Air Force to small biz: Take your time entering this market

At the ACQUIRE Show this week, Air Force director of small business programs Mark Teskey offered advice to companies new to the government marketplace.

His first piece of advice: “You have to learn the peculiar way the government does business because sometimes it isn’t rational. It doesn’t make good business sense.”

That being the case, Teskey recommends that new businesses ease their way in because if they try to learn everything at once, they are likely to fail.

“By learning it over time—and part of that is building relationships—you learn how the government acquisition system works, you learn the people who you need to contact, you learn the relationships you have to build, and that’s how you approach, in my view, success,” Teskey said.

Information technology is a good area to start with, he added, because the Defense Department has a number of preferences for certain small business designations.

“There’s huge amounts of opportunity out there because, as you know, the IT world is changing right and left, and it’s changing faster than we at DoD can really respond to,” Teskey said.

As your company is settling in, you will no doubt be looking for acquisition opportunities, as one audience member asked.

“We used to have this thing called a long-range acquisition estimate. The problem with that was that everyone’s hand-jamming that information into there, and it’s not accurate,” Teskey said. “[Now] through our wayward in-taking, we can line you up with the people who buy those requirements and if you can learn who to contact, they will tell you what’s coming up.”

Teskey also recommended that companies become acquainted with, where a number of contract opportunities are posted. “You need to troll FedBizOpps like you’re trolling an ex-spouse,” he added.

This is a crucial step for companies, whether they are new or not, because FedBizOpps is where many RFIs are posted, and through RFIs, the Air Force and other agencies get a sense of what they’re dealing with and alter their solicitations accordingly.

“When you see RFIs, you need to respond to that, if you don’t, you’re giving up an opportunity,” Teskey said. “That RFI helps shape and inform what we’re buying and how.”

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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