The short answer for most SDMWVLGBTQBE (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered or Queer Business Enterprise) owners is that a client, or potential client, suggested it to them. We get calls from many of these owners wondering what a diversity certification is and how it can help them. Basically, the certificate is a marketing tool that can help a diverse business grow. But, before we explore the how, it is important to examine the why.
Chances are, the recommendation to get certified came from someone in purchasing or supplier diversity at a company or government agency that you want to do business with. The person or the targeted customer can have many reasons for asking you about certification. If your target isn’t a government agency, chances are that the business has a commitment to diversity goals, or it has contracts with others that do. CVM Solutions surveys a large cohort of businesses annually, providing a report of the state of supplier diversity. Respondents are asked about what drives their organization’s diversity programs. In 2019, the top three answers were: customer requirements; social responsibility; and, corporate culture/workplace diversity and inclusion (D&I).
If you think about the term customer requirements from your targeted customer’s perspective, it could mean one of two things. Perhaps the target’s contracts with clients require it to meet certain goals in diversity contracting. On the other hand, if your target sells directly to consumers, it may want to demonstrate the multicultural nature of its suppliers to its community of customers.
Social responsibility has become significantly more important the last few years, as we lean toward more responsible use of resources with an eye to sustainability complemented by the recover, recycle, reuse model. Part of that social responsibility is to mirror the communities of people that businesses serve … the consumers of its good and services. Reflecting those community constituents has become a mainstay in both corporate culture and the workplace D&I efforts.
When a targeted customer asks about diversity certification, we recommend you try explore the topic a little further. Ask the requester which certifications the organization accepts and if they might recommend one specific to your type of business. It might be a good time to ask if they’re seeking certified suppliers for your line of products, or when the next contract for your services might come out for bid. If this is the first time a potential client has mentioned certification, you might want to check with your current customers or trusted advisors to see what they think of the suggestion. Talk with certified business owners that you’ve met when out networking. Reach out to your community development organizations or local Small Business Administration offices to learn more about diversity certification. With a little bit of homework, you’ll know your firm’s answer to “why get certified?”