If you’re in the technology business, the Government of Canada could be one of your customers. The nice thing about having the government as a customer is that you don’t have to worry about losing business should they move or close up shop. Because selling goods and services to the Canadian government is such a desirable step for small businesses, competition can be fierce and strict regulations must be followed to win contracts.
Canada Wants Your Products and Services
Before applying for government contracts, it’s important to figure out if you actually have tech products or services Canada wants. If it turns out that you don’t, you might consider waiting until your small business gets bigger or you expand your tech product or service lines. The nice thing, though, is that Canada is one of the few large organizations that buys from small businesses, even new ones. This means that you do have a chance to win contracts government contracts as long as you’re capable of meeting the government’s specific requirements to seal deals.
You want to be realistic about whether you can actually supply an organization as large as the government. For example, if you make software, you should have no problem filling the government’s order because software can be reproduced digitally. If your company provides IT support, though, you may be limited by the size of your team. Once you know the full scope of what your company can actually accomplish, you can start learning more about what products and services the government wants to buy; these are called tender opportunities.
Discover Tender Opportunities
Tech companies have many different tender options available, including microcomputers, mass storage systems, web apps, software, and more. You can browse Canada’s database of opportunities to see if your company qualifies to provide any of the products or services the government wants. When the government needs goods or services valued over $25,000, as of 2018, they make public requests for proposals on the Tenders minisite, BuyandSell.gc.ca. If the value is below that dollar amount, the government sometimes chooses vendors they’ve worked with before. To win contracts under $25,000, you may need to contact government agencies directly.
To apply for government contracts, you want to register as a supplier on the Supplier Registration Information database. Registering, which is free, assigns your business a procurement business number and adds your company’s name and supply capabilities to the federal government’s supplier database. To register, you need a business number or GST/HST number; you also must have your legal name registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. Once you’re registered on the Supplier Registration Information database, government purchasers can see your public information and contact you to fulfill contracts. Many technology businesses also register on the Centralized Professional Services ePortal, a database where government organizations find specialists and consultants who are experts in their field.
Prepare Your Bid
Once you’re ready to apply for opportunities, you can browse the Tenders minisite for opportunities that look promising. Each bidding process is completely unique but all include a document that explains how to place your bid properly, as well as the process by which your bid is evaluated. For example, some bids require that you offer details about your products or services on forms that have sections such as financial, management, technical, and certifications. Bids also have deadlines, security clearance requirements, and other requests for pertinent information. Always read through each bid thoroughly. If you’re not sure about an instruction, contact the contracting officer for more information.
Compete for Contracts
As you browse the Tenders minisite, be sure to check for Advanced Contract Awards Notices (ACANs). When a government agency believes that a certain pre-qualified business is the only one capable or available to fulfill a contract, they post an ACAN stating just that. The ACAN is publicly visible for at least 15 days, and during that time, businesses can express interest in the contract by sending a statement of capabilities that explains why they’re a better choice for the job. To make your small business more appealing to the government than the pre-qualified business, you may need to lower the price of your goods or services or offer some sort of added benefit over the competition.
The government posts new opportunities for businesses frequently, so don’t worry if you don’t land a contract right off the bat. All you need to do is check the Tender minisite on a daily basis so you can get a jump on the best bids. If you’re consistently rejected, reach out to the government agencies to see why your application got turned down, and then make necessary changes to improve your chances of success next time. It may take you several tries before wining your first bid.
Plenty of other government resources are available to help your technology company succeed, so you don’t need to feel limited even if winning government contracts is your main goal. Put out feelers in a broad range of markets, both locally and nationally, and growth should happen naturally.