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How to get government contracts

Starting a lawn care business.

How to start a lawn mowing business, lawn care business, or landscaping business. If you are starting a lawn care business, ask your questions here.
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Old 06-17-2008, 09:07 PM
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We had a great discussion tonight that went on for over an hour and covered many great topics. I was able to record a little of it to share with all of you.

You can listen to the podcast here

Or read about it here.

Introduction: This is Steve with GopherHaul and I am here today with a recent question on the forum had to do with bidding government mowing contract. Keith has experience bidding and winning large scale government contracts and he is willing to share some advice on the procedure.

GH: Keith, how does a lawn care company go about finding which contracts they might want to bid on?

Keith: There are four primary avenues to finding contract on which to bid.

1) Newspapers: Many local governments have a set schedule to place public notices in the newspaper classified section. Normally they are placed Mondays or Wednesdays. Keep an eye on your local newspaper in the classifieds section under the "Public Notices" heading.

2) Purchasing Departments: For anyone wishing to bid on a contract it is imperative for them to get their name known at their local purchasing department. Many smaller contracts are knows as "no bid contracts." The threshold of when a contract is no-bid depends on the contracting agency. Often, any job under $250 can be a no-bid contract. The purchasing department is your primary source for this information.

3) Bidding Lists: Bidding list are handled through the purchasing department. A contractor requests being put on a bidding list. He will normally sign an acknowledgement that he has read a statement of conduct outlining the basic regulations of bidding jobs.

4) Agency Website: Most government agencies now put their contracts up for bid on their websites.

Do not rely on any one of these avenues. An LCO should follow through with each one.

GH: You mention Purchasing Departments. Where do you find the purchasing department?

Keith: This depends on which agency you are going through. Most city or county governments have their purchasing department located in the courthouse or in an annex building. The school system has their own purchasing department at the board of education building. There are multitudes of federal purchasing managers. For example if there is an airport in your area, that airport will likely have its own purchasing department. A good place to start is in your local phone book. There should be a section of blue pages in the middle or at the beginning of the phone book with many of the government agencies phone numbers listed. It is almost a full time job getting your name on all the different bidder's lists but once your phone begins ringing and bidding forms arrive in the mail you will be glad you spent the time to get properly setup.

GH: Can anyone bid government contracts.

Keith: I personally feel a company should be in business a few years before bidding on contract work. Bidding a $35 residential job is one thing but bidding a multi-year government contract is a completely different matter. If you underbid the $35 job, you might be able to ask the home owner for an increase. However, with a government contract, there is little room for negotiation once your bid has been accepted. I have seen lots of companies get themselves into trouble financially by underbidding. An LCO must do his homework before going after these jobs and he has to know what his costs are in time, equipment, and supplies.

GH: Are there regulations for the bidding companies.

Keith: Yes, there are plenty of regulations and they are different for each contract. Regulations include how much insurance you are required to carry. It is not uncommon for an LCO to be required to carry $5million in liability insurance before a winning bidder is awarded the contract. Surety bonding is also often an issue. If a contract requires chemical application then a chemical application license is required. A company doing airport mowing or other security sensitive work will likely have to pass a background check. A company mowing mowing on an interstate or highway may need a right-of-way contractor's license. Labor regulations and equal employment opportunity laws must also be followed.

GH: What is the bidding procedure once an LCO finds a contract in which he's interested?

Keith: The LCO must first obtain the specifications package. This package will include descriptions of the work to be performed, its frequency, and duration. Other information will be included in this package.

The LCO will schedule an inspection tour with the projects supervisor. All questions can be cleared up during this time.

If this is a big project, there will likely be a pre-bid conference. Full disclosure will take place during this conference to be sure all bids are coming from an aspect of uniform knowledge.

The LCO must prepare a bidding sheet listing his bid for the entire project as well as a breakdown of the price components.

The winning bidder is the lowest and best bid.

GH: Does "lowest and best" mean that the lowest bid doesn't always win?

Keith: Contracting agencies can decline a bid if they have sufficient reason to believe an LCO does not meet all the requirements in the bid or if the LCO will not be able to complete the work and the second highest bidder is significantly more capable.

GH: These are all the questions we have time for today. I would like to thank Keith for taking time to speak with us today on the subject of bidding government contracts for your lawn care business. Keith's book, software, and video tutorials give detailed information on many aspects of the Lawn Care Business and there is a huge section which covers bidding larger scale lawn care contracts.
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