Tips for Securing Government Contracts for Your Small Business

by Sean Ross

3 min read

The Government of Canada engages in commerce with private businesses frequently. South of the border, the U.S. government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the world. Canadian business owners and product sellers have ample opportunities to win lucrative public-sector contracts as long as they know what steps to take.

Tip 1: Find the Specialists in Each Relevant Agency, but Focus on One

The federal government operates with 27 agencies, many of which execute contracts with private buyers and sellers. You are much more likely to interact with the Ministry of Public Services and Procurement than the others. If you want to get a leg up on your competitive bidders, it’s best to find an expert in the Public Services and Procurement office.

Tip 2: Learn the Rules and Procedures Very Well

Selling to governments could be a great opportunity for your business, but the procedures are often complicated and exacting. Nearly all federal procurement takes place through Public Works and Government Services Canada, which buys goods and services for all of the other departments and agencies. Procurement takes place through a bidding process that can be competitive but sometimes makes nonpriced-based selections on socio-economic or political considerations. The Government of Canada offers free seminars and online information regarding government contracts. You can access them through the Public Works and Government Services Canada website. Unfortunately, you cannot learn everything you need to know through one resource. Your company may face different requirements based on the municipal, territorial, or provincial government where you operate. Canada has approximately 3,650 municipal jurisdictions, so you’ll have to do some digging to find the particulars for any given contract.

Tip 3: Contracts, SOSAs, and Where to Look

Canada uses two methods to source from private suppliers. The first method is through contracts, each of which may have its own unique rules and requirements; the federal government posts all such requirements on the Government Electronic Tendering Service, or GETS. The only exception is for contracts worth less than $25,000. Such contracts are awarded by contracting officers through an indirect quoting system. You must be listed through the Supplier Registration Information system to be eligible for contracts. When you register in SRI, you receive a Procurement Business Number and should register to be on the SELECT and ProService databases; these are where many jobs will be listed. Each Canadian province has its own procurement system that is separate and distinct from the federal system. The provinces also have their own public clearinghouse websites. The second method is through SOSA, or standing offers and supply arrangements. These are not contracts and do not represent an obligation for the government to fulfill the arrangement. Certain types of supplies tend to go through SOSA rather than GETS. These include:

  • Food
  • Fuel
  • Plumbing supplies
  • Stationary goods
  • Office equipment
  • Electronic data processors
  • Pharmaceuticals

International Tip: The United States Is a Huge Opportunity

There are more than 40 member nations of the World Trade Organization with which it is relatively easy to work international contracts. That said, one country stands above the rest in terms of contract diversity and value: the United States. The American government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on private contracts each year. Even better, government contract procurement from the United States is often easier than in Canada. To try to work with the U.S. government, register through its System for Award Management, receive a DUNS number, which is free, and search through the SAM and FBO websites to go through a “matchmaking” process. You have to juggle a lot of variables to win government contracts. On the formal side, you must follow the rules and never fail to respond to a mandatory requirement. On the informal side, you want to cultivate long-term relationships with experts and influencers on the public side; it never hurts to have someone to grease the wheel.

References & Resources

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