The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Program is designed to help socially and economically disadvantaged small business owners overcome those hardships. Securing a spot in the program can be a huge windfall for growing companies, but the process is not easy. Here are some tips on getting into and making the most of the 8(a) programs:
- In order to be a prime candidate for the program, your company should already have done some prior business with government agencies. The 8(a) program is not designed to teach entrepreneurs how to get government contracts, but it does give companies greater visibility among agencies. Start networking and procuring contacts within the government before even applying.
- Take advantage of the application submission help available from the Small Business Development Centers and the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers. The application process will be long (up to a year) and tedious (requiring an average of 500 pages), so getting a little extra aid can ease the stress of the ordeal.
- Companies must have a track record of success before applying. The 8(a) program does not build businesses from the ground up or fix failing firms, but mentors them and gives them opportunities they otherwise may not have.
- Once accepted into the program, entrepreneurs have nine years to take advantage of the contracts with little or no competition. Firms need to be ready to jump on these opportunities immediately in order to profit the most from the program. Companies can only have the 8(a) designation once, and the nine years will go by fast.
- The SBA-backed lines of credit that are available to program participants can give firms an edge in being able to bid on large contracts and cover the costs to both employees and vendors.
While the application process can be cumbersome, the benefits to any disadvantaged company can be invaluable, especially when entrepreneurs are ready to jump in and make the most of it.