Working with the VA

They are not the inefficient bureaucrats you hear about

You don’t often hear this about a government agency, and the Veteran’s Administration in particular – but I’m impressed.

I submitted my business for certification as a Veteran-owned small business…and was contacted the next business day by the VA, asking for clarification on a form.

Pleasant, quick and effective.  I was surprised.

I’ve had two exchanges this week so far.  The only complaint is – though the VA case manager will call you and leave a voicemail, to return the call you have to go through a main switchboard after a phone tree.  And they only leave their first name.  That’s the only piece of bureaucratic weirdness I’ve encountered so far.

Again, I’m impressed so far.  I’ll keep you advised as I journey forward.

Merry Christmas, and let me know if you’ve been surprised by good service from a bureaucracy.

Veteran Owned and Minority Owned Business verification

As I set up as a vendor with my first client, I was asked if I qualified for a number of different categories. As I looked at the long list, I did qualify – as a veteran owned and minority owned business.

Why would you “check the box?”  Upon researching it further, it became pretty clear:

  1. There are government set-asides for these classifications
  2. Corporate entities want to do business with other companies that carry these certifications
  3. There are support opportunities, like networking, mentoring and lead generation, through the VA, small business administration and other groups

Checking out the requirements, it looked like a daunting list. Here’s what I found:

  • For veteran owned businesses, as a start up, you need:
    • To own at least 51% of the business, and run it
    • Incorporation documents (if you are one – I’m a corporation, and the documents were sent by the state Secretary of State)
    • Resume for principals (that means you)
    • A DUNS number (it’s a database, takes 5 minutes to fill out the form, and they promise turnaround in 1 business day)
    • An EIN or your social security/taxpayer ID number
    • Be in the VA database – they refer to it as BIRLS – if you’ve registered for VA benefits at any time, you’re in it.  I also think it is part of your outprocessing.
    • At least 60 days to process
    • There were counseling services and pre-application information available.  I checked out the pre-application resources – very helpful.
    • It’s free
  • For minority owned business certification, you need:
    • To own at least 51% of the business, and run it
    • Many of the above documents
    • Business cards of the principals of the organization, with titles
    • At least 90 days to process, and there is a periodic recertification
    • There’s a fee, but I haven’t gotten that far in the process yet

As I continue down the path, I’ll post my progress.  Right now, I’m waiting for my DUNS number, and then I’ll start the VA process.

UPDATE:  I got my DUNS number in 8 hours.  Emailed to me overnight.  Fantastic.

Have you gone through this process?  Any tips, or tricks?

So you want to start your own business?

Come walk with me, and learn from my mistakes

As part of rethinking the corporate grind, you may want to start your own thing.  Whether it is a side business or your main thing, hopefully I can help you as I start my own.

I’ve spent a week working to get this site up and running, and as you can tell, it is a work in progress…much like my business.  I am definitely not a techie.

Here are the steps I’ve taken in the past week:

  1. I decided to take the plunge.  Whether you are pushed, have decided to do it yourself, or a combination of both – this is a big deal!
  2. I formed my own company.  Cost $300 to file with the state.  Fortunately, I have a close friend who is a lawyer and an entrepreneur, so he spent some time on the phone with me and handled the paperwork.
  3. I bought the domain names associated with my business.  Domain names are simply the url’s – the web address that you type into your browser (internet explorer, safari, firefox, etc.)  I used, and I recommend them.  Easy to use, and relatively inexpensive at under $100 for multiple domains.
  4. I set up hosting for my site.  Hosting is simply the servers that run your website.  I’m using A Simple Orange.  Fantastic support – online chat helped me tremendously.  Inexpensive at less than $5 a month.
  5. As part of site hosting, I installed wordpress.  WordPress allows you to set up the bones of a website, and it provides structure for millions of websites.  And it is free for the self-hosted version!

In the next few posts, I’ll take you through the other resources that I’m using as I launch my website and my online alter-ego.

Do you have any questions about “how to?”