I want to share with you a conversation I had on LinkedIn with a connection of mine. He asked a whole host of questions about being a certified LGBT owned business. While I was answering them for him I figured I would answer them for you as well.
He asked the following: “How does one qualify as a transgender, gay, bisexual business? Does one simply have to say the business has proclivities toward one of these groups, or do you have to prove it in some way? What if someone lies about their preferences? I mean, how does one qualify as this type of business? Is there a certificate of authenticity? Lots of questions!”
These questions are great and really focus around the concept of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) business certification. The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) is the certifying body for this certification. The businesses being certified are referred to as LGBTBE’s (LGBT Business Enterprises). The purpose of these businesses becoming certified is to help you get supplier contracts with big companies or local, state and federal government agencies. The easiest way to put it is that being a certified business gets you a seat at the bidding table. If your company is more cost effective and more competitive than the person next to you, then you deserve the contract. However you won’t get a contract just because you are a certified business. Business certification is not unique to LGBT people, there are certifications for women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and veterans, just to name a few. I will certainly elaborate on all of this in a future post. But this post is intended as a broad overview.
So now let’s get to the answers – I will tackle each one by one.
1. How does one qualify as a LGBT business?
In order to qualify as an LGBT business it must be 51% owned, operated, managed and controlled by an LGBT person. If you were seeking certification to be a woman-owned business or veteran owned the same criteria would apply, 51%. Showing that it is owned, operated, managed and controlled can be done through a variety of business documents such as operating agreements, shareholder agreements, etc. It varies based on your business type, ie. Corp, LLC, sole proprietor, etc.
2. How does one prove they are a LGBT owned business?
Before your mind goes to the gutter – no, sending pictures is not an acceptable form of proving LGBT status. You need to submit a ‘Status Qualifier.’ This is much easier if you are in a relationship where you can produce items such as a marriage certificate, domestic partner certificate or a civil union certificate – if you have one. Or you can show proof of a joint personal bank account with your significant other. If you are not in a relationship you can provide items such as advertising or promotional materials you may be using that note that you are LGBT owned and operated. Or perhaps you’ve been recognized or awarded by an LGBT organization and it acknowledges you as a community member. Additionally, if you have a relationship with your local LGBT chamber of commerce they can provide a letter attesting to your LGBT status and acknowledging your membership within the organization. A side benefit is the fee for certification is waived if you are a member of a local LGBT chamber of commerce.
3. What if someone lies about their preferences? I mean, how does one qualify as this type of business?
To be very frank – the certification process isn’t something you are going to get done in an hour. It asks for business information and documents that help prove you are who you say you are and your business does what you say it does. I suppose if you really wanted to lie about it you could but I would ask why go through all the trouble just to lie about being LGBT? The status qualifiers noted above can typically rule out someone trying to lie about their status. And talk about a mixed up world if we have people lying because they are really straight!
4. Is there a certificate of authenticity?
There sure is. Once you go through the process of becoming a certified business you’ll receive an official certificate from the NGLCC. It will have a number on it which major corporations and the government may ask you for to verify that you are really certified.
A few additional things to note. If you are an ally to the LGBT community you are not eligible to be a certified business. Sad, I know. However that should not deter you from wanting to be involved locally or nationally with LGBT business community. There are many tier 2 and tier 3 business opportunities to be had by your fellow business owners. In short, tier 2 would be an ally owned business getting a contract with an LGBT owned business because the LGBT owned business landed a big piece of work as a result of their certification. The tier 3 might be someone you hire to help fulfill the contract you gained, and so on.
As I noted above – this is a broad overview tackling some questions I received earlier this week. I can and will elaborate on all of these things in the future. If any of my answers above spawned new questions I’d love for you to leave them in the comments below, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach out via any social network. I love helping people and I love answering your questions, so hit me with what you’ve got and I’ll get back to you soon!