When the SBA is Not Your Friend—The 8a Program Application Process
Although the primary mission of the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is to help small businesses, there is one time that the SBA does not act as your friend (and you should not treat them as such): during the SBA 8(a) application review process.
When your company applies for 8(a) certification, your paperwork is sent to one of two Central Office Duty Stations (CODS) of the Department of Program Certification and Eligibility (DPCE) for rigorous review and assessment.
During this phase in the 8(a) process, the SBA serves as your evaluator and your critic, not your advocate.
During this phase in the 8(a) process, the SBA cares about evidence and documentation, not your word, your reputation, or your image.
During this phase in the 8(a) process, the SBA is not your mentor, your advocate, or your pal—in fact, at this phase in the 8(a) process, the SBA does not know you or particularly even trust you.
You have to earn the trust of the 8(a) application reviewers at the SBA by providing them everything they ask for: tangible proof, valid evidence, organized documentation, third party validation.
After all, the SBA does not know you yet. The SBA does not know if you are an honest, trustworthy, hardworking business owner, or just a front placed into a figurehead management position by a large corporation trying to seize the benefits of small business set asides for itself.
This is why the SBA looks at your arrest records, your personal credit records, your business contracts and invoices, your personal and company taxes, your relationships with other companies and with family members who own businesses too: to evaluate you, to judge you, to scrutinize you and your business dealings to make sure you are legitimate, truthful, and able to perform well in the 8(a) program.
So while your 8(a) application is being evaluated, do not call up the SBA staff members who are processing your application to chat, to ask for their help, to ask them for advice or for guidance.
Instead, if you need generalized business help while your 8(a) application is still in process, speak to your local SBA representatives. Your local SBA staff members are not involved in the 8(a) application evaluation process, so they are neutral parties who can offer you advice and support without a conflict of interest.
Also, be cautious if you end up speaking with any of the SBA CODS-DPCE staff members who are handling your 8(a) application and remember: at this moment in time, the CODS-DPCE staff members are not your friends, and if you say the wrong thing at the wrong time to one of them, you can actually jeopardize the success of your 8(a) application.