In my first item, I provide some construction criticism after my first five years as a consultant dealing with supplier diversity teams and corporate procurement people. Most of my experience has been as a certified LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Business Enterprise though the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. I have indeed have had some excellent interaction and support from several NGLCC corporate partners, but there has also been a good deal of frustration.
Here are my issues:
1) I feel many of the people are just “going through the motions” to gain a good name in the diverse community. Their major metric is to get companies to enroll in their supplier diversity database and declare victory by quoting how many suppliers are enrolled. Frankly, as a very busy entrepreneur, if you expect me to spend 45 minutes putting my information into your database, don’t you feel you could spend 10 minutes with me to understand my business and what I truly have to offer to your company?
2) Many supply the pat answer, “we will call you when there is an RFP for your service or offering.” Really? How many calls have I received in 5 years? Frankly, many small business and entrepreneurs have innovative solutions to corporate issues and new inventions for which there will never be an RFP. An excellent procurement professional will seek to understand what suppliers have to offer and introduce the innovative solutions to the appropriate line management and decision makers. See my previous blog from 2012 on this titled: “Corporate Procurement: Promoters or Road Blockers of Innovation?”
3) Far too often after initial good meetings and the procurement person promises to follow up, 80% of the time, they never do. And they will not even provide the courtesy of a 30 second reply to an email to call to let you know status or let you know if they have done what they promised.
And now some suggestions:
1) Procurement people, seek to understand what the suppliers have to offer and introduce them or set up a short call with the line business area.
2) Procurement people, when you promise to do something for a potential supplier, honor that commitment and at least follow up or return a call.
3) To the NGLCC – Solicit honest assessments from the LGBT-BEs on the effectiveness of the supplier diversity program including on each corporate partner, and honor the ones that the suppliers say are doing the best job supporting them.
Finally, I encourage procurement people to work hard to establish value-add and respect within their corporations so that the line management will view you as the “go to” people to help find the best, most innovative and cost-effective suppliers to address their most pressing business needs.