Small business owners need to be aware of the simple, proactive measures that are available right now to avoid headaches down the road.

One prime example is properly maintaining your profile.  Taking the time to properly check (and periodically re-check) your reps and certs can help to establish and maintain your eligibility in the SBA’s socio-economic programs (like the Women-Owned, Service-Disabled, and HUBZone programs).

For example, a recent SBA size protest considered the case of whether an apparently woman-owned small business was disqualified from receiving a WOSB set-aside contract award based on incorrect information in its SAM profile.  The protest allegations included that the profile included inconsistent representations concerning the business’s size status and WOSB qualifications.

The SBA did not disagree with the basis of the protest – the SAM profile was inconsistent and did not accurately reflect the correct size status for the set-aside contract.  Nevertheless, the SBA denied the protest (and the subsequent appeal), finding that the awardee met the WOSB requirement of being at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women (regardless of the conflicting SAM representations).

So, is the lesson here that SAM reps and certs don’t matter as long as you meet the SBA’s criteria?  Definitely not.

First, it should go without saying that small businesses should not actively open the door to size protests.  Even if you prevail on the protest (and the potential appeal), you will still have spent valuable time, money, and other resources defending against a preventable action.  It is much more advisable to bolster your company’s size status from all challenges and at every turn.

Second, I do not take this recent opinion as a blank check from the SBA to ignore reps and certs.  If you follow size protest decisions, you’re well aware that the SBA determines issues like affiliation using a “totality of the circumstances” test.  In other words, even if one size issue alone does not establish affiliation – it is still possible that that one issue, when combined with a number of other indicators, could still result in a finding of affiliation.

With that said, I think it is possible that a failure to properly manage a profile – when combined with other issues or facts – could lead to the SBA taking a longer look at your business’s size status in connection with a size protest.  In fact, it already has.