Four Strategies for Surviving as a Midsize Business

While midsize businesses have unique challenges, they also have distinct advantages over their larger counterparts.

Small businesses are widely considered to be the backbone of the American economy and account for more than half of all private-sector jobs in the United States. Midsize businesses are a critical part of the small business ecosystem, but often face unique challenges in scaling up and competing with larger businesses. As a midsize government contractor, you may feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up to the giants that have more resources, more contracts and more prime past performance. You also may have grown to the point where you don’t quite have the agility and flexibility you once did as a small business.

The biggest challenge for any business is how to strategically scale. Whether you’re a startup or an established company, you need to be able to grow without sacrificing quality or losing your competitive edge. Below are several additional tactics, strategies and approaches midsize government contractors can use to facilitate growth.

Leverage Set-Aside Programs

Set-aside programs are designed to help small and midsize businesses compete for government contracts by setting aside a certain percentage of contracts for these companies to bid on. There are a few different types of set-aside programs, including socio-economic set-asides, industry set-asides and women-owned small business set-asides. To participate, there are eligibility requirements to meet and you must certify the socio-economic status of your business before you can bid on a set-aside contract.

Create Lasting Partnerships

The problem with set-aside programs is that as businesses move from small to midsize, they phase out. To compete, partnering — either as Mentor-Protégés or joint ventures — becomes essential. But the value of partnering extends far beyond dollars. These types of relationships, when done right, create incredible depth in both organizations across technology, talent, culture and customer satisfaction. All important factors in driving business growth outside of winning RFPs. These types of relationships also ensure diverse businesses become stronger, more vibrant contractors, which is key to improving the economy and driving innovation.

Consider Prototyping Solicitations

Prototyping is a key part of the design process for any product, service or system. It helps organizations to validate their designs and make sure they are meeting the needs of their users. The U.S. government is no different and there are several programs available designed to help agencies more rapidly implement emerging technologies and procure innovative technologies.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs: There are 11 Federal agencies participating in the SBIR program and five of those agencies also participate in the STTR program. The programsfund a diverse portfolio of technology startups and small businesses focused on stimulating technological innovation, supporting federal research and development (R&D) needs, and increasing R&D commercialization.

Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) program: The GSA established this pilot vehicle to support agencies procuring innovative commercial solutions.

Research and Prototype Other Transactions (OTs): contracts must advance new technologies and processes, create prototypes or models, or evaluate the feasibility or utility of a technology.

Many, if not all, of these programs are designed to incentivize nontraditional small businesses; creating excellent opportunities for increased collaboration between midsize and small businesses.

Continue Investing and Growing Capabilities

It’s no secret that to stay competitive, you should stay up-to-date on the latest technology, trends and developments in your industry. You should also invest in not just your products and services, but how you deliver them. In today’s economy, it’s more critical than ever and I believe that it starts with your people. Make sure your team has the skills necessary to deliver high-quality products and services. Be honest about any gaps. That way, you can provide meaningful training and development opportunities that build your internal teams and increase retention.

When you know what you need, you’re also able to make better hiring decisions and go after the best people who not only have the right expertise and experience but fit with your culture. I don’t think there is another strategy that helps spur growth, allows businesses to respond and pivot to market changes, and creates more depth in customer satisfaction than investing in your people.

While midsize businesses have unique challenges, they also have distinct advantages over their larger counterparts. By taking advantage of the resources and opportunities available to you, and by using your agility and flexibility to your advantage, you can compete with — and even surpass — the largest businesses in your industry.

Previously published on Newsweek.