A little recognition can go a long way and open a lot of doors. And getting properly certified as an LGBT-owned business enterprise can have many benefits for business owners.
While it is not a new concept, it is one that continues to pick up momentum as LGBT business owners look for ways to increase exposure for their companies, connect with leading corporations as partners and suppliers, interact with other LGBT-owned businesses, and promote overall awareness of LGBT-owned enterprises.
David Coleman of Care One, Inc. said he became aware of the certification through the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce as he was researching hospital systems for new business opportunities. Headquartered in Ypsilanti, Care One, Inc. is a premier health care staffing provider, matching highly qualified nurses and other health care professionals with facilities in need of their time and talent. It was founded by President and CEO Steven Cook in 1993.
As Coleman reviewed supplier programs, the term “LGBT supplier” piqued his interest.
He delved into the topic a bit further and his initial thought was that it would be a good opportunity to pursue in order to help open the door and compete for contracts against larger companies. What he discovered is that while achieving LGBT certification is a way to gain more business, the benefits go far beyond dollars and cents.
Should Your Business Consider LGBT Certification?
LGBT certification provides businesses a stamp of approval to bid for certain projects, said Kevin Heard, president of the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce board of directors.
As more and more companies seek diverse suppliers to provide products and/or services, LGBT certification is the first step in the process to help differentiate businesses, he said.
However, owners still have to work to earn contracts, make professional connections and grow their business.
That’s exactly what Claude Jones, owner of Town & Country Door LLC in Bloomfield Township is working toward. Currently in the process of becoming LGBT-certified, Jones sees tremendous growth in the downtown area and believes opening a minority-certified satellite office in Detroit will help him secure city contracts as his business expands from installing and repairing residential garage doors to installing commercial and residential entry doors.
It’s a proactive move he wanted to make for his 16 employees to help keep the work flowing and his 22-year-old company thriving.
Care One, Inc. has been LGBT-certified for a little over one year, and while supplier diversity is an undeveloped marketplace for LGBT businesses, Coleman agreed, for him it’s also another opportunity to promote LGBT inclusion by changing the hearts of people one conversation at a time through education and advocacy efforts.
Still, Coleman, a straight man who strongly supports gay rights, said the decision to seek LGBT certification wasn’t an easy one.
“There is still a stigma to being LGBT in a certain part of the business community,” he said. “There was an unspoken concern about how this would impact our business, but it turned out to be an unfounded fear.”
Jones said he focuses on operating a fair and honest business, and if customers don’t want to deal with his company because it is owned by a gay man, then it is their loss.
The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce reports that slightly more than 1,000 businesses nationwide are LGBT-certified, with the largest concentration of those businesses in California.
According to the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce, only a small number of Michigan businesses – 11 to be exact – have achieved LGBT certification.
Heard is working diligently to increase those numbers across southeastern Michigan.
What it Takes to Become LGBT-Certified
To prevent people from stating they are LGBT simply to gain diversity supplier status, there is a fair amount of vetting to the procedure.
Businesses are eligible for LGBT certification if they are:
• A member of their local LGBT Chamber of Commerce chapter, such as the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce
• A legal LLC or corporation in the United States
• At least 51 percent owned, operated, managed and controlled by an LGBT individual who is a legal resident of the United States
Care One’s president and CEO, Steven Cook, is married so he was able to submit an application as well as his marriage certificate and other documents for certification. After an on-site interview to verify his documentation and a review by the National Certification Committee, it didn’t take much time at all to become certified, said Coleman.
Certification can be earned in as little as 60-90 days with proper documentation, said Heard, but it is possible to take up to six months.
“I was impressed by the certification process,” said Coleman. “It is not easy to slip through the cracks.”
The Benefits of LGBT Certification
Suppliers that hire LGBT-certified businesses directly have a positive impact on local communities. As Heard explained, when these small businesses earn contracts, they are able to hire and re-invest in the neighborhoods they live and work in, some of which are underserved communities. Boosting the local economy in this manner can have a long-reaching affect which can extend way past the contract deadline.
In addition, businesses can expand their offerings by teaming up with other LGBT-certified suppliers for contract opportunities, said Heard.
Coleman is pleased that they sought the certification, saying that he has experienced many intangible benefits as a result. The most important of these assets, he said, is meeting and making connections with people who advocate for LGBT inclusion.
“Everyone involved with this is moving LGBT issues forward,” he said.
For more information about becoming a certified LGBT-owned business, visit the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce at www.detroitlgbtchamber.com.