Planning is the key to successfully graduating from the 8(a) program
Hundreds of small and disadvantaged companies enter the Small Business
Administration’s 8(a) business development program each year, enjoying
nine years of favored status. But when that time runs out and they
graduate from the program, many are unable to succeed in the
full-and-open government contracting market.
To move your company from 8(a) to a successful life beyond, remember
these best practices and lessons learned from companies that have
already taken that step.
Protect your reputation. One instance of nonperformance or
employee malfeasance can kill an 8(a). “They don’t give small companies
second chances,” said Amos Otis, chief executive officer at SoBran Inc.
Narrow your focus. Too many companies try to take on half
the government at the start, “when they’d be better off to start off by
zeroing in on one department of one subagency of an agency,” said Guy
Timberlake, CEO at the American Small Business Coalition. “Then get to
know and understand that customer.”
Evolve. It’s important to realize that those
characteristics that got you to this point, such as the 20-hour days
and being involved in every minute decision, “won’t get you to where
you want to go,” Otis said. “You’ve got to put your team in place and
learn to think and act like the CEO of a major government contractor.”
Invest in your future. It goes against the grain to sink
money into initiatives that won’t pay off for some time, but training
employees, developing relationships with large and small industry
partners and potential customers, improving your infrastructure,
getting key certifications, and pursuing full-and-open competitions
will be critical to achieving long-term, post-graduate success.