Ask the Experts: Security Integrator Government Market Success Secrets

SSI picked the brains of various experts from different subject matters on how to succeed in the government sector trade business.

Pressuring price points even lower, the government developed a pricing tool that searches all contracting vehicles like the General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule; DoD eMall, an E-commerce site for the Department of Defense; NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise Wide Procurement (SEWP) contract; including other public sites. The objective is to track contract bids and leverage that information to drive lower costs.

“The government communicates to the vendors already on the GSA contract and those trying to get a new GSA contract, saying, ‘Your pricing is just too high,”‘ de Seve says. “They just recently sent price sheets to every existing GSA contract holder and without revealing who had the lowest price, they said, ‘Here’s your price. Here is the lowest price. Here is the average price, and here is where we want to get to. Please respond.’ The technology they use to drive to the lowest price has been very difficult.”

Also key to entering the marketplace will be a firm understanding of contracting rules and regulations. Despite messy bureaucratic commissioning and other related project hurdles common to government work, general business prudence goes a long way in the sector, says Mike Ruddo, vice president of business development for Integrated Security Technologies (IST).

The GSA Schedule 84 federal cooperative purchasing program can extend to state, local and other entities, including higher ed and K-12 end users.

“It’s not rocket science. The government is no different than some of the other spaces. You have to know the rules,” says Ruddo. About 65% of the Herndon, Va.-based integrator’s work derives from the government sector. As an IT-physical security specialist, IST counts Department of Homeland Security Immigration Customs Enforcement (DHS-ICE) facilities and the Department of Energy Integrated Security Management System (ISMS) as regular clientele.

Among the procedural guidelines a newbie to the government space will need to become proficient at is the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), which governs the acquisition process by which Uncle Sam purchases goods and services.

“That would be No. 1. Let’s say you get an order. The government has mandated electronic billing and if you don’t have a visual certificate and you don’t know how to bill correctly, you are going to lose,” Ruddo says. “You need to get smart initially on how the government operates; it’s no different than a state or a local municipality or even on the commercial end. But there is a lot to it.”

Team With GSA Schedule Holders
The federal government has established various ways for small businesses to sell their products and services to federal customers. The most common way for a small business to learn government contracting is to work as a subcontractor for a company currently selling to the government. You can find these companies and determine if they are actively looking for subcontractors by reviewing the GSA subcontracting directory.

Large business prime contractors receiving federal contracts valued at more than $650,000 ($1.5 million for construction) are required to establish plans and goals for subcontracting with small business firms. The directory lists GSA contractors with subcontracting plans and goals, such as what percentage of their work they would like to assign to small businesses, as well as the types of small businesses they are targeting (for example: small disadvantaged, woman owned, veteran owned, etc.).

We would like for your people to be cleared if you are working on government contracts for us. Meaning, you need some type of clearance. The overriding key for me is integrity – that you do what you say you are going to do. – Ron Hayes, SEI president and CEO

Subcontracting projects also exist with other small businesses that hold GSA contracts. Systems Engineering Inc. (SEI) of Dulles, Va., upgrades federal agency systems to meet Federal Identity, Credential and Access Management (FICAM) criteria. SEI holds GSA Schedule 84, which includes cooperative purchasing for security and fire/life-safety needs, and Schedule 70, which offers federal, state and local governments solutions to their IT needs.

“We are IT people with security backgrounds. We are electrical engineers and IT professionals, but we also understand security systems and intrusion detection systems. We bridge that [convergence] gap to make it all work,” says SEI President and CEO Roy Hayes.

SEI works as the primary contractor for most of its government projects. Tapping into what Hayes refers to as “a national partnership network,” SEI will sometimes delegate work at the local level in various regions, thereby greatly broadening its own footprint. A small integrator looking to subcontract does not have t
o hold its own GSA Schedule to partner with the likes of SEI or any of the national providers.

“I want to see that you are certified in the equipment that we are interested in having you service or install. The second thing we are looking for is past performance. We want to actually call up and verify,” Hayes explains. “We would like for your people to be cleared if you are working on government contracts for us. Meaning, you need some type of clearance. The overriding key for me is integrity – that you do what you say you are going to do.”

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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