First, the good news. The government earned an A+ grade on its latest small business contract scorecard. In order to ace this report, the government spent nearly $100 billion on contracts with small businesses. That’s about a quarter of their total contract spend, and it’s a $9 billion increase over the prior year’s total. Sounds pretty rosy, right? But there’s a catch. While the dollars spent on small business contracts is rising, the actual number of small businesses snagging those contracts is on the decline. According to some reports, there’s been a 25% drop since 2010. So it’s a two-edged sword - like when your doctor says you have a super impressive amount of antibodies in your blood, but that the reason they’re building up is that you’ve been infected with a dangerous virus. If you want your business to get in on the tens of billions the government is throwing into small business contracts, you’ve got to be strategic. And creative. Otherwise, you may find yourself part of the growing number of businesses shut out of the process. Be a coder You’ll drastically improve your chances of government contract success by learning the proper codes from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). These codes distinguish your business’s industry, country of operation, and more. And the government uses them to determine your eligibility for contracts. So hurry over to the NAICS website and get your codes. While you’re at it, you should get a Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Number. Then grab a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code, Product and Service Codes (PSC), and Federal Supply Class Codes (FSC). Find the contracts Once you’ve gotten your codes in order, head over to the government’s contract website. It’s called Federal Biz Opps, and while it looks like it was designed in 1995, it holds a plethora of opportunities for your company. A helpful strategy is to seek out agencies that aren’t currently meeting their small business goals. These benchmarks, negotiated by the Small Business Association, are intended to help businesses like yours get a piece of the pie. You’ll find scorecards on the Federal Procurement Data System that can help you identify agencies that are falling short. If you play your cards right, perhaps you’ll be one of the small businesses that helps these agencies reach their goals for 2018. Seek out a guide Government contracts are no walk in the park. With that in mind, it could be extremely helpful to find a mentor - someone who has spent years exploring the terrain and knows how to navigate it quickly and smoothly. One option is the GSA Mentor-Protégé Program, which pairs small businesses with larger ones that have contract experience. There’s also the SBA Mentor-Protégé Program, where businesses that qualify for the SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program can get strategic advice from a mentor who has successfully obtained federal contracts in the past.