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Considering Certification as a Diverse Supplier? Ask These 5 Questions

December 1, 2021

You’ve heard of minority-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and women-owned businesses, and you have a sense of what that means, but you aren’t sure whether you should “get certified.” How do you decide if certification is right for your business? Which certification do you pursue? How long does the certification process take? Here are five things to consider if you are thinking about pursuing a certification—whether an MBE, WBE, DBE, or other designation.

Who Is Your Target Customer?

This is the first question we ask those considering certification because your answer will dictate which agency you need to get certified with. Certifications come from many places. There are governmental certifications that are typically issued by states, cities, quasi-governmental agencies, and the federal government. There are also corporate certifications issued by organizations serving the supplier diversity industry. Knowing your target customer and their needs will help determine which agency to file your first certification application.

Are You Targeting a Specific Opportunity or Is That Opportunity Targeting You?

Many times, a business owner will inquire about certification because existing or potential customers are asking them to get certified. If that’s what’s driving your certification decision, understanding your customer's needs is key to where and when to get certified.

How Long Does It Take to Get Certified? 

Are you in a hurry to get certified?  The application and review process takes anywhere from 45 to 90 days (now closer to 120 days on the high end because of the COVID-19 pandemic) from document collection to submission. The time-consuming part is getting the documents ready for the application because most certification agencies want information about your company from the first day you opened its doors., It takes time to track those documents down, and even the most eager client still spends 30 to 45 days pulling those documents together. Be prepared to be diligent and patient.

What’s My Budget for Certification?

Some certifying agencies charge an application fee, while others don’t. Many clients find the certification process complicated and overwhelming and hire outside help to navigate it. Not understanding the application pitfalls can lead to increased costs and, in some cases, an application denial by the certifying agency.  Knowing your budget and understanding the certification requirements will help save costs in your first application and any others you pursue later.

How Much Compliance Work Do I Want?

Once businesses get certified with one agency, they usually start looking at other certification options. This desire for additional certifications is often due to a growth in business that leads to a broader customer base and a slew of new opportunities. There’s no limit on how many certifications you can have, but with each one, there are compliance requirements. Understanding your appetite for compliance work is another pivotal factor to consider when deciding to get certified.

Are you ready to get certified or have additional questions about the certification process? Please contact Paula Finch or Dee Harleston in Greensfelder’s Business Services group. 

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