Common misconceptions about getting 8(a) Certified

Myth: It’s easy to get SBA 8(a) Certified.

As of December 2021 there are less than 7,000 active 8(a) Program participants and have never been more than 10,000 active 8(a) Program participants at any one time in the SBA 8(a) Program’s history.

Fact: The SBA returns over 90% of all 8(a) applications submitted and rejects 70% of all 8(a) applications submitted for review.

Myth: All I need to do is fill out the SBA’s 8(a) electronic application through certify.sba.gov and I will get 8(a) Certified.

The SBA’s 8(a) electronic application is where you formally apply and submit your 8(a) application responses and upload your unique documentation, however in order to even get to the certify.sba.gov process you must do a lot of leg work.  You must have a Dun and Bradstreet Profile, SAM.GOV profile and gathered and collected all of the required documents to be submitted to the SBA. Just collecting the required information does not guarantee that you will get 8(a) Certified. There are many requirements that the 8(a) applicant and firm must meet, along with the SBA requirements within your unique documents submitted to the SBA. For example. Just submitting your Bylaws or Operating Agreement may not cut it. There are specific provisions within these documents to ensure the unconditional requirements of the 8(a) Program are met.

Fact: The certify.sba.gov 8(a) application does not allow you to move forward to the next question, most of the time, without having uploaded the required documents, in the appropriate format requested. Also, the SBA application will not automatically inform you if you have an eligibility issue.

Myth: Once I submit my 8(a) application through certify.sba.gov I am done and will get 8(a) Certified quickly.

Typically, when you answer all of the questions, upload all of the required documents and hit the submit button, the SBA takes anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to assign a reviewer to your case. At this point, they will most likely come back and ask for additional information or clarifications, regardless of how complete and thorough you thought you were when completed the 8(a) Application. If your SBA reviewer makes a determination that your 8(a) application is not complete, they will return your 8(a) Application and you must go through the 8(a) application submission process again. This results in a minimum of a 15 to 30 day additional delay. Assuming you properly answer, respond to and upload any additional information requested by the SBA reviewer and re-submit your 8(a) Application, your back in the queue again. We call this the endless review cycle at the SBA and this is where most get frustrated and just give up.

Fact: It takes anywhere from 90 to 180 days to get formally 8(a) Certified even if all of your information was 100% correct and perfect. The SBA does not even start this 90-180 clock until the deem your 8(a) application complete for processing.

Myth: Once I get 8(a) Certified, I am guaranteed a federal contract.

Getting 8(a) certified does not guarantee that you will receive an 8(a) contract.

Fact: About 50% of all 8(a) Program participants never receive one contract because they do not know how to market their business to the federal government. Getting 8(a) certified will certainly open opportunities at the federal level but you must still spend the time and effort in marketing your business to potential federal clients.

Myth: My ASBDC, PTAC and local SBA office told me I qualified to become 8(a) Certified.

There are only two processing offices (King of Prussia, PA and San Francisco, CA) that review all 8(a) applications submitted. Final determination on whether you will become 8(a) certified is made within the Washington, DC office. There are approximately 10-15 SBA 8(a) Application reviewers within the two processing offices.

Fact: Anyone who tells you that you qualify for 8(a) certification before reviewing ALL of your 8(a) application paperwork does not know what they are talking about and it will most likely result in your 8(a) Application being returned or denied by the SBA.

Myth: I don’t need any assistance in putting my 8(a) application together.

Unless you understand the SBA 8(a) Program Regulations, you should not attempt to put your 8(a) Application together yourself. The SBA 8(a) Application has many tripwires and potential application “killers” that could cause your 8(a) application to be returned for incompleteness or even rejected. We suggest that you find some assistance to help with some or all areas of your 8(a) application.

At Cloveer, we conduct a detailed free pre-qualification interview with any potential client before we engage or start preparing their 8(a) application.

Our questionnaire asks you the “Killer” questions that will let us, or more importantly you, know if you have an eligibility issue.

Fact: There are ways around a lot of the 8(a) Program eligibility issues but not everyone will be able to qualify.

We advise any potential client on the pros and cons to any eligibility issue and tell them when they have an eligibility issue that has no workarounds. Our feeling is that is it better for you to know now, rather than later.

As you can see from our blog, website and 8(a) frequently asked questions section, we provide more information about the 8(a) Program than all of our competitors.

We want you to know as much information about the SBA 8(a) Program as possible since you will be the one participating and using it as one of the tools to becoming a success.

The more you know, the better decisions you can make before you apply and while you are in the 8(a) Program.

For more information on the 8(a) Program, call us at 813-333-5800 or schedule a call to have your questions answered.

Don’t think the 8(a) Program or HUBZone Program has any work? Think Again!

If you don’t think the 8(a) Program or HUBZone Program can be a valuable tool for your business just look at the following 8(a) and HUBZone contract information pulled from the SBA for FY 2020.


8(a) Firms:
Awarded: $34B

8(a) Sole Source Contract Actions:
Awarded: $11.B

8(a) Competitive Contract Actions:
Total Action Obligations: $9.3B


HUBZone Firms:
Awarded: 13.6B


Need assistance with your 8(a) or HUBZone Application? 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 8(a) or HUBZone certified.  Contact us today at 813-333-5800 or visit our website at cloveer.com to discover what Cloveer can do for you.

Tips on finding 8(a) contract opportunities

The federal government is the largest buyer in the world, but how do you know what agency will buy what you sell?

What do government agencies buy and where to locate opportunities?

The federal government buys everything from office supplies to missiles. No matter what your product or services are, chances are there is a federal agency that buys it. But you can’t sell your products or services to the federal government if you don’t know which federal agencies are buying and what their needs are.

Here are some tips for finding 8(a) contract opportunities:

  • The federal government operates an online service called SAM.gov. This single entry, government wide Web site, announces available business opportunities and is a powerful tool to help you become successful in government contracting.

You can narrow down your search for 8(a) set-aside contract opportunities or set-up an account to automatically receive targeted opportunities via email. We suggest that you specifically look for 8(a) opportunities that are in the pre-solicitation or sources sought phase as most of the other phases are too far along in the procurement process already.

Agencies use a variety of means for purchasing items. 8(a) firms should become familiar with how those buying offices advertise these requirements and then monitor them closely. Most government agencies have common purchasing needs. The government can realize economies of scale by centralizing the purchasing of certain types of products or services.

  • Visit the https://sam.gov/content/opportunities. It contains every federal procurement that has ever taken place.  You can search and find out which federal agency is buying your products or services, the names of your competitors who were awarded past contracts, their dollar value, location, NAICS code and more.
  • Visit the USASpending.gov web site. USAspending.gov is the official source for spending data for the U.S. Government. Its mission is to show the American public what the federal government spends every year and how it spends the money. You can follow the money from the Congressional appropriations to the federal agencies and down to local communities and businesses.

Once you have an idea of who you can sell your products and services to, your local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) (http://www.aptac-us.org/) may offer workshops for small businesses to acquire a basic understanding of the federal government procurement process. Some locations also offer services such as matching a firm’s capabilities with federal solicitations advertised in FedBizOpps, information on subcontracting opportunities, one-to-one technical assistance in completing bid packages and other paperwork, etc.

When Will the Agency Buy It Again?

As stated above, most agencies publish procurement forecasts on their web sites. Procurement forecasts are wish lists of proposed contract opportunities that may or may not come to fruition. Procurement history may be more reliable. If they’ve been buying it for years, they may continue to buy it. You may want to try to identify knowledgeable officials at the buying agency and then ask for their opinions. But again, their information may be subject to change. Much of what an agency buys depends on their budget. You should also develop a good rapport with buying agency officials.

One of the most important things that you have to do next is to convince the buying agency that they should buy from you. If the buying agency is using a competitive procurement process, why should it consider using 8(a) procedures? You must show that your business is competent, capable and reasonably priced. Make it in the buying agency’s best interests to contract with you.

If the buying agency is currently using 8(a) procedures, why should it contract with you and not some other 8(a) firm? How will you provide better service, better quality or better prices? What is it that you can do to either solve the buying agency’s problems, or prevent problems from occurring, or provide insight into problem solving more than any other firm? Show them what you bring to the table.

Selling to the federal government is not that much different from selling to the private sector. It all comes down to marketing. Your 8(a) status is a marketing tool that allows you to get your foot in the door at buying agencies, but you must use the tool wisely. Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget and personnel, you will have to decide which and how many agencies to target. Realistically, an 8(a) company can effectively market only three, four, or at most, five agencies. Which agencies you decide to market will depend on the factors discussed above.

8(a) Certification Tip – Your primary NAICS code and what’s reported on the business tax returns.

When you apply for the SBA 8(a) Program you must report to the SBA what your primary NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code is.

Your primary NAICS code is defined as the six digit code in which your business earned its largest segment of revenue, in the most recently completed fiscal year. To get 8(a) certified you typically must have earned your largest segment of revenue in your primary NAICS code for at least the last two fiscal years. If your business has not earned the largest segment of revenue in the primary NAICS code reported to the SBA for the last two fiscal years you will need to apply with a 2 year waiver.

To determine the primary NAICS code for your business you can visit our blog post titled “How to Determine your Primary NAICS Code” for detailed instructions.

The primary NAICS code for your business must also match what is reported on your business tax returns otherwise the SBA will assume that the business does not meet the two years in business requirement.

If your primary NAICS code is different that what is reported on your filed business tax returns, and the NAICS code reported on the business tax returns is incorrect you must:

Submit a letter of explanation to SBA, as part of your 8(a) Application, from your CPA or tax preparer regarding the business activity code and service listed on the filed business tax returns vs what NAICS code that should have been reported on them. This letter will save you 15-30 days of processing by the SBA.

Need assistance with your 8(a) Application? With 15 years and over 2,000 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 cloveer.com to discover what Cloveer can do for you.

What role can a consultant play in your SBA 8(a) Application

Hiring a reputable consultant to assist in the preparation of your 8(a) Application can be very important. Most self prepared 8(a) Application are rejected outright or send back multiple times for deficiencies or inconsistencies. In fact “Only 2 out every 10 self prepared 8(a) Applications are approved by the SBA“.

Hiring and investing in a reputable consultant can dramatically increase your chances to achieve successful 8(a) Certification and decrease the time it takes to get 8(a) Certified. A consultant that does not have the experience or proven track record may hurt your chances. The old adage of “You Get What You Pay For” is important. If you believe that you can pay your consultant a few hundred dollars to prepare a successful 8(a) Application you will most likely “Get What You Pay For“. It takes anywhere between 40-80 hours’ worth or work typically to properly review and prepare the 8(a) Application with work on both sides. An 8(a) Application can be several hundred to over a thousand pages in length and is not just a bunch of forms to fill out.

A reputable 8(a) Consultant should perform a free pre-qualifying interview to determine your current state of 8(a) Program eligibility before they enter into any agreement with you. As a result of this pre-qualifying interview they should let you know if your chance of qualifying or not. If you don’t qualify for the 8(a) Program they should let you know why and how to get around these issues without breaking any of the rules.

When you hire any consultant, accountant or attorney to assist with your 8(a) Application they are required to report the SBA that they assisted you and what fees you paid them to assist you. They must also provide a copy of any agreement between the client and the them for review by the SBA.
If you choose to enter into an agreement with a consultant you should make sure:

1. The consultant must have extensive experience in preparing 8(a) Applications that have resulted in successful 8(a) Certification by the SBA and can provide real references for you to speak to directly.

2. The consultant must thoroughly understand the current SBA 8(a) regulations and Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) cases that might impact your 8(a) Application.

3. The consultant you speak to initially should be the person who will assist in your 8(a) Application and not be passed off to some junior analyst with limited experience.

4. The consultant should also have detailed knowledge of Federal procurement. For example did they previously work for an 8(a) Certified company or work in the federal market space as a contractor.

5. The consultant should provide you with very specific guidance and clear recommendations to you while preparing your 8(a) Application with clear answers to your questions with no double-talk.

6. No consultant should offer a guarantee that your application will accepted by the SBA as the SBA is the final determiner in whether you get certified. It is actually a violation of the SBA rules for any consultant to guarantee that your application will approved by SBA.

7. The consultant agreement should ensure that all of your personal information is protected properly and not shared with anyone other than you and the consultant.

8. The consultant should assist you after the 8(a) Application is submitted to the SBA should the SBA ask for additional information.

Cloveer employees live and breathe 8(a) Certification. When you hire Cloveer to prepare your 8(a) Application you will working directly with Rick Otero, our President/CEO who has 15 years to experience with proven results.

Rick keeps up to date on all of the latest daily SBA 8(a) Program changes and has a detailed understanding of the current SBA 8(a) regulations and the latest SBA OHA cases on 8(a) Certification.

Cloveer has a very strong success rate. We maintain a rate over 99% for clients we pre-qualify and have assisted thousands of small businesses to achieve and maintain their 8(a) Program Certification.

Rick worked in his family owned 8(a) Certified business, RJO Enterprises, Inc.. This business was one of the most successful 8(a) Certified companies in the 8(a) Program. In fact this business was recognized by INC. Magazine for five consecutive years as one of the country’s most successful 8(a), high-tech, information technology and electronics concerns.

Cloveer will pre-qualify you for FREE as we don’t want to waste your time or investment if you do not qualify. When you ask Rick a question you will get an honest answer with no double-talk. Even if Rick finds that you do not currently qualify he will identify the workarounds to your specific issues, if possible, so you can apply down the road.

All information provided to Cloveer is protected and will be secure and will never be shared with anyone.

Finally, our Full 8(a) Application Service is turnkey and once we prepare and you submit your 8(a) Application we will be there for you until with full support, at no additional fee, should the SBA ask for additional information.

Give us a call at 813-333-5800 to speak with Rick or visit us at www.cloveer.com for a wealth of information on the 8(a) Program.

8a Certification Advantages

8a certification is a valuable marketing vehicle for socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses to access the federal government marketplace. Initially, contracting under the 8a Program may seem more difficult than other methods. However, it is no more complicated than contracting under full and open competition through the sealed bid procurement process and it presents many advantages for both the government and the 8a contractor.

Advantages to the Government

A big advantage for government procurement personnel in selecting the 8a contracting method is that the agency does not have to solicit bids and may choose a specific 8a contractor to fulfill its requirements. For sole-source requirements under the competitive thresholds, the contracting agency can identify the 8a company to perform a contract by simply naming that company in an offering letter to the SBA. Of course this does not happen by itself. The 8a firm must actively self-market with the contracting agency or be introduced to the contractor through a referral. For competitive 8a requirements, the contracting agency does not have the same ability to choose a contractor, although the competition can be limited to eligible 8a companies within a certain geographic area or participation stage.

Another advantage for the government is that they can often get what they need faster by contracting though the 8a Program. This is because competitive requirements must be synopsized in SAM.GOV and the resulting solicitation must be open on the street for a minimum of 30 days. This process for full and open competition can take several months. 8a contracts have no synopsis requirements (except for competitive 8a contracts) and contracting agencies are not required to allow 8a firms 30 days to respond to the solicitation. Therefore 8a contracts can be finalized much faster.

Advantages to the 8a Contractor

The advantages to an 8a company are great. An 8a company can obtain federal contracts on a sole-source or limited competition basis much faster than in a full and open competition. For many small businesses, the costs of preparing proposals are very prohibitive. If the contract is a sole source, the 8a firm does not have to endure the costs associated with preparing a competitive proposal and participating in subsequent rounds of discussions with the contracting agency’s contracting officer.

Once the buying agencies are aware of the advantages of the 8a process and have a good experience with your 8a firm, they will most likely prefer to extend future contracts to you. The SBA plays a role in the beginning of the contracting process by verifying and approving the requirement for the 8a company. Once the requirement is in place, the 8a company and the federal agency deal directly with each other during negotiation of the contract and during performance of the contract.

Looking for help with Getting 8a Certified?

For clients who are too busy running their businesses to complete the application themselves, we understand you don’t have time to look over the 8a checklist and that you would rather have a group of trusted 8a program experts more involved in your application. Cloveer offers other services including an 8a Application Review, and for those who would like their entire 8a application completed and approved in record time, a full 8a Application Completion Service.

No matter which option you choose, Cloveer guarantees that no other company will work harder or faster to assist you in getting your business SBA 8a certified. We have been assisting clients to obtain their 8a certification and maintain their 8a program eligibility for over 20 years. As such, we know the SBA 8a program regulatory requirements, 8a standard operating procedures and Office of Hearings and Appeal cases that affect the 8a program better than 99.9% of anyone else out there.

At Cloveer, we believe in treating you the way we want to be treated. We go the extra mile to make sure your experience with our company is outstanding. Contact us today to discover what Cloveer can do for you.

Can 8a Contracts be Protested?

The size status of the apparent successful offeror for competitive 8a procurement may be protested.

The size status of the participant for a sole source 8a procurement may not be protested by another 8a participant or any other business.

The eligibility of a 8a participant for a sole source or competitive 8a procurement cannot be challenged by another 8a participant or any other business.

An 8a participant cannot appeal the SBA’s determination not to award it a specific 8a contract because the concern lacks an element of responsibility or is ineligible for the contract other than to request a formal size determination where SBA cannot verify it to be small.

The NAICS code assigned to a sole source 8a procurement may not be challenged by another 8a participant or any other business. In connection with a competitive 8a procurement, any business concern who has been adversely affected by a NAICS code designation may appeal the designation to the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals.

For more information on the SBA 8a Program, visit cloveer.com

How does the SBA determine if an 8a applicant business concern is defined as a Small Business?

The 8a applicant business concern must define their primary North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code with the 8a Application paperwork. The primary NAICS code is the six digit code in which the business concern earned its largest segment of annual receipts or total income, in the most recently completed fiscal or taxable year.

For example, a business concern that earned its largest segment of total income engaged in commercial or institutional building construction would have a primary NAICS code of 236220.

To begin determining if the business concern is defined as a Small Business, the SBA will lookup the size standard for the NAICS code.

For example, the size standard threshold for NAICS code 236220 is $33.5M.

The SBA will then add the amounts reported on the business concerns “Gross Receipts or Sales” line of their business tax return for the last three taxable years and determine its three year total income.

Finally, the SBA will take the three year total income and divide this amount by three to determine its three year average total income.  The three year average income amount is the amount used to determine if the business concern is below the size standard threshold for their primary NAICS code.

In our example, if the business concern’s three year average income is less than $33.5M, the business concern will be classified by the SBA as a “Small Business”.

*Important*

When the SBA examines the size of the business concern they will look for any possible issues involving affiliation. Affiliation arises when the business concern controls another firm or another firm controls the business concern. It can also arise when one individual has the power to control both the business concern and another firm (e.g. this individual owns more than one firm) or there are identical or substantially identical business or economic interests, such as family members, persons with common investments or firms that are economically dependent through contractual or other relationships. The SBA will also consider ownership, management, previous relationships with or ties to another firm, and contractual relationships in determining whether affiliation exists.

If you suspect that you may possibly have an affiliation with another firm, contact Cloveer for further assistance.

5 Ways to Find 8a Contract Opportunities

1. Visit the SAM.GOV web site. It contains thousands of active federal procurement’s. The web site can be found by visiting https://sam.gov/content/home

You can narrow down your search for 8a set-aside contract opportunities or set-up an account to automatically receive targeted opportunities via email. We suggest that you specifically look for 8a opportunities that are in the pre-solicitation or sources sought phase as most of the other phases are too far along in the procurement process already.

2. View each Federal agency’s long range acquisition forecast (LRAE). For example https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Business-Partnerships/LRAF/. Each major federal agency maintains a LRAE which identifies anticipated procurements upcoming that are over $100,000.

3. Contact each Federal agency’s OSDBU (Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization) office. The OSDBU’s ensure that small and disadvantaged businesses are provided maximum practicable opportunity to participate in the agency’s contracting process. The primary responsibility of the OSDBU is to ensure that small businesses are treated fairly and have an opportunity to compete and be selected for a fair amount of the agency’s contracting and subcontracting dollars. You can find the contact information for each OSDBU office by visiting each Federal agency’s web site.

4. Visit the the SAM.GOV databank web site. It contains every federal procurement that has ever taken place. The web site can be found by visiting https://sam.gov/reports/awards/standard

You can search and find out which agency is buying your products or services, the names of your competitors who were awarded past contracts, their dollar value, location, NAICS code and more.

5. Finally, narrow down the Federal agencies who you want to do business with, find out who the contracting officers are, setup a face to face meeting, and market your products and services to them.