Business Certifications: Know Your Listener

Smiling contractor. Text on his right reads: Certified!

In a recent talk, CFR & Associates highlighted the complexity and importance of business certifications for different organizations. In our years of experience working with various organizations and businesses, we’ve observed a recurring theme: many companies are in the dark about which certifications are relevant to their specific situations. This understanding, or rather the lack of it, can have a significant impact on business opportunities. If you are a small business owner, contractor, or someone interested in doing business with government entities, here are some important concepts you need to grasp.

Each Organization Has Its Own Goals

Every organization has unique members and boards which leads to unique goals and focus (and acronyms). For instance, through the Community Economic Development (CED) Program, the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) has chosen to focus on local, small, and disadvantaged businesses. They accept seven different certifications.  Their Local, Small, Emerging, and Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Program (LSEDV) sets a goal of 30% participation for businesses with the following certifications:

  • Local Business Enterprise (LBE)
  • Small Business Enterprise (SBE)
  • Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE)
  • Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE)
  • Minority Business Enterprise (MBE)
  • Woman Business Enterprise (WBE)
  • LGBT Business Enterprise

Looking to do business with Los Angeles Metro? They have a different set of certification requirements. They accept a DVBE certification from the California Department of General Services and offer their own certification programs for DBE and SBE. They will accept a DBE certification from the California Unified Certification Program (CUCP). However, they do not accept any other SBE certifications because of unique requirements.

Know Who You Are Talking To

With so many certifications available and so many programs with different goals, understanding which organizations recognize which certification is important for businesses who want to maximize their opportunities.

We were recently at a State of California Event where a small business owner stood up to introduce himself to the board. The first words out of his mouth were “We’re a service-disabled veteran owned small business plumber”. He made two mistakes with this introduction. First of all, you should always lead with your value, not with certifications. Second, he apparently didn’t know who he was talking to. The State of California does not recognize the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) certification. The State of California only recognizes two certifications: the Small Business (SB) certification (which is different from the SBE) and the DVBE certification.

The panel looked at this plumber and their expressions said, “Dude, do you know who you are talking to?” This was not a good first impression. On top of not leading with value, the plumber led with a certification that they did not care about or that they could use. Decision makers on big projects like to know that they are dealing with competent people that can do at least some minor research before meeting.

Key Takeaways

  • Know Your Audience: Before pitching or submitting your qualifications, understand which certifications your potential client or partner recognizes.
  • Regional Differences Matter: Each state and local entity often has its unique set of recognized certifications.
  • Always Be Ready to Adapt: Certifications and the recognition of them can change. Stay up-to-date with these changes to make the most of your business opportunities.

CFR & Associates’ insights provide a valuable lesson in the intricacies of business certifications. It’s not merely a matter of getting a certification but understanding how that certification is viewed by the organizations you want to do business with. By taking the time to understand the landscape, you set your business up for a better chance at success.

CFR & Associates team

Whether you’re considering obtaining a new certification or need strategic coaching to maximize your current qualifications, don’t journey alone. Our team of experienced veterans is here to guide and support you. Contact us today to empower your business for tomorrow. Reach out for a tailored consultation and let’s propel your business to new heights!