Thursday, June 14, 2007

Disadvantaged business

A few months ago, I talked to someone who is using Business Technology Career Opportunities, Inc. (BTCO) as their digitization vendor. The person said nothing about this company's services or quality, so I'll assume that the company provides excellent services and a high level of quality. (In fact, if you look at their web site, you'll see that they do work for an impressive list of clients.) What the person did say was this this was a "disadvantaged business." (The BTCO web site, though, does not use that phrase.)

Since you may hear of companies being described this way, let me tell you what a disadvantaged business is.

A disadvantaged business is a small business in specific categories (e.g., women owned, minority owned) that have not had the same access to contracts are others -- generally larger -- businesses. Governments (e.g., federal and state governments in the U.S.) often set aside a percentage of work for these businesses in order to ensure that they can compete with their larger "advantaged" counterparts. Being designated as a disadvantaged business can be helpful for the business because it can help them obtain work. It does not mean that the business produces lower quality work or inferior products.

What I did notice on the BTCO web site is that it has a diversified labor force. The site says:
Business Technology Career Opportunities, Inc., (BTCO) proudly provides technical careers for people with disabilities and superior customer solutions through a fully [integrated] workforce. Founded by the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas (CPRF), BTCO is an approved NISH/JWOD community rehabilitation provider (CRP) that supports the employment of people with disabilities through computer-based technology services, fully adaptive work environments, and competitive wages with full-fringe benefits.
There are other highly qualified digitization vendors who use a similar labor force (e.g., Out-Source Document Imaging). In addition, UNICOR uses inmates at correctional facilities to do their digitization. Does that mean that the work is lower quality? No. And I should also mention that one company uses monks as their workforce.

The bottom line is that if you hear a company described as "disadvantaged" or words are used to describe their workforce that "make you wonder," ask questions. The word "disadvantaged" as we can see means something very specific. If you take it out of context, it may have the wrong meaning. So be sure you know exactly what the person meant.

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