2020 saw certifiers take the site visit virtual, but the purpose of a site visit remains the same. The certifier uses the site visit to verify the information you provided in the certification application and clarify any outstanding issues they might have found when the application was reviewed. Or in other words, they’re ensuring that the diverse owner’s control and governance of the business goes beyond the paperwork provided. The owner must demonstrate that s/he has the knowledge and means to run the business without the assistance or interference of any non-diverse owners … not just be the majority owners (at least 51%) of the business.
We’ve counseled numerous nervous business owners not to stress over the site visit – as long as you’ve provided accurate information in your application there is nothing to be concerned about. It is a conversation, most often a friendly one, as our experience with over 25+ certifications has taught us. At its core, the site visit is a “get to know you session,” an opportunity for the certifier to gain an understanding of the business and its owner(s) first hand.
During your site visit you might be asked to answer questions about your company’s history and ownership including details about the diverse owner’s knowledge, financial contributions and supervisory control. Details about your customers or projects might be requested, along with being asked to provide copies of contracts or POs. This goes back your application, confirming that the person (or persons) listed as being able to obligate the business is the one who has been signing those documents. If you keep electronic copies of contracts, you’ll be able to share your screen, allowing the reviewer to confirm the signatories. Same goes for showing who is signing business checks – instead of someone leaning over your shoulder while you log into your online banking, the reviewer will be able to see you enter the system and pull up checks.
Prior to virtual site visits, the certifier physically came to a business – even if it was home-based – to meet with the diverse owner(s) and tour the facility. The only big difference is that instead of walking the reviewer through the facility in person, you’ll be carrying your laptop (tablet or phone) to show them … say your production line, if your company was in the manufacturing industry.
During our most recent site visit we were (and still are) in work from home mode, so we’re unable to show off our closet full of servers – aka our business’s primary equipment. Not a big deal since it was a recertification visit and the certifier had previously seen our facility. For new certifications, if the majority of your office work is being done from home, but you have business critical equipment at your office; plan to conduct your virtual site visit from the office. This will allow you to pick up your electronic device of choice and take the reviewer through the facility to confirm that the business has the tools needed to perform its type of work. Going back to our favorite example – if you say you’re a pretzel maker, but have don’t have the ingredients to make, bake, and bag your pretzels for distribution – you’re not going to get certified.
The site visit will often include a discussion about the company’s future plans – again, the certifier wants to see that the diverse owner is steering the ship – and they might inquire on how you expect to use their certification to further your business goals.
The site visit usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour. It may take longer if the certifier has any clarifying questions to go over with you. Don’t be worried if that is the case. Of times it is clarifying a NACIS or UNSPSC code selection, or perhaps seeing someone named on your out-of-date web site in a key personnel position that wasn’t reported, or if you’re still working for another company; confirming how you split your time between that company and your business seeking certification.
Depending on the certifier you may receive your certification determination letter within hours, though more likely, days after the completion of your site visit.