Many business owners agree that government contracting is very different from the other markets that small businesses pursue. Even individuals who have experience with different aspects of contracting find that becoming a federal contractor can be daunting and confusing. 

For James Miller, of On Target Solutions, Inc. in Belton, Missouri, this statement rings true. Miller worked as a military program manager for a building maintenance company. There, he oversaw the execution of dozens of government contracts. 

Eventually, Miller felt that there were more opportunities that he would like to pursue. He decided to start his own business and work for himself instead. 

In October of 2015, Miller left his job to open On Target. The business would provide facility support services, including everything from HVAC and safety inspections, to landscaping and grounds work. Miller hoped from the beginning to work with government agencies. 

However, while he understood how to execute government contracts, Miller admits that he knew very little about bidding or even how to get started. Additionally, as a Navy veteran, he needed assistance with his Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Certification (SDVOSB).

In January 2016, Miller began seeking assistance. During his search, he happened to hear about the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) program. After a quick Google search, he found that there was an office located in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Miller visited the PTAC center and met with local Procurement Director, Shelly Cunningham. Cunningham guided Miller through contracting and bidding basics. She discussed GSA schedules and joint ventures with him. With her help, On Target received their SDVOSB Certification. Additionally, she introduced Miller to the bid matching service provided by Missouri PTAC. 

“PTAC really enlightened me on how to acquire [federal] contracts,” Miller says. “I didn’t really know how to take the first step. Shelly pointed me in the right direction.”

In June of 2016, Miller received his first government contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide landscaping and lawn care services. This first contract allowed Miller to learn about the bid process and opened the floodgates for other opportunities. 

Over three years, Miller has been awarded multiple contracts. He has worked with several government agencies including the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Marshalls Service, and the General Service Administration. Government contracts now make up most of On Target’s workload.

“These contracts are critical,” says Miller. “About 80% of our business comes from [federal] contracts.”

Miller says he would like to keep it that way. He intends to continue bidding on government contracts, and hopefully, receiving them. He also says that he would like to see more opportunities for contracts in the future, so that On Target can continue to grow. 

However, Miller acknowledges that without help from others, government contracting can be difficult to master. He says that the assistance he received from PTAC was extremely helpful in preparing On Target to become a federal contractor. 

“It’s critical for a small business interested in [government] contracting to understand that environment,” he explains. “It was very beneficial to have someone to walk you through the baby steps of getting started.”