As a business owner you are always thinking of ways to stay ahead of the competition. You consider your pricing strategy, mix of products and services you offer, getting better at social media, etc., but it still doesn’t seem to get you to that next level. Many times it is beneficial to take a break from the daily hustle and look at your company from a different perspective.
One opportunity that often gets overlooked is the diversity that may exist in the ownership of your company. Is your business owned by a veteran, woman, or minority? If so, there are resources available to help you grow your business. Two of the biggest opportunities are participation in a supplier diversity program and becoming certified within your particular designation.
Supplier diversity programs
A major key to breaking into new markets is being a diversity supplier of goods and services. Both private sector corporations and government agencies have supplier diversity programs that cover several categories such as minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, etc. These programs require that the person with controlling interest (51 percent) meet the eligibility requirements of the categories listed above. Supplier diversity programs recognize that sourcing products and services from previously underused suppliers helps to sustain and progressively transform a company’s supply chain.
Many of the large corporations in the Upstate have well-defined supplier diversity programs where they proactively seek companies that mirror their diverse workforce and customers. Several programs even provide in-depth training to make sure that requirements can be met and opportunities are well understood.
Getting your company certified could also serve as a stepping-stone to more business opportunities. There are several types of certification programs. Some have a registration fee and some do not. A short list is included here:
Certifications That Require a Fee:
A. Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBENC); registration fees start at $350.
B. Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council (CVMSDC); registration fees start at $100.
Certifications without a fee:
A. S.C. Small & Minority Business Contracting and Certification
B. S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT)
C. Small Business Administration (SBA) certification categories:
• HUB zone
•Woman-Owned (depending on the North American Industry Classification System [NAICS] criteria)
D. Veterans Affairs (VA) categories:
• Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB)
• Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB)
Each certificate program correlates to a specific opportunity. For example, the SBA certification categories would be extremely beneficial if you intend to sell your goods or services to the federal government. The federal government has set-aside contracts where only certified companies are allowed to compete. This significantly reduces the total number of companies bidding on the work and drastically increases the chances a certified company would win. Having a certification could be the difference between winning or losing a new business opportunity.
Both supplier diversity programs and certification programs should be viewed in the larger context of how you intend to diversify your current business mix. Several questions should be asked to see if expanding your current business into new markets would be beneficial.
Questions to consider include:
• What markets are you currently serving and what do your sales figures look like in those markets?
• How long have you been targeting those same market segments?
• What level of market share could realistically be gained in these current markets?
Understanding your current capabilities and being able to forecast is vitally important for a growing business.
The United States government is the largest singular purchaser of goods and services in the world. The Small Business Administration estimates that over $500 billion in government contracts are awarded each year. Supplier diversity programs and certifications may allow your business to enter this marketplace and begin capturing some of these opportunities.
However, the public sector operates differently when it comes to contracts, so it’s best to speak with a specialist to see if your company has the capabilities available to meet the government’s demands. Both the SBA and SBDC have individuals that can assist you in the process, so reach out and see if these new opportunities will help diversify your business.
Sherry Pittinger | Greenville Small Business Development Center