There is so much going on right now that it’s hard to keep up with everything. There have been so many important, life-altering changes to our schools, workplaces and homes. The pandemic, the ensuing economic effects, the ongoing fight for social justice – all are significantly impacting us, personally and professionally, in profound, often unsettling ways. There is so much to process, think about, work on, and change. So many challenges, for me personally, and all of us collectively.
When I feel this way, I’ve learned that the best cure is action. What can I do to help? What action, large or small, perhaps even tiny, can I take that will improve the situation? A few weeks ago, I wrote about what MBEs can do to improve their chances for success. But I know that the current economic conditions have all of us thinking about how to restart the economy. I’m sure many companies, particularly those with programs focused on encouraging diversity, are thinking about what to do.
I’ve had the benefit of working with many different companies and diversity programs and I know so many wonderful people working in the diversity space. I have seen what works well and can make a real difference. I’ve learned so much from them. So, my action today is to humbly share a few ideas for what you might consider in these challenging times.
- Be extremely proactive in communicating your needs – Whatever you were doing before, you need to do more. How do you communicate opportunities to your suppliers? Are you relying solely on portals and emails? Consider holding conference calls or webinar-style meetings to discuss your company, staffing needs, and particular pain points in a proactive educational way. This will allow a wider variety of MBEs to learn about you and bring their solutions to your attention. Widen your outreach.
- Build relationships virtually – Meeting at the office, chatting at a conference, or catching up at a local NMSDC event are all difficult to imagine happening anytime soon. Do you have a plan for how you will continue to build relationships with current and potential MBE suppliers? How will they learn about your company and your needs? How will you learn about them? It’s critical to come up with a new plan. Without relationships and good communication there will be no business.
- Promote and support diverse companies in multiple ways – Hiring an MBE is the obvious way, but there are other things that are effective too. Do you recommend your MBE partners to others? Do you provide testimonials? They help. One large company we work with has an internship program that pays for MBEs to attend conferences and other networking events. For small businesses, these costs can be a barrier. Some companies officially mentor or work with MBEs to help them meet the company’s supplier standards. Think more broadly about what “support” means and looks like.
- Share your culture and your values – How are you branding yourself online? What are you doing in the community? What is important to you and your employees? Sharing what you value and how you put those values into action has many benefits for a company, including in finding suppliers. If you want to attract quality companies to work with, then share what you care about with them.
- Make sure your internal and decision-making teams are diverse – It’s especially important that the team represent all stakeholders. It’s important that diverse voices and viewpoints are not just heard but also have weight and influence in final decisions.
I know that some companies are considering mandating a certain amount of spend with MBEs as a way to bridge the gap and help achieve diversity spending goals. I don’t necessarily disagree with that strategy. But I do think there is much more that can and should be done. If you want to support MBEs, you can do so in multiple ways and many of these ideas can be started pretty quickly. Swift action is needed right now, as well as those solutions that may take more planning or effort. Just because a problem is large and complicated doesn’t mean the solutions have to be!
Our economy will not recover without our efforts. But it’s not just that goal that should be the driving reason behind examining current practices and improving them. A future economy that features success, prosperity, and economic equality for all will be a better, stronger economy. Working together, we can help create that world. Have questions or want to share ideas? Feel free to reach out to me to continue the conversation.
Have questions or want to share ideas? Feel free to reach out to me to continue the conversation.
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