A dedicated team at the Treasury Department and IRS committed to enhancing opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses wants to ensure that these entrepreneurs understand the agency and come prepared to put their best foot forward.
Treasury is divided into decentralized 10 bureaus with procurement authorities. Each bureau chief procurement officer appoints a small-business specialist to serve in an operational capacity. With an annual spend of $3 billion obligated and 9,900 transactions, IRS procurement does acquisition planning, contract award, and contract administration through divisions in Washington, D.C., New Carrollton, Md., New York, Dallas, Atlanta, and Oakland, Calif.
In fiscal year 2021, the IRS exceeded its 37 percent small-business goal with 38.07 percent of contracts going to small businesses. The 5 percent small-disadvantaged-business goal was exceeded by far with 14.76 percent, as was the 5 percent women-owned-business goal with 13.62 percent. With a 3 percent goal, 3.65 percent of contracts went to HUBZone, and with another 3 percent goal service-disabled veteran-owned businesses got 9.67 percent of contracts.
“Across the board we really blew it out of the water,” Treasury Department Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Director Donna Ragucci told the Government Technology & Services Coalition’s IRS Days 2022.
So far in fiscal year 2022, 23.46 percent of contracts have gone to small businesses, with the ultimate goal set at 37 percent. All of the socioeconomic subcategories have already exceeded their goals.
“This year we are on track for meeting all of our socioeconomic goals,” said IRS Small Business Specialist LaTonya Bowman, adding that the small-business share could hit 39 percent.
IRS buying trends include information technology needs such as telecommunications services, software, and equipment, while non-IT needs include services such as guards, couriers, training lectures, alarms and security systems, paper shredding, sign language interpreters, janitorial, program evaluation, and more.
Strategic goals and key priorities for OSDBU in fiscal year 2022 included committing to executive orders on advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities through the federal government; ensuring products are made in America by Americans; strengthening America’s supply chain; advancing equity, justice, and opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders; ensuring diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the federal workforce; advancing education, equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for historically black colleges and minority servicing institutions; advancing education, equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for Hispanics; advancing education, equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for Native Americans and strengthening tribal colleges and universities; and advancing education, equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for Black Americans.
“We are obligated to meet all these executive orders and interject all of these administration priorities in our contracts,” Ragucci said.
Treasury does outreach to engage with small businesses and non-traditional vendors through stakeholder engagements, vendor outreach sessions, matchmaking events, nationally sponsored conferences, federal agency partnerships, industry partners, and collaborative industry groups.
The department envisions creating a small-business dashboard to track vendor engagement from intake at the first meeting to contacts including follow-up meetings and sit-downs with program offices and contracting officers. This would also include RFI responses, solicitation responses or proposals received, source selection (why or why not selected), and performance measures on a winning contract.
“Every time you contact us, we want to be able to follow that through,” Ragucci said.
Small businesses are encouraged to register in the SBA’s Dynamic Small Business Search via SAM.gov and schedule a meeting with the IRS Small Business Office. Before a meeting, companies should be prepared to discuss their capabilities and future opportunities. Businesses should then follow the advice offered in that meeting, and follow up with a small-business specialist every 3-4 months or when there is a significant new development in the company.
Bowman said she does unfortunately see some new small businesses come to her office using guidance obtained from other places. “Definitely try to follow the advice we give you,” she said.
Businesses should be equipped to do business with the government: accepts the government purchase card, has good marketing materials, has a niche, has the people and equipment, is web-savvy, and is registered in government databases like SAM.gov.
What works to build relationships and eventually land a contract? Networking, exploring multiple contract vehicles, continuous marketing, being prepared, building a solid record of performance, and having patience and persistence.
“When you get that 15 minutes in front a program office … that’s your time to shine,” Bowman said. “That’s not your time to say, ‘So what does the IRS do?’”
Instead, she said, be very prepared: “Here’s what I am, here’s what I can do – that gets our attention immediately.”