Federal Business Registration 101

When organizations get registered to work with the federal government, their landscape of business opportunities changes drastically—and for the better.

From accessing exclusive contracting opportunities reserved for federally listed companies, to becoming eligible for the sole source awards and set-aside grants of multiple government programs, the benefits that come from working with the federal government help U.S. businesses of all kinds thrive.

And yes, while self-registration is a complex process, the value that comes with it more than warrants the effort and ought to be encouraged. Plus, if the registration process does sound like too much of a hassle, there’s always the option to have marketplace professionals accurately file your business’ information instead. But more on that later.

 

Who can Register a Business with the Federal Government?

Any unregistered U.S. business owner can begin their own registration process with the federal government through the federal system for awards management website, SAM.gov.

Once the process is completed correctly (which it often isn’t the first time), the business owner will find themselves ready to enjoy everything that the federal marketplace offers. This is quite a bit, considering that in 2019 alone, the federal government awarded certified businesses an astounding $5.4 trillion of contract work.

But that doesn’t mean the registration process itself is an easy one. 

The truth is, federal business registrations can be a fairly complex ordeal—especially if businesses want to ensure they secure their rightful, comprehensive benefits. It involves dozens of hours of tedious, delicate clerical work and ample correspondence over time; though that’s not said to discourage self federal business registration.

If you still want to reap the benefits of federal business registration (which you should) but want to avoid the difficult experience of self-registration, we recommend partnering with a registration service like FAMR for a more expedient process. 

 

Benefits of Registering to Work with the Federal Government 

In 2020 the federal government spent over $5.6 trillion of its annual budget on purchases from businesses within the country. 

That incredible amount of spending makes the government the largest buyer of services and goods in America. However, it’s important to understand that a massive portion of their business can only go to federally registered organizations, meaning unlisted organizations are missing out on a lot.

For instance, under legal mandates set by the U.S. small business administration, 23% of federal contracting dollars must be spent specifically on registered small businesses.

But the government’s directives for supporting registered businesses don’t end there:

  • Sole Source Work – According to sole source law, a designated portion of contracts and grants must be given to federally registered organizations without needing to compete for them.
  • Private Sector Bidding – Aside from work supplied by the government, federal registration also allows businesses to access valuable work opportunities in the private sector.
  • Preferential Bidding – When applying for competitive contracts in the general marketplace, federally registered organizations are given priority review over their non-registered competitors.
  • Subcontracting – When awarded a job, organizations are legally encouraged to subcontract on them if desired. This way a business’ size never restricts them from the federally mandated opportunities they’re owed.
  • Set-Aside Grants – Federal procurement officers seek out registered organizations which qualify for national grants to support their funds and meet the government’s annual awarding quotas.

 

Taking Advantage of Exclusive Certification Opportunities

As mentioned above, organizations meeting certain criteria (such as small businesses) are eligible to receive an even greater range of federally supplied benefits.

These special statuses are separated into different business certifications, and any organization that meets their requirements can apply for them as part of their federal registration process.

The primary certifications available include:

8(a) Certification 

8(a) organizations are classified as businesses run by socially or economically disadvantaged owners. In addition to the 23% of exclusive contracting opportunities for registered small businesses, an additional 5% portion of federal benefits are reserved for 8(a) organizations alone.

 

HUBZone Certification 

This certification is available to all registered business owners that conduct the majority of their business within the U.S. HUBZone (historically underutilized business zone). Certified HUBZone businesses may claim federal contracts from an exclusive 3% pool of federal work opportunities. 

 

WOSB Certification 

Short for Women-Owned Small Business certification, WOSB businesses are those that both meet small business status and are owned by an active majority of women. WOSB businesses may access an additional 5% portion of federal contracting opportunities set aside for female-run organizations.

 

VOSB Certification 

An acronym for Veteran-Owned Small Business certification, VOSB businesses are those that meet small business status and maintain majority ownership of prior U.S. military service members. VOSB organizations gain access to an additional 3% portion of federal benefits that are reserved exclusively for them.

 

It’s also Important to Note: While each of these certification statuses means that organizations will gain access to an even greater pool of federal opportunities to bid on and other benefits to enjoy when it comes to HUBZone and 8(a) certified businesses, in particular, there are actually more contract opportunities available right now than there are businesses to claim them.

That means organizations that successfully register as a HUBZone or 8(a) business will have guaranteed government work opportunities and awards waiting for them after approval.

 

How to Register with the Federal Government: Self Registering vs. Partnering with Professionals

When registering your business with the federal government, you can choose to self-register or work with professionals who manage the registration process on your behalf. Self-registration is free, so is often the tempting choice for small businesses. To help you decide which process is best for you, we’ve broken down the ins and outs of self-registration vs. partnering with professionals below. 

 

Self-Registration

If you do choose to take the time and effort to learn the full ins and outs of federal registration and successfully complete the full filing process with accuracy for their specific certification type, the results are certainly well worth the effort.

Here’s a brief overview of the steps required:

1. Acquire a Duns Number

Businesses need to get a DUNS number before they can successfully kick off the SAM registration process.

For reference: A DUNS number refers to a Data Universal Numbers that organizations may acquire through the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS).

Each number is a different nine-digit identifier that signifies a uniquely corresponding business—with over 330 million businesses registered globally to date—and they’re used to help track the reliability and financial stability of organizations. They’re also used to enable official relationships between separate corporate entities and governing bodies, which altogether is why the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency relies on them when approving CAGE Code applications.

The DUNS application process itself is complex, with roughly 50 different forms of varying length to fill out. To avoid missing out on any of the advantages businesses are due, it’s crucial that owners complete each section accurately.

 

2. Get SAM Registered

After acquiring a DUNS number, anyone can continue their registration process by visiting SAM.gov and following the instructions found on the website.

However, completing a fully compliant SAM registration does mean business owners will need to track down and supply another comprehensive range of legal and financial documentation that proves their business status, while also navigating an intensive form-filling process where the smallest filing error or accidental mark could cost an organization their eligibility.

In other words, federal business self-registration is not something for the impatient or those prone to skip over the smaller details. 

To avoid wasting dozens of hours only to end up with lackluster results, this lengthy task and getting a DUNS number should only be done by those willing to thoroughly research everything that’s required to do it right. Especially when considering how making any changes after submission requires businesses to undergo a daunting, separate, re-filing process.

 

3. Submit for a CAGE Code 

After completing the two registration processes above, businesses can finally use their listed status with the systems for awards management (SAM) and their DUNS number to request a CAGE Code.

This involves one last submission process in which businesses must carefully fill out a final series of online forms. Afterward, if done correctly, the Defense Logistics Agency will issue them a CAGE Code specific to their organization—allowing them to access the federal marketplace.

 

4. Contract on the Federal Marketplace

Entering the Federal Marketplace via self-registration is a major milestone, and it means the newly certified organization has an entirely new world of business potential laid out before them.

But gaining access to lucrative contract work and awarding opportunities isn’t as easy as just picking favorites from the crowd. The federal marketplace is a competitive arena, and while there is ample work to be had (when it comes to HUBZone and 8(a) certified businesses there are actually more contracts than there are businesses to claim them) organizations still need to submit proposals and vie against any competition.

That means after all the registration is complete, staying on top of new contracting opportunities, effectively representing oneself through bids, and attracting procurement officers for awards are all ongoing requirements for any business to continue making the most of its presence on the federal marketplace.

 

Partnering with Professional

While self-registration can be rewarding, it is a difficult error-prone process that nobody needs to undertake alone.

Aside from the do-it-yourself method of registration, there are many professional services offered by experts online who specialize in navigating the federal marketplace, registering businesses with the U.S. government, and optimizing their client’s future marketplace performance.

 

Why Pay for Registration?

Whether to avoid the registration process’ hefty time requirements or to simply remove the risk of failure and relax knowing that everything will be completed correctly and expediently, third-party registration has become an increasingly popular alternative way to enter the federal marketplace.

 

Experts Complete Federal Business Registration with Precision

Registration experts, like our own FAMR Certification Specialists, are eager to handle every step of businesses’ CAGE Code acquisition process. From directing organizations through each step of their DUNS verification to taking care of every end of their nuanced SAM registration process, these services are here to provide businesses a convenient avenue to engage with the federal government. 

 

Marketing to the Federal Government: Continued Optimized Business Performance

Although perhaps even more impactful are the marketing services that federal marketplace experts can offer once registration is done. From creating landing pages that are specially designed to help businesses attract awarding officers, to establishing day-to-day notifications of excellent work opportunities for businesses to bid on, these ongoing services are designed to ensure registered businesses succeed in the completive federal marketplace and provide some of the most value that marketplace professionals have to offer.

 

Finding a Registration Service you can Trust

Lastly, it should be remembered that not every entity out there that claims to be made up of federal marketplace specialists provides entirely reliable service. 

So, if you do opt to go with the more straightforward and professional method of federal registration, be sure to check reviews from a trusted source before making any commitments to guarantee quality service.

 

Registering Your Way

Regardless if you decide to register your business with the federal government yourself, or let the professionals handle it for you, the advantages of working with the federal government are abundant. The contracting work and federal awards claimed have been substantial enough to scale businesses to greater heights, and new opportunities are listed on the federal marketplace every day. 

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