Subcontracting Opportunities and How to Find Them

By Beth White, Iowa PTAC

Did you know that locating and securing subcontracting opportunities can be just as, if not more valuable, than receiving direct contract awards?

It is also a great initial step to more direct opportunities with the Government and a way to gain past performance experience within the Government market, without the responsibility of the prime contractor.

Just as federal agencies have small business preference program goals (such as small business, HUBZone, Service Disabled Veteran, Women etc), prime contractors performing work on federal contracts valued over certain dollar thresholds have similar goals built in to their contracts. In addition to marketing to the right Government agencies, marketing to other larger target government contractors will maximize your opportunities and allow you to leverage your business ownership status.

What can you do?

1. Identify the major prime contractors that do significant work for Federal agencies where there may be a logical fit for the services you provide. For instance, a concrete company may want to identify larger construction companies working as general contractors and/or just being awarded Federal contracts. There are a number of ways to identify these potential targets; you will need to look beyond just the companies you know in your geographic area. is a great place to start, as it is the single posting site for all solicitations over $3,000. Your local PTAC counselor can teach you how to use this site and others to get the information you need.

2. Research the company and identify not only the contracts they have performed but also their main mission, vision, and market. Identify their specific company goals, as well as company successes.

3. Research their small business and diversity initiatives. Do they actively engage with the small business community? Do they have specific online tools and resources for companies looking to do business with them? Do they require other third party certifications OTHER than the Federal Government self-certification? (i.e. WBE)

4. Identify the Small Business Liaison Officer or Diversity Officer within the company. You can also ask for the small business subcontracting plan administrator within the company. This is normally the person or office responsible for managing the subcontracting plans, engaging and sourcing small businesses, and in larger companies, managing the company diversity/small business plan. This representative is similar in function to the small business specialists at federal agencies.

5. Contact the small business person you have identified. Realize that they may also wear other hats within the company, and therefore it may take some effort to really engage them. But once you do, use the same marketing tactics you would for a Government customer. Have a targeted capabilities statement ready, identify the areas that you believe you could assist with, note specific projects that they worked on (based on your research) and discuss where you would be an asset, and ensure you are active in the System for Award Management, and that your SBA Dynamic Small Business profile is completed. You will not want to lead with your specific small business status, but rather include that as the “icing on the cake”. Ask specific questions about identifying bidding opportunities.

6. Follow up. Remember that marketing is an investment, and your return will depend upon what you put into it. Just as with a government agency, there is one of them and thousands of you, so you have to make sure you do what it takes to make them know YOU.

Anything else you can do?? Why yes there is!!

1. Follow the company on Linkedin and link with employees of the firm. This will not only build your network specific to these companies and increase your communication possibilities, it will assist you with your research and company “intelligence”. Look at your current contact list and see if you have any shared contacts that you can ask for introductions. (PS- Is your profile and company profile up to date??)

2. Many large companies really feel strongly about giving small businesses the opportunity to market their goods and services, and this is one reason a consortium of large companies (including AT&T, John Deere, CAT, DuPont, IBM) built a free web based portal called “Supplier Connection. Supplier Connection provides small business in specific industries with a standard and streamlined way to register company information, share business practices and connect with both large AND small business to maximize growth opportunities. Small businesses are able to register, build a company profile, and reach out to a number of businesses at one time, but it’s also for way for large businesses to find them. Click here to learn about Supplier Connection, and if your business is involved in any of the following industries, please consider this as an additional way to market your business for subcontracting opportunities:

  • Facilities support
  • Food and Beverage Manufacturing
  • Industrial Manufacturing
  • Lab Supplies and Equipment
  • Logistics
  • Professional, Marketing and Technical Services
  • Service Parts
  • Software

This is just a broad overview. To discuss how to build your potential target list, how to best approach the companies, how to best utilize LinkedIn or anything else related to marketing please don’t hesitate to contact your local PTAC!


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 Beth White Headshot

Beth White has been a Government Contracting Specialist for the Iowa PTAC at Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) since the beginning of 2011.  Prior to that, she worked for over a dozen years as a Contracting Officer/Small Business Specialist at the Rock Island Arsenal – Army Contracting Command.

PTACs provide a wide range of government contracting help – most free of charge!

Assistance topics include (but are not limited to!):

  • Determining Suitability for Contracting
  • Securing Necessary Registrations (including SAM registration)
  • SDB, 8(a), HUBzone and other certifications
  • Marketing
  • Researching Procurement Histories
  • Networking
  • Identifying Bid Opportunities
  • Proposal Preparation
  • Contract Performance Issues
  • Preparing for Audit


Click here to Find Your PTAC Today!


More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Ninety-eight PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.