ConnXus Cares Share Your Story Series
SIMPLEnetworking is a consulting firm, based in Atlanta, GA, which specializes in business networking, diversity and cultural awareness through consulting, seminars and workshops.
I have been a business entrepreneur for over 10 years and found most of my growth has been a direct result of supplier diversity. Being able to partner with major companies, government agencies and institutions to offer my company products and services has completely revolutionized my business model. Although I am a small business, I am by no means, ‘small-minded’,”explains Chi Chi Okezie, owner and producer of SIMPLEnetworking.
Okezie continues, “In the past, supplier diversity would not have been considered in my marketing or business plan, and I did not truly understand its significance. As my business continues to flourish, I am able to reach more markets and become competitive in my niche. It has become a realization that supplier diversity is almost the lifeline to my business and continued success.”
“Through supplier diversity, I have been able to foster strong and lasting relationships for business and personal support. It has enabled me unexpected opportunities and access to resources essential for my business growth. It has also improved the internal operations of my company. It allows me to expand my reach and networks both on and offline. Using supplier diversity as a mechanism for business has inevitably established a strong company brand and reputation of credibility,” exclaims Okezie.
“The most impact that supplier diversity has had on my business is the aspect of knowing how important it is to represent and appreciate diversity in businesses. Countless studies have shown that supplier diversity positively influences increase in sales revenues, innovation, corporate culture and community engagement for corporations. Also, minority-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment in the U.S. economy. It is not just the right thing to do but a profitable thing to do,” she says.
Okezie concludes with, “The SIMPLEnetworking motto is: Creating Opportunities…The new form of success. I believe that is supplier diversity. As I look forward to more successful and productive years in business, I will continue to advocate for supplier diversity. I will continue to build and develop a strong platform for making diversity significant, valuable and profitable for partnerships and business growth.”
It’s that time of year again! The NMSDC Conference will be held October 23-26 in Chicago. The conference will showcase the nation’s largest forum in support of supplier diversity. The following companies will be part of the P&G Community of Partners at the 2016 NMSDC Conference. P&G launched this program to further advance education about supplier diversity amongst suppliers, consumers, and partners while driving greater connections between prospective diverse suppliers and P&G’s supplier network. Read more
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:
- Analyze your employee base, so you can recognize potential allies and discover new ways to persuade the resistors to join forces with you.
- Help your workforce understand the rationale for change, through creative communications media and in one-on-one conversations.
- Design a structured change communication program that engages employees at all levels. Be prepared to listen and adjust the program in response.
- Dedicate enough resources, so that cultural change isn’t just the tenth item on everyone’s crowded “to-do” list.
- 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.
- Celebrate your successes by sharing anecdotes, mini-case studies, and best practices at employee meetings and on your website.
- 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.
Author: Rod Robinson, ConnXus CEO & Founder
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.
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?”
ConnXus Share Your Story Series
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.
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.