Contrary to some popular beliefs becoming 8(a) Certified is not an easy process. It will be one of the most difficult business application processes your company will ever endure. Below are some misconceptions and the reality.
1. It’s easy to get SBA 8(a) Certified. As of April 2015 there are less than 7,000 active 8(a) program participants. There has never been more than 10,000 active 8(a) Program Participants at any one time in the 8(a) program’s history. The SBA returns over 90% of all 8(a) applications submitted and rejects 70% of all applications.
2. All I need to do is fill out the SBA’s 8(a) electronic application. The SBA’s 8(a) electronic application is a very small portion of the overall 8(a) application. Most 8(a) applications are several hundred pages in length once you include all of the supporting documents required to be submitted along with it. The SBA does not accept any of these supporting documents electronically and they only provide a list of the supporting documents and do not tell you what requirements each of these supporting documents must meet.
3. 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. In 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.
My SBDC, PTAC and local SBA office told me I qualified to become 8(a) Certified. There is a difference between being qualified and being certified. Your local offices will only have part of the information to determine if you are eligible for 8(a) certification. They are making the assumption you will be qualified based on their initial assessment of your company and providing you the best advice they are able to with that limited knowledge of your organization. There are two 8(a) Certification processing offices (King of Prussia, PA and San Francisco, CA) that review all 8(a) applications submitted. Final determination is made within the Washington, DC office. There are roughly 11 reviewers within the two processing offices and they are the individuals who review your 8(a) Application paperwork. Anyone who tells you that you qualify for 8(a) certification before reviewing all of your application paperwork does not know what they are talking about.