Why Certification is Important for Women-Owned Businesses
International Women’s Day is March 8, 2018 – a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. NOLABA will observe the week by sharing content celebrating equitable growth in New Orleans. Phala K. Mire, president of Women’s Business Enterprise Council South, presents the benefits of women-owned businesses pursuing certifications.
For most small business owners, the demands of running and growing a business day to day can be overwhelming. The decision – or the customer requirement – to get “certified” as a woman-owned business only adds another to-do to an already endless list. True enough, the process of becoming certified with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) can be a daunting task. It requires time, attention to detail, documentation and, in most cases, a fee. So, why should an otherwise busy entrepreneur make the time to get certified as a Woman-owned Business Enterprise (WBE)? And more importantly, what are the benefits? The question seems simple enough, but the answer is not. Despite all arguments to the contrary, WBE certification can be your most valuable asset and here’s why:
It validates that you are who you say you are
Think that showing up female with a card that reads CEO is enough? Think again. Unfortunately, there are all too many companies looking to “front” majority ownership by women and ethnic minorities on paper in order to separate themselves from the competition. Certification is the customer’s guarantee that you are not a front company–that you are a bona fide woman-owned, managed and controlled business enterprise. In short, you hold the power and the buck stops with you.
It protects business opportunities afforded to diverse suppliers
Global, national and even local corporations invest in supplier diversity as a core value because it makes good business sense. Most corporations have goals for doing business with diverse suppliers and are mandated to report the spend. Without proof of certification, the validity of crucial spend reports is at risk. Supplier Diversity is not a feel good program. On the contrary, it is a business imperative that has real impact on corporate bottom lines and significant effect on job creation and local economies. Throughout economic downturns and rebounds, corporations have remained committed to supplier diversity and certification requirements.
You’re going to need certification one day
Can I honestly tell you that you need to be certified to do business with a corporation? Absolutely not. Corporations do business with non-certified suppliers all the time. However, if I had that proverbial dollar for every owner who initially rejected the value of certification, only to be faced with an urgent need for it during the eleventh hour of a hot business opportunity, I’d be rich. Like, really rich. Certification is at minimum a 30-day process that involves document review, a site visit and committee consensus on approval. Needing it “yesterday” is not an option and though you may be able to expedite an application under special circumstances (and at considerable cost), having the designation in your pocket when needed is a much better option.
You can’t compete if you’re not in the game
Corporate America created and sustains the WBENC and other diverse supplier networks specifically for the purpose of identifying, certifying and developing women-owned suppliers for their supply chains. They look for you through us. This level of access to corporate decision makers, influencers and internal advocates simply can’t be found in any other business organization. Certification itself is definitely NOT a guarantee of business, but it can prove to be a significant competitive advantage. And in today’s increasingly competitive business climate, the better question is why would you not arm yourself with all of the advantages that WBE certification provides?
With more than twenty years of experience in Supplier Diversity, Phala K. Mire is the President & CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South, one of fourteen affiliates of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. WBEC South serves a membership of global corporations and 800+ women-owned businesses across a five-state territory encompassing Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and the Florida Panhandle.