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.