GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS: As businesses continue to feel an economic ripple effect, some might be turning to the largest consumer in the country: the government.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the federal government spent more than $93 billion last year on prime contracts with small businesses alone. But the process of obtaining a government contract can be daunting, according to Dick Griffin, CEO of Arlington, Va.-based business consulting firm the Griffin Method.
“Government contracting officers, project managers and technical officers live in a world that’s very different from the corporate environment with which traditional businesses are most familiar,” Griffin said.
Agencies will look critically at staffing, finances and past performance, so if your company is fairly young, Griffin suggests starting out as a government subcontractor to establish your business. A directory search of contractors can be done on the SBA’s Web site: www.sba.gov.
It’s crucial to identify what product or service you’re selling that an agency needs, then do market research to find out at the granular level who would buy what you’re offering, he said.
“If you are looking to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, find out specifically who needs your product and instead go to the department’s farmer’s agency in Riverton, Wyo., to sell those folks something,” Griffin said.
A few more helpful tips:
■ Do your homework. Knowing how to effectively price and bid — which should be much less aggressive with the government than in the private sector — will help make you a competitive candidate for the government’s business.
■ Contact a small-business specialist and use that person as a resource to put you in touch with the right federal agencies.
■ Businesses owned by women, veterans and those socially and economically disadvantaged get a leg up in the bidding process.
■ Register with the Central Contractor Registry: www.bpn.gov/ccr. Don’t forget to include your Web site in your pitch.
■ Sign up with the U.S. General Services Administration, which serves as a general-purpose supplier and business manager for the government. Though it can be cumbersome, going through the somewhat extensive process to get your business on their schedule program will provide a great opportunity for contract awards.
■ Be careful not to get in over your head. Start with smaller projects that prove the quality of your work and that you are a low-risk candidate for the job.
RECESSION DESTINATION: Vacationers are still using timeshares despite high unemployment rates and tighter credit markets, according to industry research.
Prepaid timeshares are enjoying an 80 percent occupancy rate, according to Smith Travel Research Inc. That’s little changed from the average of about 82 percent from 2005 to 2008. Still, overall sales of timeshare vacations reflect the national trend of lower consumer spending.
Sales may drop 30 percent this year from 2008, but preliminary 2009 second-quarter research shows that nine out of 10 owners were current on monthly payments, according to the American Resort Development Association, a Washington-based trade group.
“The downturn in our economy has hit the tourism industry particularly hard,” said Howard Nusbaum, ARDA’s president and CEO. “The timeshare segment, however, due in part to its prepaid nature, is better equipped than most to weather a downturn.”
Timeshares are typically resort condominium units that multiple parties have the right to use, generally by the week, and are an alternative for people who don’t want to rent and can’t afford to own a vacation home or condo outright. The timeshare system also allows owners to trade weeks at a property with timeshare owners elsewhere.
Use of exchange options that offer timeshare owners the ability to trade resort destinations other than those of their “home resort” location are also strong, ARDA said.
Many developers report that decreased sales are, to some extent, deliberate on their part to maintain a healthy cash flow during the tightened credit market environment, according to ARDA. The industry expects to limit new construction until inventory levels are reduced.