, sorted through all the keywords, visited FedBizOpps, and found the bid. What's the first thing you need to do? Remember, when you submit a bid to the federal government, even though the government provided you with all the information, it becomes your bid and the government will view it as if you put the entire package together yourself with no input from them.
The first step you should take is to read the solicitation. Skim through the document, and stick Post-it® notes wherever you find something you don't understand.
You need to look at certain sections. The package usually contains all the information and specs you need to bid, but if something seems to be missing or if you don't understand what is written, call the contact person named on the solicitation. Never bid on something you don't understand or have doubts about, and never assume something you don't understand.
Although several different bid formats are possible, the three most common ones are invitation for bid, request for proposal, and request for quote.
So how do you read a solicitation? The most common form used is the Standard Form 33, which is the solicitation, offer, and award. When you sign this document, it becomes your offer to the government on that bid.
On this form, look at:
For example, let's say the contract solicitation number is DAA345-04-R-9876. The first six characters (DAA345) identify the department or agency that has put the bid out. The next two numbers (04) are the year of the contract, and R identifies the type of solicitation. R is request for proposal, B is invitation for bid, P is purchase order, C is for contract, and Q is request for quote. At least two agencies use Z for special evaluation and approval.
Block 9 to 11.
Block 12 to 18.
One thing we should mention is that the government is relaxing some of its packaging requirements for commercial-type items because the commercial packaging is sometimes superior to the government's requirements. Bottom line, the government now looks at commercial packaging as acceptable.
Also, if your company is classified as a small; minority-, woman-, veteran-, or disabled veteran-owned; or HUBZone-certified business, check off the appropriate box in Part 4, Section K (Representations, Certification and Other Statements of Offerors). The federal government has in place set-asides for these business types, so it's in the best interest of a business that qualifies for one to tell the government about it.
For all of these reasons, it's imperative that you read the solicitation. Most bidding mistakes happen because the bidder didn't read all of it to learn what he or she was getting into. Next time we'll look at what you have to do to write a proposal.
You can find technical data, or requirements, for bids at www.dscc.dla.mil/Programs/MilSpec/. Technical data includes specifications, drawings, standards, and any change to the end product. Most commercial businesses refer to the technical data as the specifications. You also might want to visit www.ilflexnet.com, a new Web site that offers information and links of interest to manufacturers.
As always, if you need more assistance, contact your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), which you can locate by visiting www.sellingtothegovernment.net.
Jim Kleckner is a retired acquisition specialist from the Department of Defense and owner of Government Contracting Assistance, 2168 Spaulding Ave., West Dundee, IL 60118-3521, 847-426-7003, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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