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Dealing with Financials—what are Contracting Officers looking for, exactly?

I’ve heard said that more than 80% of companies who apply for a GSA Schedule contract on their own get rejected on their first attempt.. When applying for their own GSA contract, many applicants do not have a full grasp of their Contracting Officer’s expectations. While not arbitrary, Contracting Officers’ expectations can be individualized and specific. If the applicant doesn’t know what a Contracting Officer wants, it can be very difficult to win them over.  Following the letter of the solicitation of not enough. You have to make a clear case that you are qualified and equipped to deliver whatever will be asked of you.

One place where these expectations may be less than clear is with company financials. There some are clear requirements, like having $250,000 annual revenue or 2 years of financial history*. If you don’t meet these standards, it might not yet be time for you to go after a GSA schedule contract. But even if you do, the point isn’t to go down a checklist that says you’ve met the minimum standards. Depending on your particular solicitation, you will be asked to provide financials from the past one to three years. The minimum guideline was put in place because without a history, the Contracting Officer (CO) may be unable to determine the state of your business. It is essential to give GSA all necessary information so that your CO will feel confident in your company.

Confidence comes with a clear overall picture of the applicant’s financial stability. This implies that the company could well be around for the next 5-20 years to fulfill an awarded GSA Schedule contract. It also shows the CO that the company has the ability to handle the exactitude of government accounting practices, including demonstration of a healthy profit, compared to your income. GSA doesn’t need a fully expanded financial statement, but the Contracting Officer would like to see some specifics of your Profit and Loss (P&L) statement, such as the various lines of income and major expense categories like employee costs, professional and legal fees, rent, etc.

Financials that would concern a CO show a negative P&L and unclear balance statements. Overloaded expense in some minor categories, such as phone, cars, or travel, may also raise a red flag.

If you are currently putting together a contract proposal, be sure that the picture you are creating is complete and accurate; not just in a way that says you met the minimum requirements, but in a way that says your business is responsible and ready to expand into the federal market.

For more information, contact Ivan Wohner at or 301-913-5000.

*There are examples of these requirements being waived by GSA in very specific instances.