Growing Your Small Business – Doing Business With the Department of Health and Human Services

In 1953 the Department of Health, Education and Welfare became a cabinet level department in the United States. In 1979 the Department of Education Organization Act split HEW into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS is responsible for the health, safety and well-being of residents of the United States. This mandate also extends internationally for cross-border health and safety issues.HHS administers over 300 programs with a budget of over $737 billion. HHS mission includes a wide range of human issues, including substance abuse, Medicare and Medicaid, childrens health, health disparities, disease prevention and health promotion. It is the largest grant-making department within the Federal Government.In 1979 the Department of Health and Human Services established the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to develop and implement outreach to the small business community. The Office performs its mission through small business fairs, procurement conferences, trade group seminars, conventions and forums.The Office of Small Business Development, also called OSDBU, is host to Vendor Outreach Sessions that happen twice monthly. The purpose of these sessions is to introduce and educate vendors on the small business program and to provide them information so that they can effectively market their products and services to HHS.The Department of Health and Human Services is the only executive agency where Small Business Specialists report to the OSDBU Director. These Small Business Specialists are located within the eleven agencies of HHS.Every day, these Specialists work with Contracting and Program Office staff, so as to determine the best acquisition strategy; they also work to make their approach unified so that when vendors deal with Health And Human Services, this unity will benefit them.Currently, HHS does not provide grants or loans to help small businesses get going, but it is in fact the largest organization to make grants within the federal government. It has over 300 grant programs today, and it handles mission-specific topics, which are in turn delegated among the various HHS operating agencies. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance profiles all Federal grant programs; these provide financial assistance and include HHS programs. In addition, specific points of contact for obtaining applications or additional information are also provided.Vendors who are interested in doing business with Health And Human Services do not have to have any special certification, but instead, the Small Business Administration provides certification to firms under the Business Development Program, the Historically Underutilized Business Zone Program, and the Small Disadvantaged Business Program. Businesses that are Women-Owned, Veteran Owned, Service Disabled Veteran Owned, or Small Businesses are generally managed with self-certification. Self-certification is not challenged unless or until an interested party or competitor provides protest to it. In addition, an HHS Contracting Officer may request that the SBA provide a size determination.

Small Business Target Market

Many small business owners forget to identify and define who their target market is, which hinders them from completely capitalizing on consumer buying. In order for them to be successful they must have a clear understanding of who the consumer is, what their needs are and their purchase behavior. If small business owners have a complete understanding of whom their consumers’ are, it will encourage customer retention, help define their business niche, and allow them to market their products in a profitable way.Small business owners must identify their consumer by demographics and not by a broad spectrum. The more they know about their consumers the more they increase their chances of success. If they can’t identify their target market, they increase their risk of failure and prohibit the business from being consumer focused. Companies that don’t understand the importance of being consumer focused suffers from limited growth potential and they risk wasting money and valuable resources on marketing to the wrong consumer. It’s not a smart business practice to assume that all consumers are alike. This assumption prohibits the business from finding its place in the market.When researching their target markets, small businesses must be specific when defining their consumer and avoid general classifications. The biggest issue business owners have when finding information about their target market is information overload. There is a wealth of information on the internet but knowing what information is needed can be a hang up for most new businesses. In order to minimize getting drowned with useless information it is best for new businesses to come up with research questions that can guide them through their research. They should compile a list of questions specifically related to their business and consumer.Small business owners should be well informed about their consumers’ demographics such as age, gender, income, education level, occupation, family/household size and region/geography. If a small business objective is to offer affordable daycare service to single mothers who can’t afford it at the full price then the companies target market should reflect that. If the small business defines its target market as women with kids, it would mean that their service is open to all women with children of all ages. With this broad defining, the company wouldn’t be fulfilling its objective of offering affordable daycare service to single mothers in need. However if the small business redefined its target market as single mother households with incomes of $15,000- $35,000 who have children between the ages of 6 mos.- 11 years of age, it will allow them to really impact the market and target a specific group. This not only helps small business owners define their target market but develop their business niche.It would be wonderful if all small business owners could do everything for everyone but the truth is a small business can only do so much. If small business owners settle on servicing a specific part of the market they can increase their chances of success. All major companies have a specific target market, for example Wal-Mart brags about offering low prices that help their customers live better lives, which are directed toward bargain shoppers in a target market of low to middle class families. They market and offer products to a specific group and because of this it have been a big key to their success.Business owners must take note of the importance of understanding their target market as a necessary part of the start up process and that it shouldn’t be ignored. Before potential business owners begin business they should invest the necessary time in a thorough research on defining their consumer. By taking the necessary time to identify and define their target market, business owners can reap the benefits that will help sustain their business. It will eliminate wasteful cost and time spent marketing their service or product to the wrong consumer.