Takeaways & tips to guide your small business certification experience
One of our core values at Pierce PR is to remain committed to growth. One of the ways to grow a small business is by pursuing small business and diversity certifications that open doors to new opportunities. Recently, our Director of Operations, Sarah Mickle, attended a diverse enterprise certification training hosted by Pierce PR client BELL Construction. In the training, Sarah learned the mutual benefits of becoming a certified Women Business Enterprise (WBE) with the State of Tennessee. While there are many types of certifications available, we pursued the Tennessee Governor’s Office of Diversity Business Enterprise (GO-DBE) certification first. This designation allows us to compete successfully in state contracting activity and sets our firm apart from others.
If you have ever considered pursuing a small business or diversity certification, you’re not alone. The process is intense and time-consuming. Having gone through this process recently (and lived to tell the tale), Sarah shares several key takeaways and tips to help guide your business in its certification journey.
The process enabled us to be the best for our clients
The incredibly rigorous application process demanded excellence from our business, and we ensured we were able to meet all requirements. This included submitting documents like our business license, operating agreement, latest tax returns and insurance documents. No stone was unturned. The application’s thoroughness creates peace of mind for current and future clients that our firm operates effectively and has the latest documentation to support its continued growth path.
Certification sets you apart from the competition
A growing number of corporations and government agencies are implementing supplier diversity requirements to reach inclusion targets. This includes awarding a set annual dollar amount or percentage of total procurement spend to diverse businesses. What does that mean for you? In addition to your clients receiving great service, those companies will also meet internal goals through your partnership.
We’re now able to access exclusive state educational resources and training
As a GO-DBE company, we now have access to networking events, procurement opportunities, mentoring, executive education, and other business tools and resources. Most certifying bodies are interested in the health and well-being of your business in the long term and offer programs and opportunities that help your business grow and succeed over time.
Create a process (and have someone lead it!)
This is the time for detail-loving team members to shine! Enable and encourage them to take ownership of this process and track each piece. The required documentation will involve different departments in your company (and a few external contacts), so it’s easy to get lines crossed if everyone tries to add their own piece to the puzzle. I recommend one point of contact to whom team members can submit documentation and/or ask questions.
Organization is everything
There are many moving parts to certification processes, and it can be challenging to track progress on all areas. To manage this, I created a digital checklist of to-do items with progress updates notated, including when I requested something from a team member or external contact. That way, I knew when to send reminders or check for questions. All documents were saved in a folder on our Google drive. Pro tip: Make sure your W-9 is signed in blue ink to prove that it wasn’t electronically signed.
Contact the state agency
This may seem like a given, but do not be afraid to reach out! Use your respective state agency as a resource. The Tennessee GO-DBE staff was incredibly helpful and answered our many questions during the application process. The staff showed sincere interest in our company and went out of their way to provide extra tips and guidance.
The process was rigorous, but we’re glad that it was. Applying for the GO-DBE certification made us better. If you’re considering pursuing this certification, take your time, be thorough, and be patient. The benefits that come from certifying your small or diversity-owned business can definitely be worth the effort.
Sarah Mickle is the Director of Operations at Pierce Public Relations.