Small Businesses Can Sell to Government: Don’t Let These 6 Myths Stop You

WeBC June 16, 2021
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The Government of Canada is one of the largest buyers of goods and services in Canada.

You may think that means they only offer large contracts designed for big suppliers, but that’s where you’re wrong!

Consider this: the Government actually has over 100 departments and agencies across Canada that each buy their own goods and services—from snow removal to office furniture, catering and more. They’re all across Canada, and they’re looking for local suppliers to deliver on contracts from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

On June 24, we’re hosting Afnan Al-Hashimi from The Office of Small and Medium Enterprises for a free, interactive session: Save Time, Win Contracts: Bidding on Opportunities with the Government of Canada. She’ll do a 90-minute deep dive into the bidding process to show you how to find opportunities to sell to government.

But first… if you’re not sure whether you can sell to the government, read on as we summarize some procurement myths that the government has debunked on their website, so you can explore if this is an opportunity to grow your business.

Myth #1: The contracts are too big and I don’t have capacity

Many business owners believe that the government only works with larger companies who have the infrastructure and capacity to handle larger contracts. This is not true! 

The majority of contracts awarded by the Government of Canada are valued under $25,000 and almost all credit card purchases direct from vendors are valued at under $10,000. 

These direct purchases total over $700 million each year, which shows there are plenty of opportunities for small businesses to win these contracts and work with the government. 

Myth #2: The government doesn’t buy from small businesses

While the Government of Canada does work with large companies, they actually buy more goods and services from micro, small and medium sized businesses. 

This is due to the competitive edge that small businesses bring to the table by offering a wider range of specialized products and services, and from being local and innovative. 

Not only does the federal government work with the small business community, they also offer a number of innovation programs that allow start-ups to sell new products directly to the federal government, for example Innovative Solutions Canada.

Myth #3: The Government already has suppliers and it’s hard to get on the list

False! The Government of Canada is trying to make it easier for businesses and suppliers of all kinds to work with them, even those who are new to the systems and processes involved.

These efforts include making the procurement process easier, faster and more accessible, so it’s less of a burden on the businesses, as well as experimenting with pilot projects to increase opportunities for businesses run by groups that haven’t worked as much with the government previously, like businesses owned by women, visible minorities or persons with disabilities and social enterprises.

They’re also focused on expanding opportunities for green goods and services and increasing the value of contracts awarded to Indigenous businesses. 

Myth #4: The government doesn’t buy what I sell

While there are some usual commodities that the government requires such as technology, military, property and professional services, there are also plenty more that are needed on a regular basis.

Some goods and services they purchase that may surprise you:

  • catering services
  • snow removal
  • landscaping
  • clothing
  • dog grooming
  • writing, translation and printing services
  • interior design
  • cleaning services
  • and much more!

There is a wide variety and range of goods and services needed that small businesses can provide for the government, and you can browse them at buyandsell.gc.ca.

Myth #5: The process is centralized

The Government of Canada has over a hundred departments and agencies which are located across the country, so they’re not considered one single client, but rather hundreds of potential clients with different needs and locations.

Each of these hundreds of agencies and departments purchase their own goods and services, offering ample opportunity for smaller businesses to work with the government in different capacities. 

Myth #6: The process is complicated and hard to navigate

The government has made significant progress to improve the experience for suppliers, and encourage more participation. They offer regular webinars to learn how to navigate the system (like this one on June 24) and are working to make the process more accessible with initiatives like E-procurement, E-bid submission, 15 day payment, plain language, and reducing barriers to entry.

All Government of Canada procurement activities must be open, fair and transparent. There are also Federal laws, regulations as Treasury Board of Canada policies which guide the procurement process.

If this has piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more about the procurement process, join us for our free WECafe session: Save Time, Win Contracts: Bidding on Opportunities with the Government of Canada, featuring Afnan Al-Hashimi from The Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) on June 24. 

Further details that debunk these myths are also available at buyandsell.gc.ca.

About WeBC

WeBC is a non-profit organization devoted to helping BC women launch, lead and scale their own businesses. Our full range of services includes business loans up to $150K, business advice, skills training, mentoring, resources and a supportive community to help women entrepreneurs realize their business potential. Connect with us today for personalized support for your business!

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