Strategy 3: Build a prototype

GCE's Ray Muslimani: Your company solution "can't be the same old thing. Otherwise, you are lumped in with hundreds of other small companies."

Big, name-brand companies are seen as more credible than small firms, so getting government customers to accept newfangled solutions from a small company can be hard, Ray Muslimani said. His firm, 4-year-old Global Computer Enterprises Inc., employs about 100 people.

"Innovative solutions [from small firms] sound like radical ideas," he said.

GCE executives have overcome the credibility problem by investing the firm's own funds to build prototype solutions. The strategy recently paid off, with GCE's win of a $24 million contract to build and implement the next-generation Federal Procurement Data System, which will integrate with all agency procurement systems in real time.

Five staff members worked nights and weekends for months building a prototype system for presentation to General Services Administration staff. In the end, GCE, a small firm with revenue of $10 million to $20 million a year, beat out 26 other bidders for the job. Those bidders included much larger firms such as Unisys, BearingPoint Inc., American Management Systems Inc. and AT&T Corp., according to GSA.

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