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Set-aside is not a magic bullet.

I’ve talked to a number of new government contractors who think that getting a status symbol will somehow make the phone ring off the hook, contracts will start dropping from the sky, and the likes of Lockheed Martin will be beating a path to their door.

Well, hate to disappoint you — but adding an acronym to your business card will not stand in place of good old networking, relationship building, doing your homework to understand what the government is buying, and bolsting your expertise and credibility in your industry.

What do preferred treatments and set-asides do for you? They help open doors. They help give you an edge.

What don’t they do? replace expertise, experience, understanding of the customer needs.

Yes, it’s true that federal agencies have to spend 23% of contracting dollars with small businesses. It’s also true that some contracts can be set-aside to be bid within certain categories of small businesses (such as SDVOSB, HUBZone, 8(a)). But it’s also true that there are hundreds, and in some industries, even thousands of businesses that have the requisite status.

What separates those small business who win contracts from those who don’t? Patience, understanding of needs, and a solid business case with proven results.

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