This article was written by Edward Cates and published in Savoy Professional Magazine in Fall 2007.
After 13 years as a company man, I made the jump to become an entrepreneur and started my own marketing & communications company. During those years I compiled expertise in public relations, events management, multicultural marketing, supplier diversity and communications management at Bank of America and one of the largest minority owned businesses in the country. I’ve given plenty of corporate trade show booth speeches and I’ve also heard as many. Having marketed and sold for a MBE at various trade shows, I have developed an alternative appreciation for the often delivered corporate phrase, “If you want to do business with us register on our website”.
If you want to grow your business through supplier diversity, becoming certified as a diverse supplier is not the golden ticket that will provide entitlement to a flood of business. It may be more accurate to compare minority certification’s functionality to obtaining a driver’s license. Similar in that a third party has reviewed submitted credentials and validated you are who you say you are. If you want to drive your car you need a driver’s license. If you want to grow your business through supplier diversity you need to obtain certification.
When it comes to pursuing growth of your business through supplier diversity you generally get back what you put in. Accessing the network of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, participating at local council events, and growing relationships are activities that are good input for this effort.
The following are a few tips that can help in gaining visibility and lead to business from corporations that are affiliated with your local councils:
1. Research your local NMSDC affiliate council (www.nmsdc.org) and their corporate membership.
• Local NMSDC councils are led and governed by a board comprised of corporate members. Know which of these companies spends the most with businesses like yours.
2. Make your target client list from the corporate members of the council.
• Be realistic about your scalability, and whether they need your product or service.
3. Research the corporation and determine if they have an online registration process.
• Register online before you approach a corporate representative about your business. This shows you understand their process and are ready to be considered for the next meeting, bid or contract.
4. Identify and join council committees that have members that are corporate representatives from your target list or in your area of expertise.
• Committee’s allow you to build relationships with a cross section of corporations and other diverse suppliers. Your hard work on committees is a great way to build the brand of your business through a shared commitment to the council.
5. Regularly evaluate the ROI of your time working with the council.
• It’s easy to get caught up in the schedule of council activities and forget that your time is money. Be balanced in your evaluation and consider the long term payout for the relationships you have invested in and their potential for business.
Using supplier diversity to grow your business is primarily about obtaining access and executing when you get there. It’s not about the certification; it’s about the contract. It’s not about the supplier diversity managers; it’s about the commodity managers, sourcing manager, end users and check writers. Being a diverse supplier may help get you in the room, but your capabilities, expertise and innovation will keep you there.
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