Can SMEs really win government contracts? Your chances are actually better in a post-COVID-19 world


Source: That Startup Photo Library.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen business advisors and media experts encourage small businesses to shift their business in often different directions.

The trendy word bandied about is ‘pivot’.

While pivoting has proven a necessary and successful strategy for some businesses, the majority of small business commentators fail to recognise that most small businesses don’t have the time to see a successful pivot to completion.

The fact is, if you’re a small business with available cash to see you through more than three months of difficult trading, then you’re in an elite and very small club.

This makes pivoting an extremely difficult challenge when time versus cost is analysed.

Why ignore our biggest market?

Pivoting a business can be costly. Pivoting a business is almost always risky. Pivoting a business in many cases can accelerate the road to insolvency.

Before you decide to pivot your business, ask yourself these questions.

  • Is my business ready to supply government?
  • Do I or someone in my business have the knowledge and skills to compete for government business?
  • Can my business help the economic recovery brought about by COVID-19?
  • Do I have a partner network in place that I could work with when bidding for government business? If not, could I establish one?
  • Do I have the discipline and determination to regularly target the biggest purchaser in Australia?  
  • Am I open to learning the best and most efficient ways to win government business?

Can my small business really win government business?

If you’re a small business that can answer ‘yes’ to most of these questions (and you’re not doing so already) please put your hand up for government contracts. Grants, EOIs, RFQs, BaU, long and short-term contracts, one-off purchases, tenders — you’re likely in a good position to open government revenue streams right now.  

If you’re a small business that can answer ‘yes’ to maybe just one or two of these questions, see my previous recommendation. Your business doesn’t need to tick every box to be considered a partner for the government.

Whether you believe it or not, all levels of government realise the massive contribution that small business makes to our economy, and indeed our local communities. Incentives are in place to encourage small business to apply for government work.

In fact, many states even have a ‘small business quota’, whereby a certain percentage of all government procurement must go to small businesses.

If you’re not putting your hand up for this business, you need to ask yourself why not.

If you’re a small business that can’t answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions asked earlier, see both previous recommendations.

We’re in a new time post-COVID-19. For many small businesses, winning government business used to be like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube blindfolded — it just wasn’t going to happen without some sort of miracle.

Now, however, is not the time to believe that lucrative and life-changing government revenue streams remain out of your reach. If you’ve already proved yourself in the private sector, then you have a very real and a very strong base upon which to build a government strategy.  

Make the leap

Forget what you’ve been told about how hard it is to win government business.

Forget the horror stories you’ve been told about dealing with a government piece of work.

Forget the disheartened peers you know who have poured hours of work into government submissions and received nothing but crickets and tumbleweeds in return. 

Like so many other things in 2020, government procurement has evolved (perhaps even ‘pivoted’). Sure, you might be a small business, but that doesn’t stop you from winning some big pieces of government business. You just need to be smart about it. 

Choose your targets wisely. Plan. Respond. 

What you’ll need most is the resilience and determination to stay the course. You won’t win on your first submission for a government piece of work. Probably not your second either. Like most things, though, you will improve with every submission. 

And always remember, unless you’re putting your hand up for government contracts, you have absolutely no chance of winning one.

NOW READ: Federal government grants to help your small business: 2020

NOW READ: How to raise capital in a recession, according to a founder who’s bagged $74.9 million so far


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