You know the old saying, “Evolve or die?” As harsh as it sounds, that’s the reality of having a minority or women-owned small business in the state of New York.
In December of 2017, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that gave NYC buyers the ability to award contracts valued at $150,000 to city-certified minority and women-owned businesses without a formal competition or bidding process. Within three months of that legislation being put into place, the city awarded 181 contacts to MWBEs, totaling $12.5 million in purchases. Even more recently, the discretionary purchasing threshold has increased from $150,000 to $500,000.
Obviously, this is all fantastic news. The city is evolving in how they do business with MWBEs, adjusting their expectations and providing us with new resources. But here’s the thing: As minority and women-owned small businesses, we need to evolve as well. Things are changing so fast that we can no longer expect what we’ve been doing in the past is going to be sufficient for competing in this marketplace.
So, if you’re going to evolve your MWBE to fit into this new market reality, here are a couple of things that you need to focus on:
First, you need to ensure that your online business profiles are accurate in the MWBE Directory and any related government directories. So that means making sure your name, address, email, and other contact information is complete so companies can get a hold of you. But something that many inexperienced MWBES miss is also providing a clear description of the products and services they offer, along with the appropriate commodity codes. Without this information, government services are going to pass over your small business for one that has all of the necessary information listed.
Secondly, you need to not only court buyers, but also focus on developing strong relationships with them. This should be part of a long-term strategy for growth. All too often, I see MWBEs who will send one or two emails or phone calls, then get discouraged because they don’t get an immediate response. Well, of course not! To effectively evolve in this kind of market environment requires a long-term commitment to developing strong relationships with clients. It demands that you have top-notch marketing tools at your fingers, such as a professionally-designed and branded capability statement. You should have a branded website and social media as part of your communication strategy at a minimum. Without these things, you’re unlikely ever to get a response. Putting a genuine effort into building a fantastic website and developing a capability statement will reflect well on your company. If you don’t have them, then why would anyone reach out to work with you?
This is just scratching the surface of how your MWBE should be evolving to meet the current demands of the market. Thankfully, I can help! We’re holding a workshop on September 18th at the NYC Department of Small Business Services about How to Be Successful with Micro and Small Purchases. In it, we’ll be talking about how to identify the buyers in the City of New York and how to develop a strategy to build relationships with them. If you’re interested, I would highly suggest you register quick. These free workshops fill up fast, and this one has been no exception!