Supplier Diversity Adversity

The world of Supplier Diversity is filled with a myriad of elements that can skew the true intention of the program. According to CVM Solutions, “It emphasizes the creation of a diverse supply chain that works to secure the inclusion of diverse groups in the procurement plans for government, not-for-profits and private industry." Now, I completely agree with this statement and the importance of supplier diversity programs in every organization. The utilization of processes that encourage and actively seek small and diverse suppliers is more than just doing “what’s right”, but it is truly about doing what is required.
However, throughout my career, I have seen the emphasis of many programs dissent from impact and resource to “bodies in seats” themed events. Let me explain, in this industry, there are firms that win contracts to be the “Supplier Diversity Consultant” or “DMWBE Program Manager” when in actuality their focus is more aligned with marketing strategists or PR firms. So their talents lie in drawing people to events through creative marketing. This is great for owners who prioritize quantity over quality. But, for the small and diverse businesses attending events with no ROI or better yet the chance of an opportunity, is the point at which supplier diversity meets adversity.
This is the point of no return that the supplier diversity industry is facing if the focus of the programming does not redefine the compliance in opportunities achieved. If there are not “real numbers” behind the effectiveness of the numerous outreach events or the charged up project kickoff networkers, then what is the true value? I will say that professionals in this industry meet a two-edged sword because the quantity has become the nucleus for success.
So how do we get back to the significance of the program? We get back to the intent of the program by getting back to the fundamental principles of supplier diversity.

Opportunity Generation
The innovative methods of creating contracting opportunities for small and diverse suppliers that establish a synergy for future growth. Removing barriers is the key to this principle. As owners of contracting opportunities, there is an onus probandi to remove barriers of entry to small and diverse businesses. These barriers can be as odious as convoluted contract terms or inadequate procurement processes.

Measured Success through Substantive Data
True compliance is based on factual data and is the only true measure of success for these programs. Now back to the “Bodies in Seats” reference, measuring the success of an event is not the number of attendees. Rather it is the outcome of their attendance at the event. How many actively bid on solicitations, following the event? How many win contracts? How many successfully complete the work and are awarded more work? These are measurements of success with substantive data.

Capacity Building
Yes, the biggie in the industry, with construction and infrastructure improvements at an all-time high, the capacity for small and diverse businesses to capitalize on the opportunities is of most importance to all project owners. Honestly, capacity building is a difficult facet of supplier diversity programs because, without the creation of training, education and mentor-protégé programs most small and diverse businesses don’t stand a chance at being able to improve their internal processes and ability to bid and secure work with higher bonding and insurance limits. However, it is still the responsibility of the owner to either directly provide these forums for coaching and cultivation or seek out strategic partners with the programming in place. Additionally, owners have to recognize the capacity of the small and diverse businesses and create methods that effectively allow them the opportunity to successfully win contracts.

Pragmatic Partnership Development
The development of partnerships that make sense and work, is essential to the supplier diversity program. Partnerships with associations, advocacy groups, and organizations that promote the qualities and missions that encourage real supplier diversity and not adversity. Partnerships are plentiful and in my experience, many partners are willing to tailor programming to meet the needs of their corporate sponsors and supporters. The investment is minimal compared to the return as well as possessing another layer of authoritative program impact.

The adversity to Supplier Diversity has always been prevalent, in fact, there are organizations and politicians that do not support diversity in any form. The only way that adversity does not take hold and reshape a program, that is meant to be more than a handout or easy contract, is to reinforce the purpose of the program and get back to the basics. Real programming for real change!

Sheena Morgan is the owner of Lengo a business consultancy suite specializing in competitive business development and business asset creation. She is a 20-year veteran of the Supplier Diversity industry and staunch advocate of small & minority business entrepreneurs.

Sheena Morgan