Do diversity suppliers make an effort to do business with each other?
That's the question a member of the Alliance of Supplier Diversity Professionals LinkedIn group asked about three months ago. The question intrigued me, so I posed it to MBE's LinkedIn group members as well as our local Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee (MBEIC) LinkedIn group. A consensus emerged in the responses-while many diverse suppliers make an attempt to do business with one another; there is a tremendous amount of room for improvement.
Much of the focus within the supplier diversity community is on doing business with major corporations-selling products and services to them, becoming a meaningful part of their supply chain. If we ever hope to walk the walk with one another, we have to start to talk the talk with one another. One of the easiest ways to start to develop new minority- and woman-owned (M/WBE) business-to-business connections is by bringing those business relationships to the same level of conversational prominence as business with corporations.
Supplier diversity is not an end in and of itself-it is only good in so far as it accomplishes the building of wealth in underserved and underutilized communities, only good if it brings the people in the margins out of them. Integration into the corporate supply chain is an excellent way to accomplish that goal, but it shouldn't stop there. If, as a community, we expect others to utilize our services, we ought to be the first to utilize them for our own businesses.
As part of this effort, we need to develop the tools to make sure certified M/WBE suppliers are just as accessible to other certified M/WBEs as they are to major corporations. With technology as an ally, no one should be left to wonder if they could have hired a diverse supplier but didn't because of a lack of information. The local and national councils are perfectly positioned to accomplish this.
The Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) has always made access to its certified WBEs available through its WBENCLink website. There, corporate members and WBEs alike are able to search and find WBE partners and suppliers. Is it any wonder there are more WBE-to-WBE connections being made every day? Now, the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) is poised to do the same for its corporate members and certified minority businesses.
Perhaps then these new relationships can develop into business partnerships whereby M/WBEs can start to bid on contracts that would be too large for many smaller, individual firms. Using these newly formed partnerships, M/WBEs can take on major projects not as buyer-supplier-but as peers working together toward a single goal.
There is a real opportunity for the sum to become something greater than its parts. So, to paraphrase a slogan, BUY DIVERSE!
For businesses (and governments, for that matter) it is important not to lose sight of the important communication undertaking that must go hand in hand with changes being made on an organizational level.
The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) announced a new 5-year strategic plan in 2012 which included the reorganization of their regional councils by the end of 2013. Since that time, little has been shared. Maybe that was because our local council was not forthcoming or maybe it was because there were restrictions on how/when updates on the progress were to be shared. As a result, rumors flew and speculation ran rampant until the NMSDC Annual Conference this past October, when an update was shared with those in attendance.
I missed the conference this year for the first time in over 25 years. I did not get to hear the briefing and we were not made aware prior to attending that there was to be a briefing that would explain the plans surrounding the reorganization of the regional councils. Nor was it formally communicated to us as a certified minority business that our own council affiliation was going to change. Instead, we found out both of these things completely by chance.
Based on the information that was shared, the transition will yield many benefits, some of which will take longer than others to materialize. However, it might be easy to lose sight of the short- and long-term gain that business owners stand to make if those efforts aren't properly communicated. Transparency and communication about the reorganization is as key to the success of the process as any other component.
The community of minority-owned businesses and major corporations that are represented and brought together by the NMSDC stands to reap many benefits from the new operating structure being put into place. The new streamlined process promises a reduction from 36 to 24 regional councils, access to more uniform pricing and procedures, a bigger and better business database, better resourced councils, and a stronger organization on the national level.
Business owners usually have more than 24 hours spoken for during their busy days. Proactive, clear, and effective communication needs to be a priority. Anything less is providing a disservice to the constituency and the organization. After all, if we don't understand what's happening, we can't assist in communicating the potential value to our peers thus strengthening the value proposition of the whole organization.
MBE magazine has been and continues to be the vehicle which informs, educates and inspire minority and women businesses. We stand ready to communicate all that will allow our fellow MBEs and WBEs to succeed in an ever-changing business environment.
For more information about the progress of the implementation of the strategic plan visit http://strategicplan2012.nmsdc.org and if you have questions, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In June, our community lost one of its most passionate advocates—Henry T. Wilfong, Jr., or Hank, to those who knew him.
Hank was a fighter. He was a bright light that, for right or wrong, never wavered in his commitment to the rights of every minority and woman business enterprise—the rights that would allow greater access and inclusion to participate in the building, rebuilding, prosperity, and sustainability of this country that he loved dearly.
What’s more, Hank knew how to fight. He was a veteran, an entrepreneur, a legislator, a policymaker, an agitator. He sometimes remarked that he wanted to be a man who “tried to help somebody.” To do that, he started the National Association of Small Disadvantaged Businesses some 20 years ago and proceeded to work on any and all subjects that would serve the interests of his members—the business people who were often overlooked and excluded. People responded to his style. At the time of his passing, he had a strong following and a reputation for fearlessness.
The recent Supreme Court rulings would have had Hank working overtime, producing his daily “issuances”—he produced 5,031 before he passed—and strategizing on his weekly phone meetings he called The Wilfong Hour. Many believe that the Fisher decision is only a temporary reprieve, and the Holder decision is only the beginning of the battle. (See Eye on Washington, page 28.) The opportunity exists now, in a way that it has not for fifty years, for opponents of civil rights to push back much needed protections in areas that have a demonstrable history of discrimination against and exclusion of women and minorities. This is no time to get complacent, it is time to fight. Our ability to advocate is directly tied to our ability to agitate, as Hank would say.
Also on the chopping block is Hank’s most recent project, the XpressWest high-speed rail project linkingLas VegastoSouthern California. Recently, the Department of Transportation announced that it was tabling the review of the loan application submitted in 2010. Hank viewed this project as a portal to increased minority construction capacity, one that would allow firms from across the country to cut their teeth on what would have been, and still might be, one of the nation’s first high speed rail infrastructure projects. In this project, supporters saw not only the future of transportation in the United States, but a major opportunity for minority- and women-owned firms to lay their own tracks to future success in major infrastructure projects.
It is safe to say that Hank will be remembered, as he would have liked it, as the man who tried, and succeeding, in helping many. For him, for the vision which was his life’s work, and for the full inclusion of small, disadvantaged businesses everywhere the struggle continues, until we succeed—and we shall.
As I write this, it is my birthday. And, it occurs to me that I am about the same age as Ginger Conrad when she launched this publication 29 years ago. Reflecting on this, I'm just a little nervous. The world has changed a lot since 1984 and we are embarking on a new era for MBE magazine.
Social media is all the rage now; not e-mails. The speed at which news travels is lightning fast and the filter is small, and getting smaller. The attention span of the average reader is, well, short. There are multiple forms of communication-from text messaging to video. As a communication medium, we must keep up or be left behind…for good. Still, there are some things that we are not willing to do.
For nearly 30 years now, MBE magazine has resisted the popular ploy of producing lists as a way to increase support from corporations. This is not to say that some of those programs and individuals don't deserve recognition-but these lists are created based mostly on information that is voluntarily given. It raises the question: if some participate voluntary and others opt out, how do we know that the rankings are truly representative? As one veteran supplier diversity leader put it-when you do something noteworthy, then we will award you that recognition.
We have been asked many times over to create lists. Although this is what corporations seem to want, we want more. More opportunity, more contracts, more engagement. We prefer to hold a spotlight on industries, corporations, and minority and women business enterprises. Drill down to the root of these companies, get to the heart of these programs and initiatives and have our readers-you-decide if they are worthy of praise.
We created the Corporate Strategies, Different Drummers, and Ripple Effects series as a way to do that. Now we have added two new ways to highlight the industry and those who support supplier diversity. On the Scene with MBE magazine is our new online gallery, http://mbemag.com/index.php/gallery. Here we present pictorials of events as we see them throughout the year. Our YouTube Channel recently debuted a series of videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/mbemag/videos, giving our visitors insight into MBE magazine and allowing them to hear from some of our advertisers, supporters, and past cover features.
We will be adding more to our roster of offerings as we lead up to our 30th Anniversary
Celebration next October in Orlando, Florida. If you would like to participate by sponsoring, send an e-mail to 30thAnniversary@mbemag.com for more information.
On a more personal note, my thanks to all who sent me birthday wishes via e-mail and social media. It was great hearing from so many of the friends and colleagues I've met over the years. As caretaker of this legacy that is Ginger's, and now mine, I and my team look forward to continuing this journey with you.
Have you ever had the feeling that you don’t do enough? I have.
I was on a whirlwind of travel in April that wrapped up in Portland, Oregon, for the first ever Women Entrepreneurs Global Connect Expo & Summit presented by the Astra Women’s Business Alliance, a regional partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. While there, we were treated to thought-provoking presentations by two women, Almas Jiwani and Jensine Larsen, who had me thinking about whether I do enough.
Jiwani is president of UN Women National Committee Canada (www.unwomencanada.org), which is a committee of UN Women International, the women’s body at the United Nations. Dedicated to advancing women’s rights and achieving gender equality across the globe, UN Women provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs and strategies that foster women’s empowerment. Jiwani gave an energetic, no holds barred presentation about the work of UN Women around the world. She encouraged the group to consider taking up an area which speaks to our expertise and share it with other women to help them grow. She reminded the room, full of businesswomen at varying stages of their career, that, as they climb the ladder of success, they have an obligation to look back and offer a hand up to those who are doing the same. Her presentation was a strong argument in favor of working collaboratively to achieve success as individuals and as a group.
Larsen is CEO and founder of World Pulse (www.worldpulse.com), an organization which connects women around the world via digital media. Through her network, she is able to make the voices of women, many of whom have never had the opportunity to tell their stories, heard around the world. She challenged our view of the world and helped us understand that sometimes, all that’s needed may be an acknowledgement or our shared knowledge to effect change for others. Oftentimes, these small gestures can result in major changes. World Pulse’s story proves that empowerment can come from small, unexpected places.
This month, we’re featuring a number of women (and men) who are working hard to improve their lives and the lives of others. LaSonya Berry, our cover feature, got her start in business by mentoring pregnant teens and giving them the skills they need to be successful. We are also proud to feature articles that speak about partnerships and organizational changes designed to improve the prospects for minority and women business owners. These are just a few of the stories that highlight the difference our supplier diversity community is making every day.
As individuals, we might not be able to change the world and end poverty, hunger, and discrimination all by ourselves. But if we do what we can—listen, be a friend, make ourselves available to help others traveling down a path we have already traveled—then we are doing our part.
I guess the trick is to realize that you can’t do everything. But you can do something with your talents, whatever they may be, and that could be enough to make a difference.
MBE's Business Opportunities resource covers business-related financing, consulting, and programs available for the Supplier Diversity community and M/WBEs. Updated monthly.
MBE's M/WBE Resource Directory is a comprehensive list of resource organizations (including links) that support the Supplier Diversity community and M/WBEs.
Refer to MBE's Acronyms & Terminology list for frequently used acronyms and terminology and an overview of the major organizations supporting the Supplier Diversity community.
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