You may have heard that the SBA rejects approximately 70% and questions almost 90% of all 8(a) Applications submitted. In my professional opinion, as the President/CEO of Cloveer, Inc., who has assisted in over 3,000 successful 8a applications, it can be very difficult without some kind of professional assistance. As a small business owner who wants to apply, SBA 8(a) Certification expertise will most likely be out of your skill set. You should consider hiring a consultant or attorney for some or all of the application completion process. Many small business owners who apply for the 8(a) Program on their own, actually do more harm than good by not knowing the 8(a) Program rules and regulations and therefore cause themselves to be ineligible.
The fact is that not everyone can get 8(a) Certified. As of January 2022, there are less than 7,000 active SBA 8a Program participants. Submitting an 8(a) 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 8(a) certified. Once you submit an 8(a) Application and it is either returned with a letter or outright rejected, you have essentially made the process of getting 8(a) Certified 100 times more difficult. The bottom line is that it is very important to get your 8(a) Application done right the first time it is submitted.
Can any consultant guarantee that your 8(a) Application will be approved by the SBA?
The answer is NO. The Small Business Administration (SBA) makes final determination on all 8(a) Applications and therefore no one other than the SBA can guarantee that your 8(a) Application will be approved. If any consultant guarantees that they can get your business concern 8(a) 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 8(a) Application. I have seen some desperate consultants that provide a money back guarantee and if you don’t get approved for the 8(a) 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 8(a) Application, not just the sales person. If you hire a consultant to assist in the completion of your 8(a) 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 8(a) Application.
If I follow the SBA’s instructions for getting 8(a) Certified, can I get successfully 8(a) Certified on my own?
Possibly, but it will most likely take you more than a year, multiple submissions, and leave you completely frustrated. The SBA 8(a) 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. Additionally, the SBA’s checklist is not a catch-all list. There are other items that will be requested and any good consultant will know what these missing items are.
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. 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?
2. 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 8(a) 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 8(a) Certified.
3. 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 8(a) Certified, did they give you their honest and candid opinion, based upon the their experience, if this problem is fixable or not?
4. 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?.
If you would like assistance with your 8(a) Application, Cloveer can help. With 20 years and over 3,000 successful applications under our belt, we can assure you that no matter which option you choose, Cloveer will work harder and faster to get your business SBA 8a certified. Contact us today at 813-333-5800 or visiting our website at www.cloveer.com to discover what Cloveer can do for you. We also offer these options for further assistance in completing your 8(a) Application.
- For those who wish to complete the application on their own we offer an 8(a) Application Review service. Here, one of our 8a program experts will review your entire application, checking it for missing documents and potential eligibility issues. We will then advise you as to how best to modify your application to ensure it will be approved an SBA reviewer.
Option 2 – 8a Application Completion Service
- The majority of our clients however, prefer a little more of a hands-on approach. They recognize the expertise we have accumulated in the over 20 years we’ve been assisting clients obtain 8(a) certification, and want us to put it to use for them. If you opt for our 8(a) Application Completion Service, we will work one-on-one with you to ensure that your 8(a) Application is 100% complete and compliant so the SBA can review and accept it the first time.
2 thoughts on “How difficult is it to get SBA 8a Certified? Should I do it myself or use a consultant?”
The 8(a) certification process is appalling. If I had the money, I would have definitely hired someone to prepare my package. I have found contradictory checklists, arbitrary interpretations, etc. One of the questions that caused my package to be returned had to do with a statement in my resume (!!!!!).
Unfortunately, by definition, only the disadvantaged gets to experience this part of the government. It reminds me very much of my path to becoming an American citizen through naturalization and how much corruption and incompetence I witnessed throughout the 8 years it took me to complete the process (even though I was serving in the military). Just like then, I will do things by the book and continue to be relentless.
The rest of the public needs to know what this process has become.
Nelson, I couldn’t agree more. It’s unfortunate that the SBA has become so unfriendly to small businesses in a time when they need this type of assistance the most. You are not alone in your feelings. I speak to hundreds of businesses a year who have experienced the same experience that you have with the SBA.