Recent research from The Hackett Group confirmed what supplier diversity experts have been saying all along: A strong supplier diversity program offers innumerable benefits without overburdening the organization. From Hackett’s news release, this quote from Laura Gibbons, Hackett’s Research Director, particularly caught our eye:
“Overall, the risks to focusing on supplier diversity are quite low, and the potential upside is significant. In fact, up to 10 percent of sales come with supplier diversity requirements, suggesting that the lack of such a program can even result in lost revenue.”
In other words, companies have almost nothing to lose and everything to gain by initiating and maintaining a supplier diversity program, and failing to do so can actually hurt the bottom line.
But why stop at just maintaining a supplier diversity program? Why not shoot for being outstanding? The more you put into your program, the more you will get out of it. Here are four strategies for achieving supplier diversity program excellence:
1. Professional Courses
Even the most experienced supplier diversity professionals can further enhance their skills and discover more about what is driving the supplier diversity world. Development courses allow professionals to increase their knowledge and apply that learning toward supplier diversity program excellence. Two upcoming courses that stand out are:
Tuck Executive Education Supplier Diversity Professional Excellence Program: Set for July 31-Aug. 3 at Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., the Tuck event covers topics such as corporate strategy, economic impact, leadership for supplier diversity professionals, and the perspective of the diverse entrepreneur. The program is designed for those new to supplier diversity as well as experienced supplier diversity professionals.
Advanced Management Education Program (AMEP): Created by the National Minority Supplier Development Council in partnership with Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, AMEP is a supplier development event geared toward high-potential MBEs that are recommended by NMSDC corporate members. The program provides MBEs with skills and tools to achieve and sustain accelerated growth. AMEP’s summer session is scheduled for June 18-22 in Evanston, Ill.
2. Network, Network, Network
Supplier diversity program excellence doesn’t happen on its own: It takes plenty of phone calls, emails, communication, and supplier development. It also takes networking to find the diverse suppliers that suit your needs. Often, these companies aren’t easily able to find you—they encounter the same challenges any startup or small business faces, plus additional barriers unique to diverse companies. Therefore, you need to find them. Once your networking kicks into high gear, discovering diverse partners won’t be as difficult, and those new partners may point you to additional potential partners, and so on.
3. Dig into Tier 2
Finding Tier 1 suppliers—the vendors that directly supply your company—is a straightforward objective of any supplier diversity program. Encouraging your suppliers to tab their own diverse vendors is obviously more advanced but a definite characteristic of supplier diversity program excellence. Tier 2 suppliers offer enormous opportunity to improve your overall diverse spend. However, your key suppliers might need help setting up their own supplier diversity programs, so be ready to actively offer guidance; ultimately, both you and your vendors will benefit from your efforts.
4. Automate Your Supplier Diversity Program Management
CVM Solutions recently conducted a comprehensive supplier professionals survey, and among the illuminating findings (and there were many) was this: Only 18.6 percent of respondents were using supplier diversity software to manage their supplier diversity programs. Moreover, a whopping 56.6 percent are still using Microsoft Excel or some other database. Supplier diversity program excellence is difficult to achieve if you are spending too much of your time with busy work. The best supplier diversity management solutions track data, maximize ROI, and, most importantly, keep your attention where it should be focused: discovering new diverse suppliers and strengthening relationships and development with your existing ones.
What obstacles have stood in your way of achieving supplier diversity program excellence?