Seeking NGLCC certification? Demystifying the site visit
By Melissa Lowery
Obtaining your NGLCC certification is a milestone for LGBT-owned businesses. Certification gives LGBTBE’s access to the full network of NGLCC: The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which features more than 200 corporate and government partners expressly looking to do business with certified LGBTBEs.
Certification also allows you to take advantage of mentorship and education opportunities with business experts and corporate representatives to grow your business, make connections, and develop additional skills for scaling your company.
The certification process includes completion of documents that attest the business meets the following criteria:
- Is at least 51% owned and operated by an LGBT person or persons who are U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents
- Exercises independence from any non-LGBT business enterprise
- Has its principal place of business (or headquarters) in the United States
- Was formed as a legal for-profit entity in the United States
In addition to this documentation, the certification process requires a site visit, conducted by a trained NGLCC representative who has signed non-disclosure agreements and maintains strict confidentiality. The main purpose of the site visit is to corroborate the documents that are sent to the NGLCC headquarters that help establish unequivocally that a business is majority owned and operated by LGBT person(s).
We sat down with TJ Chernick, Director, LGBT Business Engagement and Membership at nglccNY, the New York office and regional business hub of NGLCC, and asked him to explain more about the site visit and what business owners can expect. Chernick joined nglccNY in June 2014 and is responsible for all New York chamber-based logistics, memberships, as well as serving as a liaison for New York area certified suppliers.
After NGLCC staff receives a completed application or recertification application, applicants are contacted by an NGLCC site visitor, such as Chernick. The applicant and visitor schedule a date and time that works for both parties. There are no surprise site visits, Chernick stresses.
The entrepreneur is required to be present during the site visit and conduct a tour of the business.
“I’m going to sit down with you and learn about your business,” Chernick says. “I’m going ask about 25 or 30 questions about your business and how it runs. That allows me to get to know you and ensure that you know how to operate your business.”
That may sound like a lot of questions, but Chernick says they cover information every entrepreneur already knows about their business and has readily at hand. These questions include basics about decision making at the company, practice areas and commodities, and verifying other basic information provided during the online application process. A canceled check with the company’s name on it or signed signatory form can also be provided during the site visit if one has not already been sent to NGLCC.
Chernick assures business owners that all information shared is treated as confidential within the organization.
“All information culled is strictly confidential,” he said. “Because of the signed non-disclosure agreement, nothing is ever shared beyond the certification committee.”
Following the site visit, the timeline to complete the certification process is up to six weeks. Once the site visit is completed and all documentation is received by NGLCC, the application is reviewed by the National Certification Committee, which meets once monthly. This committee is comprised of LGBT entrepreneurs and corporate partner representatives who volunteer their time to provide a check and balance system to the certification process as an objective, third party. After the complete application is reviewed, the entrepreneur is contacted with the committee’s official certification decision.
Establishing the eligibility of the LGBTBE is the primary purpose of the site visit, but Chernick says another benefit is the opportunity to interact face-to-face with an NGLCC representative.
“The site visit is an excellent opportunity for me to get to know the entrepreneur, but it’s also a chance for the entrepreneur to get to know what NGLCC is about and what opportunities are available to them through their local chamber,” Chernick said. “I encourage entrepreneurs to see it as a networking opportunity for you to get to grow your network.”
An extra benefit for Chernick? Meeting the entrepreneurs who are driving the U.S. economy.
“I really enjoy the process of conducting site visits. I’ve met incredible, cool people who are shaping the U.S. economy and the landscape of business owners,” Chernick says. “It’s exciting to get to meet such inspirational people.”