By Karen Krymski | August 10, 2017
Many of our returning service men and women, recently separated from the military, as well as those who have been retired for many years, have made the decision to seek their Veterans Administration business certification. Whether you are a service-disabled veteran (at least 10 percent disability) or other military veteran, certification is available for your business.
Why get certified? First of all, attaining a third party certification creates an increased opportunity for federal contracting success. According to the General Services Administration, “If your company is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), it may be eligible for set-asides in federal contracts. This certification substantially increases the number of opportunities available to your firm.” However, even if you are not service-disabled, it is still important to be certified, particularly if you are working with, or attempting to contract or sub-contract work for the Veterans Administration (VA) or Department of Defense.
Many veterans are not aware of the Kingdomware decision, an important mid-2016 Supreme Court ruling. According to Steven Koprince, Managing Partner of Koprince Law, LLC, the Supreme Court’s decision in Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, No. 14-916 (2016) means that the VA will be required to truly put “’Veterans First’” in all of its procurement actions – which is what Kingdomware, and many veterans’ advocates, have fought for all along.” So, in essence, the VA was directed to give preference to veterans as the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the VA’s “rule of two” is mandatory, and applies to all VA procurements–including GSA Schedule orders.
So, where to begin?
Initially, if you live in Florida, you will probably want to have your company registered within the state. Begin at http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/start-business/.
All companies must have an official document – in Florida it’s called the Articles of Incorporation – or file a fictitious name, to begin their certification with the VA.
The next item on the checklist is to participate in the VA’s pre-certification webinar (held every Friday from 2-3 pm EST) https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/6365527275958843394.
At the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida, I recommend that all of our veteran small businesses begin by participating in this webinar as the VA Counselor will walk you through the necessary documents and list what is required to have ready to create an account/upload into their VetBiz portal.
Second, if your legal structure (not tax structure) is an LLC, you will want to ensure that your firm has a legal document called an Operating Agreement.
If you are an S-Corp or a C-Corp, you will have a by-laws document requirement.
If you are not familiar with these documents, it may be best for you to seek out an attorney that specializes in small businesses. Both of these documents spell out how your company votes, who is in charge of day-to-day operations, how decisions are made, and, in the best cases, how your company may be sold and what happens to the other people that are part of the legal structure of your company (members in LLC’s and shareholders in Corporations) should something happen to the veteran.
Several of the items that the VA looks for in either of documents is:
1) Percentage of ownership as the veteran MUST hold at least 51 percent of the company
2) The veteran cannot be out-voted by any non-veterans. Usually, the owners are listed as part of the document as well as the percentage of ownership. In no case, if the veterans are in business with non-veterans, can the voting be set up as “all of the owners must be in agreement” or “decisions are made by unanimous vote.” This will cause the counselor at the VA who is handling your certification to send it back for revision.
Third, all VA certifications require a resume for all owners of the company as one of the initial documents for upload. Remember to list the name of the company that is applying for certification at the top of the resume and include the person’s title within the company or legal structure.*
Once the initial documents are uploaded, the VA will be in contact with you – either by email or phone- to advise you as to whether your business is eligible for certification.
Once the VA has indicated that you may proceed, they will direct your next steps, i.e., what other information that they need.
SDVOSB or Veteran-owned small business (VOSB) certification currently takes approximately 90 to 120 days from the time of portal registration.
Once you have achieved certification, here are a few more suggestions to support your journey to federal contracting success:
- Visit https://www.visn8.va.gov/VISN8/services/Contracting.asp for VA contracting opportunities. This is a place to begin. All federal agencies have “procurement forecasts.”
- Consider business classes to ensure that your business operations are on the right path. It just might be the most important key to your company’s overall success.
*Before you go to the next step, now may be a good time to reach out to your local resources to make sure you are headed in the right direction. You may also want to have an attorney review your by-laws or operating agreement if they were not the originators.