Corporate Procurement: Promoters or Road Blockers of Innovation?

As an entrepreneur and a certified LGBT-BE (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Business Enterprise) via the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, one of my key sales strategies is connection through corporate supplier diversity programs. During this interesting journey over the past two years, including forming new relationships at the annual NLGCC conference, I have started to ponder more about the role and impact of corporate procurement.

The role can be extremely varied. On the very positive side, the procurement contacts can seek out new and innovative ideas that could have tremendous positive impact within their corporations. Especially as emerging business bring new concepts and new products to the market, the procurement professional can help connect the dots between this innovation and their enterprises. They can then facilitate introductions to line managers and business area owners who can further explore and evaluate the ideas. This could provide a way for the procurement professional to have a profound positive impact on corporate profits!

On the other extreme, procurement professionals can be innovation road blockers. Often, the response can be “Oh, we don’t have an RFP for that.” However, with an idea or a product that is completely new and unknown, how can there be an RFP for it? The procurement person needs to stretch a little and visualize if the new idea or product could have a potentially huge impact in their enterprise, and then facilitate evaluation by line business owners.

For example, I am a consultant (Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer) with an innovative career mapping process that can be used within corporations to add a long-term holistic career framework to their employee development activities. Since this is a novel concept and process which can be tailored to the corporation’s career paths and culture, there would never be an RFP for this. However, if procurement professionals could see how this concept could add great value to their corporate employee development programs and increase employee retention and recruiting, they can facilitate an introductory meeting with the appropriate line management in Human Resources or Organizational Development. (NOTE: link to recent online article featuring my innovative offerings and compelling business rationale)

Stan Kimer, president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer (left) and Joe Cote, CEO of CapsulePen LLC.

And I’ll provide another example using a product instead of a service – CapsulePen, which won the annual entrepreneurial competition at the 2012 NGLCC’s sold out Conference in Chicago. CapsulePen is an innovative new product in the “pill case” arena, providing a stylish yet extremely practical new way of storing and carrying daily and weekly medications. Being a totally new patent-pending product, no corporate retail or pharmacy chain, nor any pharmaceutical company looking for a promotional item in which to place drug samples, would have an RFP out for this product. So instead of shutting down discussion, corporate buyers from retailers and pharmaceutical companies should catch the vision of how this innovative product can differentiate them, and then facilitate follow up meetings and calls to pursue evaluation and a possible relationship.

My hope is that corporate procurement professionals, especially those in supplier diversity, can be catalysts in promoting innovative services and products within their enterprises.

DISCLOSURE: Blog author Stan C. Kimer is an investor in CapsulePen

Entrepreneurship – The Balance Between Self-sufficiency and Interdependence

Note: this Blog is loaded with lots of useful links so do use them!

Last week I was featured in a weekly column by Mildred L. Culp, a Syndicated Columnist with the Knoxville News Sentinel. This series, called “THE RIDE” ™ captures the entrepreneurial experience and spirit. (Link to the story I was featured in.) The title of this particular column was “THE RIDE: Entrepreneurs enhance self-sufficiency”

Mildred L. Culp

In the article, both of us entrepreneurs who were interviewed spoke about the need to be self-sufficient. Often as an entrepreneur, I need to do many different things myself as I keep personally motivated to do all that is necessary for my business to succeed. But in the article, I was quoted by saying, “Independent spirit can be a negative thing if taken too far.”

Now I want to expand on this quote. There is a balance between being self-sufficient and also realizing there are many resources out there I can call upon to help me succeed. Even though I need to take ownership over every aspect of my business and be self-sufficient, that does not mean “going it alone.” The wise entrepreneur knows how and when to call on various available resources.

Here are some examples of how I have been using resources to help me succeed:

First, I am involved with several organizations pertinent to my business for networking and resources. Being in the diversity and career management space I joined and regularly participate in the Raleigh-Wake HR Management Association, the Triangle Society of Human Resource Management, the Triangle Organizational Development Network, and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Second, I availed myself of excellent small business coaching. Both my initial coach during start up, Vickie Bevenour of RDW Group, Inc. and then Nancy Heller of Right Management, have been invaluable with expert advice, encouragement and inspiration.

Third, I have spent time with experienced and seasoned colleagues who helped show me the ropes and supplied sage advice. Both Val Boston of Boston and Associates and Al and Keith Toney of AK Consulting Services are successful long-time consultants in the diversity space who have provided great guidance along the way. Sharon Hill of Sharon Hill International discusses speaking dynamics with me as well as encouraging me with her infectious super-positive spirit. And Katie Gailes of Smart Moves International and I have had mutual accountability meetings, and she gives me creative marketing and sales ideas.

Fourth, paid or contracted resources can provide excellent direction. My IT / website / video contractor Jim Manchester of IYI Creative Services has given me some stellar creative ideas as we constructed my website, and Lorana Price of Holy Cow Branding provided expert services to help with my initial launch and logo development.

And finally as a small consultancy, I know that partnering with other consulting firms is desirable. I may need to find partners when I find a piece of work too large for me or if I do not have all the expertise. Likewise, I hope other consultants will reach out to me when my specific expertise may be beneficial for one of their engagements.

Yes, entrepreneurs need to be self-sufficient, but that must be balanced by knowing how to use the myriad of available great resources.