Last Updated: Aug 25, 2015
Certification as a small business, socio-economic disadvantaged business, woman-owned business, veteran-owned business, or some combination of those can give you an edge in bidding on contracts with the government and with prime contractors who sell to the government. Here’s the scoop.

The federal government awards more than $200 billion every year in government contracts, making it one of the largest, if not the largest, purchasers of goods and services in the country. For businesses that are small, women-owned, minority-owned, or service-disabled veteran-owned, this is particularly good news because the federal government has mandated that 25 percent of all government contracts should be given to small businesses meeting those requirements. Here are a few key points for businesses owners interested in seizing these opportunities.

While certification is not a mandatory requirement for doing business with the government, if you are a woman, minority or service-disabled veteran business owner, you should get your business certified. “Certification” is the process by which someone, usually a government entity such as the Small Business Administration or the Department of Transportation, or approved third-party certification organizations,reviews your business to confirm that it is indeed owned by a woman, minority, or service-disabled veteran.

RELATED: How to Get Your Share of Government Contracts

Numerous “socio-economic” certifications exist, including the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, SBA 8(a), Women Owned Small Business, and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business. Each of these certifications targets specific types of owners, such as minorities or women.

The advantage of being certified is that instead of competing for government contracts with large government contractors who are household name companies, your company will compete for contracts with businesses that are similar in size and capability. While the contracts are generally smaller than the large contracts you may hear about in the news, many of the contracts set aside for small businesses are still worth millions of dollars.

To determine whether you or your company is eligible for certification, you must generally be able to meet the following qualifications:


Ownership, size and personal net worth are three key criteria that certifying agencies will review to determine whether your company is eligible for a particular certification. There many more, and it important for you to ensure that you understand all of the requirements for the particular certification you seek and that you have taken the necessary steps to meet them. Without a doubt, the benefits of completing the certification process can be significant, as your business will have cleared the first step towards getting its slice of the $200 billion government contracts pie.

Jeff Cazeau is a shareholder with law firm Becker & Poliakoff who has a national practice assisting small and mid-sized companies obtain and keep contracts with federal, state and local government entities. He may be reached at [email protected].