Acquiring Government Contracts for Your Interiorscape Company

Government contracts are elusive, difficult to obtain, but very rewarding should you win one. Being a government vendor can have both positive and negative aspects. The benefits of working with a government agency are the dependable payments, loyalty, and client stability. After all, government agencies don’t go under or declare chapter eleven. And if they do, we are all in big trouble. If your interiorscape company provides the agency with good quality reliable service, chances are, they will be a loyal customer for the life of your business. 

The downsides to securing these contracts are a much more complicated bidding process, higher requirements, and stricter servicing rules such as requirements to attend government classes like Federal Computer Security. Every plant tech that services must pass federal background checks before an agency will allow them onto their premises. If you decide to bid on a contract, be cautious about your pricing. You may be tempted to bid on the low side to win, but once you get involved, you may find policy requirements can be a hassle and lower your profit margin. 

With the pros and cons in mind, how do you get involved with government contracts?

government agency

DUNS Number

To be able to submit a government bid, you need to acquire a unique nine-digit identification number from Dun & Bradstreet or DUNS.  If you have more than one location, each office is required to have its own number. Although DUNS is a private non-government agency, it is free to register and you just need basic business information such as legal and/or DBA name, addresses, phone numbers, and other company info (i.e. contact person, number of employees).

DUNS will also offer services to help build your business credit score. This is a nice option if your company is new and looking to improve its buying power. Just remember, this optional service is where the agency makes its money and is unnecessary for contracts. To file online, go to the DUNS Request Service.

NAICS Code

Another number you need to figure out is your company’s NAICS code or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. This number basically tells the government what type of service or product you offer. I can tell you first hand, you won’t be able to find interiorscape listed on the chart. The closest is landscaping or florist. I use 453110, which is the number for a florist, as I do only a few outside garden projects a year. 

As landscaping is a much higher risk business, you will experience increased insurance requirements if you list your company under that category. That reminds me, if you do not already carry workmen’s comp, you must be certified as exempt within your state. To search for your NAICS, go to the U.S. Census Bureau website.

government contracts

Government Contract Advantages

Government agencies reserve many contracts for small businesses which are not hard to qualify for. The Small Business Association (SBA) defines a small business as having an annual revenue of $7.5 million or less. Of course, there are some exceptions for different industries and if you want to make sure your company qualifies, you can go to the SBA website and check under their table of small business size standards.

Another advantage to winning government contracts is the ability to register as a minority owned company such as women owned businesses. As long as the minority owner has at least 51% of company shares and actively engages in company operations, you can apply for this status. Unfortunately, you cannot use a company document to prove you have minority status. You have to jump through more hoops to obtain minority certification, which can be done through a state agency or you can pay a private entity such as the MWBE to get approved.  

Register with SAM

Once you have all those boxes checked, register your business in the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM). This is the government’s database for their agencies to find contractors. It should come as no surprise the government does not use Google or Angie’s List to find vendors. If your business is not on the SAM database, agencies probably will not contact you for open bids. Finding out about an upcoming opportunity to service a government location is rare unless you have an inside source. 

One last piece of advice; when you do register with SAM, check your grammar, wording, and accuracy. This is the government agent’s first and maybe last impression of your business. You want to highlight all the beneficial services your company offers and stand out from the horticulture crowd. 

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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