Government contracting has long been a positive revenue opportunity for small businesses eager to grow, and building and construction is among the federal government’s top spending categories. To help industry business owners understand what they need to do to get a leg up on the billions of dollars’ worth of government contracts that are set aside for small businesses, Doña Story offers some helpful information below about the opportunities  building and construction firms have selling to the federal government and tips on how they can get started.

After a few successful years, it is no surprise that a small business begins looking into new markets as a part of their growth plan. Small construction firms are no different. With the right guidance and a strong network, a construction firm can find steady growth in the federal marketplace. You may start off as a small company working on a specific trade, such as being an electrical contractor, but with determination and strong project management skills, your construction business can join the ranks of many that have found government contracting as a path to growth and greater success. Or you may be a local construction firm who finds that creating a strategic alliance with a very large prime contractor already doing business with the government will offer guidance but also a steady stream of work. Regardless, there are a few key steps that you can do to jumpstart your preparation in growing your company in the government marketplace.


Get registered

Register your company in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR).  This is a database that enables you to be found by government customers looking for a small company.  As an aside, it certainly helps to know you can’t be paid unless you are found in the CCR.


Build a capability statement

Develop your firm’s profile into something that is called a capability statement, a very clear, concise description of your firm. A brief listing of your past contracts or projects, also known as past performance, is something that the federal government finds very valuable and should be included in your capability statement.  If the work you have performed has been as a subcontractor, describe it as such. Make sure you have the ability to cite who your satisfied customers are.

A capability statement ultimately helps boost your ability to be seen as a viable small business that has experience and a track record. According to Jack Beecher, Chief, Small Business Programs Office, Norfolk District, Army Corps of Engineers, strong past performance on contracts and having that information readily available for review is critical in the agency’s decision-making process.

Explore Small Business Certifications

Certifications can make a big difference in your success and help set your business apart from the competition. Visit and search certifications to see whether you qualify for any of the small business certifications – which include woman-owned, HUBZone, veteran-owned, service disabled veteran and small disadvantaged (usually certified as an 8(a) company). This would allow your company to compete with other companies that are within your size category thereby narrowing the competition and increasing your likelihood of being awarded a government contract.

Many small business owners believe that winning government contracts is too intimidating, or somehow beyond their reach. By tackling the process with a straightforward approach, you will find that the skills you have developed to grow your business in the commercial sector —commitment, hard work and strategic networking — are just as valid in the government sector. Companies should put their strengths to work and take advantage of the sector that can weather any economic downturn.

Check out government contracting opportunities online at to figure out what kinds of contracts would be a good fit for your business’ capabilities. 

By Doña Storey | Doña Storey is the American Express OPEN Advisor on Procurement and through her experiences as an active woman-owned small business contractor, she lends her expertise to help small businesses navigate the procurement maze and find success.

For more information, visit



The United States government is the largest consumer of products and services in the world, spending more than $535 billion in fiscal year 2011 in procurement—23 percent of these dollars are set aside for small businesses. As a result, federal contracting is an important avenue of growth for many building and construction firms to consider.