How To: Break into government work

Departments - Case Study

With many families and businesses cutting expenses, landscaping and lawn care are sometimes part of those cutbacks.

August 9, 2011
Brian Horn

With many families and businesses cutting expenses, landscaping and lawn care are sometimes part of those cutbacks. But, there’s another way green industry professionals can find jobs – government work. Local, state and federal government buildings need landscaping too, and there are government dollars available for certain projects, says Scott Jamieson, executive vice president of Bartlett Tree Experts. “If priced right, this work can and must be profitable,” he says. 

Sure, it might not give you the satisfaction of designing and building a beautiful backyard on a high-end residential property, but it will keep you busy and help pay the bills. And, you can use some of the same practices to find government work that you’d use to find commercial or residential work -- being personable with the decision makers.

“There’s the relationship piece of getting to know these folks,” he says. Here’s some things to think about before entering the fray for government work. – Brian Horn

Illustration by Vic Kulihin

  1. First, you want to look at the U.S. General Services Administration schedule to see if it fits your organization. “It doesn’t fit for everybody, but we have found that being on the GSA schedule has opened doors for us for governmental work. It’s essentially a pre-qualification.” While it doesn’t guarantee work, it shows you meet certain requirements.
  2. Create a target list. “Who do you want to work for? What sort of agencies or projects might be in your area? Sometimes that means just going and knocking on doors, others it might be scanning the Internet for a bid offering.”
  3. What better way to get a foot in the door than to work with someone who is already in the room?  If you are a landscaper, create a business relationship with a company that provides another service, like tree care, on government property. “Most of these governmental projects are large in scope and they’ve got a number of players involved.”
  4. Keep an eye out for seminars or workshops that teach you or instruct you on how to do governmental work. Through the GSA program, Jamieson gets tons of emails from people who put on specific seminars for government jobs.
  5. Those offering government jobs are people too. “They are bound by certain regulations and laws and contract requirements, but at the end of the day, it’s a person on the other end of that phone or that desk that is going to choose your company.” You may not get that job, but you’ve put yourself in a good position for the next one.