Mandated Spend – What’s That Mean?

SDMWVLGBTBEs (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) hear a lot about mandated diversity goals. But that word, mandate, can be used in multiple ways.

A large corporation may have its own internal mandates that are not relevant to any specific job or project.  These mandates, or goals, exist because the business is sensitive to its corporate social responsibility.  On the other hand, if the corporation has contracts with state or federal government agencies, they may be required to meet certain diversity spend goals in conjunction with a particular effort.

If your client is a state agency, or you are subcontracting on a state project you may know that some jobs have state mandated participation goals (e.g. NY 30% MWBE on all contracts).  And, some jobs may have state DOT mandated participation, meaning the work has to be supported by DOT certified DBEs (this also includes the UCP programs in most states). And, some corporate contracts will have federal spending goals because there are federal funds associated with the project.

All federal contracts have diversity spend goals, see chart below.  And the feds ask their primes to help meet those goals in the prime’s spend (which is how we get to accounting for and reporting on tiered spend goals). The US government has annual diversity spend goals:

    • 23 percent small business (gender & race neutral)
    • 5 percent small disadvantaged business (minority)
    • 5 percent small woman-owned business
    • 3 percent HUBZone small businesses (SBA program)
    • 3 percent service-disabled veteran-owned businesses

Many SDMWVLGBTBEs are interested in the SBA’s 8(a) certification.  But, don’t be confused, 8(a) is NOT a mandate. 8(a) is a business development program that agencies can use for set-aside work.  This means that a federal agency can say only 8(a) companies are allowed to bid on certain procurements.  Large corporations can’t be an 8(a) company, so you won’t be competing with say Northrup Grumman or IBM on an 8(a) request.  This set-aside privilege also includes HUBZone and Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs. The US Department of Veterans Affairs will also do set-aside work for veteran- and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.

As a SDMWVLGBTE business, it is important for us to understand the importance of our client’s supplier diversity program, how it works and demonstrate to them why our superior goods and services will support their mission. And, by the way, help them meet their supplier diversity goals.

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Notes on Supplier Diversity

So, we read a post on LinkedIn the other day and just can’t get it out of our heads. The reason is because this is a bigger issue than our colleague Tammy Davis, CEO at NexLevel, wrote.

She’s not wrong in her characterization of some supplier diversity professionals (SDP). Like us, they are imperfect humans doing the best they can at any given moment in time. And, the moment in time is our point today — particularly with regards to supplier diversity events. Even the smaller, local events draw hundreds of SDMWVLGBTBE (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) owners who are targeting a few dozen SDPs. Even the best organized event is filled with distraction, bright lights, noises and people, so many people.

  • Will our ten minute one-on-one meeting with an SDP be the first, fall in the middle or be the last of the day?
  • How many people want this person’s attention today, right now?
  • What kind of day is s/he having?
  • Did s/he have any say in choosing who to meet with or was the match made by someone else?
  • Is our commodity or service one their business has an interest in, ever? Is s/he familiar with how what we sell is purchased by their company?
  • Do we all blur together in his or her mind at the end of the event, or did we do something memorable that made us stand out?

We could tell a few stories about some SDPs but that’s not our point. None of us expects to close a sale with every contact we make. It seems unrealistic to expect SDPs to champion each of us. The matchmakers are akin to speed dating. An introduction, your best elevator pitch, a little Q&A and a thank you on exit.

Sometimes, the follow up afterwards can be problematic. The SDP might not have buy-in from all sectors of the company, so even if they have need for your product or service, the buyer with authority might not care if it is procured from a diverse supplier. Other times, the need isn’t current, and the SDP  might suggest reaching out again months or even years (given the contract length) later. One SDP we know gets 75 to 100 blind approach emails a day (average 87 or 437 a week and over 22,750 per year), not to mention voice mail messages. So, even if s/he vividly remembers you it could simply be that among all of the requests that s/he receives yours gets lost in the shuffle — or accidentally filtered to a spam, junk or clutter folder. Lack of returned response is not necessarily a total lack of interest.

If an SDP tells you about a person to connect with in their organization, don’t always expect them to make that introduction. Over and above all the diverse suppliers asking for a piece of the SDP’s time, s/he is juggling their other job duties, supporting internal requests, attending meetings, traveling on business, filing reports or conducting research. Instead of waiting around for those introductions take the initiative. Make note of the person mentioned and research him or her. When you reach out directly, copy the SDP and tell the contact that the SDP suggested there might be a synergy.

The one thing we know works is personal persistence. Connecting with a supplier diversity professional on a personal level over a sustained period of time will get you noticed and remembered. If you are members of a third party certifier, go to the events. These organizations are non-profits and always in need of volunteers, giving a little of your time and expertise is a good way to be noticed in the community of partnering SDPs. Volunteering in general can facilitate relationships with target customers with cultures of corporate responsibility. As Bob Burg said: “Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.” We need to make a difference in our communities and who you serve/advocate/volunteer for may be as important as what you sell.

Beyond all that it must be remembered that while SDPs want to facilitate the use of diverse suppliers, their priority is to do so in a manner that is in the best interest of their company. If the company is happy with their current X provider and there is no inherent difference (quality or price) between the X you provide, it is unrealistic to expect a corporation to do business with you just because you’re a diverse supplier. It is NOT unrealistic to ask for referrals to other SDPs. They all know each other.

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Meet the 3rd Party Certifiers

New businesses open every day and we know entering the diverse supplier landscape can be confusing with all those acronyms flying around for the types of certifications available (DOBE, MBE, WBE, etc.) and certifiers (NGLCC, NVBDC, USPAACC, etc.) who offer them. Today we’re re-introducing the 3rd party certifiers (which means these certifiers are not a state or federal agency):

ABE (Asian [American] Business Enterprise)

USPAACC: US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce, a 3rd party certifier of Asian American (heritage includes China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Mongolia) owned businesses. A business must be 51% owned, managed, and operated by Asian American(s) or Asian legal permanent resident(s).

Upcoming Events

DOBE (Disable Owned Business Enterprise)

Disability:IN (formerly USBLN) the 3rd party certifier for People with Disability or Disabled owned businesses. A person with disability owner (or owners) must own, operate, and control at least 51% of a US-based business to be eligible for certification; and be a United States citizen or permanent legal resident. They also offer a Service Disabled Veteran certification status.

Upcoming Events

LGBTBE (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgendered Business Enterprise)

NGLCC: National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the 3rd party certifier of LGBT businesses. An LGBT business owner (or owners) must own, operate, and control at least 51% of a US-based business and be a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident(s) to be eligible for certification.

Upcoming Events

MBE (Minority Business Enterprise)

NMSDC: National Minority Supplier Development Council, the 3rd party certifier, that certifies minority (for their certifying purpose NMSDC defines minority as Asian, Black, Hispanic and/or Native American business owner that is “at least 1/4 or 25% minimum” of one of these categories) business. A minority business owner (or owners) must own, operate, and control at least 51% of a US-based business and be a United States citizen to be eligible for certification. Their Global-Link International Program works to connect historically-excluded populations with corporate purchasing entities in other countries (Canada, China, UK, etc.).

Upcoming Events

VBE/SDVBE (Veteran or Service Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise)

NaVOBA: National Veteran Owned Business Association, a 3rd party certifier of veteran and service disabled owned businesses. A Veteran or Service-Disabled Veteran business owner (or owners) must own, operate, and control at least 51% a US-based business to be eligible for certification.

Upcoming Events

  • Veteran’s Edge. When: February 28th – March 3rd. Where: Dallas, TX.
  • ROAR EMSDC. When: March 19th. Where: Pittsburgh, PA.
  • VETS 2019. When: May 29th-31st. Where: San Antonio, TX.

NVBDC: National Veteran Business Development Council, a 3rd party certifier of Veteran and Service-Disabled owned businesses. Named by the Billion Dollar Roundtable as their certification organization of preference for VBEs and SDVBEs. A Veteran or Service-Disabled Veteran business owner (or owners) must own, operate, and control at least 51% a US-based business to be eligible for certification.

Upcoming Events

  • NVBDC holds 3 matchmaking events and a golf outing each year. The 2019 schedule has not been posted yet.

WBE (Woman Business Enterprise)

NWBOC: National Women Business Owners Corporation, a 3rd party certifier that certifies women businesses and a SBA-approved certifier for the WOSB program for both WOSB and EDWOSB status. A woman business owner (or owners) must own, operate, and control at least 51% a US-based business to be eligible for certification; and be a United States citizen or permanent legal resident. Also, the business has to have been in operation for at least six months and have customers/clients. NWBOC also offers MBE and VBE certification.

USWCC: US Women’s Chamber of Commerce, 3rd party certifier of women owned businesses offering WBE and International WBE certification and is a SBA-approved certifier for the WOSB program for both WOSB and EDWOSB status. A woman business owner (or owners) must own, operate, and control at least 51% a US-based business to be eligible for certification; and be a United States citizen.

Upcoming Events

WBENC: Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, the largest 3rd party certifier that certifies women businesses and a SBA-approved certifier for the WOSB program for WOSB status only. A woman business owner (or owners) must own, operate, and control at least 51% a US-based business to be eligible for certification; and be a United States citizen or permanent legal resident. WBENC is affiliated with WEConnect International who certifies women-owned businesses internationally including: Canada, China, Europe, and India.

Upcoming Events

Note: While United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is not a certifier, they do hold an annual conference: USHCC Conference. Taking place in Los Angeles, CA this year from September 30th – October 2nd.

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Navigating NAICS

NAICS (the North American Industry Classification System) codes, pronounced “NAKES” can have a profound impact on SDMWVLGBTBEs (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprises) for a bunch of reasons.

NAICS is a shorthand description of your business’s good and services used by many of the US certifying agencies. There have been previous versions of this codes system (1997, 2002, 2007, 2012 and in our olden days it was called SIC for standard industry code), but the most recent version is the 2017 codes and what they mean can be found on the US Census website.  You can enter keywords about your business’s services to determine what the associated code might be.  For our example, we decided everyone has probably visited a “food truck” which got zero results.  “Restaurant” delivered 25 options and “food” a whopping 139 where we found NAICS 722330 Mobile Food Services: This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in preparing and serving meals and snacks for immediate consumption from motorized vehicles or non-motorized carts. The establishment is … primarily engaged in providing food services from vehicles, such as hot dog carts and ice cream trucks.

We often suggest that SDMWVLGBTEs find all of the NAICS codes that might be related to their goods and services.  Order them by the best fit/description of every day offerings to less offered items.  The best one is likely to be the primary NAICS codes, but there may be some really close runners up.   For our business we have three top codes:

  • 541511 Computer software analysis and design services – engaged in writing, modifying, testing, and supporting software to meet the needs of a particular customer.
  • 541512 Computer software consulting services or consultants – engaged in planning and designing computer systems that integrate computer hardware, software, and communication technologies.
  • 611420 Computer Training  –  engaged in conducting computer training (except computer repair), such as computer programming, software packages, computerized business systems, computer electronics technology, computer operations, and local area network management.

It seems clear that these codes overlap, and our other four are subsidiary but related to these services.

The bunch of reasons we mentioned? Most certifiers will want you to be able to prove that your business and its diverse owners are capable of delivering the goods or services associated with your NAICS codes.  Sometimes, this can be a subjective area for discussion.  Do the owners of a traffic flagging business have to go out and flag cars in a construction zone? Depends on the certifier, but the owner(s) better be versed in the practice of providing the flagging services, be able to hire and manage flaggers, own the equipment used by the flaggers and the business needs to be able to deliver those services in a timely and professional manner.

Customers, especially government agencies or large corporations, are likely to release requests for proposals or invitations to bid by NAICS codes and key words.  If you follow some FedBizOps requests for information or sources sought, you may have noticed language like “The proposed NAICS for this effort is 541612 (size standard $15M) Human Resources Consulting Services. Comments on this NAICS and suggestions for alternative codes must include supporting rationale.”  This particular information sought request was for a software system.  We ended up suggesting a few alternatives. While Human Resources Consulting makes sense given the subject matter of this notice, we would recommend inclusion of codes for software and system development given DHRA’s desire for a web-based EEOC Complaint Case Management System. These might include: 541611 Records Management; 541511 Software analysis and design services, custom computer; 541512 Computer systems integrator services; 541519 Software installation services, computer; or 518210 Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services. This approach will give them a broader base of potential responders with excellent solutions.

NAICS seem to be getting a little more fluid.  Every edition has changes to or expanded descriptions, or new numbers with new or similar descriptions. When new codes are released you’ll want to review the NAICS web site to reconfirm to you existing codes, look for additional applicable codes, or if you have a new product or service to find the appropriate code.

That said, requesting a new code from a certifier can be difficult, particularly if the product or service is significantly different from your traditional offerings. We always recommend that SDMWVLGBTBEs request any and all codes they believe applicable with their initial application. The certifier may ask why a particular NAICS was selected then determine, based on your explanation, whether or not to include that code as a part of your certification.

Your certification letter or certificate lists all NAICS the certifier has approved.  Be sure to verify your codes when you get the certificate.  We know of an instance when a state agency changed a SDMWVLGBTBE’s code to 561320 Labor (except farm) contractors (i.e. personnel suppliers) when his actually requested code was 54512 Computer software consulting services or consultants.  Getting it fixed was harder than getting certified in the first place!

Know your codes – you’ll never know when they may be requested. And to make it easier for potential customers list your NAICS on your web site and capabilities statement.

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Practicing Patience

So we’re all entrepreneurs here, right? SDMWVLGBTBE (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) owner(s), certified or on the path to certification or interested in the topic. We write and talk about supplier diversity professionals and certifying organizations, but it occurs to us that we haven’t talked much about the analysts and certifier staff members.  As entrepreneurs we often get to make up our own organizational policies, processes and  procedures as and when we wish … and then, the people who work in our businesses have to follow them.  Sometimes, because we are used to having so much control, we forget that others simply don’t. Patience is a key skill we’ll need to practice when seeking diversity certification, because it is a complicated process with mandated compliance requirements.  The mandates may differ slightly between certifiers, but the similarities far outweigh those differences.

Another major similarity is that certifiers are not-for-profit organizations.  Unlike we business owners, who must be organized as for profit for virtually every diversity certification, certifiers are either government agencies or non-profits. And, most of these certifiers are backlogged with hundreds of pending applications and annual updates.

We know the effort that goes into preparing just one application, our own business is certified by 26 states, two cities and two non-profit agencies and has helped many companies on their own paths to certification. The actual application is 8 or 9 pages of questions about the owner, the business, its history including references, banking relationships, employees, equipment, etc. If a disadvantaged (DBE) certification is being sought, there’s three more pages of personal net worth data to be collected.  Finally, a stack of supporting documents and an affidavit complete the application.  Conservatively, that’s likely to be about 200 pages for the certification analyst to review.  For a 36 year old company like ours, its about a ream of paper (500 pages).

As time consuming as the process is for the SDMWVLGBTBE company, the information you’re providing isn’t new to you.  Patience is required now, there is no reason to expect a fast turnaround.  You know your business. The certification analyst doesn’t. S/he starts at the equivalent of page one with the name of the business and reads the entire application, cross-referencing with the documents to ensure that the business is truly owned, controlled and governed by its SDMWVLGBT owner(s).  During this review, the analyst may have a question or two.  You’ll be notified of the question and given a specific period of time to respond.  And, the certifier expects that SDMWVLGBT owner(s) will comply, if not cheerfully at least politely.

Once all the questions have been answered, the documents accounted for and reviewed, the site visit will be scheduled. If the certification sought is DBE (disadvantaged business enterprise) through a state government — Department of Transportation (DOT) or Unified Certification Program (UCP), etc. — the visit will likely be conducted by a government employee. And, s/he likely has a backlog of applications and visits.  If you are pursuing a third party certificate there may be volunteers involved serving on committees or other steps in the process, possibly even the site visit.  No matter which certifier you have chosen,  it may take several months between the time your application is submitted and the initial site visit.

As entrepreneurs, most of us are accustomed to demanding clients who expect immediate results and we jump through hoops to deliver quick, efficient and effective goods or services. It is easy for us to become frustrated with the certification process.  Some so frustrated that they don’t finish the application:  many overwhelmed by the sheer amount of historical documents requested; others feel the need for personal financial information is too intrusive; or, view the time commitment as excessive.  It seems natural that we expect the certifiers to jump through hoops in evaluating and approving our applications.  But, in the real world, these non-profit or government certifiers are also overwhelmed.  As supplier diversity has become a driving force in corporate and government procurement, more businesses apply for certification and the certifiers, too, become backlogged by the inundation of applications and hundreds of documents to review. Certifiers are faced with incomplete applications, missing materials or questions about language in governing documents all of which require extensive communications to resolve before they can schedule the site visit.  Oh, and don’t forget these certifiers are also having to review annual affidavits from previously certified companies. Also complicating and delaying the process is site visit scheduling. So it’s really no wonder that the wheels of certification can seem to grind very slowly.  Our recommendation … buckle up buttercup and be patient, nothing worth having comes easily.

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Thoughts About Roots

We’ve talked about how Supplier Diversity has its roots in Civil Rights and Affirmative Action legislation before.  Long story short, President Johnson amended President Kennedy’s E.O. 11246, which established the Office of Federal Contract Compliance. This required companies with federal contracts to make good-faith efforts to expand employment opportunities for both women and minorities. Once large corporations were required to comply with EEOC, and the rules established as a result of legal actions taken throughout the country, supplier diversity became the next logical step. And, in fact, President Nixon used E.O. 11458 to create a federal Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE). In 1971, President Nixon issued E.O. 11625, directing federal agencies to develop comprehensive plans and specific program goals for a national Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) contracting program. Then, in 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued E.O. 12432, which directed each federal agency with substantial procurement or grant making authority to develop a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) development plan. During 1979, the agency was renamed the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The actions of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Reagan led to the formal process of identifying and vetting the credentials of businesses that claim to be owned and operated by qualified members of diverse ethnicity, veteran, women or disabled groups. The initial program was run by the U. S. Department of Transportation, which remains the primary engine of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification as it is deployed by states and U.S. territories.

Recently we’ve been intrigued by how the program started with an application of a page or two grew to eleven pages plus a ton of supporting documents. We believe, at the root of the issue, each new iteration of required proof stems from an attempt to prevent fraud.

Fraud in the program likely began immediately. DOT’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigated 89 allegations of fraud nationally between 1983 and 1988. A detailed review was conducted by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) and resulted in a fifty-eight page report to Senator Daniel P. Moynihan who was then Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources, Transportation and Infrastructure, Committee on Environment and Public Works of the US Senate in November 1988.  They closed 70 of the cases:

  • 53 were closed administratively, 21 of which resulted in actions against the contractors
  • 17 involved litigation
    • 12 convictions
    • 5 acquittals
  • $1,040,434 in restitutions

Another 90 cases were investigated in New York and Pennsylvania, with 61 cases resolved administratively by taking action against the contractors or closed due to lack of evidence. One Pennsylvania case, however, led to four convictions. Twenty-one years later, the GAO reported that ten firms received approximately $100 million from service disabled veteran owned small business (SDVOSB) contracts through fraud or abuse of the program, or both. DBE fraud can even occur over decades. In 2011, one corporate officer pled guilty to criminal charges of money laundering and conspiracy defrauding the government between 1988 and 2009. And his company paid several million dollars to settle the civil suit against it stemming from the fraud.

DOT’s Office of the Inspector General reported on its DBE fraud investigations in March 2016. DOT spends about $50 billion per year on construction programs, with 10% to DBES, or $5 billion. Between January 2011 and 2016, DOT OIG’s DBE fraud investigations resulted in:

  • Over $245 million in financial recoveries, restitution, and forfeitures
  • 425 months of incarceration
  • 1,161 months of probation and supervised release
  • 1,340 hours of community service

Two years later, in June of 2018, Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) “found that Federal agencies’ contracting officers and firms did not comply with Federal regulations for 50 of the 56 Program sole-source contracts, valued at $52.2 million. As a result, there was no assurance that these contracts were awarded to firms that were eligible to receive sole-source awards under the Program.” (emphasis, ours)

So each time we SDMWVLGBTBE (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise)  owners are asked to prove in yet another way that we do, in fact, own, operated, control and govern our businesses we can thank those who tried to cheat the system. Yes, they made it more difficult for us.  Ultimately, however, they made our vetted certifications even more legitimate.

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Profiles in Certification – OQ Point LLC

We’re back with another certification profile. As a reminder, Samantha Smith interviews potential businesses, so email us with a request to be included — and no, you don’t have to be a client.  Next up, OQ Point, LLC.

If you are considering diversity certification, you might be asking yourself: Which certification should I choose? And how many do I need? That is a question Earl Mann, president and CEO of OQ Point LLC, asked during the process. Like many small businesses, he dove in with a plan that he ultimately needed to revise. His plan changed when he learned he could apply for multiple certifications. He currently holds four— NMSDC, VOSB, UCP and the NVBDC—and plans on attaining more. I asked him to ballpark a number and he admitted, simply, as many as possible.

“Each of these certifications represent a unique market for me. Each is a door to a different market,” he says. For example, the Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) and National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC) certifications are accepted nation-wide, but may rank high or low on a corporation’s list of priorities, depending on their diversity spend goals. Being both a veteran and a minority, Mann benefits from registering with both certifications. He explains further, “It made strategic sense to cast a broad net.” Beyond that, a business could choose to get state-level certification. Mann certified with the Unified Certification Program in Washington and plans on taking a similar route with different states. With multiple certifications on state level, he has access to endless markets. “For example the state of Washington has projects that you have to be certified in the state of Washington to pursue,” he says.

When I asked him which level of certification he found more useful, he responded. “I think they all have their own value. Not sure if I would value one over the other. The advantage of State level certification is that there are multiple states.” If you are willing to put in the time and resources to get certified in multiple states, then, potentially, you have a broad web of unique contracts to draw from. According to Mann, his opportunities multiplied exponentially with each state certification.

OQ Point LLC is an IT solutions provider based in Washington, specializing in Microsoft technology and cloud products, such as AZURE. They provide Enterprise IT applications and consulting services. The name stands for the Optimal Quantitative Point, or the idea that in the array of data there is a powerful point capable of restructuring everything around it. Although IT services is a high growth market, Mann explains that his decision to get certified came down to accessibility. “I wanted to use the diversity supplier channel as a shorter path to forming relationships with large organizations.” He compares certification to a pipeline. Imagine a gridlock in New York City, people caught in a staring contest with the bumpers in front of them. If this is the modern market—cluttered, competitive, impersonal—then certification is the underground tunnel, which provides access and diverts traffic from the main street. For Mann, certification was a direct line to building the necessary relationships with larger businesses and state agencies. However, thinking back to the traffic analogy, even the underground tunnel can become a gridlock if there’s enough circulation there. It’s important to consider how certification benefits your current client list before imagining a world of untapped business. Remember to expand from within before branching out. Your current clients might be able to direct you toward a certain certification depending on their diversity spending goals. Check’s Certification Strategies for an easy-to-follow guide on best practices.

When I asked Mann what the most difficult part of the certification process was, his response was instant. “Just being organized. To quickly provide the necessary documents.” He enlisted consultation help from the team. They managed the application process, highlighted what he needed to put together, organized necessary documents, and acted as a repository for those documents. Moving forward, certification became much easier with everything he needed already in place. “The process is one hundred percent easier now that I don’t have to go through that process over and over again.”

Finally, I asked him what recommendations he might make to someone just starting the process. He responded with an interesting analogy. “Remember that certification is not guaranteed business, more like a license to hunt. You still need to market, sell, network, to be successful.” A diversity certification is, in many ways, a hunting license for business. You have been authorized, given certain access to a different market, but the game you bring home depends entirely on you.

To learn more about Mann’s business, visit the OQ Point website.

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Profiles in Certification – SourceOne Innovations, Inc.

This year we decided to do something different, profiling a SDMWVLGBTBE (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) and a specific diverse certification. Samantha Smith interviews potential businesses, so email us with a request to be included — no, you don’t have to be a client. Next up, SourceOne Innovations, Inc.

SourceOne Innovations is a business and executive coaching firm working with both innovative companies and small and diverse businesses to increase their sales, productivity and teamwork, so that they can decrease the amount of time spent on employee issues. As founder and President of SourceOne Innovations, Bill Hooker became certified with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). The NGLCC is the only national not-for-profit advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding the economic opportunities of the LGBT business community. The NGLCC also offers its corporate members a national LGBT Business Enterprise database—MyNglcc as well as an expedited process to businesses already certified with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and Disability:IN (formerly the USBLN). One challenge Hooker discovered during the certification process was the effort in proving not only the legitimacy of his business but that of his identity as well. He was required to provide a witness of sorts, who could confirm his identification as a gay man. This is meant to prevent fraudulent non-diverse businesses from swooping in and taking the opportunities set aside for minorities.

Now that SourceOne Innovations is fully developed and certified, he is able to refer his clients to various diversity-certifying organizations. That’s where his alliance with GetDiversityCertified begins.

“We found one another while waiting in line somewhere,” he says. An off-chance encounter that has proved to be helpful when it comes to helping his clients through the certification process. “I often have clients who need to get certified with states or need to get certified with third-party agencies and they don’t know how to do it, so I’m often asked to help them get certified.” His alliance with GetDiversityCertified allows him to refer these businesses elsewhere, freeing him to help them in different ways. “My time is better spent doing other things,” he explains. He consults with businesses to implement training programs, secure stakeholder buy-in, and identify areas for skill development. However, he was glad to certify his business with NGLCC. Since many of his clients are diverse-owned small businesses, it is encouraging for them to know that they’re placing their trust and time in the hands of another diverse small business.

When asked how diversity certification should be viewed by the business, whether as a marketing tool or a provider of community and support, his response was automatic. “I think both, absolutely.”  Certification best serves you as the one opening the door to certain opportunities, whether that be access to national conferences, supplier diversity initiatives, or, simply, a seat at the table. While most agree that certification will not solve a faulty business plan or smooth-out a poor financial situation, it can help level the playing field for those hoping to expand their business. He continues, “[Certification is] a way to drive generational wealth amongst the underrepresented and under-served communities—that very much what supplier diversity should do. It should give diverse and small businesses the fair access to what we refer to as the buying table.”

To learn more about Hooker’s business, visit the SourceOne Innovations, Inc. web site.

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Spotlight on NaVOBA

National Veteran Owned Business Association’s (NaVOBA) mission is to create corporate contracting opportunities for America’s Veteran’s and Service-Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises (VBEs/SDVBEs) through certification, advocacy, outreach, recognition and education.  Since 2007 NaVOBA has worked with more than 135 of the world’s largest corporations that engage with veteran-owned businesses.

NaVOBA is a 3rd party certifier of Veteran and Service-Disabled Veteran businesses. To be eligible for certification a veteran(s) or service-disabled veteran(s) MUST owned, operated and controlled at least 51% of the the business.

NaVOBA’s certification fee depends on a business’s gross annual sales. For sales under a million the fee is $350. On the max end ($50 million+ in sales) the fee is $2,000. A full fee schedule can be found HERE.

Beyond certification, NaVOBA offers it’s certified businesses networking and educational opportunities, along with access to their corporate sponsors who include: FedEx, Lockheed Martin, Hilton Worldwide, Northrop Grumman, AFLAC, Google and Pitney Bowes to name a few. A full listing can be found HERE.

This past February, NaVOBA participated in the first Veteran EDGE conference in Austin, TX — which was dedicated to veteran and military spouse business owners — providing them with the opportunity to network, learn about best practices, and available resources. In June, NaVOBA was in attendance at VETS2018 an entrepreneur training and business development symposium in Williamsburg, VA created by veterans for veterans and included a golf classic, educational breakout sessions, 1-on-1 matchmaking, and an exhibition hall. Also in June, in association with JPMorgan Chase & Co, NaVOBA hosted their Woman Veteran Business Enterprise of the Year Reception.

Previous certifier spotlights:

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Profiles in Certification – Bill Evans

We’re back profiling another SDMWVLGBTBE (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) — this time speaking with a business that holds multiple certifications, though the conversation focused on their Disability Owned Business Enterprise status.  Samantha Smith interviews potential businesses, so email us with a request to be included — no, you don’t have to be a client.

Up this month, Bill Evans, the founder of Current Staffing Solutions, LLC, a DOBE (Disability Owned Business Enterprise) and MBE (Minority Business Enterprise).  We asked him to give an elevator pitch about his business and its origins. Current Staffing Solutions is an industry leader in client partnering relationships, specializing in recruitment and difficult-to-fill positions. He tries to place people with disabilities when he can and is a member of CTBLN (Connecticut Business Leadership Network), a coalition of 250 businesses who strive to connect people with disabilities. Current Staffing Solutions prides itself on diversity inclusion and has received multiple nominations and awards for excellence and growth from clients and industry organizations.

Where did it begin for him? Evans laughs, “Well, that story is a little longer than an elevator pitch.”  He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 10 years ago. At around age 38, his hands started shaking and other symptoms followed. Of the 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he is among the 10-20 percent diagnosed under the age of fifty.

During the economic downturn, he found himself looking for a job and decided to create Current Staffing Solutions. While cold calling a Comcast representative, it somehow came up that Evans had Parkinson’s. Comcast suggested that he get certified through the USBLN and become one of their vendors through the supplier diversity program. Since then, Evans has experienced exponential client growth, working with several Fortune 500 Companies such as Comcast, The Hartford, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. He knows he wouldn’t have been able to land these businesses as his clients if he’d gone any other route. “We’re too small of a business.” And the market is competitive. The DOBE sets him a part.

The USBLN (US Business Leadership Network) unites business around disability inclusion in the workplace. USBLN has more than 130 corporate partners and represents over 5,000 businesses. They are considered a bridge between businesses and people with disabilities. People with disabilities are among the largest minority group. Evans continues, “Disability doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what church you go to. It can happen to you at any time.”

The most difficult part of the certification process for him? “It did take several months,” he admits. “The process was similar to getting incorporated in the first place.” To anyone considering certification, he recommends being diligent, and quick. One of the tasks he was asked to complete was providing a doctor’s note, proving his disability.

When asked how businesses should view diversity certification, he said, “as a business tool or a source of community. Certification should be part of who you are.  As part of a greater presentation as to what you and your company represent.” As diversity certification becomes more popular, there are a variety of people with different intentions and goals. Some people get diversity certified as a route to build their businesses and then feel entitled to a flood of new clients. For Evans, it has never worked that way. “The more you put into it the more you get out of it.” He works within his community to better the circumstances around him. He recites a quote by Zig Ziglar, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

To learn more about Bill Evans and his services, please visit Current Staffing. And check out the USBLN’s national conference next week.

Our parent company, Abator, is proud to be a USBLN DOBE.

ETA: During the national conference USBLN was rebranded as Disability:IN.

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