WIPP's myContracting Magazine January 2015 - Page 30


By National Women Business Owners Corporation

At NWBOC’s recent event, Decades of Excellence, a group discussion took place on the topic of supplier diversity programs within WBE certified companies. This article captures the content of the discussion.

About the participants:

Christie Knable is a Strategic Account Manager for ALOM Technologies Corporation in Fremont

CA. The company provides supply chain management services for top brands worldwide. Owner Hannah Kain is the recipient of the 2014 Eclipse Award Winner for Outstanding Supplier Diversity Program.

Nicole Copp of Copp Media Services in Wichita, KS. Started 22 years ago by Bonnie Copp, Nicole

is part of this mother-daughter team. The advertising agency provides media planning and buying services. The company is considering starting a supplier diversity program; Nicole participated to learn what others are doing.

Phyllis Hill Slater of Hill Slater, Inc. in Mt. Sinai, NY, engineers and architects since 1969. Her

company has participated as a supplier in literally hundreds of supplier diversity programs over the years with corporations and government entities; Hill Slater Inc. has always watched their supplier diversity spend but now it has a more formalized program.

Beth Harshfield of Exhibit Arts in Wichita, KS. The company provides trade show production,

promotional products, and management services. An 8a success story, Exhibit Arts has

incorporated its own supplier diversity initiative.

Nancy Zurbuchen, NWBOC’s communications person. Her company is Motional Multimedia, a

marketing strategy and communications firm specializing in B2B clients.

Janet Harris-Lange, is President of NWBOC.


Janet: The trend that we see happening within the corporate and government supplier diversity programs is for the contractor to ask whether or not the woman-owned company has their own utilization programs. In other words, is she doing business with women, minorities, disabled veterans, and so on. Does she track her spend with these groups? Some contractors have been asking about this for some time now, while others are newly adding this line of inquiry. This is a natural progression of companies ensuring that those they do business with are also creating opportunities for women and minorities.

Phyllis: It is a fact that having diversity in the workplace, including the supplier base, is a

marketing advantage. It is one way of aligning your goals to the company you are wanting to do business with. There are so many opportunities to make that happen today, with the explosion of women and minorities as business owners. I remember back in the day when companies would say we cannot find diverse suppliers. That argument certainly doesn’t hold water any more.

Christie: We find that in many cases, women or minority owned suppliers are more loyal to

you, compared to others. Our selection process is not simply taking the lowest bid; rather, we

choose by quality and track record. We check out the company, and we look for ones that share our passion for quality and performance. It’s that dedication that makes a huge difference. So it goes beyond just how it looks, it can be a business advantage.

Nancy: Also, the research shows women business owners tend to hire more women and

minorities, as well as subcontract with more WBE/MBE companies. So in that sense, having a

more formalized supplier diversity program as part of the company structure underscores what the women owners are already doing.

Janet: Ultimately this results in smaller companies down the food chain being given

opportunities they would not have had otherwise. That said, it would benefit any company to start their own program, formal or not.

Beth: We have found that the questions appear at the bidding stage. You get points for certain

things like location, being woman owned, past performance for this type of work, experience

with this company or agency. Each one has points assigned to it, and now there are also questions about having our own supplier diversity program. At this point it is questions only; later in the process you would need to be prepared to show the detailed plan and results.

Christie: We are working with our customers on reporting not just our tier one spend, but also

tier two spend. Our customers have asked for more detail and more validation. So this means

also working closely with our tier one suppliers to track their spending with diverse suppliers. It has become an educational process for us as we talk to the tier one company owners, explaining why they would benefit from setting up their own supplier diversity program. Having the conversation does build trust, though. They then start their own awareness and tracking process. Occasionally we’ve even been asked for tier three level data.