Understanding the Government Marketplace

In this blog post, we share our experience of figuring out the world of government contracting. We hope our experiences, lessons learned and resources shared will help other small businesses secure government contracts. We also wouldn’t mind catching the attention of General Contractors who are looking for subcontractors for government projects!

Up until this year, we primarily did work on new commercial construction jobs, DDC Controls work, residential service work, and weatherization jobs with the City of Kansas City. With more staff in 2015, we set out to tap into the potentially more lucrative world of government contracting and put our DBE and MBE statuses to use.

We’ve always known were a lot of government contracting opportunities at the local, state and federal level. Learning a new bidding system, taking on extra paperwork and adhering to more regulations just never sounded attractive enough to actively pursue it. Also, we weren’t sure where to start. We routinely received phone calls and emails from companies offering to help us to secure “millions of dollars” in government contracts. The problem is, they charge a fortune and the projects are usually located outside the Kansas City Metro area. We wanted to find a local organization that we could trust and could help us break into this market.

Luckily, early on in the process we found Jim Feikert, Subcenter Director of Kansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) – www.kansasptac.org. Based out of Johnson County Community College, Jim works with businesses to explore and understand the government marketplace. The best part? There is little to no cost for PTAC services! Once we signed up for PTAC services online, we met with Jim in person. He provided us with plenty of useful information and better yet, he emailed us afterwards with a personalized step-by-step checklist. He also started inviting us to PTAC training events and seminars and has been quick to answer any of our questions along the way. We attended his monthly class at JCCC – Competing for Government Contracts: Basic Training, as well as these other PTAC sponsored events: Federal Government Contracts: Commercial Acquisitions vs. Negotiated Procurements; and the PTAC/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Government Contracting Informational Meeting.

Based on everything we learned, here’s a list of the steps we’ve taken so far to qualify for and obtain government contracts:

  • Identified our NAICS Codes: 811412, 238220, 238210, & 811310
  • Created an account on the System for Award Management (SAM), an e-procurement system.
  • Updated our contact info on the business database Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). D&B provides every business with a unique nine-digit identification (D-U-N-S) number.
  • Registered our company as a vendor on various city, state and county websites, a prerequisite to submit a bid on many notices.
  • Completed our annual DBE and MBE renewal certification paperwork through the City of Kansas City, MO.
  • Signed up for PTAC’s Bid Match (Jim set this up & has adjusted the filters based on our requests). It pulls in solicitation and bid notices from over 2200 websites on a daily basis including FedBizOpps, other federal web sites, and state and local government web sites.
  • Identified 96 cities, universities, counties, and school districts in Kansas and Missouri for which we want to receive bid notices. We were able find an online registrations for bid notifications for about half of the entities. (Interestingly, they utilize the services of Public Purchase or CivicPlus). For the rest, we called them up and inquired about their method of distributing bid notices (Their website, newspaper, Demand Star, etc.)
  • Created a Capability Statement to showcase our company as a capable business to government agencies and to use it to pitch our company to other contractors for teaming or subcontracting.
  • Applied for Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) designation.
  • Applied for city, state and federal jobs!

While we’ve worked through many items on the checklist, here’s what we’re working on:

  • Applying for DBE and MBE certifications through the State of Kansas.
  • Seeking mentors. We’re currently seeking a large contractor to serve as our mentor in the SBA’s Universal Mentor-Protégé program.
  • Reaching out to and contacting other Prime contractors with contracts greater than $700,000 through the SBA’s website. (FAR 19.702 – The prime contractor subcontracting plan floor was raised from $650,000 to $700,000, and the construction threshold of $1,500,000 stays the same.

Now that we’re receiving RFP notices, we’re preparing more bids than ever before. Hopefully, we’ll soon have a follow up blog post highlighting our next experiences implementing city, state, and federal contract jobs.

We hope you find this blog post useful in your efforts to obtain government contracts. If you have any questions for us, don’t hesitate to email us at info@bcs-kc.com.

Q&A with Cheryl Morton

Cheryl-Small-EditedWe hope you enjoy this Q & A with Cheryl Morton, President and Owner of Building Control Solutions.

Q: Can you share the origin story of Building Control Solutions?

A: Like any businesses, Building Control Solutions started as an idea. When I began researching the market, I discovered that not only was there room for another HVAC company in the Kansas City market, there were a lot of job opportunities for mechanical companies specializing in DDC controls with a female owner. I was raising a family at the time I was considering starting the company and the flexibility and earning potential inherent in owning your own business was attractive to me. So I made a calculated risk and opened Building Control Solutions in July 2001.

Q: What have you done along the way to ensure your business acumen skills are sharp?

A: While I had experience in various business environments prior to opening Building Control Solutions, I didn’t have a formal degree or industry-specific knowledge so I’ve pursued all sorts of education opportunities. In 2002, I participated in an entrepreneurship training program though the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. In 2009-2010, I completed industry-specific training in heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration maintenance at Johnson County College. In 2011, I earned an Associate of Applied Science in Business and Management from Metropolitan Community College. Currently, I’m on track to earn a B.A. in economics from UMKC in 2016.

Q: What are some of your hardest-earned lessons?

A: While the market has been generous to my company, finding the right partners and employees was a challenge at first. These past few years I’ve been investing more time in the company and applying what I’ve learned and we’ve been attracting talent and growing steadily. Today, I’m convinced we have some of the best talent in KC on the operations side and in the field. Once we hire a great employee, we make a point to invest in them and support them so they will stay.

Q: What are some of the ways you have advanced the presence of Building Control Solutions in the Kansas City Community?

A: I’ve come to understand the importance of connecting with key players and especially other women leaders in the industry. I’ve been particularly impressed by events hosted by the Builders’ Association and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Kansas City. One such event was the NAWIC Dinner at KC Sporting Park in April 2015. I invited two other women from my company to join me and found it to be a fantastic networking opportunity and a lot of fun.

I also make a point to show support and loyalty to our most valuable customers. For instance, I always make a point to purchase seats for Avila’s Steer Dinner and Auction. Connecting with customers over a great meal for a good cause? Count me in.

Q: Building Control Solutions is designated as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise because you are a majority owner. Can you share how Building Control Solutions received this designation?

A: Absolutely. I’m a proud member of the Cherokee Nation. I could stop there, but there’s more to my family story. My ancestors survived the Trail of Tears and in Oklahoma, my Great Grandfather Redbird Smith made quite an impact. Redbird Smith was a traditionalist and political activist. He founded the Nighthawk Keetowah Society and served as its chief until his death.

My Great Grandfather was a vocal opponent of the Dawes Allotment Act. When it passed anyways, it ended our communal holding of property. The resulting loss of community, culture, and economic leverage has had ripple effects on subsequent generations. I’m thankful for the DBE status and opportunities it has given me, a reality very different from the struggles of my parents and grandparents.