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Expanding Your CPA Services to the Government

Federal-spending-on-financial-services-FY-2011In today’s economic climate, even with budget cuts on the horizon, the U.S. government is the largest consumer in the world. Yet, for many businesses -- small businesses in particular -- the thought of doing business with the federal government can be headache-inducing. Last year, the federal government spent more than $850 million on financial services. Just more than half of this was spent with CPAs; the remaining half was spent on other financial services, including debt collection.

The demand is there, but is it possible for a small CPA firm to capture a portion of this market? While well-established Fortune 500 firms have a definitive advantage in the contracting industry, the federal government has taken steps to level the playing field and create a more small-business-friendly environment. Two examples of this are small business goaling and set-aside contracts. 

Small business goaling refers to the percentage of contracts that federal agencies award to various types of small businesses on an annual basis. While this goal can vary from agency to agency, a typical goal is 23 percent of the agency’s contract spending. The government also designates a number of contract opportunities as “small business set-asides.” This means that only small businesses can bid on the contract.

Here is something to think about: last year the federal government set aside more than 275 contracts for small businesses. More than 34 percent of the $850 million that federal agencies spent on CPA and other financial services went to small businesses. That is broken out into more than $165 million for CPAs and more than $126 million on other financial services.

How can a CPA firm take advantage of these government opportunities?  Here are a few steps to get you started:

  1. If your company doesn't have one already, get a Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System, or DUNS, number.
  2. Register on the System for Award Management website. Depending upon what you want to provide to the government, you may be required to provide certain certifications, licenses and accreditations including a peer review report.
  3. You should also search for opportunities on websites like FedBizOpps; you can search by the service you want to offer, in addition to your location and the agency you'd like to work with. Each agency may have a different process to work with them, so it's best to focus on one to three agencies.  

Considering its budget, it's no surprise the Department of Defense tops the list of highest spenders for financial services with more than $178 million in sales last year. Other agencies that spend significant amounts on financial services include the Department of Health & Human Services, Homeland Security, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Justice and the General Services Administration.  

Get to know your target agency and the contracting staff.  Familiarize yourself with their sales process and see if there is a specific contract vehicle they prefer to use.  Some agencies will just post opportunities on the FedBizOpps website, some will have their own contract that you'll have to apply to and others may use a government-wide contract vehicle like the General Services Administration Schedule Contract. Most importantly, be selective, patient and diligent. Focus your resources on contract opportunities that are an ideal fit for your business. It may take some time, but you could end up expanding your market and adding significant revenue in the long run.

Julie C. Crosby, President, Federal Schedules, Inc.

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