Small Biz

Is Certification Right for My Business?

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By Ciara Lilly

As the mission and impact of supplier diversity advances, the net of opportunity has been cast wider to include more minority groups – LGBT people being one of them. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), is the largest global not-for-profit advocacy organization specifically dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for LGBT people. NGLCC is also the exclusive certifying body for LGBT-owned businesses.

As with any other diverse group, representation matters when we’re talking about inclusion and equity. Prior to the formation of NGLCC in 2002, the LGBT community lacked an advocacy organization focused on showcasing their business and economic impact. Now, 17 years later, NGLCC has over 1,100 certified LGBT Business Enterprises, 204 corporate partners and 60 affiliate chambers across the world. And there’s measurable data to substantiate the economic contributions made by LGBT-owned businesses. In a 2016 report titled, “America’s LGBT Economy,” NGLCC revealed that LGBT-owned businesses contributed $1.7 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy and created over 33,000 jobs.

This impact is significant and has granted LGBT-owned businesses and professionals an invitation to the party. It’s up to the LGBT-owned businesses to secure a seat at the table, and many consider the LGBT Business Enterprise® (LGBTBE®) certification as one of the vehicles to achieve that.

What is LGBTBE certification and is it right for my business?

The LGBTBE® certification is for businesses that are based in the United States and 51% owned, managed, operated and controlled by an LGBT person. The certification process mirrors that of other certifying agencies and includes an online application, submission of supporting documentation regarding the business’ formation, financials, etc., an on-site interview for verification purposes and a formal vote made by the NGLCC’s National Certification Committee, a group comprised of LGBT entrepreneurs, corporate representatives and allies. (For an in-depth explanation of the process, see this article from March 2018.)

In most cases, when LGBT-owned businesses explore the LGBTBE® certification, it’s because they want access to direct and indirect contracting opportunities with both public and private entities seeking to engage the LGBT business community. In order to legitimize the diversity spend for public and private entities, diverse businesses are asked to have supplier diversity certification. The most basic purpose of the supplier diversity certification is to verify that certified businesses are truly owned and operated by a diverse group and not shell companies disguised as such.

However, there are some LGBT-owned businesses that are not seeking contracting opportunities with any public or private entity tracking LGBTBE® spend, yet still ask themselves, “Is certification right for my business?” Let’s take some time to discuss a few auxiliary benefits of certification.

As mentioned earlier, NGLCC and its network of affiliate chambers are advocates for the LGBT community, but their work is rendered powerless without the actual support of the LGBT community. At its core, LGBTBE® certification provides LGBT business owners with an opportunity to strengthen their roots in the LGBT community by bringing more business to the community, providing job opportunities and building overall economic empowerment.

In addition to building camaraderie, LGBTBE® certification extends professional and capacity development opportunities to its network of certified LGBT-owned businesses. This is especially valuable for LGBT business owners who desire a safe place to cultivate their entrepreneurial and leadership skills without feeling the pressure of disguising their sexual orientation or gender identity to fit in the business community. Where else can you gain access to a global support system comprised of LGBT professionals, strategic partners, business owners and allies – all focused on growing and scaling your business?

Lastly, LGBTBE® certification ensures that your business’ economic contributions are captured in the numbers showcasing the collective economic impact of LGBT businesses across the United States and in some cases beyond. This includes the business that can be done between LGBTBE® certification. As a result of supporting other LGBT businesses, you assume an advocacy role and help deliver the message that LGBT-owned businesses are strong, stable and we mean business!

During 2019, Higher Ground Consulting in conjunction with the Business Equality Network, LLC (and pürEpiphany) will be creating a series of articles that will address how to thrive in the diverse supplier ecosystem in anticipation of Inclusive Sourcing 2045. These articles will pay attention to the supplier’s need to navigate the ecosystem quickly, the advocate and buyer community’s need to reach a broader pool of qualified and prepared diverse suppliers and the nonprofit organizations’ ability to grow their national, regional and local membership.

Time for introspection

  • Does my company offer a service or product that is procured by an organization that tracks LGBTBE® spend?
  • Should they be tracking?
  • Do I know if my product or services are directly or indirectly (tier 1 or tier 2) needed by organizations that track LGBTBE® spend?
  • Does my company currently operate at the scale and scope necessary to sustain large corporate or government contracts?
  • Does LGBTBE® certification align with my values, goals and/or objectives?
  • Can I make time to invest in the LGBTBE® certification process to support my community?
  • Will I stand up with my LGBT business community and be counted?

Real Talk Webinar:

Are you still unsure if certification is right for you? Join us for an interactive session April 6th, at 10:00 a.m. ET or April 10th, at 2:00 p.m. ET to help you evaluate the benefit for you. This is Real Talk with Ciara Lily.

Register at businessequalitymagaine.com/webinars419 while space is available.

Business Equality Pride (BEQPride) is the first publication from the BEQ family of national print and digital magazines exclusively addressing the needs of LGBTQ small-to-medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs and professionals.