As you weigh strategies that could help to better market your services, you might happen upon special category certifications. In fact, some large corporations are less willing to do business with small business vendors unless a particular certification is in hand.
If a Fortune 1000 company has government contracts, it is necessary to demonstrate that business is being done with small businesses, women owned businesses and minority owned businesses. Hence, these companies need a certain percentage of their small business vendors to have a certification in one of these categories. The Fortune 1000s can then report to the feds that they are in compliance.
If your physical business address lies within an historically underutilized business (HUB) zone, then your business may qualify for set-asides in the contract bidding process. In general, HUB zones are disadvantaged areas in urban, suburban and rural locales. To find out if you can apply, go to sba.gov, click on services, then opportunity gaps and HUB zone. Type in your business address. If in a HUB zone, you can apply on line—but first ask the SBA how to get the log in password. Be prepared for a site visit at your business location by someone from the SBA about 2-3 months after you apply. It may also be necessary to hand over certain financial records. There is no fee.
To obtain 8a certification, it is necessary to officially state that you are disadvantaged economically because of your race or ethnicity. The application process is a bear. Start by calling up Dun & Bradstreet and obtaining a DUNS number. Next, look up your business specialty codes, sign up and create a business profile on the federal Central Contractor Registration ccr.gov. Then you can do the online 8a application.
At sba.gov, click on services, opportunity gaps and 8a to find good basic info that will get you started. Furthermore, SBA offers free workshops nearly every month at its district offices on what one needs to know about doing business with the government and special certifications. Preparing to do business with the feds is a Byzantine process, but government agencies will pay in 30 days and thus will not wreck your fragile cash flow.
In the application there will be much supporting data to supply and there are restrictions. As always, they want your tax returns, 2 years in this case. You must have been in business for minimum two years, you cannot have more than $250,000 in assets, you cannot be employed full time in a job outside of your business and your credit has to be good enough to finance a contract. There is no application fee.
It’s a royal pain to get this certification and of course there is no guarantee that your efforts will yield any business. You must still sell yourself to prospective clients. SBA Small Business Development Centers have on staff a Procurement Specialist who will speak with you about useful strategies to promote your business and win contracts. It’s all about relationship building and it takes time.
However, the Fortune 1000s with the government contracts, called Prime Contractors, like the 8a certification. They have forms to fill out, boxes to check. Ask SBA who the primes are in your locale, speak with the local procurement specialist and try to meet people. There are trade shows to pay for and attend so you can make contact. Also, visit fbo.gov and view available contracts.
Next week, the spotlight will be on the ladies.