Disabled Vets Finally Get a Federal “Fair Shake”

President Obama on Monday signed the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, changing the law to help level the playing field for service-disabled veterans (SDVOSB).  Before this act was implemented, a business operating in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) or an (8a) Disadvantaged Business held a sizeable advantage over Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB); this Act will help level the playing field for SDVOSB’s who are competing for contracts with the federal government.

President Obama Signing Small Business Act

Before this Act, HUBZones had mandatory federal contracting award preference over other businesses submitting proposals in response to a federal contract solicitation.

SDVOSB’s on the other hand were made at the discretion of the Contracting Officer who was responsible for a particular proposed contract.  This disparity created an unfair distribution of contracts, with SDVOSB’s consistently falling short of the 3% of awarded contracts mandated by law for most agencies and their operating divisions.

Federal Law seems to move at a snails pace at times, but in this case we are seeing some progress toward the goal of a “fair shake” to the servicemen and women who have given of themselves and who should be compensated for their sacrifices and valor.

R/S,
PrepFire Solutions

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Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) Contracting Guide – A 10 Step Process to contracting with Civilian Agencies and DOD

1. Get Registered!!!!

Register your SDVOSB with the IRS. Obtain an EIN – Employee Indentification Number from the IRS – Do it online!!!!  Fast and Free!!!   www.irs.gov

Stop here before you pass "GO"


Register the Domain name of your SDVOSB
– www. “Your-SDVOSB-Name-Here”.com

– Ours is PrepFire Solutions, we registered www.prepfire.com There are a lot of different companies that can register your domain name, we have used www.godaddy.com and www.1and1.com – they can also help you develop your website and host your email for very low cost.

Obtain a DUNS Number. The Data Universal Number System (DUNS) Number is a unique nine character identification. Contact Dun and Bradstreet to obtain your DUNS number if you do not have one.

Register with Central Contractor Registration. In order to be awarded a contract from the DoD, you must be registered in Central Contractor Registration (CCR). CCR is a database which stores information relevant to procurement and financial transactions. CCR also allows you to receive rapid electronic payment of your invoices. CCR assumed all of SBA’s PRO-Net search capabilities and functions on January 1, 2004, so small businesses now need only to register with CCR.

2. Separate your SDVOSB from the pack

By identifying your product(s) or services as something unique or of good valve to the government, you separate yourself from the competition.  Knowing the Federal Supply Class or Service (FSC/SVC) codes and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes for your products or services is of the utmost importance.

Separate Yourself From the Pack

3. Focus your attention on your target market or agency

Identify Your Target Market Civilian Agency or DoD. Researching DoD Personnel & Procurement Statistics will be very helpful to your SDVOSB. Pay particular attention the Standard Tabulation (ST) 28 report of products and services purchased each fiscal year by the DoD. The information on the ST28 is sorted by FSC/SVC code and provides name and location of DoD contracting offices. The ST28 report is located at the bottom of the Procurement Statistics page and can be cross-referenced with the list of Small Business Specialists within each service organization.

Aquire Your Target

4. Look for Opportunities!

Identify Current Civilian & DoD Procurement Opportunities Check the electronic version of the Federal Business Opportunities website to identify current procurement opportunities for your products or services. This site will assist you in identifying DoD, as well as other Federal procurement opportunities.

5. Familiarize Yourself with DoD Contracting Procedures

Make sure you are familiar with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS).

6. Investigate Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) Contracts

Many DoD purchases are actually orders on Federal Supply Schedule (FSS) contracts. Contact the General Services Administration (GSA) for additional information on obtaining FSS contracts.

7. Seek Additional Assistance as Needed

Take advantage of the resources available to assist you in the DoD marketplace. Here are just a few to get you started:

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers – Most states have Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) that are partially funded by DoD to provide small businesses with information on how to do business with the Department of Defense. These PTACs provide training and counseling on marketing, financial, and contracting issues with little or no cost to the SDVOSB.

Electronic BusinessElectronic Business (eBusiness) provides guidance for SDVOSBs new to the DoD electronic marketplace.

Small Business Specialists – Some Defense Agencies and the Military Services have small business specialists at each of their procurement and contract management offices. These business specialists assist small businesses, service-disabled veteran-owned, in marketing their products and services to the DoD. Among the services offered, the business specialists provide information and guidance on the following:

– Defense Procurement Procedures
– Solicitation Mailing List Placement
– Identify Prime Contract and Subcontract Opportunities.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Logistics Agency maintain the names of Small Business Specialists associated with their organizations. Links to these websites are below.

The official web site for the Department of Defense is DefenseLink. DefenseLink is the best place to find links to the Military Services and ODAs.

8. Explore All Sub-contracting Opportunities

No matter which products and services your SDVOSB offers, be sure to check out the DoD guide “Subcontracting Opportunities with DoD Prime Contractors”. This directory provides, by state, the names and addresses of DoD prime contractors, the names and telephone numbers of Small Business Liaison Officers (SBLOs), and the products and services supplied to the DoD.  Also research “The Fed 100” – which is the largest 100 Federal Government Contractors.

Sub-Contracting

The Small Business Administrations’s (SBA’s) SUB-Net is another valuable resource for obtaining information on subcontracting opportunities. Solicitations or notices are posted by prime contractors as well as other government, commercial, and educational entities.

9. Investigate Civilian & DoD Small-Business Programs

There are several DoD programs that are very helpful. Programs such as Veteran-Owned, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned, HUBZone, Small Disadvantaged, Woman-Owned, Small Business Innovation Research, Small Business Technology Transfer, and other Minority Institutions are of particular interest. Information on these and many other DoD Small Business Programs can be found on the DoD Office of Small Business Programs website.

10. Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

After you identify your customers, research their requirements, and become familiar with DoD procurement regulations and strategies, you will be ready to market your product or service. A good way to get the attention of your target audience is to present your capabilities directly to the DoD activities that buy your products or services. Additional helpful DoD marketing resources are posted on the DoD website, including “Government Contracting: The Basics” and “Marketing to the Department of Defense: The Basics”.

Marketing Funnel

Optimizing Overlooked Search Engine Opportunities for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses

With more than 120 million Internet domains and indexed pages for potential customers to browse, it takes a new approach to generate interest to your website, especially as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business.  Here are some basic steps to take that will help boost your web presence.

Search Engine Opitimization

All companies, big or small, struggle to be noticed by Google users.  But every company can attract a larger audience of Google traffic, and every company, big or small, can draw more Google traffic by using search-engine optimization – SEO for short.  This optimization process improves the visibility of a web site or page via the “unpaid” or “organic” search result and in the world of SEO, that is key (or at least it is according to Carter Raines and Erik Arnold at Prepfire).

This market strategy is directly related to your site’s rank among Google’s search results – the higher the rank, the more “hits” you get….it is simply that easy.  Google and other search engines have “secret” formulas that rank websites, but the basic components are widely known.  SEO rules tailor your website to optimize your site with specific ideas to up your ranking.  Traffic is directly related to your site’s rank among Google’s search results – the higher the rank, the more you get.  SEO involves tailoring your website to satisfy as many of the ranking criteria as possible.

SEO vs SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

Two of the more important ranking factors are illustrated next.  These factors alone should improve website search performance to a great extent as long as your website offers value to customers and relevant content.  These visibility improving factors are:  1. How well you address the organization and functionality of the website and 2.  The strength of keywords associated with a page on your site.

Once you have determined the best keywords to use on your site, you need to consider their placement.

In the HTML code.  The search engine ultimately associates a keyword with a webpage, and the first place it looks to read a page is at the top of the page’s coding – within the so called head tag that defines the pages overall characteristics.  (This code isn’t normally visible in a browser window; to see it, use the “source” or “page source” command.)  Incorporate the keywords you have chosen in the title, description, and keyword tags.  These are often called meta tags, and the code often begins with that word.

The title tag may be the most important place on the page to use your main keyword.  The title shows up across the top of a Web browser and is also the text that many search engines use as the hyperlink on their results page.  Therefore, use your keyword near the beginning of the title.  The title should be coherent and concise – and be six to 12 words, and the description, 12 to 24 words.  Your title and description should reinforce each other and the page’s visible content.  If you have a lot of keywords, choose judiciously, because search engines look for natural sounding language.  You can load all your keywords, even misspelled variants, into the keywords tag field.

Visible content.  Your keywords should appear frequently in the text of your website to improve SEO.  You also need to include keywords in the descriptive “alt” tags that underlie images and in the headlines and subheads atop a section of text.  Place your main keyword as close as possible, preferably in the first sentence, of your first paragraph.  Search engines like Google and Yahoo appear to give a slight preference to bold words, so bold one or two instances of your keyword.  A good rule to remember – if people find your copy worth reading, a search engine will too.

The basic premise of keyword optimization is simple:  Discover the search words that potential customers are using to find products or services like yours.  Start with Wordtracker or Keyword Discovery, which will give you insight as to what people are searching for.  The best keywords will show up on many of these searches,; then build your Web content around those words.  Choosing the best keywords is complicated also by the fact that other websites are trying to do the same thing.

No explanation required

Learning about the competitive ratio.  Generally, if a search term is popular, more websites compete using it to rank high for that search term. Yes, you want to rank high on popular terms – but realistically you should only target the search terms which you have a shot at.  The best keywords are words and phrases that are being searched by people on Google and Yahoo but that may have been overlooked by your competitors.

How do I do it??? First, draw up a list of the keywords – or keyword phrases – a potential customer might possibly search if he or she were looking for your product.  Calculate the ratio of the number of pages a search returns to the popularity of the search term.

Then, see how often users search for these terms by plugging each into keyword-tracking sources like Wordtracker, and Keyword Discovery.  Besides showing how many times these phrases are searched on average in a day or month, these tools will also suggest other relevant terms.  You may learn, for example, that blue widgets is more popular as a search term than widgets blue.

Next, run each phrase through Google.  The more websites returned, the more competition you will have with that phrase.  Then, divide the number of indexed pages by the number of daily searches; the lower the result, the more promising the term.  Most sources say the ratio should be 500 to 1 or less.

Restricting keywords.  If your ratio is higher than 1000 to 1, you will probably want to choose narrower or more specific keywords.  Blue widgets Washington DC for example, uses a geographic term for a business that deals locally.  The search may be less popular, but the competition to win it is also less fierce, and is more likely to generate a better ratio.

Because each page of a website has a different focus or objective, each should have its own keywords.  The homepage should have the most general terms, and the keywords become more tailored and specific as you burrow deeper into the site.

How your site is organized, designed, and built will affect its search-engine ranking.  Organize content into themed or “silo” categories.  Imagine how people will search for content and line up your content on that basis.  You can group similar pages together into separate directories of folders and subfolders, or you can create “virtual silos” by using links that guide a user from page to page.

Learning the basics of SEO isn’t difficult, it’s time-consuming, so you may need to rely on a Web developer for assistance.  SEO consultants can offer a variety of services, especially the more technical services, but Web site owners should educate themselves on the fundamentals.  The site should be hosted on a fast server and the page code should be debugged and comply with the website structure standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium.  Include in the site’s code a special protocol known as Sitemap, which makes it easier for visiting search engines to scan the site.  Sitemaps can be submitted directly to the search engines.

In closing, SEO isn’t a magic formula.  Nor will it drive traffic to a site that doesn’t offer anything of value to the end customer.  Still, you should be able to increase traffic dramatically using the more important of the SEO principles which we outlined above.

Thanks,
PrepFire Solutions
A Verified SDVOSB

A TO-DO LIST TO PREPARE YOUR SDVOSB FOR A SMALL BUSINESS LOAN

A TO-DO LIST TO PREPARE YOUR SDVOSB FOR A SMALL BUSINESS LOAN

Before you walk in the door of your lending institution of choice, you need to do an assessment of how you plan to “sell” yourself and your SDVOSB to get that loan.

The bank will want to clearly understand the nature of your business. Have a clearly defined written purpose statement before you walk in that door.  You don’t necessarily have to show it, but the fact that you spent the time coming up with one will make you more confident of presenting what it is you do, and how to make the lender clearly understand your business.

In that purpose statement, focus on the expertise you have in your particular marketplace and why customers come to you and not to your competitors.

What “edge” do you have that will make them have the comfort level to give you a loan.  Your edge could be your ability to produce something cheaper, or the best service in your marketplace, a product that is better than your competitor or a product that no one else has; but you need to be able to make the lender understand that you have an edge that the others don’t.

Lenders want to know how invested you are in your business. Your lender will want to see that you are putting money back into the business.   By showing that you have invested (and re-invested) into your business you are saying you have a clear commitment to make it work; you are “putting your money where your mouth is”, and that you have confidence that it will succeed.

Are you a one person operation or do you have partners or employees? The lender wants to know that anyone involved in the day to day operations is also invested in making the business grow and what expertise/experience makes them an asset.

Be prepared to show your collateral (security for the loan). This includes things like real estate, equipment owned, securities you have, and if you don’t have strong collateral, a possible co-signer.

Be prepared to show a financial statement.  Lenders want to see the historical perspective of your business to make sure that they are investing in a business that has a reasonable chance of paying them back on their loan.  If your business is on shaky ground, try to show them what steps you are taking to change this situation; have it in writing.

I am not trying to insult your intelligence but it doesn’t hurt to remind you that going into the bank/lending institution needs to be like going to a job interview. You need to be dressed in business appropriate attire, with your hair, shoes, and clothing clean and neat.  If you normally wear a hardhat and jeans, change into a suit or other suitable attire for the meeting.  Bankers have to not only look at the numbers & the plan but they are also looking at you and whether or not you are going to be an acceptable risk.

To summarize, be prepared to ask for a loan by confidently knowing the nature of your business and being able to explain it, showing that you are personally committed to your business, as are any co-workers, showing that you have something of value for collateral, documentation including a financial statement of your business, and dressing to demonstrate that you are serious about your business.

Sonja @ PrepFire

GOOD News for SDVOSB

This is an update from our friend Wayne Gatewood at Quality Support Systems, Inc who is a pioneer and strong advocate for Service Disabled Veteran Owned and Veteran Owned Small Businesses.

Greetings all. Hope you and your families are well.

GOOD News, just got off the phone with a Veteran who is also an aide at the Senate Small Business Committee (SBC), Seems like Senate Bill S-1390 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, was passed tonight by the Senate (unanimously). What is good about this are the Provisions placed in the Bill by Senator Landrieu, SBC Chair, and Senator Snowe, SBC Ranking Member. Specifically there is language in the Bill that changes the “shall” word for HUB Zones to “may”. This would of course, when a final Bill is passed, give we small businesses and especially we SDVOSBs, Parity with HUB Zone small businesses; another provision calls for a SDVOSB Mentor Protege Program. Below is detailed information regarding the Senate Bill that I received from our good friend Justin Brown over at VFW. Now the Bill goes to conference where both the Senate version and a House version will be addressed and from there to one Bill on to a full vote. Let us hope it moves quickly and without any glitches.

Thanks to all of you great Vets and friends that raised serious concerns about the GAO HUB Zone Decision that created this mess, but then went a step further and made your concerns known to members of Congress. GAO did not intend to hurt anyone, rather, they interpreted existing Law the way they saw it. Nonetheless, the consequences were devastating and thus, this Senate Bill, when it hopefully merges with the House Bill and becomes Law, will take care of the problems caused by the GAO Decision. We want to thank the Senate Small Business Committee and Senators Landrieu and Snowe for their leadership and support in this matter. We should also thank the SBA for their un-relentless efforts to have this GAO Decision put to rest. Lastly, thanks go out to you Contracting Officers and OSDBUS (and you know who you are), that raised almighty hell about the GAO HUB Zone Decision!

Prayers for our Brave Troops and their families everywhere.

Best always folks,
Wayne Gatewood
http://www.qualitysupport.com/

How to start a SDVOSB

First of all you need to get certified by filling out form 0877 with the Department of Veterans Affairs and sending it back into the VA.  They do a background check on you to make sure that you are truly a disabled Vet and then they certify your company.  Plan on the certification process taking a little while.  http://www.va.gov/vetbiz/vip/0877fnl.pdf

After that the next site you should visit is Vetbiz.gov  http://www.vetbiz.gov There is some good information up there and some steps to follow.  Once you get certified, government agencies can check to make sure that you are truly a SDVOSB on that site through a verification process.

If you are going to have employees you will need an EIN (Employee ID Number) from the IRS – http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=98350,00.html

Next your are going to need a DUNS number – it is free if you can wait a few days. http://smallbusiness.dnb.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SmbHome?storeId=10001

The next step is get a business checking account set up at a bank.  I would recommend a bank with online banking.

Next get registered on the Central Contractors Website – http://www.ccr.gov/ This will take a few days to get your DUNs and CCR setup taken care of so plan ahead.

Get registered on FedBizOpps and start looking for opportunities.  http://www.fbo.gov Fedbizopps is a good site for finding work.

More to follow…..

Joel Stevens