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Let’s work it

Posted: July 7th, 2017 | #LGBTB2B, Columns, Featured | No Comments

Do business with Pride and get certified

By Michelle Burkart | #LGBTB2B

In my article last month (online at bit.ly/2tqHK9d), you were introduced to the opportunities that have grown in the area of LGBT business enterprise (LGBTBE) certification for supplier diversity contracting. You also met some of the players like the NGLCC, CPUC, and the SBDC that are working both nationally, statewide, and locally to help LGBT business owners decide, 1) if they want to become certified; 2) how to get certified, and 3) how to be successful ongoing.

The process of becoming certified can be a confusing one especially for the sole proprietor, or smaller business owner. However, the rewards can provide new avenues of revenue producing opportunities for business growth.

Michelle Burkart

Supplier diversity is a term that is used in the procurement field, whereby companies or government agencies have a mandated spending target within their budgets to procure vendor services from minority and/or disadvantaged small businesses. It is a way to level the playing field so that procurement contracts do not just go to the larger company suppliers.

Some of the designations of minority or disadvantaged businesses are (ownership must be 51 percent) women owned, veteran owned, service-disabled veteran owned, minority owned (Hispanic, African-American, or Asian), and now LGBT owned. And LGBT is also a part of all those other minority designations as well.

There are rigorous requirements for certification so that the companies or government agencies involved in the procurement process can be assured that they are working with credible and reliable vendors who can support the contract’s execution.

The most common responses I hear from LGBT business owners is that “I’m too small to compete for government contracts,” or ” I’m a one-person show, so I don’t have time to do the certification process.”

I usually remind them that any new target market takes effort to get the selling process started, and this is just another avenue of opportunity, as well as an actual credential that will help promote your business. I also let them know that the LGBTBE program is geared more toward corporate supplier diversity contracting, which is more accessible than government agencies.

So how to begin? First you need to decide and commit that you want to explore the opportunities of the supplier diversity contracting world that are now available for LGBTBE businesses. If you do, it is approached just like any new additional revenue-generating market direction that you move your business into. In this case, follow these steps.

  1. Get your business LGBTBE certified

The first step is to get certified as an LGBT business enterprise, which has the following criteria:

  • Majority (at least 51 percent) owned, operated, managed and controlled by an LGBT person or persons who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
  • Exercises independence from any non-LGBT business enterprise.
  • Has its principal place of business (headquarters) in the United States.
  • Has been formed as a legal entity in the U.S.

Then you need to decide if you want to get certified on a national level, which is exclusively done through the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and has about 150 corporate supplier diversity partners nglcc.org. Note: Our local GSDBA is an NGLCC affiliate.

In California, we have another option through the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). This avenue is restricted to the contracts of the CPUC and its 60 affiliates, which can be found here bit.ly/2tdt4Iy. The NGLCC certification is recognized by the CPUC, but you still need to register on the CPUC clearinghouse portal. While the CPUC is not recognized nationally, you may decide your business is more local-oriented and to start on a smaller scale at first.

  1. Develop a capability statement to market your services.

After you get certified, the next step is to develop a one-page (no more than two) capability statement, which tells your supplier diversity contracting target three things: who you are; why a buyer should contract with your company; and what you have done.

In the world of contracting, the capability statement is a buyer’s first introduction to your company. It should be concise, visually appealing to your targeted audience, and give them the facts ma’am, just the facts.

Before putting this together, you will need to have a DUNS number (visit dnb.com), which is a unique, nine-digit number used to identify your business in the global marketplace. This is free for those using it for government contracting. You will also need a NAICS code, which is a number assigned to the type of product or services you provide. You can find this on the Small Business Association’s website bit.ly/2iGEy5c.

  1. Attend the free training offered

Lots of free, local training classes and support are available to help in the areas of certification, marketing/solicitation, contract accounting and customer relationship management.

The local SBDC Regional Network provides training to help you execute your new certification (sdivsbdc.org/lgbtbe-biz-builder) and has a dedicated program for LGBTBE certification. The next class at the Small Business Development Center is called, “Let’s Work It!” on July 27, which will introduce you to the different certification models. Visit bit.ly/2stYz3Q.

  1. Attend networking and matchmaking events and join local business alliance groups

The last step towards success is to network in the world of supplier diversity procurement or government contracting. Just as you networked with other businesses when you started your own business, it is important that you also attend supplier diversity and business matchmaking events and join local business organizations so you can present your marketable services to a broader audience.

The Council on Supplier Diversity and the Supplier Diversity Development Council are learning about the new LGBTBE certification mandates and are open to working with our community. There is also an LGBT Diversity Supplier Alliance Group on Facebook for networking with other LGBT certified businesses.

I recently spoke with an LGBT colleague at the SBA office in Washington, D.C. to ask if our LGBTBE program was still viable on the national level with the new administration. He assured me that the new SBA Administrator is very supportive of our LGBTBE community and she celebrated their annual LGBT employees Pride day last month.

The opportunities for us as LGBTBE certified businesses are here to stay.

Our local SBA district office and San Diego and Imperial County Regional SBDC Network is providing a Pride booth again at the festival this year, and have committed funding to help with the LGBTBE certification program and trainings. So now it is up to us. We need to take the LGBTBE mantle and do biz with Pride … get certified.

—Michelle Burkart is the SDIV SBDC network program coordinator for the LGBTBE certification program, and co-founder of the Diversity Supplier Alliance. She can be reached at mburkart@swccd.org. For more information on the SDIV LGBTBE programs, visit sdivsbdc.org/lgbtbe.

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