The Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council’s (WRMSDC) Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee (MBEIC) held a General Assembly hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on June 6, 2014. The event, “Think like a Corporate Buyer,” included a panel of Corporate Supplier Diversity Professionals from major corporations as well as breakout sessions, and was attended by dozens of area MBEs. The panel consisted of:
- Michael McQuarry, Strategic Procurement Manager/ Global Supplier Diversity – Hewlett Packard;
- Timothy Evans, Supplier Diversity Specialist – Comcast;
- Lisa Castillo, Senior Global Supplier Diversity Manager – AT&T;
- David Feldman, Supply Chain Advisor Supplier Diversity/Local Content – Chevron; and,
- Richard Chacon, Senior Vice President and Director, Supplier Diversity – Union Bank.
Thanks to the Federal Reserve Bank for volunteering to host! Lynn Reddrick from the Federal Reserve opened the event along with the WRMSDC’s new President, Lawrence Wooten, who also facilitated the panel. Lawrence brings his knowledge and experience from previous Supplier Diversity positions at Pitney Bowes, Time Warner Inc., and other companies to the council, and added his perspective to the panel’s discussion as well.
Everyone appreciated the opportunity to learn from the distinguished panel. They covered a number of relevant topics, including how they evaluate suppliers and debrief during the procurement process, dividing the viable candidates from the lesser qualified. Following the panel were four training segments from MBE’s that shared tips on Marketing /Social Media, RFP’s, and Technology for Your Business. Provided below are some of the points from the panel discussion that stood out to me and that I feel will be useful to any MBE.
The panel stressed that diversity program managers are your advocates in the procurement process. Do not be afraid to contact and engage them. As you explore their website and procurement guidelines, and take advantage of any training or networking events they offer, you will begin to develop a relationship. Leverage this resource when you are comfortable that you can truly deliver the services or goods the company needs, and feel the time is right.
These corporate managers frankly discussed some of the pain points they experience with suppliers:
- Suppliers sometimes overstate their capabilities or overextend themselves to get an opportunity with their company.
- Supplier Diversity managers spend months building relationships to help suppliers get on the vendor list, and when there is an opportunity for an RFP, the supplier fails to open it and respond. They wish to provide that opportunity to those who want it.
- Suppliers do not thoroughly read the RFP and follow directions.
Here is some advice on how to avoid these pitfalls:
- Be realistic about your current capabilities and your core competencies. Make sure you are ready and bidding on work that you can excel at delivering, otherwise you are wasting everyone’s time and likely setting yourself up for disappointment or failure.
- Don’t burn bridges! Better not to have bothered to develop the relationship if you’re just going to do this. Make sure that you respond in a timely manner if you decide not to bid on the work, send a polite note declining. If you bid on the work, meet the deadlines. Remember that this is a community in which managers share information and feedback with other supplier diversity professionals. Don’t underestimate how it may hurt you down the line to behave unprofessionally.
- Read the paperwork! Let me repeat that – read the paperwork, and read it carefully! This seems like it should be obvious but the fact that it was mentioned shows that it happens, and more often than it should. Also, the panel was emphatic – do not be afraid to ask questions! Many feel as though it is a sign of weakness, but in reality, it’s a sign of commitment to understanding and better answering the question.
Two of the factors that companies consider when evaluating potential suppliers that I thought were of particular importance to consider are the level of risk they perceive in working with your company and which companies were really prepared and showcased their product or service the best. Corporations want to work with businesses of a size and stability that provides a sense of security and low risk. Risk management in the supply chain is an important consideration. Does the supplier meet the Insurance requirements? Will they survive a data breach?
Be mindful about the size of your business and recognize the importance of growing into a second tier level supplier. Express how and why your company is a low risk no matter what size it is. Talk about the total value that you bring to the table in your service delivery. Suppliers also need to show how they are able to deliver great service and quality products at a good value. Those that show how they could deliver the total value package – cost, efficiency, superior client service, etc. had a better chance of success.
Finally, Pamela Isom, MBEIC Chair President and CEO of ICE Safety Solutions, gave a wonderful speech reminding MBE’s that they were the guests of honor! The event was for their benefit, and I think those of us in attendance recognized this. Events like these that are designed to connect MBEs and corporate buyers are invaluable. I’ve said it before and this event was no exception. Pamela also shared a great quote that she recently heard and that I instantly loved! “Success ends when you die, significance lasts a lifetime.”
Thanks again to the MBEIC, The Federal Reserve, and the corporate professionals who served on the panel for the advice they all shared. It’s great to have so many people supporting the Council’s mission to strengthen, educate, enhance, and grow minority businesses. Looking forward to the second assembly that will be coming later this year: “Share your Breakthrough Moment!”
Corporate Outreach Manager