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How Small Businesses Can Become GSA Schedule Subcontractors Blog Feature
Julien Cannon

By: Julien Cannon on June 15th, 2022

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How Small Businesses Can Become GSA Schedule Subcontractors

Government Business Development | 6 Min Read

Subcontracting with companies that have a GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) is a great way to benefit from GSA Schedule spending without having your own prime contract. GSA Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) are long-term governmentwide, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts that provide federal, state, and local government buyers commercial products and services at volume discount pricing.

Businesses and organizations interested in selling products and services to government agencies through the General Services Administration (GSA) do so using the GSA MAS program. However, sometimes, small businesses are unable to compete for the contract alone due to their size and resources. So, there are programs in place to allow teaming and other arrangements that allow for small businesses to compete. There are several ways to partner with another contractor. In this article, we will discuss the different approaches to subcontracting with a MAS prime, as well as best practices for soliciting these primes, and resources that will help you along.

What is Subcontracting?

In general, a subcontract is an agreement between an original contract holder and a third party to provide some or all the work or materials required in the original contract. Subcontracting with a GSA prime contract holder is no different, subcontractors do not work directly with the government, but instead work with prime GSA Schedule holders to complete a contract.

Per Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 19.702, companies that are considered large or “Other Than Small” under their primary NACIS Code are required to submit a Subcontracting Plan that outlines the percent of work that they plan to subcontract to small businesses. Since prime contractors work directly with the government, they manage any subcontractors and are responsible for ensuring that the work is completed as defined in the contract.

As a small business, there are plenty of opportunities to team up with prime GSA contractors. It's important to note that your company does not have to hold a GSA Schedule contract to pair up with another company on a GSA Schedule. This can eliminate barriers for small businesses to join the federal marketplace.

In fact, many small businesses start their government contracting efforts by subcontracting. It allows small businesses to build government experience while letting the prime contractor deal with most of the red tape involved. Plus, it's a win-win for the prime and subcontractor. A government proposal from a prime contractor with one or more small-business subcontractors can often be more attractive to an agency.

How to Find GSA Schedule Subcontractor Work

The first step to becoming a subcontractor through the GSA Schedule is to find a prime contractor to work with. Thankfully, GSA and the Small Business Association (SBA) have created resources just for this.

The SBA developed and maintains the U.S. Small Business Administration Subcontracting Network (SubNet) which bridges the gap between businesses seeking small businesses and small businesses seeking contracting opportunities. SubNet's purpose is to be the centralized system for all federal government small business subcontracting opportunities by providing a no-cost system to post or search small businesses. SubNet is the system small businesses can utilize to identify federal government subcontracting opportunities.

To further connect small businesses with prime contractors, GSA publishes a directory of prime contractors working through a GSA Schedule. You can also find listings of prime contractors on GSA eLibrary, the main source for the most up-to-date GSA contract award information. Submitting plans and goals for subcontracting with small businesses is required by law so large companies are looking to partner with you to stay compliant.

Anyone interested in doing business with the government can also use to search for opportunities. As you search SAM for opportunities you will encounter pre-solicitation notices, solicitation notices, award notices, and sole source notices. SAM also offers an interesting vendor list to collect a list of vendors interested in competing for the opportunity or vendors interested in subcontracting opportunities. If the agency posting the notice has enabled the Interested Vendors List (IVL), a link will be available on the left navigation menu of the notice. You must be logged in to access this feature. You can register for free on the site.

The Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) also developed the Schedule Sales Query Plus (SSQ+) dashboard to provide businesses with data that can be leveraged to enhance market research, improve business strategies, and take advantage of new opportunities.

Other Opportunities for Small Businesses Looking to Get Involved in the Government Marketplace

Small businesses have a lot of options available to them in the federal government marketplace. While subcontracting is a great choice for companies looking to break into the public sector, there are also partnerships for companies that want a GSA Schedule but may not have all the right resources to bid on certain contracts. These are Contractors Team Arrangements (CTAs) or Joint Ventures.

There are also government set-aside contracts dedicated exclusively to small businesses. They provide the opportunity for smaller companies to bid on contracts without competition from larger corporations. You can compete in these specialized contracts through a CTA or Joint Venture.

Contractor Team Arrangements

As a small business, you are probably more specialized than large companies that the specific job that you do. Even for large companies some solicitations are too much work for their workforce and need highly skilled people to fill the scarcity of labor. Your specialization places you in the perfect position to team up with contract holders to fulfill the contract needs that are lacking in the prime’s offerings.

If your small business already has a GSA contract but you aren’t as competitive as you would like to be, then Contractor Team Arrangements might be a program to take a closer look at. A GSA Schedule Contractor Team Arrangement (CTA) is an arrangement in which two or more GSA Schedule contractors team together to provide a total solution to meet a customer's needs. Under Schedule CTAs, contractors complement each other, and it allows teams to compete for orders for which they may not qualify independently. GSA encourages the use of CTAs to meet buyers’ requirements.

Teaming arrangements can be a valuable tool for small businesses to use—allowing businesses to pool resources, management abilities, and technical knowledge. All of these elements help make a small business more competitive in the bidding process.

Joint Ventures

Just like teaming, Joint Ventures are a great way for a niche business to break into government contracting. Two or more small businesses may pool their efforts by forming a Joint Venture to compete for a contract award. A Joint Venture of multiple small businesses still qualifies for small business set-aside contracts if its documentation meets SBA requirements. A Joint Venture can also bid on contracts that are set aside for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned (SDVOSB), Women-Owned, or HUBZone businesses if a member of the Joint Venture meets SBA requirements to do so.

Ready to Get a GSA Schedule? Team Up or Get Your Own Contract

Subcontracting can be beneficial for every party involved as it allows large businesses to fulfill their subcontracting plan and offer a complete solution, while allowing smaller companies to sell in the federal market. On the other hand, you might decide that getting your own GSA Schedule and entering one of the other partnerships is the best choice for your company. Either way, the GSA Schedule process is not easy.

If you want to learn more about potential GSA Schedule partnerships or want to find out how to seize more opportunities in the federal marketplace, we would be happy to help you. If you want more information on small business opportunities, check out our recent blog for more resources.

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About Julien Cannon

Julien Cannon is a Consultant for Winvale’s Government Contract Services Department. A Marine combat veteran and native of New Market, Virginia, Julien earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA.