Coaching demystifies federal procurement

When entrepreneur Sunandita Das heard about a business coaching service offered by Procurement Assistance Canada, she was intrigued and eager to participate. Personalized sessions with an expert coach seemed like a great opportunity to learn about navigating the Government of Canada’s procurement process and competing for federal contracts.

A close-up photo of a woman with glasses and short hair and wearing a suit.

In 2017, Das walked away from a prestigious hospitality career with Fortune 500 companies to launch a facilities management and cleaning firm, Urbane Luxury Services. One of her goals was to be a change-maker for underrepresented groups by providing meaningful employment and development opportunities for the minorities, refugees and women who typically make up a large part of this industry’s workforce.

By focusing on service excellence, Das saw her business gain ground and was asked to meet a growing list of facility requirements. “We now do everything from cleaning to window washing, plumbing and landscaping. We’re a one-stop shop,” she says. At the same time, she joined a number of professional associations for women entrepreneurs, and they introduced her to new paths to advance her business.

She discovered that Procurement Assistance Canada teaches entrepreneurs how the government buys goods and services, and she immediately attended a number of free webinars. One of the presenters suggested she try the coaching service, and Das decided it would be her next step. “I had the basics of procurement down, but I still had a lot of questions about how to improve my odds of success. The idea of taking a deeper dive into federal procurement really appealed to me for that reason.” She was partnered with a Procurement Assistance Canada coach, and the service exceeded her expectations:

“I learned not only about the online procurement portals where we can find contracts to bid on, but how to search for the right opportunities for my business, as well as what the government is looking for in a bid and that certain steps, like obtaining security clearance as soon as possible, are critical. The coach helped me figure out what I needed to know, rather than just offering information.”

Das notes that there are still barriers to participation in federal procurement. The coaching service, however, can help address knowledge gaps, allowing business owners to focus on moving beyond them. “Now that I know which piece of the puzzle I’m missing, I can seek solutions on my end,” she explains. Given her positive experience, she highly recommends the coaching service to other eligible businesses.

Meeting gaps in service and knowledge

A photo of an Asian woman and a Black individual having a discussion at a table over an open laptop.

Procurement Assistance Canada, as part of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), launched the coaching service in 2021 to help business owners or leaders from underrepresented groups improve their ability to compete for federal contracts. The groups encompass women, Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized Canadians, persons with disabilities, and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Eligible participants are offered an introductory and 3 one-on-one sessions with a dedicated coach. According to Tanya Snook, with Procurement Assistance Canada, the coaching service is all about equity:

“We know these entrepreneurs are bidding, and we’re hearing that from industry associations. But they may face challenges because they don’t have a history of doing business with government, or on account of systemic barriers. What we wanted wasn’t to give them an advantage but to level the playing field for business communities that have previously been underrepresented in federal procurement.”

Through collaboration with businesses and other federal departments, Procurement Assistance Canada determined that it would be most beneficial to offer the coaching service to entrepreneurs who have already been through the federal procurement process and taken advantage of other types of procurement support for businesses. “They’ve attended our webinars and consulted our staff,” explains Snook. “They understand the process, and they’ve tried to bid, but they aren’t winning contracts. So we are able to meet with them at length to analyze what the issues are and hone in on getting past them.”

While the coaching is based on the unique experiences, needs and procurement knowledge of each participant, Snook notes that the service is not designed to assist people with any particular bid on which they’re working. The coaches use standard materials and general simulations to get to the root of the challenges preventing that entrepreneur from competing successfully for federal contracts.

The feedback on the service from entrepreneurs like Sunandita Das has been very positive.

“They find it really valuable. There’s a need for this service,” says Snook.

For basic details about federal procurement, see the Getting started page on CanadaBuys. To read other interesting articles about PSPC, visit Our stories, where you can find out how we’re helping businesses work with the government and increasing supplier diversity with the coaching service for businesses.

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