Doing Business with New York CityBy Charles Tabasso
New York may be a city of 8 million stories, but at its core is a story of universal success. Because here in the city that never sleeps the hustle never stops.
It’s easy enough to see for yourself: if you can catch a New Yorker at the right moment, there’ll be that same twinkle in their eyes that lights up the skyline from the New Jersey Turnpike.
This city is the leading purveyor of office space for Fortune 500 companies. It’s also the home of the nation’s publishing industry, financial markets, and media groups. Over 2 million New Yorkers use the subway every day just to commute to work. And another million or so hitch a ride to the many landmarks and neighborhoods, which attract tourists all year round.
New York may be home to a booming economy that ranks 5th as the most entrepreneurial in the world, but all this success is reflective of the city’s foundations—its diverse and thriving businesses.
By no coincidence, New York City is also one of the largest contracting jurisdictions in the nation. Each year the city spends over $20 billion in contracting dollars on small businesses. This opens up a potential goldmine—but only if you know the ins and outs of doing business directly with the city.
But to be hip with all things NYC, you’ll need a Payee Information Portal (PIP) account for starters. The City’s Payee Information Portal is an integral tool, used in various stages of the procurement/contracting process. This will be where business owners will be able to manage their contracts, view invoices and ultimately collect payments, just to name a few of its uses.
Registering a PIP account requires general information on your company, including your business name, its tax identification number, and contact information. You will also be required to select the particular commodity codes which reflect whatever goods or services your business provides. The commodity code listing can be found here.
With your PIP account accepted and verified, you’ll want to start looking for contracting opportunities with the City Record. This website publishes announcements, solicitations, contract awards and notices for public hearings. Although it is a subscription-based platform, it’s the most common means of finding contracting opportunities for your business—but there are free options as well.
PIP would be the most useful alternative. Once your account has been activated, your business will start to receive notifications of upcoming bids and requests for proposals, as agencies are able to use PIP to send prospective vendors direct solicitations, so be sure to check on your account often.
This is also the perfect time to do some basic market research to ensure there’s a demand for your company’s products or services. Check out published contracting plans on the City Record or agency websites to get a better idea of what the City has been buying.
Also important while conducting this research is to familiarize yourself with the legal procedures involved in contracting. The Procurement Policy Board’s (PPB) web page will direct you to all the rules, amendments and transcripts you’ll need to become a real legal cognoscente. After your contract has been accepted by an agency, the City will begin negotiations for its final terms. There is a chance this will include a contract public hearing, but this is on a case-by-case basis and is a generally painless process.
Note that any vendors who have been awarded contracts valued at over $100,000 are required to complete and submit Vendor Exchange System (VENDEX) forms for the contracting entity and its principals; this information will be used by the City when they perform their responsibility review. Remember that the City is required by law to review each contract, as well as each subcontractor who might be in on the deal, so their skill set and integrity will be scrutinized.
The PPB also dictates that your business performance is legally required to be evaluated at least once a year. They use a pass or fail, “Excellent” or “Unsatisfactory” system that analyzes three criteria: the timeliness and quality of your company’s performance, along with your financial administration and accountability. These results will be sent to you for a chance to review and respond before they’re posted on VENDEX. All performance evaluations are then compiled into an annual report.
With your first contract completed, and the City’s payment tucked away in your PIP account, your business will have undergone a rite of passage. But that doesn’t mean your work is done: now is precisely when you should continue trolling agency websites and the City Record for more contracts. Leverage your past experience to make the second and third contract smoother—and hopefully more ambitious—efforts. Because now, just like the lights that outshine the stars in Times Square, when you do business with New York City, you’ll become a part of something greater.