Obtaining a Government Certification for your business can be a confusing process. Which certifications to apply for and which ones would benefit you most?
You must first identify with whom you would like to do business with? Have you seen more bids with the Federal or State Governments? Your answer may be either one or both., If so, we recommend you apply for all, however this may be time consuming and although will help you in the long run, may not be an immediate priority.
Let’s assume for a moment that you would benefit from both the Federal and State Certifications. We recommend you apply for the easiest ones first, in order to get in to the game now. This will allow you to begin working on marketing your firm as a certified agency.
Below is a list of Certifications and their complexities:
1. SBA’s Women Owned Small Business (WOSB): EASY
The WOSB is one of the easiest certifications to obtain. This is because it is a designation rather than an actual certificate. Obtaining the WOSB Certification will allow you to bid on the 5% set-asides for those businesses designated as WOSB. The process is EASY because there is not physical application process. The requirements are that you register with the various Government sites and upload documents to the repository self-certifying your firm.
2. Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE): MEDIUM
The WBE is a certification reserved for Women owned businesses only. It mimics the WOSB certification but is verified by one of 5 SBA approved agencies. This certification has a more complex process than the WOSB because it requires a full application and supporting documentation. Your information will go through a process with the agency and you wil be visited by a representative assuring your business indeed is what you represent. I typically advise our clients to obtain this certification if it is being required by a vendor. A physical certificate is issued to the applicant firm.
3. Minority Business Enterprise (MBE): MEDIUM
The MBE is a national certification given by the National Minority Supplier Development Council. They are one of the nations leading corporate membership organizations. They match a firms goods and services with those of large corporations who intern purchase your product. Think of it as a club where members help each other by purchasing each others product. This certification includes an application and supporting documentation much like the WBE above.
4. SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program: DIFFICULT
The SBA 8(a) program is the most lucrative and most difficult to achieve. There are approximately 7,000 approved 8(a) firms in the country. 23% of all Federal Contracts MUST go to 8(a) certified firms. Secondly, an 8(a) certified firm is eligible for soul source awards which means that once they have built their reputation in the program they may get contracts without even bidding against other 8(a) certified firms. Thirdly, if certified and bidding against a non-8(a) certified firm, you will get a 5% bidding preference giving you an advantage over your competitive bidder. The process may take anywhere between 3-6 months depending on how much information is requested by the SBA. For those looking for the greatest benefit, the 8(a) certification allows you to grow your business significantly.
1. Metro’s Disadvantage Business Enterprise: MEDIUM
The DBE certification is the States premier certification allowing 25% of all state set-asides to be reserved for certified firms. Most people think Metro is the subway and bus systems, but contracts are given to a variety of industries. We have seen them as diversified as ink jet suppliers and marketing. So to think that if you are a service business and don’t qualify think again. Having this certification is a big deal and if obtained will open new doors for you. The process includes an application and supporting documentation to be mailed to the certifying agency. approval can take up to 3 months.
2. Department of General Services Small Business and Disabled Veterans Certification (SB)/(DVBE): EASY
The Department of General Services serves as the business manager for the State of California. They offer two certifications, the SB and DVBE. Both are online based certifications. Typical certification time can be within a few hours or weeks depending on the type of industry. For instance, service based businesses can be certified very quickly while manufacturing companies need to upload documentation which then needs to be verified by a DGS officer. The DVBE certification is reserved for veterans who are at least 10% disabled and honorably discharged. Documents such as dd214 and discharge papers need to be uploaded.
3. Supplier Clearinghouse Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Certification: EASY
Supported by The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), which regulates privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies. The MBE certification is an online based certification which is fairly easy to do. Certification can take up to 2 weeks depending on the complexity of the applicant.