Get Started in Government Contracting with GSA Schedules
Interested in securing contracts from the government? Don’t know where to start? Then try thinking about GSA Schedules!
GSA Schedules – An Overview
The ubiquitous GSA Schedule (aka, having a “GSA number”), in fact, is probably the most recognizable Federal contract. The GSA Schedule (www.gsa.gov) is a government-wide federal contract (GWAC in B2G parlance). It is also an indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract, which means it is open for anyone to buy from, but no one is required to use it. It is a 5-year contract, with three 5-year renewal options.
In effect, it is a hunting license that allows you to pursue Federal business once you have a GSA contract.
The Schedules fall into 40+ separate categories, which cover virtually any and all business products and services. All told, over 12,000,000 commercial items are available through the GSA Schedules and there are over 19,000 contract holders. Some companies hold more than one GSA contract, so it is estimated that there are about 14,000 companies with GSA contracts. Examples of GSA Schedules are:
- Schedule 36 The Office, Imaging and Document Solutions;
- Schedule 48 Transportation, Delivery and Relocation Solutions;
- Schedule 51 V Hardware SuperStore;
- Schedule 58 I Professional Audio/Video, Telemetry/Tracking, Recording/Reproducing, and Signal Data Solutions;
- Schedule 67 Photographic Equipment—Cameras, Photographic Printers, and Related Supplies and Services (Digital and Film-Based);
- Schedule 69 Training Aids and Devices, Instructor-Led Training, Course Development, Test Administration;
- Schedule 70 General Purpose Information Technology Equipment, Software, and Services;
- Schedule 71 I Office Furniture.
In FY 2008 (federal FY runs from Oct 1 – Sept 30), the Schedules accounted for $36,610,320,837, or less than 9% of the total contract dollars spent by our favorite Uncle (over $450 billion).
If it is less than 9% of the total, why is the GSA Schedule so popular?
Reasons For Securing a GSA Schedule
First and foremost, it is a very easy contract for any federal employee with buying authority to use, including those outside contracting and procurement offices. Line managers and those with federal small purchase (SmartPay) credit cards use the GSA Schedules frequently. All federal agencies can purchase from the GSA.
Second, it is the easiest contract to obtain, and if you learn how to sell from it (sales do not automatically occur) you have a great way to start your government sales program.
Third, for government buyers, using the GSA is much faster than issuing a solicitation on their own. A Schedule purchase can be completed with three phone calls (three quotes, then a “best value award”), while a solicitation may take the better part of a year. A Schedule purchase also requires no posting by the buyer at www.FedBizOpps.gov.
Fourth, and most important to StartUpNation readers, is that the GSA Schedules are frequently used to help meet small business set-aside goals. Federal agencies are supposed to spend 23% of their respective dollars with small businesses each FY.
So how do you actually get started?
Start with research. You can start at the GSA Schedules e-Library. Using keywords, lookup your product or service here and get a feel for which other companies are selling similar products and services via GSA contracts. If you want to find out the economic food chain for a specific Schedule (each Schedule represents a product or service category), you can run reports through the Schedule Sales Query (SSQ) tool at http://ssq.gsa.gov . The SSQ will show you exactly how much money each contractor made during either a specific quarter or an FY, and the tool goes to 2003. It also lists all the companies in each category, so you can see who is using the Schedule and who is not.
The next step is pursuing and obtaining the contract. Remember what I wrote in the first paragraph – this is potentially a 20 year contract. I do not suggest you submit and negotiate this on your own. Like any other contract, if you do not have experience in this specific area, you will not get the best contract possible. In fact, you may end up with a contract that you have no desire to sell from. It has happened many times.
GSA does offer a free online course on GSA Schedules, and I recommend you take it. But after taking the course do not delude yourself into thinking you know enough to negotiate your own Schedule.
One reason you need further advice before proceeding is once you have a GSA Schedule, you are required to rebate GSA .75% of all Schedules’ sales on a quarterly basis. Having a contract is not free – when you sell from it, you pay GSA on a quarterly basis. Negotiating the best terms, conditions and pricing with GSA is an area I recommend all companies use outside help for – select a company or consultant that does nothing but negotiate Schedules. There are at least 100 companies that do this, and I can recommend a few when you are ready to proceed – just leave a note below.