Navigating Veteran Certification: What You Need to Know

Today, large companies are strengthening their diverse spend as they make efforts to create more equity in their supply chains, providing more procurement opportunities to veteran-owned businesses (VOBs). With this opportunity comes barriers for this diverse population. IVMF’s National Survey of Military Affiliated Entrepreneurs found that 55% of veterans reported business certification as a barrier because of its difficult process. So why is veteran certification so difficult?

As diverse supply chains grow in the public and private sector, there is not one single certifying process for corporations to identify verified veteran-owned and operated firms. This requires veteran entrepreneurs to strategically determine which certification will best meet their business goals. Since there are three private and one federal veteran certification options, in addition to other diverse certification options the business owner might qualify for, choosing what certification is best to allocate resources to is substantial to the company’s success.

Understand where you are as a company, where your infrastructure is and where you want to go. This will help determine which certification is best for you.” – Margot Langstaff, managing partner and co-founder at Life Health, Vet50 & Vet100 Honoree

Understanding the importance of becoming procurement-ready, while also navigating the complexities of business certification can be confusing and cause frustration for many business owners. In a recent report, Veteran Certification: Demystify & Align, the IVMF investigated the onerous topic of veteran certification and detailed five key takeaways:

  1. Certification is important
    1. VOBs are a solution for large companies looking to diversify their supplier base. Data shows a positive correlation between supplier diversity initiatives and business performance. According to a study by the Hackett Group, “up to 10 percent of sales come with supplier diversity requirements, suggesting that the lack of such a program can even result in lost revenue.” Many large companies are interested in leveraging VOBs in their supply chain strategies because of the benefit VOBs provide to both quality and efficiency of their work, which studies have credited to the skills they obtained from their time in the service. Leveraging minority suppliers, such as a VOB, also contributes to the “multiplier effect” which results in the likelihood of a diverse workforce, increase chances of relating to diverse buyers, and aids in diverse spend in an increasingly global economy.
  2. Several key considerations
    1. Identify the targeted corporation’s certification requirement
    2. Determine which of the various types of certifications provides the most benefit to the VOB
    3. Verify the amount of time and money to be invested to become certified and recertified
    4. Pinpoint the ideal time in the business lifecycle to seek certification
  3. Learn about different certification options
    1. Self-Certification
      • This option is not often recognized at the corporate, federal, or state level, but is typically useful on public-facing platforms as a means of advertisement, self-promotion, or self-publicization.
    2. State
      • Many states have established their own certification process that is distinct and separate from a national certifying body. State certification is used as an alternative or supplement to a national-level certification for state-level procurement opportunities.
    3. Federal
      • The Vets First Verification Program requires veteran- and service-disabled veteran-owned and operated businesses to be verified to compete for VA set asides.
    4. Private
      • Certification helps veteran, and other minority-owned, businesses enter into supplier contracts with large companies. There are several certifying bodies to help verify the credibility of your company to help make you eligible for preferential treatment in private-sector supply chains.
  4. There’s a need to align veteran certification
        1. Unlike other diverse groups that are served by one generally accepted certification, such as Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), and National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), there is no single certifying body or certifying process for VOBs.
          1. Veteran Certifying Bodies (4)
          2. Other diverse group certifying bodies:

As a result of this difficult process, the current state of veteran business certification divides the marketplace and puts pressure on both VOBs and corporations to multiply the time and money spent to make the needed procurement connections. There is a need for a streamlined VOB certification process that will require certifying bodies, corporations, and veteran services organizations to demystify and organize the process so VOBs can focus on what’s important – their business. Check out “Veteran Certification: Demystify & Align” for more information on veteran certification and opportunities for improvement and coordination.

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