By Michelle Burkart | #LGBTB2B
I have been working with the NGLCC on the LGBTBE certification program since 2005. It seems that no matter how far we have progressed in expanding opportunities for our LGBT business owners, I still hear the frustration in their voices when they say, “Okay, I got certified, so what now?!”
My answer to them is always three-fold:
- How do you usually market your business to a new target market?
- Can you afford to do it?
- How do you plan to follow up with your new client base?
No matter what kind of certification you have been awarded (i.e. women owned, minority owned, veteran owned, etc.) the process for rolling out the program is the same. The “Let’s Work it!” training modules that I developed for the SDIV SBDC Regional Network LGBTBE certification program address these areas in more detail, but the following is a brief introduction to how you get started.
Step one: Marketing and solicitation
In the supplier diversity procurement world, it is critical to develop a concise and targeted “capability statement.” This is the No. 1 marketing tool used to get a buyer’s attention, and lead to your company being further selected for a presentation.
So, what is it?
A capability statement is a business document, or record, of your individual and organizational competencies, achievements, associations and accreditations.
It encompasses a value proposition and a unique selling proposition and it is limited to only one to two pages to present those areas.
The solicitation process involves researching your target market to see if you want to do business with these companies, and if you have a service that they want or need.
You also need to make an honest assessment of your company and its abilities. This takes time and is often the frustrating part. You are running a business, you say, and you don’t have time for this.
My response is that you started somewhere with your other revenue streams, and probably forgot that you did this same thing before.
There are opportunities to start as a subcontractor to a company that holds the main contract, and this is often a way to start. This is called “tiered contracting,” which includes tier one (the prime contractor), tier two (subcontractor/s), and tier three (vendor/s).
After you have chosen your target solicitation market, understanding the RFP (request for proposal) process is another important component, in order for you to bid your products or services properly and succeed in the execution of the contract.
Step two: Financial assessment or contract accounting
Keep reading, as I know this is not most business owner’s strong suit or interest.
In the world of contracting and procurement, it is crucial to know your numbers. They do not lie. This will prevent you from contracting a job you cannot fulfill due to undercapitalization.
Getting your company’s financial ducks in a row before you start to participate is crucial, to avoid problems in the future. Also, understanding how to use your financial reports to bid or to manage these contracts will help to avoid cash flow issues in the future. It can also help you determine which tier would be a better starting point.
Step three: Managing your customer relationships
After you have targeted a market, or have done a few projects, or are filling that pipeline for more jobs, the question becomes how to manage all of this data. This is the last training module, which addresses not only how to promote your company as a certified business to prospective clients, but also, how to keep in touch with these clients, how to manage the follow-ups with your new supplier diversity contacts, and how to keep your customers coming back for more.
There are many customer relationship management (CRM) options available to help you become more efficient in staying in touch, but choosing the correct one for this new target market is key.
This is the point where you will need to think ahead before you choose the right system. You will also have to determine who is going to manage the system once it is set up and running.
You may know your business, but you need to get an expert to help choose and implement a good CRM system.
There are two Let’s Work It! training modules being presented in September, and depending upon where your business is located — whether in south or north county — you can pick the SBDC closest to you.
- South San Diego — module one bit.ly/2vB3wEK; module two bit.ly/2vtXHtG
- North County — module one bit.ly/2vB3wEK; module two bit.ly/2wTQgzq
You can sign up for each class by following the links. Remember, you can start the certification process or participate in the trainings in any order. We want to help you succeed.
The LGBTBE certification movement is gaining steam daily. The latest report from the NGLCC celebrated the fact that LGBT-, disabled-, and veteran-owned businesses have now been added to the “billion dollar roundtable,” which is for those corporations that spend at least $1 billion annually with diverse business owners.
So do not miss out … do biz with pride, get certified!
—Michelle Burkart is the program coordinator for the SDIV SBDC Regional Network LGBTBE. Reach her at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the SDIV SBDC LGBTBE programs visit sdivsbdc.org/lgbtbe-biz-builder.