If you’re new to the process, fulfilling your first contract can be a challenging task. To help you do it right, the General Services Administration (GSA) offers a Mentor-Protégé Program designed to encourage prime contractors to help small businesses perform successfully on government contracts and subcontracts, hopefully leading to more contracts in the future.
The goal of the program, which focuses on companies that sell their services or products through the GSA Schedules Program, is to encourage long-term relationships between large businesses (mentors) and small ones (protégés). Ultimately, the GSA’s goal is to increase the number of small businesses that receive GSA prime contract and subcontract awards.
Eligible companies include small businesses, small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned businesses, HUBZone small businesses, veteran-owned small businesses, or service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses that are a current or newly selected subcontractor on a GSA Schedule contract.
Here’s how it works: The small business and the larger business agree to work together on a contract, with the larger business serving as prime contractor and the smaller one as subcontractor. The mentor has to submit annual reports to GSA explaining how it assisted the protégé; the protégé has to submit a “Lessons Learned” evaluation at the end of the arrangement.
Although you can’t seek out a mentor (they have to find and choose you), Bill Gormley, writing on the Industry Word blog, says there are ways to help the process along. Gormley recommends making yourself known to potential mentors by searching the GSA Office of Small Business Utilization Subcontracting Directory or the GSA eLibrary for companies you’d like to work with. Once you’ve identified potential mentors, market yourself to them and get on their radar to establish a relationship.
Government contracting is one of the most potentially lucrative avenues for women-owned businesses, and participating in the Mentor-Protégé program can help you ensure your entry into this complicated world gets off to a good start. You can get lots of additional help, resources and insights about government contracting in the government contracting section of SCORE’s website or by contacting a SCORE mentor. Ask a SCORE mentor online or find a mentor near you.