As I go about my business – meeting people, networking, speaking – I run into several common misconceptions and myths about certificates that'd I like like to bust wide open. Some of these can really get me on a soapbox so I apologize in advance if I get a little passionate.

The first of these myths is that certificates are an entitlement program. Nothing can be further from the truth! I say to people ALL THE TIME that certificates provide Opportunities and NOT Guarantees. What's the difference, you ask? The difference is you get NO benefit by just “being certified”. Having a certification does not mean that manna will rain down from heaven. You have to research the agencies who buy what you sell, you have to find who the contracting officers are in those agencies, you have to learn how to market your business to those individuals and you have to be pleasantly knowledgeable about letting them know how your business solves their problems. Long story short, you still have to do the work.

Another misconception I hear often from prospects is that certificates are a selling point. This is partially correct but only in the right context. Ten years of experience in your field is a selling point; a track record of on time / on budget delivery is a selling point; past performance with clients / projects of similar size and scope are a selling point; certificates, however, are not a selling point. Certificates are the icing on the cake or the cherry on top; it's what folks from Louisiana call a “Lagniappe” or a little something extra.

One of the other really common misconceptions out there is that you should get every possible certification you can. Although I've helped clients with multiple certificates, that is not the right choice for every business. It's back to the old adage, 'just because you can, does not mean you should'. I always talk with my prospective clients about their goals; what is i that they want to do with the certificates. I get to the root of who they are trying to sell to and let that determine the certificates that can offer a competitive advantage for that prospective client.

As an example, if you are a minority owned bottling equipment company your goal is to sell your bottling equipment to one of the Fortune 500 cola bottlers, then an MBE certification would be better than an 8 (a) certification. If you are both a minority and woman-owned large animal veterinarian and you want to sell your services to the Department of Interior, then WOSB certification would be a better option than MBE certification. In both scenarios above, the businesses would qualify for each of the certification, but having both may not provide additional benefits.

These are not all of the myths and misconceptions circulating around about certificates, but they are the ones that I hear most often. Let me recap the realities:
1) Certificates provide Opportunities, NOT Guarantees,
2) Certificates are just a piece of paper until you put them to work,
3) Certificates are NOT the selling point; they are the cherry on top, and
4) Just because you can get a certification, does not mean you should get it.