Earning a place for your business on an approved vendor list can be your ticket to winning more government-contract work. Nearly all prime contractors maintain lists of preferred vendors and subcontractors based on the quality and timeliness of their work and other attributes. Many businesses work diligently to get on these lists because they put these businesses one step closer to participating in a government procurement.

Step One: The Application Form

Each prime contractor has its own criteria for inclusion on its preferred vendor list, so there's no standard form to fill out. Contact the prime’s purchasing department or small business liaison to receive a copy of its application.

Take the time to complete the form carefully and thoroughly – you're not just filling it out as a formality or for documentation purposes. If you neglect to include some items or leave out any requested figures or metrics, it could hurt your chances of being awarded a contract. Have someone else at your business review the form for accuracy and completeness before you submit it.

If you have further questions, check with your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).

Step Two: The Inspection

After you've submitted your approved government-vendor form to a prime contractor, your business will next need to pass an inspection or evaluation to confirm that it's qualified to do the work and will comply with the requirements for subcontracting.

The inspection process can vary from a review of documents to a top-to-bottom inspection of your facility, depending on the prime's company policy and/or the details of the contract work. For example, if the work requirements for your company appear to be auxiliary, you may only have to go through a so-called desk review, in which the prime looks at your company records, financials, and other documentation. However, if your contract work has long-term business potential or is a critical component of the end service or product, the prime will probably want to do a full site review.

How to Pass an Inspection

You'll want to have the following information ready and available for the prime's review:

  • Personnel – Provide detailed information on the technical and supervisory staff, along with their qualifications.
  • Facilities and Equipment – List the equipment on hand that you will use and the additional equipment and facilities you have arranged for, if needed.
  • Quality Assurance – Indicate your quality-control systems and processes and whether these have been approved by other primes or government agencies.
  • Production and Scheduling – Provide details on how you plan to execute the required work and adhere to the prime’s schedule.
  • Schedule of Total Workload – Be sure to note the dollar value of any backlog, as well as any anticipated repeat work.
  • Bill of Materials – Describe the supplies you will provide and the ones you'll need to order from third parties.
  • Inventory – Check your supplies on hand and identify any that will need to be reordered.
  • Suppliers and/or Subcontractors – Provide confirmation of critical item-delivery dates.
  • Cost Breakdown Analysis – Outline the anticipated costs with enough information to allow cash-flow spreadsheet evaluation.
  • Cash-Flow Spreadsheets – List the total workload for the contract and reconcile the cash-flow documentation with your company's production-schedule commitments for materials and other financial commitments.
  • Financial Statements – If necessary, include the company’s most recent balance sheet, with a profit-and-loss statement.

It's a good idea to submit applications for vendor lists of multiple primes. Not only will it improve your chances of winning government contract work, but it’s a good safeguard in case your sales take an unexpected dip.

You may also want to look at different industries and consider extending your government contract work into a variety of sectors.