Frequently Asked Questions
At DBE Direct, we receive calls every day from individuals who seek SBA 8(a) certification. Below are answers to some of the frequently asked questions that we receive:
Do I need to be 8(a) certified to do business with the federal government?
No. SBA 8(a) certification (or any other certification for that matter) is not a requirement to do business with the federal government. The 8(a) program is a resource for small businesses that seek business development assistance. The program helps to level the playing field by allowing small business to compete for government contracts against similarly situated small businesses. In some cases, certified firms can be awarded contracts without competing. Other benefits of the program include mentoring, procurement assistance, training and other assistance. However, if you don’t qualify for the SBA 8(a) certification or other certification you are not precluded from bidding on government contracts.
Does getting certified guarantee that I receive a government contract?
No. Getting your company certified is only one step towards being awarded a government contract. Once you obtain certification you have to market, you company and products to the agencies that buy your service or product. In many cases, we counsel our clients not to get certified because they are not in the position to benefit from the 8(a) Business Development program either because they are too small, too inexperienced or simply do not have the financial strength to undertake an effective marketing program.
How long does it take to get certified?
It depends. Once the regional Division of Program Certification and Eligibility (DPCE) determines that your application is complete, a final decision regarding 8(a) eligibility is required to be made within 90 days. However, this doesn’t take into account the amount of time it will take you to perform all of the steps towards completing your certification application such as determining your NAICS code, obtaining your DUNS number, registering on the CCR, gathering your documents, completing the application, signing and notarizing them where necessary, etc., etc. etc. We have literally met individuals who have procrastinated for years because they simply didn’t know where to start. We’ve also seen individuals spend months dealing with turning in incomplete applications and dealing with the questions that result.
How much does it cost to get certified?
If you prepare your application yourself, it shouldn’t cost you anything other than your time and effort. However, if you hire a consultant to prepare your application, it can cost you several thousand dollars. At DBE Direct, although we are a law firm, our prices are competitive with many of the consultants you will find. Besides, our knowledge of the 8(a) program one added benefit of retaining us to prepare you application is that our price includes a free appeal in the event that your application is denied. Since, appeals require much more work on our part, it is our policy not to take on any client seeking certification unless we determine it will be successfully or we believe we can successfully appeal a potential denial.
I’ve been in business less than two years, can I still obtain 8(a) certification?
The rules governing the program require you to be in business for more than two years. You can obtain a waiver if you meet certain criteria. (See our article regarding the 2 year waiver). However, we often counsel our clients not to get a two year waiver. First, they often don’t qualify. Second, many times if the business is less than two-years old the company is not in the position to take full advantage of the 8(a) program. Many times we help our clients determine if other alternatives exist that allow them to participate in government contract opportunities without getting the 8(a) certification. This may mean getting the company certified through another program or helping the client team or subcontract with other companies.
Will getting 8(a) certified help me get business at the state and local level or from private corporations?
It may if the state or local government or private corporation accepts the 8(a) certification as a tool to meet its small business contracting goals. However, in our experience, 8(a) certification is really only accepted at the federal level by those agencies that use the certification to help them meet their small business contracting goal. If your goal is to obtain business at the state or local level or from private corporations there may be other certifications more suitable to helping you reach your goal. At DBE Direct, we pride ourselves on our knowledge of small business certifications and helping our clients choose and apply for the certification that most closely aligns with their goals.
Does getting more than one certification (i.e. Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business, Women Owned Small Business, etc.) make me more eligible to get government contracts?
In our experience, no. Agencies will not award a contract to your company solely because it is 8(a) certified, women-owned or whatever. Agencies hire firms that provide goods and/or services that they need. If you are 8(a) certified, women or veteran-owned then you also provide the additionally benefit of helping that agency meet its small business contracting goals, but they won’t award a contract to your firm for that reason alone.
I’m not a minority (veteran or woman) but my wife (or husband) is. Can I make her (or him) the majority owner of the company and get certified?
This is a tricky question. First, the 8(a) certification program like most small business certification programs require that the company be owned and controlled by the person who qualifies the business as an 8(a) firm. Simply handing over 51% ownership to your spouse or anyone else does not give them control of the company as shown in the company’s financial and business records. From time to time we have assisted individuals who have legitimately transferred their business to their spouse or another individual. We have helped the new owners establish control of the company and meet the requirements to obtain certification. Each case is different. If you are in this situation we strongly urge to contact us.
Can my 8(a) certification expire?
Yes. The SBA 8(a) Business Development program only lasts 9 years. After 9 years the firm graduates from the program and is no longer able to participate as an 8(a) firm. However, your firm can also face early termination or early graduation from the 8(a) program. You will know that a determination to terminate or early graduate your firm has been made by the SBA’s Director, Office of Business Development when you receive a Notification of Early Graduation or Termination. Once you receive the Notice you have 45 days to appeal the termination or graduation. If you do not appeal, the termination or graduation becomes the SBA’s final decision, effective on the forty-fifth day. We urge any business facing early termination or early graduation to contact us at DBE Direct to assist you with your appeal.