Certification is an incredibly important step for businesses hoping to attract the attention of large companies’ supplier diversity programs. Becoming certified increases the odds of being sought out and found by those programs, which may not even consider a diverse business unless it’s officially registered.Many diverse suppliers already know this truth and have achieved their certifications. In our recent survey of diverse suppliers, 90 percent of minority-owned businesses that responded said they were formally certified, as did 90 percent of woman-owned businesses. Moreover, 77 percent of MBEs and 81 percent of WBEs in the survey said they were designated as a diverse supplier by at least one contracting company. Do the math and you realize the suppliers getting the customers are the ones that are certified.
A number of supplier diversity certifications are available for businesses looking to advance their profiles, attract more customers, and build more success. But first, let’s look at the benefits that can be realized by becoming certified.
Perks of Certification
Naturally, exposure to supplier diversity programs is the most important reason for a business to earn its certification (or multiple certifications, if applicable). Many companies’ programs will only contract with certified diverse businesses, so a lack of certification may mean you are missing out on key opportunities. That said, exposure isn’t the only benefit of supplier diversity certification. Networking is easier when you are certified, and certification agencies offer educational, development, and advocacy programs that simply are not available to diverse businesses on their own. Also, the certification itself is a way to promote your business: “Proud to be a [insert certification agency here] member!” carries a decent amount of weight in both the corporate world and the community at large.
Earning a certification isn’t as simple as asking to be certified and getting an email back saying “Congratulations, you’re certified!” That said, the effort pays off in the long run. Here are 10 certifications that are invaluable to diverse suppliers:
- National Minority Supplier Development Council: More than 12,000 minority-owned businesses belong to the NMSDC, as well as 1,750 corporate members that rely on the organization to find diverse suppliers.
- Women’s Business Enterprise National Council: The WBENC is the largest third-party certifier of woman-owned business in the United States.
- National Women’s Business Council: Certification with the NWBC is required for WBEs to be eligible to work on federal contracts.
- Small Business Administration: Although the SBA is primarily known as an agency that gives loans to small businesses, it also certifies companies to be eligible to work on federal contracts.
- National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce: The NGLCC grants its LGBT Business Enterprise designation to eligible business that are at least 51 percent owned by LGBT individuals.
- Vets First: The Vets First Verification Program places the highest priority on service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) and then veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) for Veterans Administration purchasing and procurement.
- Disabled Veterans Business Alliance: Initially formed for disabled veteran-owned business enerprises (DVBEs) in the state of California, the DVBA helps DVBEs become officially certified nationwide and has helped increase the number of DVBE contracts with government agencies to 4 percent.
- National Veteran Business Development Council: The NVBDC is the largest certifier of veteran-owned businesses (VOBs).
- U.S. Business Leadership Network: The USBLN offers its Disability Supplier Diversity Program to certify disability-owned business enterprises and service-disabled veteran-owned business enterprises.
- United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: The USHCC’s Hispanic Business Enterprise program “provides a national platform for Hispanic-owned companies that have scaled and grown beyond the scope of local chambers of commerce.”
Check out each organization’s website for more information about certification. Requirements and costs vary by agency, but the time and expense are well worth it for suppliers looking to boost their profile—and draw more business—with supplier diversity programs.
While these are 10 of the largest certification agencies, there are certainly many more that provide assistance to diverse businesses. What certifications does your diverse business hold, and how have they helped increase your success?