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The benefits of certifying your business

The market for small businesses is more competitive than ever, which can make things especially difficult for business owners who face added struggles because of their gender, economic status, disability, or location. A business certification is one key way to use your differences to your advantage. Companies with specific business certifications can receive additional — and often exclusive — business opportunities, as well as several other benefits.

What is a business certification?

There are two categories of certifications: those from government agencies, and private sector organizations. Both types of certifications promote growth for business owners in underrepresented groups.

Government branches and private companies both set aside a certain amount of contracts for businesses with these certifications to ensure supplier diversity. Meaning, these organizations want to be sure that the outside contractors they use are a diverse group of people. The rule of thumb to qualify for both types of certifications is your business must be at least 51% owned or controlled by one or more underrepresented individuals who are US citizens, varying based on the type of certification.

  • Government certifications
    A variety of certifications are available through the Small Business Administration (SBA), a government branch that provides support to small businesses. The SBA's certifications are part of a contracting program that helps small businesses compete for federal contracts. Their goal? Disbursing 23% of federal contracting dollars among small businesses every year. This way, not all government contracts go to large corporations. Businesses must qualify as a small business (according to the SBA's size standards) to receive any of these federal contracts.
  • Private certifications
    These certifications help businesses gain visibility while offering a community of fellow certified business owners. Access to contracts from large private corporations is an added perk to private certifications. It is the chance to market yourself to a different type of client.

Why should your business get certified?

Certifying your business doesn't happen overnight — but it's worth the time investment. Intimidated by the lengthy process, small business owners tend to overlook the opportunities that become available through certification. But if you are a business owner who belongs to an underrepresented group, you absolutely should find out if you are eligible for certification.

Benefits to certifying your business:
  • Reserved contracts with the government and large corporations is the benefit that attracts most businesses. It is the chance to compete with established companies for larger contracts. Without certification, many of these businesses would not have the chance to bid on these contracts.
  • Boost your company's visibility. Your company's information is listed in a public database at no cost when you become certified. Prime agencies often peruse this list, looking for potential contractors and partners.
  • Build your credibility. Certified businesses receive authorization to use their certification on websites, business correspondences, and emails.
  • Eligibility for financial assistance, like low-interest loans and grants, may become available to you depending on the certification you receive.
  • Access to business counseling, development and mentorship programs, and the chance to attend private networking events.

There are scores of certifications available with various added benefits. Don't be deterred by the work that goes into applying for the certification. Once the process is over, you have a tool in your back pocket to compete with larger, more established companies for better, higher paying clients.

Watch our fireside chat with Elizabeth Vazquez, CEO and Co-founder of WEConnect, to hear about the benefits of certifying your business as a diverse-owned enterprise. Elizabeth walks us through the process and the business case for supplier diversity and inclusion inside and outside of the US. You can view some of our other virtual chats here.

This week's #B2BTuesday Tip:

Establish a relationship with your local SBA to receive advice and direction throughout the business certification application process.

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