18,000 new businesses were started last month*. 17,990 were new federal contractors, I'm quite sure. Actually, I have no idea what the breakdown is but it feels like there are a lot of us. In spite of this absolutely crazy market (as I write, we're in Day 3 of the first government shutdown in 17 years), it is amazing and inspiring to hear so many stories of people in federal contracting starting out on their own, ready to take on Goliath.
For context, I believe most clients would like to engage with (or are at least open to) a small business. As one of our core American values, the clients I've spoken with appreciate the guts and want to see you succeed provided that you...
- offer a qualified team,
- have sufficient federal experience to cope with the contracting process and requirements, and
- are committed to getting the work done.
Large businesses are favored when the job requires multiple disciplines or is politically sensitive and needs the "cover" of a big name firm to backup a tough decision. And, whether it's really true or not, there's a perception that large businesses pose less risk to the government because they have more resources, more at stake, more oversight, more, more, more.
The "more" is precisely the reason why many of us left our comfortable medium to large size firms. "More" equates to expensive overhead and layers of management that we didn't see translating into a lot of value for our clients. With the goal of delivering the same high quality support for less money, an army of small businesses is formed.
While our business model is changing, our client's buying patterns are not. In some cases, you might be able to convince a client to chunk work into much smaller pieces to suit your new size but this puts them in the position of creating multiple contracts (a lot of work on their end) to get the same job done.
With this in mind, we need to think through how to make their lives easier while we're making our entrepreneurial dreams come true. Over the next couple of days, I'll cover some ideas on how teaming, project management, and acquisition within our small businesses can be more effective.
So, come on back, y'all.
*I arrived at the estimated 18,000 new business starts after doing a little math based on a stat cited on Cheryl Conner's piece in Forbes a year ago.