With the start of the new fiscal year approaching on Oct.1, the government pauses as it prepares to start a new budget cycle — creating a logical time for contractors to engage in preliminary business development and strategic planning.

Opportunity-focused actions such as examining your core market, identifying adjacent markets, building a pipeline and developing an effective resource plan are some of the many steps involved in a successful planning process.

Starting now can position businesses to act quickly when the federal budget is released in April.

Examine your core market

Review who your key agencies are and what opportunities you have previously identified. Are these still applicable?

If your company decides to pursue opportunities related to its core capabilities in the coming year, your assessment should examine historical buying patterns and determine whether the capability in question has reached its peak. Is it still a priority to the agency in question? And, if the market is crowded with similar offerings, what is your distinguishing value?

Identify adjacent markets

Conversely, those focused on moving into new or adjacent markets should clearly define the areas that hold the most potential. A complete analysis should identify agencies of focus, competitors in the field and the market’s overall growth potential. Armed with this information, your company can align resources in the most effective manner.

As with all aspects of business, it is critical to identify your distinguishing value — otherwise, your company may be forced to compete solely as a commodity based on price.

Build a pipeline

Having determined your direction, now identify and research specific leads for your pipeline. This requires a strong understanding of the system and how to qualify for opportunities.

An examination of the prior federal budget, including the capital asset plan and prior IT investments, is often a great starting point. Those new to government contracting will find the GovWin IQ database and Federal Business Opportunities Web site to be invaluable resources.

Mapping out key agencies and opportunities based on your findings will build a successful pipeline.

Develop an effective resource plan

A pipeline filled with opportunity is useless if your company is not prepared to act.

By addressing questions such as whether to focus on organic versus inorganic growth, what skills are needed for your workforce and how to optimize resources from capture to sales, your company will be better prepared to achieve maximum growth potential.

Tim Zullo is senior director of consulting for Deltek’s GovWin consulting practice.