How difficult is it to get SBA 8a Certified? Should I do it myself or use a consultant?
You may have heard that the SBA rejects 70% and questions 90% of all 8a Applications. In my professional opinion, as the President/CEO of Cloveer, Inc., who has assisted in over 1,500 8a successful applications, it can be very difficult without some kind of professional assistance. As a small business owner who wants to apply, SBA 8a Certification expertise will most likely be out of your skill set, so you should consider hiring a consultant for some or all of the process. Many business owners who apply on their own, actually do more harm than good by not knowing the 8a Program rules and regulations and therefore cause themselves to be ineligible.
I recently saw another consultant advertise that “Anyone Can Get Certified”. The fact is that not everyone can get 8a Certified. There are less than 10,000 active SBA 8a Program participants and there have never been more than 10,000 active business concerns at any one time in the 8a Program’s history. The line “Anyone Can Get Certified” is strictly a marketing strategy for this consultant to try and convince you that they can get anyone certified. In the long run, submitting an 8a Application that had major problems that have been “Fixed to meet SBA 8a Regulations ” may possibly end up costing your business concern the ability to ever get 8a certified. Once you submit an 8a Application and it is either returned with a letter or outright rejected, you have essentially made the process of getting 8a Certified 100 times more difficult. The bottom line is that it is very important to get your 8a Application done right the first time it is submitted.
Can any consultant guarantee that your 8a Application will be approved by the SBA?
The answer is NO. The Small Business Administration (SBA) makes final determination on all 8a Applications and therefore no one other than the SBA can guarantee that your 8a Application will be approved. If any consultant guarantees that they can get your business concern 8a Certified, they are (1) Violating the SBA regulations, since the SBA regulations strictly prohibit any type of guarantee and (2) Flat out lying to you and will most likely just take your money, waste your time and cause you problems with your 8a Application. I have seen some desperate consultants that provide a money back guarantee and if you don’t get approved for the 8a Program, they will give you your money back. I couldn’t tell you how many times I get calls from people who have been burned on a money back guarantee. I hear the consultant always finds a way to say the client violated the contract so they don’t have to give the money back. I believe in the old adage “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”. When you consider hiring an consultant you should speak to the actual individual who will be preparing your 8a Application, not just the sales person. If you hire a consultant to assist in the completion of your 8a Application, make sure you have a written agreement and nothing is left to a verbal agreement.
Here is an excerpt taken from the SBA.gov website:
“Please be advised that no one can guarantee that an application for 8(a) program participation will be approved. The application process is intended to assure that each applicant receives a fair review. Any irregularities in the application review process should be immediately referred to the SBA Office of Inspector General.”
My advice is to follow your gut feeling. I have more tips below to assist you in considering which consultant to hire for assistance with your SBA 8a Application.
If I follow the SBA’s instructions for getting 8a Certified, can I get successfully 8a Certified on my own?
Yes, but it will most likely take you more than a year, multiple submissions, and leave you completely frustrated. The SBA 8a application instructions provide a checklist of documents to submit with your 8a Application, but provide no advice whatsoever on the specific requirements of these documents.
For example, if your business concern is a corporation, you will be required to submit your corporate bylaws. Unfortunately, you just can’t submit any set of corporate bylaws such as the ones you may have received when you incorporated. You must submit a version of your bylaws that contain very specific language which meet the SBA’s unconditional control requirements. How do you find out what specific language is required to meet the SBA’s unconditional control requirements? Well, If you have the time to read the SBA 8a Program Rules and Regulations, 8a Standard Operating Procedure and various SBA Office of Hearing and Appeals cases that govern the SBA 8a Program and its requirements you will be able to determine the specifics. At Cloveer, we’ve done that and actually have a set of bylaws for purchase that meets all SBA unconditional control requirements.
What should I look for if I decide to hire a consultant to assist in the completion of my SBA 8a Application?
Some people immediately look at price as a defining factor in choosing a consultant. While price should certainly be part of your selection strategy for a consultant, you should also consider the following:
1. Look at their Better Business Bureau report. Are they listed in the bbb.org? Do they have any customer complaints. Are any unresolved? What is their BBB grade. Remember most people don’t complain to the BBB so if the company has customer complaints, there are probably more than what is listed. Cloveer maintains a A Rated BBB rating.
2. Can you determine who the company actually is? Does the company list their physical address on their website? Does their website list information about who their principals and any affiliates they may have?
3. Ask for references of their certified clients and actually place calls to these people. Ask their clients if they were charged more than the price originally quoted. Did the person who sold the service to them or pre-qualified them actually do the work or did they get passed to a junior analyst. Ask them how long it took to get the 8a application completed and the processes they used to collect and manage the data that you submitted. Finally, ask them how long it took to get 8a Certified.
4. When you initially call a consultant, did they answer all of your questions or just try to get you to sign up? If you have a potential problem that you think will prevent you or your business concern from getting 8a Certified, did they give you their honest and candid opinion, based upon the their experience, if this problem is fixable or not?
5. Finally, is the consultant someone who you feel you can work with and who you can trust since you will be providing tax returns, Social Security Numbers, etc. Does the agreement show that they protect your information?.
Cloveer Inc. is a corporation located in Wesley Chapel, FL. You can call us at 813-333-5800 or visit our website at
. Cloveer has 8a Application Completion Software and Professional Services to assist Minority, Women and Service Disabled Veteran owned business prepare their 8a Application, 8a Business Plan, 8a Annual Review or 8a Mentor/Protege agreement. Cloveer also maintains a blog that provides tips and articles on the SBA 8a Program.