Sue BerkenbushI recently had the opportunity to speak with Susan Berkenbush, Director of Sourcing and Supplier Management at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ. Susan is a recent recipient of the 2012 Champions of Diversity Award.

Q. What are some of your objectives as the Director of Strategic Sourcing and Vendor Management? What tangible objectives have come to fruition throughout your time at Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc.?

A. My primary objective is finding the best supplier to meet a business need. I work with my team to find the right vendors that can meet requirements regarding price, quality, service levels and commitment to the community.

In terms of tangible results, four years ago when I came to this department, we did not really have a formal structure or approach to sourcing or supplier diversity in place. Since then, we have implemented policies and standards, and we are now focused on overall spending. We want to evolve, and we’re focused on becoming more strategic by better understanding each category of spend in order to actively seek opportunities for savings and efficiency.

Q. From your own personal experience, what is a piece of advice that you would give to a corporate diversity professional looking to expand their diversity initiatives within their Strategic Sourcing strategy?

A. I would recommend taking stock of what you are already doing to support various diversity initiatives. You may have people in various areas of the company making efforts already, and by taking a look at all of these efforts collectively, you can begin to recognize gaps and build a plan to grow your program. At Horizon, we go at diversity from a number of angles – for example, as the Chief Diversity Officer, Alison Banks-Moore, has built a diversity council on which Strategic Sourcing has a seat. Representatives from across the organization work on diversity initiatives together. As a result, Horizon was just named to list of the 2012 Top Ten Regional Companies for Diversity by DiversityInc. Magazine. The Magazine’s judging criteria includes four distinct areas of performance, one of which is supplier diversity.

I would also recommend networking with both diversity professionals and vendors to get new ideas and better understand perspectives from both sides of Supplier Diversity programs.

Q. What is one piece of advice that you would give to MBEs who are looking to engage in business with Horizon?

A. Be very clear about your value proposition and service levels. Typically, MBE businesses are competing with much larger firms who may be able to provide us with advantageous pricing or other benefits. Be able to answer these questions: What are the advantages of doing business with you? How do you differentiate yourself in the market?

Q. What is the most satisfying part about your job in Strategic Sourcing and Vendor Management?

A. We’re part of the Finance division, so we are focused on cost. Helping the company meet its operational efficiency and savings goals while at the same time meeting our diverse supplier spend goals is both challenging and rewarding. And it’s truly rewarding to see one of our MBE suppliers win a bid!

Q. What does it mean to you to be named one of the 2012 “Champions in Diversity” by

A. My personal core values include fairness, respect for others, and learning. I am proud to work for an organization that places great importance on those values as well. I am absolutely delighted to be acknowledged as a champion of diversity, and happy that the award showcases Horizon’s commitment to diversity.

Thank you for your time, Susan.




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