Less Stress, Complex Questions

So, you have organized all your materials — resumes; financial statements; proof of ethnicity, gender and citizenship; organizing documents and agreements; contracts, bank signature card; etc., etc., etc. — and you’re ready to begin. But wait, what do these questions really mean? Some of the questions can be quite complex, compounding answers to previous questions that can really amp up the stress level. Make sure you understand the questions before you answer them.

The very first question on most state forms is a compound question: “Is your firm currently certified as a DBE?” By the way, DBE means Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. If you answer yes, you’ll need to supply the name of the certifying agency. The third part of the question wants to know “Has your firm’s state UCP conducted an on-site visit?” This can be confusing if:

  • You don’t know that UCP means Unified Certification Program;
  • You haven’t been certified by your state’s UCP;
  • Maybe you’re in Pennsylvania and you are certified by the state’s Department of General Services, which is not part of the UCP program;
  • Your DBE certification is issued as part of the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) development program.

It is simple. If you are UCP certified, you can provide the date of the on-site visit. Otherwise, don’t answer this question. If you don’t know much about the on-site visit, check out our 2010 post on the subject.

Another example: “Identify any current business relationships with any firm identified in 14A, 14B, or 14C, including any affiliates or subsidiaries, involving shared space, equipment, or employees.” refers to questions already answered. 14A asked if any owner or management official has an ownership interest in any other business; while 14B asks if any owner or management official is employed by any other business; and, 14C asks if any owner or management official has been an employee of another business within the last two years.

  • So, if you have answered yes to any one or more of these three questions, the certifying agency wants to determine what, if any, business relationship exists between your company and the other business(es). If there is a relationship, enter the name of the other business and a brief description of this relationship.
  • If you answered yes to any of these three questions, but have no relationship between the businesses, make sure you answer with “NONE”. Why? So the agency reviewer doesn’t have to guess — or hold up your application until s/he can ask, in writing, for an explantion, in writing, from you.
  • If you didn’t have a yes answer to any of the three questions, you can skip this one.

When in doubt, don’t try to interpret. Pick up the phone, or email account, and ask! The phrasing on one question has always bothered me. It is the one that asks you to list the three largest active jobs on which your firm is currently working, but wants you to list them by the Name of Prime Contractor and Project Number. Each time I find myself calling or emailing to say, our three largest active jobs are for direct clients — how would you like us to complete your form?

Next time, stress reduction by paying attention to minute detail, also known as proof-reading and nit-picking.