The Straight Dope on the GSA Schedules Program

Authored by Larry Allen, Allen Federal Business Partners

Does your company currently hold a GSA or VA Schedule contract?  Have you been told by a customer or consultant that you “must” get a Schedule in order to do government business?  Alternatively, have you been told to avoid the Schedules at all costs and just sell without a contract?

Let’s look at the current GSA and VA Multiple Award Schedules program in a realistic light and answer these questions as honestly as possible.

If you’re already a Schedule contract holder you know it can be a great tool for selling to the government.  Like any tool, however, how well it is used depends on who is wielding it.  No one, for example, wants to live in a house I’ve built.  I am not good with hand tools.  Companies that have figured out how to use the Schedule tool, though, have driven good, reliable business through it.  To them, it is an essential, though perhaps not entire, part of their government business strategy.  The Schedules program, for its shortcomings, does work well for many firms.

If you’ve been told by a current or prospective government customer to get a Schedule contract, the chances are you should.  Companies that come to the Schedules to maintain or obtain specific, defined government business are often among the most successful.  Customer requests to obtain a Schedule should be taken seriously.

Consultant recommendations, on the other hand, are a bit of a mixed bag. The bottom line is that it depends on the consultant.  It is helpful here to remember the old maxim, “If it seems too good to be true…”.  Don’t let anyone tell you that obtaining or managing a Schedule contract is easy.  Getting a contract you can actually use, understand and comply with takes time.  How much time?  Certainly more than 24 hours or a week.  You can get a contract in that time, but it very likely comes with some unwelcome surprises down the road that monetarily and otherwise outweigh any benefits of being fast.

Some companies may have been told “No one buys from the Schedules anymore. You don’t need one.”  Every company should certainly make an informed business decision about whether holding a Schedule contract is the right decision for their company.  The program does work for many firms, but not all.  It is not accurate to say, though, that “no one” buys from the Schedules anymore.  GSA’s Schedule sales totaled approximately $40 billion last year.  When VA Schedule sales are added in, that number becomes nearly $50 billion.  Schedule contracts were used to obtain IT solutions, pharmaceuticals, professional services, copiers, furniture, supplies and more.

GSA is proposing changes to its part of the program that every contractor – current or prospective – needs to know about.  What, for instance, does the Demand Based model mean for your prospects of getting a new Schedule contract?  What impact is the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative having on Schedule contractors?  Will GSA merge the approximately 40 Schedules it maintains now into a few “Mega Schedules”?

Your company must find out the answers to these, and other, Schedule questions in order to be a successful Schedule contract holder.

Don’t know the answers?  Time to go to class so you can pass your GSA/VA Schedule “final”.

GSA Schedule Contracting Training will be held on February 28 in Washington, DC.  Click here for more details. 


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