DBE Certifications: Unlock Opportunities While Promoting Diversity

In many cases, government agencies and large corporations set aside projects for businesses that can help them achieve diversity goals. This provides an opportunity for small and disadvantaged businesses to compete effectively and win projects. It also provides an incentive for larger businesses to partner with smaller, disadvantaged businesses in order to access opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

When you certify your business as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) or a Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE), you are providing evidence to both customers and partners that your business is eligible to compete for these opportunities. The most common types of certifications recognized by government agencies and large corporations are:

  • Minority Owed Business
  • Woman Owned Business
  • Disadvantaged Owned Business
  • Veteran Business Enterprise
  • Small Business Enterprise

Your business may be eligible for one or more of the above certifications, so we recommend all our members to look into these opportunities. There are many organizations and government agencies that can help your business with this process, including the Small Business Administration, the Women’s Business Development Center, and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, among many others.

To update your DBE Certification section in Collaborate.Biz, click on the ‘+Edit DBE/VBE Certifications’ link, as shown below. To Update or Remove your certification files, however, click on the respective ‘Update’ or ‘Remove’ buttons.

Below is some guidance on how to fill the DBE Certification section of your business profile:

Field Comments Example
Is Your Firm Certified As Any of The Following (Please Check All That Apply)? Check any of these optional fields ONLY if your business has obtained the official certification. When these fields are marked, it flags your business to potential partners who are looking for partners that meet these certifications. Minority Owned Business, Woman Owned Business, Small Business Enterprise
Is the company qualified by any agency to perform work as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) or Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE)? This Yes/No radio button tells prospective partners if your certification has been qualified by a specific government agency. Yes
If yes, Please list the agencies below. This helps prospective partners understand the agencies you can work with. Illionois Tollway, IDOT, CDOT (City Of Chicago), Metra, CTA Chicago Public Schools, and more
DBE/VBE Certification


Additional DBE/VBE Information

This where you upload your certification files, so prospective partners can see them. DBE CERT.pdf


The Virtues and Challenges of Virtual Companies

A Lawyer, a CPA, an HR Professional, and a Consultant walk into a room … You might expect this to be the start of joke, but it’s not. These independent professionals are teaming up on a multi-million dollar project. And so, a Virtual Company is born.

A Virtual Company is a collection of independent workers or small businesses who choose to collaborate on specific projects to unlock revenue. Examples of these projects include Corporate Restructuring initiatives, Mergers and Acquisitions, or even New IT System Implementations. Basically, many of the projects that were previously reserved for large consulting firms of business services providers, can now be pursued by a team of committed, highly trained, and a highly motivated small businesses.

Although Virtual Companies have been around for decades, technology has made the process of forming, hiring, and deploying Virtual Companies much easier in recent years. A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute shows that the number of independent worker in the US is not only larger than previously thought, but also growing at a faster rate.

Virtual Companies have many advantages that enable them to compete effectively with larger, more established firms:

  • Little or no overhead – Unlike larger firms that have fixed headcount, a virtual company can scale up or down based on demand and size of your network. In some cases, this allows Virtual Companies to pass the savings on to their customers and gain market share.
  • Unlimited potential – Members of a Virtual Company can tap into each other’s networks to pursue new revenue opportunities. With the right planning, Virtual Companies can create a healthy sales pipeline that results in predictable revenue.
  • Handpicked team – Virtual members have more flexibility to pick their teammates, and can hold each other accountable to deliver the highest quality work. That means that over time, the best Virtual Companies can be made up of solid A-Team players who can work like a cohesive unit.

Along with their virtues, Virtual Companies bring their own set of challenges:

  • Team Compatibility – This goes beyond simply getting along. Although skills may be different, members of a Virtual Company should share a common philosophy that helps them collaborate.   Just like you wouldn’t expect to buy a Gucci handbag at Walmart, team members should be capable of serving a similar set of customers, with similar expectations, even if each team member plays a different role.
  • Timing – When looking to start a new project, it’s very possible that your usual “go-to” teammates are already busy with other projects. That’s why it’s important to build a wide network of trusted professionals that you can draw upon when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Coordination – When collaborating with fellow professionals, coordination is key to the success of the project. For example, who will be the main point of contact with the client?   When are deliverables due from each team member? How will billing be handled? Getting clarity upfront will avoid potential pitfalls in the future.

The gig economy is here to stay, and along with it, opportunities to build lean, but high impact businesses. Virtual Companies can be a great way to participate in this growing sector of the economy and unlock value for both business service providers and their customers.

Ramon Rodriguez is the Founder/CEO of Collaborate.Biz, an online platform that helps businesses unlock new sources of revenue by matching them with compatible, strategic partners.  It’s “Match.com meets LinkedIn,” but instead of helping people date, it helps businesses collaborate.  Jon for Free at http://www.collaborate.biz.

Meet a Member – Martin Kimpston from Strictly Muscles

We are PUMPED UP at Collaborate.Biz! Nothing gets our body moving and our blood flowing like meeting dynamic members who are passionate about their business. This week, we are featuring Martin Kimpston from Strictly Mucles, who gave us a sneak peek into his business, projects he is working on, and the types of partners he is looking for:

Ramon: Hi Martin! Thanks for having me in your gym. How are you?

Martin: I am well! Thanks for visiting me.

Ramon: This is a pretty cool facility. It sure makes me want to pump some iron!

Martin: It’s funny that you mention that. We hear that a lot from many of our clients. We try to create an environment where people feel energized and ready to perform at their peak.

Ramon: So tell me a bit more about Strictly Muscles. What’s it all about?

Martin: Well, as the name suggests, we are a health and wellness clinic that specializes in caring for and improving muscular function.   Strictly Muscles uses an Integrated Approach of exercise and Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT) to assess, correct, improve, and maintain the muscular system in order to prevent or recover from joint breakdown or dysfunction.

Ramon: And how is your service different from those offered by a Physical Therapist or Chiropractor?

Martin: I am glad you asked that question. I often use a “race car” analogy to help people understand what MAT is all about. Physical Therapists and Chiropractors would be like the mechanics that fix your car after an accident – they will fix the big problems, and get your car working at 80% of its potential. In fact, I often work with Physical Therapists and Chiropractors to provide the most comprehensive recovery for their patients and get them back to their peak performance.

We MAT Specialists are like the pit crew during the race – fine tuning all the gears in the engine to make sure the car is running at 100%.  We continually pursue a deep understanding of how to manipulate forces on the body to help improve its muscular status and protect joints.

Ramon: That’s a great analogy! So what makes Strictly Muscles unique?

Martin: We are the only MAT clinic in Chicago that offers a detailed assessment and education process, and we pride ourselves in our superior Customer Service. Our slogan is “Where your muscles matter,” and that philosophy informs everything we do. In my particular case, I am MAT certified and have completed my Resistance Training Specialist Mastery certification. This is highly intensive education process that focuses on an in depth analysis of the entire body and applying a physics based approach to working with the body. This has made me a better practitioner for MAT and training.

Ramon: Very cool! So how would you describe your typical client?

Martin: I work with a lot mature clients – 40 to 60 year old men and women suffering from chronic joint disfunction, which means they feel their muscles don’t work the way that they should. They want to be more active and exercise without pain or fear of getting hurt. They also want to keep up with friends and family, including their kids and grand kids.

Ramon: What are some common problems that your clients struggle with?

Martin: When clients come to Strictly Muscles, it’s because they are:

  • Frustrated with joint pains that limit daily life
  • Tired of neck and shoulder pain from sitting at a desk all day
  • Overwhelmed by stress worried about their body breaking down
  • Concerned about aging and want to be proactive rather than reactive
  • Confused about how to start exercising without injury after being sedentary
  • Afraid that insurance-allotted physical therapy, even following surgery, isn’t enough to prepare the body to resume exercise
  • Discouraged that a nagging injury is hindering physical performance

Ramon: What makes your customers choose Strictly Muscles?

Martin: Our customers want a long-term solution to their problems, and not just a quick fix. They are proactive about their wellbeing, and do not just want to just force their bodies to endure pain for the sake of exercise.

They are also looking for individualized solutions, as opposed to cookie cutter plans. They expect us to understand their unique situation – to find, respect and address their body’s specific circumstances.

Ramon: What types of businesses do you like to partner with?

Martin: I’ve had great success partnering with other Health and Wellness professionals, such as Nutritionists, Personal Trainers, Strength Coaches and Acupuncturists. I have also worked with Chiropractors, Physical Therapists and Massage Therapists

Ramon: What else do you look for in a potential partner?

Martin: Having a similar philosophy around individualized, superior customer service is key. When we recommend or collaborate with a partner, we want our clients to feel that they’ve been taken care of, as their experience with our partners influences their opinion of us.

Ramon: Do you currently have any collaboration ideas in mind, for which you could use the help of some partners?

Martin: Because ultimately, my clients are looking for a complete solution, I would LOVE to offer a package of health and wellness services that are geared towards clients who want to live, work, and play at their best. It should be a holistic solution that addresses needs related to muscle health, but takes a multi-faceted approach. I would love to partner with other Holistic Medicine professionals to put this package together.

Ramon: So as you’ve probably noticed, the weather is starting to turn here in Chicago. Any advice for those of us, “weekend warriors,” on how to get back into shape?

Martin: This is a very exciting time of the year, and we definitely want to encourage people to get out, get active, and get moving. Just remember to pace yourselves at the beginning – just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Exercise should NOT hurt. At the same time, you don’t need to settle for anything less than optimal performance. Find people who can keep you moving, keep you safe, and keep you energized.

Ramon: Sounds like a plan. Let’s pump some iron!

Martin: You bet!

Martin and the Strictly Muscles team can be contacted at:

314 West Superior St, LL-E
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 526-3471

4 Tips When Receiving Advice

As business owners, we often receive well-meaning, but at times contradictory advice.  Whether it’s our peers, our mentors, or even family members, there is no shortage of people with an opinion on how we should run our business, and sometimes, it can be overwhelming.  We may often find ourselves going back and forth on a decision based on the advice of the so-called experts in our midst.  Below are 4 tips that I’ve found useful over the years:

1- Start assuming positive intent – No matter how harsh feedback may sound to us, it’s important to realize that giving constructive feedback is not easy either, so you must assume the person giving it to you cares enough about you to want to see you succeed, even at the risk of upsetting the relationship in the short-term.  Think of any feedback as a gift, even when it is not so pleasant.

2- Understand this person’s point of view – No single person can see everything, so it may help to try to see things from this person’s perspective first.  What is their prior experience and how can it influence their advice?  Is the person currently going through a similar situation as yours, and what has that been like?  Is this how a customer/partner may see things as well?

3- Understand the underlying assumptions – Under which conditions does this piece of advice make the most sense?  What if customers behave differently than you expect?  What if costs are much higher than you expect, or competitors price more aggressively?  Asking these questions often leads to a richer discussion and makes the advice more useful, even if conditions change.

4- Remember that, ultimately, you make the final call – No matter how wise and well-meaning advisors can be, at the end of the day, no one knows your business better than you, so you are the ultimate owner of your decision.  Furthermore, any person you ask for advice should also understand this and respect your choices, even if he or she disagrees with them.

Giving and receiving advice is one of the most important and useful skills as a business owner, but just like any skill, it requires practice.  My advice (no pun intended) is to not shy away from it, but to embrace it.

Ramon Rodriguez is the Founder/CEO of Collaborate.Biz, an online platform that helps businesses unlock new sources of revenue by matching them with compatible, strategic partners.  It’s “Match.com meets LinkedIn,” but instead of helping people date, it helps businesses collaborate.  Jon for Free at http://www.collaborate.biz.

Meet a Member – Tony Mendiola from Human Citizen®

At Collaborate.Biz, we are on a mission to build a collaborative community of business owners, where we help each other unlock new opportunities to grow and succeed. Every other week, we will be featuring a different member, where we get to know a little bit about their business, what projects they are working on, and what they are looking for in potential partners! For our first article, we sat down with Tony Mendiola from, Human Citizen®:

human-citizen logoTony Mendiola

Ramon: Hi Tony! How are you?

Tony: I am doing very well, thank you!

Ramon: So tell me, what is Human Citizen all about, and what do you do?

Tony: Human Citizen is a Consulting company that focuses on leadership development at all levels. We help institutions uncover and activate their untapped individual, team and organizational leadership through an analytical, yet human lens.

Ramon: What are some the services you offer?

Tony: At Human Citizen, we offer our clients leadership development training; seminar and small group facilitation; coaching and mentoring; program, proposal and project kickoffs; and process/systems analysis. We take a leader-first approach that is rooted in 20+ years of expertise, offering our clients opportunities to experience a number of research-based assessments, including Talent View of Performance, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, Strengths Finder and Korn Ferry Voices Multi-rater, Leadership Architect 101 and Foundations of Competencies.

Ramon: So what is your philosophy when it comes to leadership development?

Tony: Our slogan reads: “Leadership isn’t an epiphany. It’s a practice.” That has two important implications: 1) leadership isn’t something that happens over night, but rather something that requires discipline, patience and work, and 2) leadership isn’t limited to just a select few, but something we can all aspire to achieve, provided we are willing to work hard at it.

Ramon: How would you describe your typical customer?

Tony: Our customers are leaders of teams at Fortune 500 companies. They typically start at the Senior Manager or Director levels, but go all the way to the CEO. Customers also are individuals at all levels who seek assistance and guidance as they transition to a new job or role, return to school, or change careers.

Ramon: What goals are your customers trying to achieve when they come to you?

Tony: They want to assess and improve their leadership capability and performance, so that they can accelerate their careers, achieve higher performance on the job or attain greater effectiveness and efficiency in their current situation.

Ramon: Do your customers ever come to you with problems?

Tony: Absolutely! Some of the typical problems I’ve seen are:
-Being passed over for promotions
-Wanting to change their current role, but not knowing how to get there
-Needing to retool their skill set ahead of an upcoming reorganization
-Lacking awareness of their own strengths and areas for development

Ramon: What are your customers looking for in a consulting business like yours?

Tony: I have some very analytical and very discerning clients. They are looking for scientific rigor and data to support any advice. They also value certifications and/or badges that demonstrate technical mastery.

At the same time, they have very high expectations when it comes to service. They expect responsiveness, clarity of deliverables, frequent communication, and the right balance of structure and flexibility as projects progress.

Ramon: What types of businesses do you typically partner with?

Tony: I typically partner with businesses whose capabilities complement my own. The specific roles will depend on the project, but I often work with organization development or effectiveness consultants, project managers, and human resource professionals, as well as operations managers and professional trainers.

Ramon: What else do you look for in a potential business partner, and do you work with established businesses only?

Tony: I look for partners that are boardroom-ready and share Human Citizen’s commitment to service. I am willing to partner with newly formed businesses as long as they operate with professionalism and can quickly demonstrate expertise. If they are hungry, smart, and willing to work hard, chances are we’ll get along fine.

Ramon: Do you currently have any projects in mind for which you need collaboration partners?

Tony: Large Scale Facilitation events are good projects for collaboration. If I am running a corporate training with over 100 people in attendance, it helps to have other presenters beside me, not to mention getting some help when it comes to logistics, audio / visual production, and other important details.

Ramon: Any last words of wisdom?

Tony: Anything is possible when you are able to live your life as your best self. And because we believe each one of us is born a natural leader, our best self can be uncovered and activated effortlessly at any moment in our lifetime by our openness to becoming more self-aware, embracing strengths and gaps, and practicing new behaviors and skills.

You can contact Tony and Human Citizen at:

4101 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60660