Do you own a small business? Obtaining government certification as a minority-owned small business can be a way for you to gain access to lucrative federal contracts.
Michael Nicholas, CEO and president of NIMS Services, Inc. is all too familiar with this process. NIMS is expected to generate more than $2 million worth of government contracts in the next three years. The minority-owned full service energy marketing firm distributes fuels, lubricants, oils and other energy related products. Nicholas talked with BLACKENTERPRISE.com about why he choseto pursue Small Disadvantaged Business certification (SDB) over 8(a) certification and the steps he took to become certified.
BLACK ENTERPRISE: Prior to applying for certification did you have to join the Central Contractor Registry (CCR)?
Michael Nicholas: Yes, we did have to apply to the CCR. This entire process from completing the application online to receiving the CCR number took two business days. I submitted all current company information, including tax ID number, addresses, all contact information, all banking information, a point of secondary contact for your company and alternate contact information if needed.
Why did NIMS choose SDB certification over 8(a) certification?
NIMS Services, Inc. is in the business of selling an expensive commodity. The 8(a) certification wasn’t recommended as we would “graduate” out of the program very quickly based on the dollar thresholds in place for the 8(a) program.
Did you need to prove NIMS has been discriminated against in the marketplace as a minority owned business?
A company is required to provide a Narrative Statement of Discrimination when applying for SDB certification. It is my recommendation to attach documentation with this to prove the level of credibility. We are anecdotally aware that this is considered very serious so having very obvious evidence is going to be very important.
How did you prepare for a site visit with the SBA certification committee member?
I needed to ensure we had a private office, a lockable file storage cabinet and visible computer with printer, scanner and fax capabilities. The address of the building should be visible from the street. If possible, the space should be handicap accessible.
What paperwork did you need to present during the visit?
I had to prepare copies of all certification documents that I had in my possession, certified tax returns -personal and business – for the prior three years, financial statements, copies of our articles of incorporation, my CCR and SBA profile among a number of other documents.
How much contracting dollars has NIMS been awarded since certification?
To date, the total amount awarded and scheduled to be purchased through NIMS is $2.5 million. The time frame for the expenditure is the next 36 months. Profits are dependent on the market at the time of the purchase.
What resources did you use to help you with the process?
My resources included mentors, the late J.T. Smith of SDS Petroleum Products and another mentor who were prime sources of information. The Denver SBA office was a big help and introduced me to the Business Matchmaking group. Through Business Matchmaking, I was able to meet federal diversity procurement officers who have continued the mentoring process.
Despite having the certification, what challenges do you still face in landing contracts?
A few of the major challenges are securing the proper financing for large contracts, hiring the proper personnel to facilitate the contracts, obtaining the correct legal advice for specified projects and qualifying for top level security clearances when needed.