Frustrations of Small Business Owners in Understanding Diversity Certification Programs

The Federal Government has had initiatives in place since the 1980s to help the minority and woman owned businesses get contracts from Public and Private Companies and also through Federal and local government bodies. The diversity programs encourage large companies to do business with certified companies by giving certain tax incentives. These corporations then develop their internal diversity programs setting aside certain goals in purchase, procurement and services through these certified companies. These goals are generally between 15% to even 30% at times. The Federal Government also participates by setting aside similar goals directed towards helping the certified businesses.

Even though these programs have now been there for decades and the information is available through various organizations, it is extremely difficult for an average person to understand and comprehend all this information. The result is that the advantages are used by only a few people which are often times companies that can afford to hire specialists that can spend the hours of research and leg work needed to discern through all the information. A wide majority of the originally intended recipients of these programs are still unaware of them. Women owned companies especially don’t seem to be benefiting as much as they could. Simply due to lack of awareness.

As a Commercial Lender, we routinely witness the pain of the small business owners of America who are merely trying to survive in this market till the economy gets better again. They are looking at shrinking profits and their sales seem to have been sucked into some dark hole and vanished.

While they are suffering with no real hope in sight, they are unaware of the fact that there are some real and very helpful programs that could open doors to increased sales through certification. Various status options can now be used to qualify for certification with legit and ethical means. You have the minority and woman owned, but did you know that there are other more specialized categories such as veteran owned, over 50 years old entrepreneurs, small disadvantaged business etc., etc. There is one type of certification just for companies that want to have a business set up as confectioners for the airports.

These contracts could mean increased revenues ranging from thousands of dollars to millions!

The problem is not that the information on these certifications is not available. The problem is the exact opposite. Too much information is dispatched out there simultaneously by the organizations handling the various types of certifications. The immense volume of such information, being laid out all at the same time, becomes overwhelming for a novice. They try to find their way in this ocean, but get lost after a while and give up in frustration. We find that most of the information is irrelevant to the average person who is at the first stage of learning about these programs. All he/she wants to know is:

How can I benefit from this opportunity?

And if that wasn’t difficult enough, you have to know about these programs through word of mouth to even begin looking for this information!!!

The process further confuses a beginner because there may be several certifications they could be eligible for. Each has its own process (and piles of paperwork) for the certification.

Then they can’t find anyone to explain to them exactly how a business owner could sell products or utilize their skills for any of these certifications. What is needed is someone to look at the business/skills and help a business owner determine which certification to go after. Help them pick the ones that would be best suited for their needs, skills, industry and size of the company.

But they don’t do that. Each organization will only tell you about what they can and can’t do for you according to THEIR certification program!! So you soon become frustrated.