Many businesses consider becoming certified for many reasons, but before applying to become certified, the business needs to understand who they are selling to and how the certificate will influence their current and future business relationships. Becoming a certified business should be part of any business’ marketing plan.
There are several categories of certification provided by various local and state agencies:
- Small Business – based on the number of full time employees and average sales for the business.
- Minority Owned – business which is at least 51 percent owned by an ethnic minority person(s) whose management and daily operations are controlled by such person(s).
- Women Owned – business which is at least 51 percent owned by women whose management and daily operations are controlled by such persons.
- Disadvantaged Business – business which is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
Recently I had the opportunity to ask Julius Davis, CEO of VoltAir Consulting Engineers, about how business certifications have influenced the business in its 10 years of continued growth. Davis was very clear to mention that in the beginning being a certified business gave them the leverage they needed to get the attention of larger businesses because they had the professional experience but no business history. He and his team have proven they are knowledgeable professionals that can compete on their own, but recognize being certified still provides them with a competitive advantage.
Davis started with a list of target clients he wanted to develop relationships with. The certification helped open the door many times and accelerated the relationship building process. He secured City of Tampa and Hillsborough County Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and State of Florida’s Certified Business Enterprise (CBE) certifications. He also secured the Florida Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification. The certifications have allowed VoltAir to compete as prime and sub-contractors with different agencies and clients. Recognizing no one certification fits every opportunity, Davis maintains all their certifications while looking for new certification programs that may benefit his business.
Local government MBE and CBE contracts make up 80 percent of VoltAir’s government contracting portfolio. The remaining 20 percent are federally funded DBE contracts. It is important for businesses to understand that no one certificate meets all needs in the marketplace. Deciding which certificate to get and when to seek a certification is a strategic marketing decision.
Much of VoltAir’s growth and stability come from a diversified public/private client base. The private sector does business with VoltAir because they are competitive in both price and quality, not because they are certified. The private sector accounts for 40 percent of the VoltAir contracts with government/public sector contracts making up the remaining 60 percent of total contracts. Davis believes their status as a certified business continues to open doors and create opportunities for the company to grow.
Business certification can open many different doors for your company. Determining what doors are best suited for your business is part of your marketing strategy. Marketing decisions should be made before pursuing your business certification.