Hemant Wadhwani said he was "blindsided" while working as a federal government contractor. His translation agency, TranslationCity.com, in Elmwood Park, N.J., had been doing work for the New York City regional office of the U.S. Census Bureau for less than a year when, he said, an agency official told him it could not work with him anymore. A master contractor would instead be chosen at headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Wadhwani, who now serves nonprofits and other clients, is one of many small-business owners who find that getting established as a government contractor is not easy. According to a new American Express Open survey, 62% of government procurement professionals said small firms' most critical mistake is failing to learn the mission of the agency they are wooing or neglecting to find out its overall procurement needs.
American Express Open is a payment-card issuer to small businesses.
Working with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the nonpartisan group Women Impacting Public Policy, Open hopes to demystify the process for one group of contractors—women-owned businesses—at ChallengeHER New York, at American Express' headquarters in Manhattan on June 12. At the free event, government officials will explain how to market to their agencies.
"Just because you are in New York, it shouldn't hinder you from being a successful government contractor," said Lourdes Martin-Rosa, Open's adviser on government contracting.
There are many opportunities to serve the federal government around the country, said Julie Weeks, CEO of the consultancy Womenable, as well as Open's research adviser. "Pretty much every state has a federal office complex," she said.