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To Certify or Not to Certify... The Value in Answering the Question


 
It can be really confusing when trying to sort out the details for bidding on government contracts and doing business with large corporations. One of the many questions, that stumps business owners is - Are you certified? Acronyms float around like 8A, RFP, RFQ, MBE, WBE, LSB, SBE, GoDBE, LOSB, and DBE. To make it even more challenging, not every government entity or corporation will accept the same type of certification. With so many different qualifications and certifying agencies, you may need some assistance. Primarily, you need to know which certifications will apply to your type of business and which ones will best benefit you in the bidding process.

As you navigate the certification process, consider the following tips to assist you in deciding whether or not you should consider certification.
  • You can hold multiple certifications – Think locally, regionally, and nationally for your certification uses and benefits. Several types of certification may suit your needs, so apply for the many types that your business will qualify under.
     
  • Access to billions in government spend for big $$$ benefits – Certification can significantly help your business gain access to new connections. You can benefit from contracts with local spend preferences, women-owned and minority business enterprise goals, and contracts with corporations looking to increase their supplier diversity and procurement spend. As well, many corporations that receive PILOTS or Payment in Lieu of Tax, may have required spend goals with minority and women owned businesses in the designated areas.
     
  • Marketing and Networking – Many certification agencies are go-to resources for corporations and government offices looking for business partners, these agencies provide database listing, forums, tradeshows, seminars, and most importantly networking opportunities and marketing tools for your business! So, if you consider the cost for certification which can range from free to $650, you also have to factor in the other invaluable services that are included at little-to-no cost. If you leverage the services, it can be a worthy investment.
     
  • Registration Paperwork – It is a process. Gather all of the required documents. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or provide additional information. From start-to-finish the process could take a couple of months before you are approved for certification. One common misconception is that because the business owner checks the box for being a–local, –small-business, –woman or –minority person, then, they are guaranteed to be approved. The government requires checks, balances, oversight, supporting documents, and actual proof. The process can seem invasive, but it offers value by providing access to contract opportunity and eliminates front and fake companies.
     
  • How Do You Know If You Are Eligible? – Requirements may vary for different certification programs, but generally, to be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:

    Your business must be 51 percent owned, managed or operated, and controlled by one or more women, minority member(s), or local business owner. You must be a U.S. citizen either by birth or naturalization. Your business must be considered a “small” business according to SBA’s size standards.  For the size standards for individual industries, look at SBA's Table of Small Business Size Standards by North American Industry Classifications Systems (NAICS). For some government and quasi-government agencies, the business must be "economically disadvantaged" and the business owner cannot exceed a personal net worth size cap as determined by specific financial requirements.
     
Research the certifications that your business can possibly qualify for, gather the necessary documents and just begin the process. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed or frustrated and don’t hesitate to get help if you need it. The benefits can prove to be profitable! For more information about certifications and applying for contracts attend the Small Business Council program launch on January 26: Doing Business in Memphis. You can register for the event here. You can also contact The MMBC Continuum’s Uniform Certification Agency at (901) 525-6512.
 
About the Author:
Jesyca Westbrook-Pettes, Esq. is Director of Member Registration for The MMBC Continuum.  In her position, she manages the Uniform Certification Agency and its five certifications for Minority, Women-Owned, Small, Local and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. Jesyca holds a law degree with a concentration in Advocacy and Dispute Resolution from the University of Tennessee College of Law in Knoxville, TN, She also earned a Bachelors of Arts in Print Journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C.
 
About The MMBC Continuum:
The MMBC Continuum is one of the Mid-South’s foremost business development organizations. The MMBC Continuum is highly respected by the corporate community as a trusted source of knowledge and expertise.  The agency also operates a MBDA Business Center as part of a national network under the U.S. Department of Commerce.  




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SMALL BUSINESS
Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

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