Plan to Expand
Hooray!! You’ve made it to the final step. Opening day for your business is right around the corner.
So how are you feeling? If you’re like most brand-new business owners, a little bit of “I can hardly wait to open those doors!” and a whole lot more of “What was I thinking? I can’t do this!”
But you can and you will. The time to start proving it is now.
The first nine steps you have taken on the way to this day have more than prepared you for the challenges you’ll face as a business owner. Continue to use what you’ve learned so far and before too long, you’ll be itching to expand your business in ways you never thought possible.
Before you take the plunge, do this:
- Revisit your business plan. Are you meeting your expectations? Are your support documents accurate and up to date?
- Rate your team. Have you put the right people in place for each job and have you provided adequate training to ensure their success?
- Fine-tune your operations. Is your business running as efficiently as it should? Do you have enough space to accommodate growth?
Florida ranks among the top 10 U.S. states for government contract procurement. If you have the necessary infrastructure and understand how the procurement process works, this could be a good way to grow your business. Keep in mind, however, that selling to the government is not like pitching your product to a civilian buyer. Forget the flashy brochures. You must prove, without a doubt, that your business can deliver what the client needs when it’s needed and for the right price.
Selling in the US
Requires that you:
- Develop a corporate capability statement and secure the preferred small business certifications.
- Monitor computerized Bid Matching Services (daily searches/email alerts) to identify opportunities.
- Understand what, when and how much government agencies buy.
- Target government agencies and prime contractors that buy what you offer.
- Complete the required/mandatory government database registrations.
- Create a government-accepted accounting system; know how to handle contract audits, reports, modifications.
- Ask for help when you need it from procurement specialists at the Florida SBDC Network.
Selling in Florida
MyFloridaMarketPlace, a division of the Florida Department of Management Services, has 15,000+ registered buyers who issue, on average, 5,000 purchase orders each month as:
- Term Contracts
- Informal Purchases – less than $35,000; do not require competitive bidding
- Formal Purchases – greater than $35,000; require competitive bidding
- For details, visit dms.myflorida.com/business_operations/state_purchasing.
Contrary to popular belief, veteran-owned businesses do not receive preferential treatment with regard to government contracts; they must compete just like any other business and they are awarded the job because they’ve done their homework, not because of their military service.
FYI, just 3% of government contracts are set aside specifically for veteran-owned businesses compared to 23% for all small businesses, and the bidding process is a level playing field with just one exception: If a veteran-owned business goes up against a non-veteran-owned business for a VA contract and all things are otherwise equal, the vet will likely get the job.
Thanks to a multimodal system that ensures seamless movement of people and products between any two points on the planet as well as ready access to the nation’s second largest Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) network, it should come as no surprise that Florida is home to more than 60,000 exporters – second highest number in the U.S. And nearly all of them are small- and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees each.
If you are interested in expanding your business through trade, here are five steps you can take:
- Evaluate your readiness. Seek export counseling assistance and/or participate in educational seminars, conferences and webinars.
- Familiarize yourself with existing trade rules and agreements. For assistance, look to Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Export Assistance Center.
- Create your export business plan and strategy. Apply for an Export Marketing Plan through the Florida SBDC Network, Enterprise Florida or U.S. Export Assistance Centers.
- Enter a new trade market and meet your buyers. Attend international trade shows and missions with Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commerce Service.
- Learn about funding programs for exporters of goods and services by contacting the Florida Export Finance Corporation and EXIM Bank for information.
Then, whenever you feel ready, connect with:
- U.S. Export Assistance Centers trade professionals in six Florida offices (see list on page 34) to get started. These seasoned professionals can help you identify and evaluate international partners, create market entry strategies and navigate documentation challenges. For general information on regulations, licensing, free trade agreements and other topics related to exporting, visit export.gov.
- The Florida SBDC Network and its international trade specialists work in partnership with Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service to prepare Export Marketing Plans for qualifying Florida-based manufacturers and service providers. Approximately 100 hours is spent preparing each customized plan, which includes target market recommendations, overseas trade opportunities and an action plan for market entry. Each Export Marketing Plan costs $5,000 to prepare. However, qualifying companies are eligible for a $4,500 scholarship, bringing your company’s cost down to $500.