Developing a Corporate Culture That Supports Supplier Diversity

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Developing a Corporate Culture That Supports Supplier Diversity

Earlier in this series, we talked about developing a corporate culture that values not only supplier diversity, but supplier inclusion. As with most things in life, that’s easier said than done. Today, we’ll discuss some of the elements that need to be in place for a more diverse and inclusive culture to take root and thrive.

Before we do that, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a global shift taking place in the definition of diversity itself:

“There’s growing significance placed on creating environments where a variety of different voices are encouraged and heard. These voices come from people who may or may not be of the same gender, race, or ethnicity. Diversity in the workplace today can include… race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, generation, disability, personality type, and thinking style.”

Why is corporate culture so important to supplier diversity? Because the things people in your company believe, and the ways they behave, largely determine how they interact with outside suppliers, vendors, and customers.

What’s the “WIFM”?

Change is difficult in general. Changing the culture of a workplace can be even tougher, because employees come from all walks of life and carry their past experiences and biases with them. Passive resistance to cultural change can be hard to identify, because employees sometimes hide their true feelings and concerns behind a mask of compliance.

The key challenge for those managing workplace change is how to engage and inspire worried or cynical employees. You’ll need to explain how a more diverse supplier base will not only benefit the company as a whole, but also serve their individual interests. In other words, what’s in it for them?

Here are seven simple suggestions that can help you bring about cultural change in your company or organization:

  1. Analyze your employee base, so you can recognize potential allies and discover new ways to persuade the resistors to join forces with you.
  2. Help your workforce understand the rationale for change, through creative communications media and in one-on-one conversations.
  3. Design a structured change communication program that engages employees at all levels. Be prepared to listen and adjust the program in response.
  4. Dedicate enough resources, so that cultural change isn’t just the tenth item on everyone’s crowded “to-do” list.
  5. Don’t forget follow-up! The most critical time is immediately after a new program is implemented, when it’s easy for employees to slip back into old behavior.
  6. Celebrate your successes by sharing anecdotes, mini-case studies, and best practices at employee meetings and on your website.
  7. Don’t get complacent. Cultural biases are stubborn, persistent, and often unconscious, so it’s crucial to reinforce the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive supply chain with both new hires and long-term employees.

“No Silver Bullet”

According to the change experts at ProjectInclude.org, cultural transformation is as much an art as a science. Also, keep in mind that your efforts must be in sync with the “personality” of your workforce to be effective and long-lasting:

“There is no silver bullet, no one-size-fits-all solution. Efforts must be comprehensive and tailored to the unique needs of each organization. Implementing an inclusive culture requires always planning ahead and being able to evolve as a company grows and people change, new processes are added to operations, the number of teams increases, and coordination gets more complex.”

The payoff? By championing diversity and inclusivity within your organization and in your supply chain, you’ll strengthen your business, attract more talent, and benefit from new perspectives that help you spot new business opportunities and markets you’d otherwise miss.


STAY TUNED! Next time, we’ll explain how you can tell if your supplier diversity program is suffering from insufficient data.

 

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I Really Hate It When Someone Asks Me This Question About Supplier Diversity…

 

Author: Rod Robinson, ConnXus CEO & Founder


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I find myself getting increasingly frustrated when someone asks me, “What motivates a company to want to increase diversity in their supplier base?” The last time someone asked me that (about a week ago), I absolutely wanted to scream. However, I decided to channel my frustration more constructively into this short and simple post to explain the motivation from my perspective.

The good news is that everyone seems to understand the importance and benefits of diversity at the board level, among employees and customers. However, many still struggle with why supplier diversity is even more important. The key driver of corporate diversity is to facilitate a better understanding of customers and markets. This understanding often comes with access to new markets that may not otherwise be available.

Corporations’ suppliers are often positioned to provide a much greater degree of market insight and understanding than board members, top management or line employees. Here are some key benefits that come from supplier relationships that organizations typically will not get, internally, from employees or board members:

  • Access to new markets – Suppliers serve multiple customers within and across industries. They have a backstage pass that enables them to see where there are gaps in the market or segments that are being underserved.
  • Built-in Focus Groups – Suppliers employ tens, hundreds and even thousands of people. These people represent sources of market insight which enable organizations to test new products and concepts in a forgiving environment. One of our largest customers host annual supplier summits where new concepts are introduced and valuable feedback is gained from a diverse network of suppliers.
  • Innovations – Suppliers are often current or potential customers. These suppliers are touching and providing product inputs (direct and indirect) throughout the development process. Whether it’s specific ingredients, packaging, marketing, distribution or processes suppliers are positioned to understand what works, what doesn’t and what’s missing. This leads to new innovations or process improvements that deliver significant value in the form of product enhancements, cost savings and increased revenue.
  • Talent Source – Depending on the category, suppliers are often an extension of an organizations team particularly in professional services such as accounting, consulting and legal. They often bring specific expertise on-demand. In many cases, these relationships result in individuals being hired into full-time leadership roles within the organization.
  • Economic Impact – Sourcing goods and services from small, diverse suppliers (providers of over two-thirds of net new jobs) in markets across the country create opportunities for economic growth that benefits the entire ecosystem. For example, there is significant value in a Fortune 500 company knowing that the $30 million they spend with 60 diverse suppliers within a major Midwestern city supports 4,400 jobs at an average wage rate that is 150% above subsistence level.

Once you overlay the demographic shift taking place in the US, it is pretty simple to see why supplier diversity is so vital. As illustrated below, minorities (Asians, Blacks and Hispanics) as a % of the total US population is growing rapidly and currently comprises nearly 40% of the population. That figure will exceed 50% by 2065.

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Most businesses want to maximize share. As the population grows more diverse, maximizing share will mean attracting an increasingly diverse and complex consumer population. It is important for any organization to surround itself with a diverse team that extends from employee to supplier as this greater level of complexity will require context, cultural competence and relevant insights. This is why a holistic, 360 degree diversity strategy is becoming ever more important. So, the next time someone asks me that question, I will refer them to this post.

Question for supplier diversity champions: How do you respond when asked “What motivates your organization to have a more diverse supply chain?”

VentureOhio Founders 5: Rod Robinson

 

By: Falon Donahue

Rod is the founder and CEO of ConnXus, a Cincinnati-based supplier diversity software company that helps grow small, woman-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses by connecting them to Fortune 2000 corporate buyers. Rod received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from the West Virginia University Institute of Technology and earned his MBA at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2012, Rod was recognized by Ernst & Young as an Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.

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How many times did you fail before finding success with your current company?

I have been successfully failing and learning as an entrepreneur since pursuing my first entrepreneurial venture at age 11. I still fail today, but I take the learnings and convert those failings into successes. Any great salesperson knows that each failed customer conversion (“NO”) puts you one step closer to a “YES.” The same goes for entrepreneurship. “Those who are not willing to fail need not apply.”

What is the most important lesson you learned from failure and success?

Failure is where I achieved the most personal growth. It’s during the most difficult times that you learn the true character of an individual, and it is where my patience and perseverance was tried and tested. I believe these are two most essential elements to any successful entrepreneur. When it comes to success, it’s all about your team! Surround yourself with people smarter than you and create an environment where they can do their best work.

Why did you choose to scale your business in Ohio?

I had lived in Ohio for eight years prior to starting ConnXus. When I relocated here 14 years ago as an executive with Cincinnati Bell, I thought we would be in and out within five years. However, we quickly realized that Ohio was a great place to live and raise my family. During that time, I was able to observe how the Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem was growing. I was fortunate to develop relationships with many of the key players (VCs, attorneys, entrepreneurs, etc.) who were making it happen. That definitely inspired me.

What is the most difficult part about doing business in Ohio?

Starting a software company in Ohio and trying to raise money from VC’s on the coasts proved to be a bit challenging in the early days. However, that is rapidly changing as we continue to witness the success of companies like Assurex, ConnXus, Dotloop, EVERYTHING BUT THE HOUSE, Lisnr and many more in the pipeline. Catalyst organizations like CincyTech, Cintrifuse and The Brandery are certainly smoothing the path.

What is one thing that someone reading this blog could do to help your company?

We would love to being doing more business with Ohio companies. The bulk of our Fortune 1000 customers are based outside of Ohio. Our rapidly growing customer list includes Allstate Insurance, American Express, Cummins, Caesars Entertainment, Coca Cola, Facebook, Harley-Davidson and The National Basketball Association. If you are an Ohio-based company interested in supporting an innovative, Ohio-born technology start-up while building a more diverse and sustainable supply chain, call us to schedule a product demo or email sales@ConnXus.com.

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Supplier Diversity Raises up 21st Century Expo Group

ConnXus Share Your Story Series

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Rayford McFarland, CEO of 21st Century Expo Group

Supplier Diversity may mean different things based on who you are and how it impacts your existence. What supply diversity means to me is that it provides a means to develop the resources and relationships that companies, large and small, need to help level the field of competition, social responsibility, and community development for the greater good and success it brings to American families and their communities.

Since our founding in 1991, 21st-Century Expo Group, Inc. (21stCEG) has participated in various initiatives established by government, corporate, and professional sports organizations. They have served as a part of our unique niche that has kept us viable and relevant to our client base over the past 25 years.

Most critically our association with the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and my local council, The Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council (CRMSDC) have been strong supporters and catalyst for 21stCEG’s growth in the trade show and special events industry.

After the tragedy of 9-11 and the 2008 Great Recession, the industry and our clients suffered a dramatic downturn that affected our very survival.

To endure the downturn, we depended heavily on NMSDC and CRMSDC to continue building our business while taking the necessary steps to maintain financial and operational efficiencies.

Starting in 2010, we were able to create a model of sustainability including sales, marketing, and business development trajectory that dramatically improved our financial and operational success. In 2012 we were selected to receive The CRMSDC’s Supplier Of The Year Class II Award. That same year we won the contract to produce Major League Baseball’s Inaugural Diversity Business Summit in Chicago. Things were clearly looking up.

During the NMSDC Annual Conference in Denver, 21st Century Expo Group received its 2013 National Supplier of the Year Class II Award to our delight. That award represented the accumulation of support and assistance received from our clients and the supplier diversity professionals in their organizations.

Since receiving these awards, we have been able to create a new course of success that continues today. We are now the only African-American women owned and operated general service contractor in the nation. Our client list now includes organizations such as Google, Time Warner, McDonald’s, Centene Corporation, Major League Baseball and of course ConnXus.

In addition we’ve been able to move into a new warehouse facility, double our minority staff, and establish our Project Expo Initiative. This initiative is designed to provide personal growth development and employment opportunities for unemployed young African-American men from the underserved communities in Washington DC and Maryland.

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Through our relationship with Major League Baseball’s Supplier Diversity and Inclusion office, we recently presented 21stCEG’s services to the Diversity in Inclusion Sports Consortium (DISC) that consist of representatives from the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, US Olympic Committee, US Tennis Association, and Major and Minor League Baseball.

For 21stCEG, none of this would’ve been possible without the existence, support, and continued efforts of NMSDC, CRMSDC, corporations, and minority businesses working together collectively to achieve the American Dream.

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CAN TECHNOLOGY HELP YOU BUILD A DIVERSE SUPPLY CHAIN?

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With the rise of the Internet and instant access to massive amounts of information, today’s best companies are rapidly learning how to harness the power of databases. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to manage that data effectively and quickly.

We are living in the Age of Big Data. No matter what industry you’re in or where you live, you are awash in information – with more pouring in every minute from all directions. No one canblame supply-chain executives if they sometimes feel like Mickey Mouse in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” trying to sweep up an ocean of water with just a mop and a bucket.

When we first launched ConnXus, procurement professionals kept telling us how hard it was to identify high-quality, diverse suppliers.On the other side of the equation, small-business owners and minority-owned businesses complained about how difficult it was to develop profitable long-term relationships with large companies.

We saw an opportunity to bring data and technology together to solve these problems. Want to know how we did it?

Data at Your Fingertips

First, we set an ambitious goal: To create a comprehensive, convenient, and cost-effective supplier diversity data solution that would meet the needs of both groups.As we delved into all the possible supplier diversity data, metrics, and tools we realized that it made sense to build one intuitive, easy-to-use ConnXus Supplier Diversity Sustainability Dashboard. ConnXus is a fairly recent, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)-certified entrant into this field, and claim a more modern technology approach that enables a data cleanse turnaround as short as two weeks.

“The smaller firms … have managed to develop their own databases of which suppliers are certified and or not, thus overcoming the challenges facing non-diverse firms in this market.”

So there you have it – a rational response to Big Data, in the form of a streamlined, dashboard-based system that helps both sides of the supplier diversity equation get what they need.

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STAY TUNED! Next time, we’ll discuss the importance of developing a corporate culture that values not only supplier diversity, but supplier inclusion.

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ConnXus Intern Amongst Highest-Ranking U.S. Senator Interns

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ConnXus Cares deeply about intern development, integrating each intern’s individual career goals and achievements into the work that they perform daily. Our team ensures that every intern has access to the most robust internal and external resources in order to make the most out of their time with ConnXus.

DJ Hammett, ConnXus operations service intern, is no stranger to making great strides in his career and personal development. Also a campaign intern for U.S. Senator Rob Portman, Hammett was one of the three highest performing political campaign interns from the state of Ohio. The three highest-ranking interns from each state were then selected to attend an appreciation gathering with Senator Rob Portman, and other high-profile politicians including Senator Joni- Ernst and Newt Gingrich at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 18.

“It was an eye-opening experience to see the larger impact of me and my fellow interns’ daily work that contributes to Portman’s overall unprecedented campaign,” reflects Hammett. “As an intern, it was very interesting to learn insider information about the campaign and Portman’s unparalleled voter reach in the state of Ohio.”

As he entering his sophomore year at WashU in St. Louis in the renowned systems engineering program, Hammett has also been nationally recognized for his groundbreaking language-learning app, LingoHop. Catching the eyes of several investors after raising $25,000 from their Kickstarter campaign, LingoHop is giving Rosetta Stone a run for their money.

#ConnXusCares about intern development… How does your company give back to your employees?

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ConnXus Cares about Sustainability: Minimizing E-Waste

Topping off at 9.4 million tons, the United States generates more electronic waste, or e-waste, than any other country.1

downloadE-waste in Manesar, India in 2009; image provided by usnews.com

The toxic effects of e-waste impact not only the the air we breathe and the water we drink, but it produces long-lasting health effects on our overall well-being. While most e-waste is dumped into landfills, only 12% is currently being recycled, according to Trayak, a sustainable technology solutions company.

Those who do recycle their electronics, however, may not be doing the earth all that much good. Most of recycled e-waste is shipped to underdeveloped countries, where major organizations can hire cheap labor to rid of dangerous metals and chemicals. In Ghana, Jim Puckett, executive director of the nonprofit Basel Action Network, said he has seen mostly orphans – anywhere from 12 to 20 years old – working in a slum, burning discarded electronics and releasing toxic fumes into the air, according to U.S. News.2

Team ConnXus is participating in Trayak’s MyGizmo e-waste collection drive during the month of July. #ConnXusCares

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Trayak, a neighboring office of ConnXus in Mason, OH, is offering a viable alternative to dumping e-waste by enabling individuals to properly dispose of old, unused electronics—and the tool is called MyGizmo. “MyGizmo is an application and mobile platform that will promote reuse, recycling, recovery, and electronic waste awareness. The app leverages a user’s social network to reduce the uncertainty of buying and selling to strangers on the internet,” states Trayak.

ConnXus Cares® about building a sustainable future for current and new generations to come. In the spirit of environmental conservation, this month the ConnXus team is indulging in some healthy competition by participating in Trayak’s E-Waste drive. Team members are bringing in old laptops, monitors, keyboards, cellphones, tablets, digital cameras, GPS devices and the list goes on.

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How is your office, community and/or household working to build a more sustainable e-future? #ConnXusCares


http://earth911.com/eco-tech/20-e-waste-facts/

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/08/01/e-waste-in-developing-countries-endangers-environment-locals

Every Step is a Step

Connxus Share Your Story

 

2016 ConnXus Cares Share Your Story 3rd place winner, Way To Be, a promotional product and uniform supplier shares their philosophy of “every step is a step” and how they were able to gain contracts with Fortune 500 companies like McDonald’s and Autodesk.

The Way To Be founders, Wayne Beasley and Alan McIntosh, go way back—over 25 years to be exact— as entrepreneurially-spirited colleagues at a McDonald’s Corporation accounting center.

Their determination to start a business of their own coupled with a passion for serving customers with enduring care, led the two young colleagues to form their company, Way To Be, in Hayward, California, in 1993.

“We started off selling T-shirts out of our trunks, our office was in an actual garage, and today we’ve grown to become a supplier of high volume promotional merchandise, apparel and uniforms to mid-large size companies,” reflects Beasley. Today the promotional products and uniforms company is certified as a Small, Local and Emerging Business (SLEB) in Alameda County, CA, a California Unified Certification Program Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), and a Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (WRMSDC) Minority Business Enterprise (MBE). View Way To Be’s complete list of certifications here.

Back in 2004, Way To Be scored a major contracting milestone when they partnered with McDonald’s Corporation to supply the Mcdonald’s national uniforms program. McIntosh reflects, “The addition of the program significantly grew our sales, increased our purchasing power with larger volumes, and diversified our business beyond merchandise and apparel. We grew from a promotions company into a sophisticated custom uniforms company.” This breakthrough in their company’s history loops back to their humbling company philosophy that every step is a step. “While we have certainly reached some major milestones, we’re most grateful for the small accomplishments that ultimately generate the big wins, such as wow-ing our customers, never settling and taking care of our community and teammates,” says McIntosh.

A ConnXus supplier member since 2011, Way To Be continuously seeks strategic opportunities through the ConnXus opportunity finder and bid-match notifications, and also pass along fitting opportunities to MBE’s within their network.

Way To Be’s top services, branded merchandise and apparel, uniforms, and turnkey ecommerce company store solutions, have been recognized twice by NMSDC Supplier of the Year Award (2011 and 2013). Additionally, the promotional company won the 2014 Teamwork Award, as well as the 2014 Inclusion and Diversity Award from McDonald’s Supply Chain. Way To Be was one of four Bay Area companies to provide products in the 2015 year Super Bowl.

Congratulations, Way To Be, on placing 3rd in the 2016 ConnXus Share Your Story campaign!

MOVING BEYOND SUPPLIER DIVERSITY TO SUPPLIER INCLUSION

 

Here at ConnXus, we like to honor “Celebrate Diversity Month” every July. This tradition, started in 2004,is intended to recognize and honor the impact of cultural diversity in the United States. As in every other area of life, we believe that supplier diversity is not only the spice of life, but can provided real added value to any business.

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A Natural Evolution

In today’s article, though, we’ll explore what it means to move beyond supplier diversity to an even more promising approach: supplier inclusion.

First, let’s define our terms:

  • Diversity means recognizing all the ways people are different from each other …. everything that makes each of us unique.
  • Inclusion takes things a step further, by combining and using these diverse forces and resources in ways that benefit the organization.

We believe that companies and other organizations need both diversity and inclusion to thrive.While many business leaders now view diversity as a positive influence on corporate thinking, not enough have realized that inclusion can actually result in better business decisions and results.

Remind Me Why This Is Important?

Putting aside that supplier diversity and inclusion programs are good things to do from a social standpoint, they also make sound business sense in light of national and global economic trends.

Here in the U.S., the Census Bureau reports that “minority-owned businesses continue to grow significantly faster than nonminority-owned businesses.” As this chart illustrates, the number of minority business enterprises, or MBEs, increased 29 percent between 2007 and 2012 – more than three times faster than population growth among minorities.

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In light of these unmistakable trends, what is your company doing to inspire next-level thinking about inclusion?

Ready, Set …Action

If you’re ready to move beyond “checking the boxes” for supplier diversity categories and implementing supplier inclusion programs, here arefive proven tips on assessment and creating an action plan.

  • Make sure diverse suppliers are included in yoursourcing lists from the beginning.
  • Choose sourcing strategies that align with your supplier diversity strategies.
  • After going through the RFI /RFP process,negotiate aggressively with minority-owned suppliers –so both parties’ needs are fulfilled.
  • Develop supplier management and integration metrics in advance, to insure successful and sustainable inclusion.
  • Conduct “readiness assessments” with your supplier diversity partners before you enter into new supply-chain arrangements.

Change Is Hard, But Worth It

Kendra Austin, director of supplier diversity for St. Louis-based pharmacy services provider Express Scripts, talked about her dedication to the evolving role of supply-chain professionals in last month’s issue of Inbound Logistics. “Demographics are changing,” she observed; “more companies are run by people from diverse backgrounds. My job is to expand Express Scripts’ SD program, and add value so we attract and secure the business of more companies.”

Austin is particularly proud of her company’s partnership with AlphaPointe, the third-largest employer of visually impaired persons in the U.S. “Express Scripts had won a large government contract, and turned to AlphaPointe to manufacture medicine bottles. However, we first needed to work with them to secure equipment financing and to establish pricing. Because of the program requirements,” she noted, “it took more than a year to get the contract signed.”

All that hard work has paid off. “It has been a huge win for everyone,” Austin concluded, adding that she is actively pursuing similar, inclusive relationships with other minority-owned suppliers and vendors.

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STAY TUNED! Next time, we’ll discuss how technology can help you create a more diverse and inclusive supply chain.

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THE NEWS FROM ORLANDO: WBENC 2016

 

From June 21 to 23, nearly 40,000 business owners, corporate executives, and government officials converged in Orlando, Florida’s Orange County Convention Center from across the U.S. and around the world. They were there to generate business opportunities and promote economic growth at the 2016 Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference & Business Fair (NCBF). 

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Tuesday began a moment of silence, as a show of solidarity with the City of Orlando and the LGBT community in the wake of the tragic Pulse nightclub shootings. (Photo credit: WBENC)

“Women-owned business now comprise 38% of the business population,” said WBENC president and CEO Pamela Prince-Eason. “WBENC is proud to bring together our powerful women’s business enterprises with major corporations and government entities to continue to grow their companies and fuel the economy.”

Founded in 1997, WBENC is the leading third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women, with more than 12,000 WBENC-certified WBEs. WBENC’s certification is accepted by over 1,000 U.S. corporations, in addition to many states, cities, and other entities.

Its yearly event is the largest gathering of corporate and government buyers and Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs) in the nation, where attendees enjoy three days of prominent speakers, practical workshops, and networking opportunities.

Gathered under the theme of “Creating Magic Together,” the 17th Annual NCBF was held in the state that boasts the nation’s fastest growth rate for women-owned business, according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.

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The ConnXus booth at WBENC’s National Conference was a hub for conversations about women-owned businesses, supplier diversity, and inclusion.

Another highlight was the 300-exhibit 2016 National Conference & Business Fair, featuring informative panels, remarks from WBENC leadership, and targeted programming from event sponsors. The Women’s Enterprise Forum concluded with an address from keynote speaker Jennifer Brown on diversity and inclusion as a growth enabler for business.

Attendees also heard from C-level executives representing the 2016 conference co-chairs, including Shell; The Walt Disney Company; and Wells Fargo.

New Report Charts Record WBE Growth

The recently released 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report expands on prior years’ geographic analysis to include trends in the top 50 metropolitan areas (up from 25), along with the industrial mix of minority women-owned firms.

“The number and economic contributions of women-owned firms continue to rise at rates higher than the national average – with even stronger business formation rates seen since the recession,” the study notes. “As of 2016, it is estimated that there are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues.”

Other major trends include :

  • The ranks of women-owned firms increased by 45% between 2007 and 2016, compared to a 9% increase among all businesses – a rate five times faster than the national average.
  • Employment in women-owned businesses has grown by 18% since the recession, while job growth among all U.S. businesses has declined by 1% since 2007.
  • Business revenues among women-owned firms rose by 35% since 2007, compared to 27% among all U.S. firms – a rate 30% higher than the national average.
  • Women are now the majority owners of 38% of the country’s businesses, up from 29% in 2007.
  • Women-owned companies now employ 8% of the nation’s private-sector workforce – up from 6% nine years ago – and contribute 4% of the nation’s business revenues, a share that has not changed over the past 20 years.

Behind the Numbers: One Entrepreneur’s Perspective

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Behind every statistic is a real business, with owners, customers, and vendors. One such entrepreneur is Cathy Lindemann, president and founder of Cincinnati, Ohio-based Evolution creative solutions

So what’s her take on the state of women-owned business – and the increasing awareness that a more inclusive supplier base can actually be a competitive advantage?

According to Cathy, the impact that supplier diversity has afforded her company has been crucial — “not only in the way of gaining contracts, but the knowledge, experiences, and increased opportunities that otherwise would have been left in the dark.”

Lindemann, whose company provides commercial and large-format printing and brand design services, also credits her embrace of supplier diversity for personal growth as a woman entrepreneur: “I have grown tremendously as a leader, while expanding my knowledge base not only about successful business leadership, but also on managing more efficient business operations. The ample networking opportunities have allowed me to interact with and learn from a variety of new businesses and diverse business leaders, whom I otherwise might not have met.”

In fact, she directly credits supplier diversity with her firm’s improved financial success and operational efficiencies. “Not only has it streamlined our business procedures, but it has revolutionized the ways in which we market our product offerings to new markets,” Lindemann notes. “Because of the increase in audience reach, our small business has experienced an outstanding growth in revenue.”

What’s more, the entrepreneur adds, “supplier diversity has positively impacted my employees. Through supplier diversity, they’ve been offered better benefits and more opportunities for personal and professional growth. Our team has grown closer and increased our growing culture of positivity, giving employees a newfound sense of pride, equality, and empowerment through leading.”

Lindemann is so convinced of this approach that she now serves as a mentor to other local women-owned businesses, especially during the WBE-certification process. “And once they are certified,” she says, “I help them narrow down which events and networking opportunities are best suited for their specific needs. Evolution creative solutions also has made financial donations to other WBE’s and small businesses to help them succeed.”

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STAY TUNED! In our next post, we’ll explain why more and more companies are moving beyond supplier diversity … to supplier inclusion.

 

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