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