Preparing the application for SDMWVBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Minority, Women or Veteran Business Enterprise) certification can be pretty stressful for a variety of reasons. We live and breathe our businesses first. Certification is a tool that we use to serve our customers and expand our markets. But, in a process that seems alien and out of our hands, stress can build as we respond to lists of questions and demands for documents. It really doesn’t help us to rant and rave about what we might perceive as confusing red tape. I mean, how many times is that mid-west state going to ask me for a copy of my original articles of incorporation? Every three years until their organization realizes how many copies of these documents they are storing for all their long-term certified businesses, I mentally guess as I quietly print and ship the eighth consecutive one.
Back in March, before we lost server connectivity, we looked at ways to organize documentation and complex questions as opportunities to reduce your stress during the certification process. Proof reading may be more passive but it is an especially important activity in reducing your certification stress.
I can’t, for the life of me, proof read my own material. If I wrote it, when I re-read it I see what I think I wrote, not what is actually on the page. When the business was brand new, our printing company typeset our letterhead improperly. We were so intent on choosing the right quality paper, getting the perfect ink color and making sure the first word was spelled correctly that no one noticed he’d replace Services with Systems. It was pretty embarrassing to us all when it was finally discovered. Just recently lack of accurate proof reading caused problems again. Not just once, but twice! For one particular state, before we can apply for our WBE certification, we are required to register as a foreign corporation with their Secretary of State’s office and provide our certificate of good standing from Pennsylvania’s Department of Corporations. In December, we filled out the form and sent in our money. In January it came back, with directions to correct the name of the company on the application so that it matched the Pennsylvania certificate. I delegate, we returned the materials and they came back again in February. We had left the “, Inc.” off the form. We’ve lost three months, maybe four, because I didn’t carefully proof read the completed form. You know I had three other sets of eyes check it before the package went back to the post office. In this instance, I would have saved myself — and the colleagues in my office – a great deal of self-induced stress.
Number dyslexia plagues our office. And, for me, numbers are even harder to proof-read than words. However, there are a lot of numbers on a certification application: addresses, phone numbers, sales figures, zip codes and net worth. Transposing a phone number can lead to lost contact, lost sales or lost certification. And, having correct net worth numbers is critical when you are seeking disadvantaged business status. You can’t even limit proof reading to your own materials. A customer had to point out that our D&B report was showing a negative balance sheet – even large financial companies can make data entry errors that impact your business.
So, when your package is complete, take the time to proof read before you send it off to the certifying agency. If you can have a set of fresh eyes look it over, take advantage of the opportunity, especially if it is someone who is not familiar with your business. Not only will errors seem to leap off the page, but this person’s questions about what you’ve written or attached may help you clarify your application and fix minor errors before the certifier begins its review.
A well proofed package can help minimize the number of issues the certifier has to clarify with you during the review process and may help reduce the amount of time it takes to process your certification application. Less time, faster certification, less stress!