My Issues with Corporate Procurement and Supplier Diversity Professionals

I truly appreciate it when a corporate procurement person does take the time with me on the phone to learn about my innovative career mapping program for corporations.

I truly appreciate it when a corporate procurement person does take the time with me on the phone to learn about my innovative career mapping program for corporations.

I decided to designate January, 2016 as my “rant about something in my blog month” and I have a series of three such blogs planned for January. But in addition to complaining, I will suggest a solution or propose a fix, albeit for my third and final installment it will be somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

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.

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