Jumping Through Hoops for Government Contract Bids Can Pay Off Big

The process can be lengthy and intimidating to the inexperienced, but landing public projects can be a game changer for Portable Restroom Operators

Jumping Through Hoops for Government Contract Bids Can Pay Off Big

These PolyJohn restrooms are placed at a construction site at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Jim Kneiszel)

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Government contracts can be intimidating. There are a multitude of acronyms, abbreviations, requirements, websites, and terms and conditions. In addition, the volume of paperwork can seem overwhelming. We heard an analogy many years ago about this important and necessary customer set. “Working to be successful with federal, state and local government contracts is like cooking a new dish. Carefully follow the recipe step-by-step and you will be pleased with the result.” We will rely on this adage as we answer this month’s question.     

Question: Our company would like to begin to participate in the government marketplace. What do we need to do to register and then begin bidding on federal, state and local government contracts? 

Answer: Several registrations are needed to obtain certain information that will be used again and again for a multitude of forms, bid requests, and other paperwork as requested and required by various governmental entities.  

Federal Government Contracts

The main ingredients in working with any federal governmental entity are as follows: 

  1. Know the North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS, code for your industry prior to registration. For the renting and servicing portable restrooms, the NAICS code is 562991.
  2. Unless yours is a brand-new startup business, the company should already have a Federal Employer Identification Number, or FEIN, also known as an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. This number never expires.  
  3. Obtain a free Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System, or D-U-N-S, number for each physical location of your business. Go online to www.dnb.com. The first step is to enter your company information to see if Dun & Bradstreet has already set up a unique nine-digit number for your company. If not, you may complete the information online with a roughly 30-day turnaround for the assignment of this number or numbers (if you have multiple locations).   
  4. With these numbers, register with the System for Award Management, or SAM. This website is found at www.sam.gov and is free to use. SAM is the official website to do business with the federal government. Once your company is in the SAM system, you are registered to do business with the U.S. government.
  5. After you are registered in SAM, obtain a Commercial and Government Entity, or CAGE, code for your business. This unique five-digit number is assigned to suppliers of various government or defense agencies, such as the Department of Defense. The www.sam.gov system forwards your company’s information on to the Defense Logistics Agency. The DLA will assign the CAGE code and then populate your company’s SAM record with the CAGE code. This extra step is beneficial in that your company should be in a position to work with any U.S. government agency and the Department of Defense. An entity that is issued a CAGE code must renew this number every five years.

An abundance of available resources can be found on the internet for further education on federal government contracting:

  • U.S. Small Business Administration 

The U.S. SBA is an excellent resource for research in working with governmental agencies. This most useful website is www.sba.gov. Here you can access a “Contracting Guide” that includes how to find and win contracts with the federal government. In addition, there are contracting assistance programs available for small and disadvantaged businesses, such as those owned by women or service disabled veterans, and the HUBZone program.

  • FedBizOpps.gov - Federal Business Opportunities  

The long-standing program of listing federal business opportunities for all contracts over $25,000 migrated on Nov. 12, 2019 to beta.sam.gov. This website allows PROs to view contract opportunities in their area.

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency – Small-Business Program

Found at www.fema.gov/small-business-program, businesses can learn more about registering and participating with FEMA in natural disasters.  

  • Federal Service Desk, or FSD

This organization offers help and assistance in dealing with other government entities in the bid process and can be found at www.fsd.gov. FSD offers a live chat and a web form for questions or inquiries. You may contact FSD from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

State and Local Contracts 

Information, procedures and requirements will vary by state, but by having your company’s various federal identification numbers as described above, all applications should be able to be accurately completed. Our research indicates the average length of state and local bid forms ranges from 25 to 35 pages. With all of the various identification numbers, proof of insurance and other basic information about your company, this paperwork can be completed with patience and perseverance. Attention to detail in this process is also a good indication to the potential customer that your company will be diligent and professional in offering service to them.

Another suggestion is to make personal connections with municipalities that you would like as potential customers. Speak to their purchasing or contracting departments, and use the internet for further investigation. Stay informed with the local news in terms of new government projects, additions and events that may be on the horizon. Making note of the officials’ names can also benefit your company in personalizing correspondence to these local government entities.

Government Contract Tracking Companies

Due to the complexity and enormity of government contracts, bidding, and tracking, specialty companies have emerged that will manage this process for you. These businesses vary in terms of the services rendered and fees assessed. Each PRO must weigh the costs versus the potential benefits of contracting for this service.

General Observations

Patience is imperative in dealing with any type or level of government contracts. Browse the internet and do so on a regular basis in searching for new bids and new bid opportunities. Expect lengthy forms and considerable amounts of paperwork. Price is often the sole determinant of the awarding of contracts. Weigh the price against the term of the contract, particularly multiple-year contracts. Finally, consider that most contracts stipulate regular and timely payment of valid invoices. 


The governmental marketplace is huge, and PROs should endeavor to participate in this arena. It can be challenging and somewhat intimidating, but using our cooking analogy, government contracts can be the recipe for success! 

This article was originally posted June 2020.


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