What is the SBA 8(a) Annual Review?

If you are new to the 8(a) program, you have probably heard that there is an annual review which the SBA requires each 8(a) certified firm to submit. The annual review is due within 30 days of the close of each program year.

This may seem daunting for some, who if recently got in to the program, to go through another treacherous process. The annual review is required for the SBA to determine the firm is still within the parameters of the program. This means, that the firm and its owners are within the required financial restrictions. In order for it to be easier on the owners and the firm, it is recommended to prepare the documents before hand.

Beginning in early 2018, the annual review will be completed online, via the www.certify.sba website. This eliminates the tedious printing and e-mailing of documents to the proper authorities. The SBA has created this system to streamline the process and make it easier for both the client and the review team.

What is www.certify.sba.gov?

WWW.certify.sba.gov is the new online platform SBA introduced a few years ago to streamline all of SBA’s certifications. Although the old system, the General Login System (GLS) is still required for the Hubzone certification as of 2017, the WOSB and 8(a) application are to be completed via this site.

The 8(a) annual review will also transition to the new website in early 2018. It is yet to be determined when the Hubzone application will make the same transition.

My recent discussion with the SBA representatives at the local District Office informed me that the migration to the new site will streamline the process for both applicants and SBA staff, increasing processing time. It also allows users to upload documents securely instead of printing them out and mailing them.

Questions to ask when hiring a company for the 8(a) Certification program?

When you do finally decide that applying for the 8(a) certification is something your company can benefit from, there are some important questions to ask the company you plan on hiring. Below are a few things to consider and questions to ask.

1. What is the process your firm uses to help us become certified?
2. What accolade or accomplishments have you achieved?
3. What is the value you offer above other agencies?
4. What references can you call for verification?
5. Make sure they understand the program themselves by doing your own research on the 8(a) process.
6. Are they within a close proximity from you? (It’s important to hire someone close to you, so you can meet in person if need be).

Being approved for the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program may be the most significant achievement of any firm. It allows the company to be part of an elite group of businesses that are eligible to apply for set-aside contracts that only 8a firms can bid on. To show you how powerful it is, let’s take account SBA’s Los Angeles District Office, whose territories include Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. That is over 20 million people within those three counties. Currently, there are a mere 188 approved 8(a) firms within this region. When taking in to account that over $16 Billion are set aside for 8(a) firms across the country, that is a staggering number.

Contracting with Metro

 

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On October 1st 2015, I wrote an article about a friend of mine, who after three years of convincing, finally saw an opportunity to contract with Metro. To explain to you the diversity of contracts available with Metro, my friend is a videographer, and this particular contract was to be for a three year contracting opportunity to video and edit various Metro commercials. In the article, I explained how we were able to get my friend approved within a two week time frame. We did this by opting in to the expedited application process which Metro allows if there is a specific bid available which they need the certification for. During the waiting period for approval, we had to work diligently to prepare the Request For Proposal (RFP), so that once he was approved for Metros Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE), we can submit his bid on time.

 

We received the notification of his DBE approval just in time for us to be eligible for the bid. About a month later, my friend called me with great excitement notifying me of the contract he was awarded for three years at nearly $15,000 a video. For a Small Business, getting any type of customer is crucial, but receiving an award to work on projects for a Government entity opens up new doors which will not only bring legitimacy to his company but also open doors to work with other agencies due to the resume he has started to build with Metro.

 

Paul Mazbanian CEO Small Business Community Consultants, Inc. www.sbclending.com (818)551-9400
Paul Mazbanian
CEO
Small Business Community Consultants, Inc.
www.sbclending.com
(818)551-9400

Be careful who you hire to assist with your Certifications

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I recently gave a presentation to an organization called, Women’s Presidents Organization. They are a nationwide group consisting of various chapter throughout each state. Each group consists of successful Women entrepreneurs who have monthly meeting and discuss various topics on how to grow their businesses.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from one of the members whom I had the pleasure of meeting during the presentation. She told me that she recently hired a company in Florida prior to her meeting me.  She decided to hire this company and as time went on, she began to notice charges unrelated to the agreement she had signed with them. This prompted her to do some research on the representative she hired.

Unfortunately for her, she was notified that this individual has a prior record of being a sex offender. This information was shocking to her. Had she known of his criminal background, she would have never hired them. It is unclear what she will do, due to the contractual obligation she now has with them.

The moral of this article is to be certain the people you hire, are honest and transparent, therefore resulting in a good business relationship with positive results.

 

Paul Mazbanian CEO Small Business Community Consultants, Inc. www.sbclending.com (818)551-9400

Paul Mazbanian
CEO
Small Business Community Consultants, Inc.
www.sbclending.com
(818)551-9400

Metro’s DBE Certification

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As Business Owners, we always try to promote and brand ourselves to everyone we can. This includes but is not limited to, other business owners, family, friends etc. We get particularly excited when a close friend calls us for assistance. Three years ago, I met with a friend of mine who is a producer and video editor. I mentioned to him the advantages of becoming certified as a Minority Owned Business. I told him what I would tell any other business owner, regarding the benefits and advantages for Minority Owned Business and doing business with Federal, State and Local Agencies.

Although I frequently see this friend, he did not proceed with the certification immediately. Fast forward three years to 2015 and I receive a call from him letting me know of an opportunity coming up with Metro in September of this year. Of course I was excited for him and told him I would help. With 3 weeks from the due date of the proposal, I sincerely wanted to help my friend grow his business. I believe he already new the “I told you so” story, so I did not mention in it to him. My first advice to him was to focus on application and the gathering of the supporting documents so that we may submit the application as an expedited application to become approved as an SBE with Metro. Over the course of two weeks, we met multiple times to ensure the accuracy of the application. He still needed to complete the RFP and submit it by the due date, but since the RFP had a SBE Set aside, the application needed to get done first.

After submitting the completed Metro Application, my friend was approved within two weeks and the RFP was submitted on time. If he does indeed get this contract, it will significantly help his business grow over the next few years. In addition, it will give him notoriety working with Metro and also help him get future projects.

The reason I am writing this article is if my friend were to take my advice originally, he would not have to go through the stress of getting approved and complete the RFP within a two week time period. This put a significant strain on him because he needed the certification to bid on the project, we put in extra hours to get in submitted on time.

The typical time it takes Metro to approve a Business for DBE Certification or SBE Certification is roughly three months. However, Metro has an expedited application process, if the applicant needs to get certified for a specific bid coming up. This will significantly reduce the wait time for applicants, assuming all required documents are submitted in a timely manner, as was the case with my friend.

My recommendation to all businesses would be to identify your opportunities ahead of time and not be in a position of rushing. This is true for all certifications. Doing your research and forecasting which ones you will need will significantly help, once you come across a situation like the one above.

 

Paul Mazbanian CEO Small Business Community Consultants, Inc. www.sbclending.com

Paul Mazbanian
CEO
Small Business Community Consultants, Inc.
www.sbclending.com

DBE Certification in Two Weeks

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Most times when clients ask about about Certifications, the same questions always come up.”How long does it take to get certified?” Normally it would take roughly 3 months for Metro to approve a Business under each certification. This may seem long, but actually is a short time frame compared to other certifications, such as the SBA 8(a) program.

There is however a mostly unknown process that will significantly reduce the approval time line from 3 months to two weeks. Metro, has an option in one of their documents which allows you to expedite the process, if there is a solicitation that has already been publicized. This option may only be marked if there is an actual solicitation which has a DBE or SBE set aside.

In the previous article, I wrote about a friend who was in this exact predicament. He knew of an opportunity coming up with Metro and needed get certified as an SBE in order to become eligible, since the RFP did have an SBE set-aside. We were able to work relentlessly on the application, asked Metro to expedite the application and was approved within two weeks right when the RFP was announced.

In order to become certified via the expedited process, the METRO application needs to be completed, along with all of the necessary supporting documents. Metro will not approve any application until all required documents have been received and verified. The trick in getting the application approved within two weeks, is entirely reliant on the applicant and how soon they can respond to Metro on additional documents if needed.

There is no special formula. All applications are the same and require the same supporting documents. However, the expedited process will allow you to get certified sooner and allow you to bid on opportunities immediately.

 

Paul Mazbanian CEO Small Business Community Consultants, Inc. www.sbclending.com

Paul Mazbanian
CEO
Small Business Community Consultants, Inc.
www.sbclending.com

 

Two businesses approved for the 8(a) Certification in July 2015

 

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As our company continues to grow, we also continue to grow as owners and employees. By this, I mean our knowledge and experience grows along with the company. We learn new procedures which allow us to process applications and get them approved more fluidly.

Most recently, this month of July 2014, we were able to get two 8(a) Certifications approved. One within 7 days of submitting and the other within 10 days of submitting.

CLIENT NUMBER ONE: 

The first client, provides background check services so that employers may hire individuals with a clean records. They have been in business since 2011. I met the client at an expo last year. I soon found out that since they already do work for Federal Agencies, they wanted to apply and obtain the 8(a) Certification to expand their scope of their work. They did at one time try to do it in-house, however they were overwhelmed and did not have the resources to do it themselves. After speaking to a few consultants, they decided to hire us mainly because of the success we have had with previous clients and that we were local. After a few months of collecting supporting documents and meeting a few times in person, we were ready to submit. Our final meeting was held on June 24th. 2015. It consisted of a 5 hour session of going over the 8(a) application line by line and ensuring its accuracy. We then proceeded to go over the supporting documents. Finally, we spent the remaining hour or so packaging the certification.

The client sent the package our the following day on June 25th. The SBA approval process usually take up to 3 months as specified on their website. The client sent us an email in July 1st, 2015 with the SBA 8(a) approval letter attached. This was the fastest we have ver completed the 8(a) certification and both the client and I were excited. We will have a video testimonial with the owner on our website soon.

CLIENT NUMBER TWO:

The Second client, hired us in January 2015. Client has been in the construction business since 2010. After being requested to get the 8(a) Certification by a Federal Agency, the client hired a consultant in 2014. After months of work including the collection of documents and thousands of dollars in payments, the client was declined due to lack of information provided by the client. This of course was the consultants fault as they were in charge of assisting the client in completing the package thoroughly.

When I met with the client in January, he told me that they had made a mistake with the other person, that they were not professional and lacked the experience of completing the application. The client was hesitant at first to go through the process again, but after meeting with me and seeing other clients who have had success after hiring us he was ready to once again reapply.

We immediately took control and the first thing we did was review the previous application, identify its deficiencies and send him an email with items to clarify. Secondly, we had to update their SBA profile to represent his business accurately as it was incorrectly completed. Third, we began to collect supporting documents and complete the 8(a) application. After 5 months of doing damage control from the previous application, re-completing the application and gathering the supporting documents, we scheduled a meeting to review and complete the application. Our meeting lasted roughly 5 hours consisting of reviewing the application and supporting documents and finally packaging the certification so it is ready to submit to the SBA. The client submitted the application in Late June and they were approved after 10 days on July 10th of this year. We will be posting a video testimonial with the client on our website soon.

 

HOW DID WE GET THEM APPROVED SO QUICKLY?: 

Hiring a good consultant is key. Not only do we specialize in reviewing financial documents due to our educational background and experience in banking, but also have received training from the SBA spanning over 13 years. This allows us to know their products and procedures in detail. Secondly, every application we submit teaches us something new about how the SBA thinks and about that industry, so the next application that comes to our table makes it more complete than the previous.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO BEFORE HIRING A CONSULTANT?:

1. Do your research: Good consultants are hard to find.

2. Pricing should not be a determining factor: As the second example above states, the client could have saved a few thousand dollars by hiring us first instead of another.

3. Call and ask for references: Get feedback from clients they have assisted to better understand their style of work and success rates.

To learn more about our Certification Services Click HERE.

To view some of our Video Testimonials click HERE.

 

 

Paul Mazbanian CEO Small Business Community Consultants, Inc. www.sbclending.com

Paul Mazbanian
CEO
Small Business Community Consultants, Inc.
www.sbclending.com

Why are broker Dealers Ineligible to participate in the 8(a) program?

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Why are broker dealers ineligible to participate in the 8(a) program?

If you are labeled as a broker, but do not feel that you are, this article will help you understand how to get approved for the 8(a) certification and other programs by taking some important precautionary steps.

SBA wants success to come to every 8(a) approved firm. Making sure they will be successful is why the approval process is stringent. Based on the Federal Acquisition Regulation code FAR 124.08 “Brokers are ineligible to participate in the 8(a) BD program. A broker is a concern that adds no material value to an item being supplied to a procuring activity or which does not take ownership or possession of or handle the item being procures with its own equipment or facilities”.

Recently we were hired by two separate clients who happen to be in the same line of work, distributors of office products. One was applying for the 8(a) certification, while the other for Metro’s Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) Certification. In both instances, client did not feel that they were brokers as defined by the SBA, but rather a dealer. A broker is a pass through entity which at times makes commission paid to them by the manufacturer or distributor. In this case, both parties made neither. The only flaw they possessed was that they did not stock inventory. This is of course the most important rule of being a broker, that they don’t keep stock of their products.

The office supply industry is a multi billion dollar industry and both companies receive orders from all over the United States and their customers demand delivery promptly, sometimes the next day. If they were to stock inventory, take order from customers thousand of miles away and deliver the next day, Small Businesses in this particular industry would not exist. In order for them to be able to do this, they will need to have multiple warehouses across the nation and stocking hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of daily inventory. This would make perfect sense for a company such as Hewlett Packard or Amazon, but most definitely not a Small Business.

We were able to get both companies approved. We did this by proving to each agency, that keeping that level of inventory was not viable. Thus, we also provided the SBA and Metro with current levels of inventory held as well as receipts and invoices of purchase orders made. In addition, we provided the shipment charges made by the clients proving that their products were housed at the manufacturers warehouse and later shipped to the customer along with pictures of the inventory etc.

When applying for any type of certification, particularly the ones mentioned above, and if your business may be labeled as a broker but you clearly are not, an explanation will be needed. It is important to answer and questions they may have with actual data proving you are not a broker.

To learn more about our services, please visit www.sbclending.com.

 

Paul Mazbanian CEO Small Business Community Consultants, Inc. www.sbclending.com
Paul Mazbanian
CEO
Small Business Community Consultants, Inc.
www.sbclending.com

What is SAM and should you pay someone to register you?

 

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System For Award Management also referred to as SAM is a system the Federal Government uses to identify potential contractors. It is also the system which is required to register with do do any type of business with the Federal Government.

As usual, we get calls from clients hiring us for different certifications. Part of the process required for Federal Certifications as noted above, is to register the clients business in to SAM. Recently we received two distinct client calls.

The first client desires to become certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise or WBE. After explaining to her the requirements she told me that she paid a company $1,600 to register them in to SAM. Our services as a whole, including the WBE Certification which includes SAM does not cost $1,600. In addition, after a thorough review of their SAM profile, not only was their business being misrepresented, but their SBA profile was not created which pretty much makes them invisible to Government buyers. In short the $1,600 was put to waste.

The second example was from a call we received from a client hiring us for the WBE and WOSB Certifications. The client had once again paid this firm a ridiculous amount of money greater than what we were charging for both certifications combined which also included SAM. Once again, after a thorough review of their SAM profile, their profile was incorrectly being represented and their SBA profile was nonexistent. This client however, reached out to us just as her SAM profile was due for renewal, and she had been contacted by the same company to renew their profile for $599. I explained to the client that the SAM renewal will take no more than 10 minutes and that I will do it at no charge. The client was extremely happy that I had just saved her almost $600.

The reason I am writing this article today is to let you know that the SAM registration is FREE. The two clients mentioned above told us that the reason they paid those amounts was because they thought they were speaking to a Federal Agency, which leads me to believe that companies posing as a Federal Agency but not actually representing themselves as such on their website are taking advantage of Small Businesses and the limited resources they have. The money spent may have been put to good use if, 1. the SAM registration was done correctly and 2. their SBA profile was completed properly. Regardless, $1,600 and even $600 is too much to pay for registering with SAM.

Things to Consider:

1. When you are being solicited, remember that anything that ends in .GOV is legitimate and anything which ends in .com, .net, .org etc. are solicitors and are not part of the Government. We have NEVER charged separately for registering a client with SAM.

2. If you do hire someone, make certain your profile is correctly representing your business.

3. Make certain your SBA profile has been created successfully in order to have the greatest presence with Government agencies.

Please take a moment to visit our website and learn more about our services: www.sbclending.com

CEO Small Buisness Community Consultants, Inc. www.sbclending.com paul@sbclending.com

CEO
Small Business Community Consultants, Inc.
www.sbclending.com
paul@sbclending.com