Networking. We are advised to do it, and with good reason: because it works. Most of us understand that, but do we truly understand how valuable and critical that support system is to business success?
As an MBE, you are probably interested in doing business with large corporations and want to network with corporate buyers and supplier diversity program managers. So it probably seems obvious that you would attend a seminar, luncheon or conference where these people will be present. And once there you might have a singular focus on meeting them.
For me, or any of us, there is so much opportunity in developing relationships with others within the NMSDC network, and in particular with those working on national or local councils and committees that have relationships with many across the U.S. The more you have the chance to understand one another’s needs, the more successful it is to build true relationships that you can benefit from. I know that I have gained a much greater appreciation of the value over the past few years. I have seen how powerful my business connections can be, and how they have advocated our business for new business.
I believe that it is good practice to pay attention for more than just opportunity for my firm. Many others think this way too, and certainly those who I have met working for the council absolutely take that as one of our responsibilities. The NMSDC’s mission is to advance business opportunities and connect MBEs to corporate buyers and programs and vice versa. Individually, we all take this mission to heart, as to do many of our members. When I visit a company’s booth that I am trying to do business with, I listen to what they are looking for overall, not just whether they need staffing solutions. If there is an opportunity for a product or service where I know an MBE that could provide it, I try to help. If there is a MBE service or product that a Supplier Diversity Manager is seeking and I happen to know one I’ve had the chance to learn about and personally witnessed their success and efforts, I send their information over to that individual.
For example, at this year’s NMSDC national conference in San Diego, there were far too many booths for one person to visit. As you can imagine it is certainly very difficult to make meaningful connections with all of them. Our MBEIC committee specifically planned to make an effort to make sure we all had lists of registered MBEs who were also attending so that if we came across something we thought might be right for one of the other companies, we would let the other person know about the opportunity and encouraged them to connect.
Our efforts came from success stories from last year’s individual experiences. What naturally happens because of the friendships that develop, this year we made a specific push – let’s help promote each other! As a committee member, we have a different kind of relationship with many buyers, which puts us in a different position, sometimes a more advantageous one, to connect and talk to corporate members.
That’s why it’s important to network with other MBEs and not just committee members and corporations. You never know who knows who or when they’ll have the chance to promote you and your business. The more people you meet and get to know, the better off you’ll be. Not everything someone recommends you for will work out of course; but again, increasing your odds will ultimately increase the chances of success.
That is why everything you attend is the place to network, and everyone you meet is an important connection. A training program can be just as valuable as the national conference if you do things right. To end where we began, remember that whatever your situation is, large or small, MBE or corporation, new or long time NMSDC member, there are great networking opportunities available. It’s a tangible benefit that only you can tap into. We’re all here to help each other but you have to get out and network. Let us know about you and your company and you can be sure that we’ll do our best to help you grow and succeed!
Corporate Outreach Manager, Supplier Diversity