Mind your mentors

Many agencies have mentor-protégé programs that pair a large business with a small business. The programs are designed to foster more than just a prime contractor-subcontractor relationship.

The large business mentor helps its protégé with business development, training and learning the ropes of business in general and government contracting in particular.

Details of the programs may vary from agency to agency, but some common threads exist.

Most agencies require that the relationship be a formal one, with a written agreement that specifies such conditions as the length of the relationship and the type of help the mentor will provide.

A mentor, for example, might help the protégé with financial management, business planning, business development, loans, technical assistance or training.

Some agencies reimburse costs to mentors or give award fees. Other agencies recognize the mentors with non-monetary awards.

Participating in mentor-protégé programs also can be a benefit during evaluations for contract awards.

Agencies with mentor-protégé programs:

Department of Defense


This program is one of the more established and gives the annual Nunn-Perry award to recognize outstanding mentor-protégé pairings. The program covers the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Defense Logistics Agency and National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

Department of Energy


Environmental Protection Agency


Federal Aviation Administration




Small Business Administration

SBA has two mentor-protégé related programs. One is for 8(a) firms. The mentors are either late stage 8(a) companies or recent graduates of the program. The protégés are companies just joining the 8(a) program. The established 8(a) is supposed to help the new company learn how to use the program.


SBA also operates the Mentor Network, which is a resource for large and small companies to find each other.


Department of Treasury


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