The intent behind SDMWVLGBTBE (Small, Disadvantaged/Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) participation goals is to help the SDMWVLGBTBE firm mature and grow our own capacity to directly support large companies and government agencies. A New York State Comptroller’s report says the programs are “… intended to provide direct economic benefit to MWBE firms, as well as to increase the presence of these firms in the government contracting process, thereby reversing the effects of direct or passive discriminatory practices present in many aspects of government procurement.” This report goes on to declare: “Other analyses also indicate that minority- and women-owned businesses receive less than their fair share in the public contracting arena.”
The power of SDMWVLGBTBE business government listings is arguably one of our most potent marketing tools. As more agencies and commercial enterprises commit to and actually track their diversity spending, these lists are invaluable to prime and sub-contractors. Our business has been certified by a number of states since the late 1980s, and we’ve noted a marked increase in the number of calls we receive from prime vendors who are bidding contracts in which we might not otherwise be able to participate.
That said, each contact represents its own unique challenges. Our first such experience happened back in 2001. There was a Virginia-based company that was required to use a Missouri-certified WBE and we had the appropriate skill-set to complete a discrete piece of the work. We entered into a contract, but as it continued we were given very little work to do and at the end of the day, were not compensated for the final portion of the project. This particular contract did not include much in the way of oversight with regard to compliance.
Having learned by doing in that instance, we became more adept at reviewing potential bidding partnerships. Often, the conversations centered around what goods and services we would provide. When it appears certain that we were contacted to perform as a pass-through so a prime could meet mandated diversity requirements, we find ourselves declining. If the intent is to help SDMWVLGBTBE grow, then simply providing a clerical service for invoicing and collecting funds doesn’t strike us as meeting that intent. We want to actually perform a piece of the work. And, we have been successful in generating relationships with larger primes and other SDMWVLGBTBE companies.
We’re on a second project with a major engineering firm that found us on the New York Empire State Development’s WBE list. Participating in an Allegheny County project as the mandated WBE led us to a direct, prime opportunity which we fulfilled in 2014. Recently, an Illinois procurement officer called to verify that our bid was, in fact, 75% WBE and 25% VBE … we found the service disabled veteran business on, that’s right, the Illinois Business Enterprise Program’s web published list.
When we began renovating a historic store front for our new office space, the very first thing we did was visit WBENC and our state SDMWVLGBTBE listings for prospective architects, general contractors, electricians, plumbers, elevator maintenance and signage specialists because we believe we are stronger when we partner with other SDMWVLGBTBE certified businesses. If you are a certified SDMWVLGBTBE business, make sure your NAICS/SIC codes are correct and that you are listed on the certifier’s website. Many companies will reach out to you to explore whether there are opportunities to partner.
It is practically free prospecting, so why not take full advantage?