The small guy runs the show

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It may seem odd to have a small firm giving orders to a big systems integrator, but sometimes that occurs in federal contracting. It can be advantageous to both firms to let the small business get a contract and then hire the integrator as a subcontractor.

"If you have a small business [that's] capable of taking the lead, sometimes there are procurements set aside for small firms," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. The prime contractor "might let them take the lead if they feel it's a good thing to do."

Analysts say the trend stems from the government's increased emphasis on awarding contracts to small businesses.

"If the agency is going to set aside work for a small business, the small business will be in the forefront of that procurement," said Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, an industry organization in Arlington, Va., focused on the government services market.

But company officials are quick to say that they don't select small businesses just to be able to win a set-aside contract.

"We're not going to put [a company] on a team just for the sake of putting them on the team," said Todd Stottlemyer, chief executive officer of Apogen Technologies, an IT services company based in Springfield, Va. "In this business, not executing is absolutely the worst thing you can do."

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