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Creating a Capabilities Statement

Jan 09, 2012

Last week, I was on the phone with a business owner who mentioned they were planning to attend the GRO-Biz Conference & Idea Expo next month. We were getting ready to end our call when I said, "Don't forget to bring a capabilities statement to the conference!"


The person responded, "What is that?"


"Well, it's a summary of what your business offers to meet the needs of a specific government agency, customer, or opportunity. You might think of it as an expanded business card. It conveys that you understand the language and processes of government contracting. You can provide a general capabilities statement to any of your potential federal customers when you are getting started in government contracting, but a more experienced contractor will prepare a specific capabilities statement for each agency or opportunity."


The business owner asked if I had any tips for putting one together. Although I had read various capabilities statements, I had never really found any clear and simple guidance on how to put an effective one together. Much of what I read was either pretty vague, or seemed to be directed towards really large companies. I told the person I'd find some resources for them and get back to them shortly.


I immediately sent a Skype-chat to Jeff Sneddon, a procurement specialist in our Casper office, and former CO (contracting officer), for the low-down. Our conversation went like this:

Amy Lea

So Jeff...tell me about capabilities statements. You probably received tons of them when you were a CO. Do contracting officers actually read those things?

Jeff Sneddon

Nobody actually reads a capabilities statement, it's something you glance over. If it's not brief and very easy-to-read, it's useless. I met a lot of business owners at conferences like the GRO-Biz Conference, and if someone gave me a capabilities statement, it helped me to remember what they did later on. I kept a file with capabililities statements from companies I might be interested in asking for a quote or proposal if I ever needed what they offered. The key is that is has to be very clear and very brief - a contracting officer won't dig through a capabilities statement to try to figure out what a business does.


Jeff sent me some information, and I did some research on what was out there in cyberspace, but I still didn't feel like I had a useful summary to send to my client. So, I decided to try to try to distill the research I had done and come up with some guidelines.


Just as a resume or business card might be formatted slightly differently from business to business, you can determine how best to organize the information in your capabilities statement, but it will typically include the following:

  1. Core competencies:
    Core competencies (also called “capabilities” or “core capabilities”) are the things your company does best. Differentiators (also called your “unique selling proposition” or “competitive advantage”) indicate what is special about your firm that distinguishes you from your competitors. You may also include bullet points with key personnel, special qualifications, facilities, and/or equipment, if the information is directly relevant to the agency or opportunity you are pursuing.
  2. Corporate data (also called “company data” or “business information”):
    Provide a sentence or two describing your company’s history, the size of your firm, and the geographic area you serve. Include bullet points with any of the following information that pertains to your business (Note: this list includes a number of terms and acronyms for which full definitions and explanations are beyond the scope of this article, but the PTAC team can assist you with finding any of this information for your business.):
  3. Past performance (also called “clients”):
    Provide three or four agencies or customers you have done business with, starting with those as similar to your target agency as possible. If you haven’t done other federal work, provide state or local government or commercial references.
  4. Contact information:
    If you use company letterhead with your firm’s name, logo, and general contact information as a starting point for your capabilities statement, you may not need a separate section with this information. If you don’t have company letterhead, make sure to include a section with this information. Either way, make sure that somewhere on your capabilities statement you very clearly identify the person who handles government business for your company, and provide their direct email address and phone number.


Your capabilities statement should reinforce your company’s branding, so include your company logo, and use the same fonts and colors as your web site and other marketing materials. It’s also a good idea to clearly indicate that the document is a capabilities statement by putting the words “Capabilities Statement for Business XYZ” at the top.


If you take the time to create a capabilities statement now, when you have a conversation with a federal agency representative at the GRO-Biz Conference & Idea Expo next month, you will be ready to provide it to them. This will help them remember your business the next time they are looking for the supplies, services or construction that you offer. For free and confidential one-on-one assistance with developing a capabilities statement or other aspects of government contracting, contact the Wyoming PTAC team.


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