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Supplier Diversity

FedEx calls on Zycron for IT staffing.

"We provide the opportunity for M/WBEs to participate, but they have to maintain their service, quality and competitive pricing," says a manager


Doc Hughes of FedEx, seated, and Tina Braxton meet with Darrell Freeman of Zycron, an important MBE IT supplier to FedEx.

Doc Hughes of FedEx, seated, and Tina Braxton meet with Darrell Freeman of Zycron, an important MBE IT supplier to FedEx.

FedEx Corp (Memphis, TN) has more than 260,000 contractors and employees around the world. Its largest operating companies include FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight, and FedEx Kinko's. The company is continually seeking to improve its supply chain methods and composition.

To maintain its worldwide ops, FedEx needs everything from aircraft parts to vehicle and ground support, supply chain logistics services and IT support.

Launching a program
The formal supplier diversity program at FedEx started in 1992. "It provided an avenue for underutilized suppliers to compete for FedEx business," says Deborah "Doc" Hughes, managing director of business services, enterprise strategic sourcing and IT. Hughes reports to Mary McDaniel, FedEx Express VP of material and corporate sourcing, who has the entire supplier diversity program under her wing.

The program, Hughes notes, is "uniquely staffed with sourcing professionals and program managers." Its group focus allows members to "share best practices, program monitoring and supplier selection tools," and makes it easier to develop and mentor diverse suppliers.

The sourcing pros handle contract negotiations and sourcing events. Program managers and their teams make sure everything is being done correctly in terms of policies, management tools, and selection of supplier diversity events to attend.

FedEx supplier diversity professionals also include supplier champions, and strategic sourcing reps from each operating company. "We have a very talented and diverse team representing the supplier diversity program," Hughes declares. "We are striving to ensure that our employees, our customers and our suppliers are all treated in a fair, ethical manner."

New site for registrations
A FedEx online registration site for diverse suppliers is in test mode right now. "Once that's up and going the suppliers will be able to scan their certification documents directly into the system," says Dennis Taylor, program management advisor for supplier diversity.

Laura Bullion is manager of IT supply chain management. She stresses how universally helpful the new site will be. "It will greatly increase our ability to search and sort new suppliers to determine their qualifications in hopes of adding them to our vendor list," she says.

Certification required
"To deal with us, a diverse supplier must be certified by a recognized third party agency like NMSDC, WBENC, NWABO or the Small Business Administration (SBA)," Taylor explains.

FedEx has been a national member of NMSDC for years and takes part in all the council's activities. The company also belongs to WBENC, NWABO and the SBA, as well as the Midsouth Minority Business Council (MMBC) and other local groups.

Matchmaking from day one
"We are very supportive of the efforts of the SBA," Taylor notes. The agency began its small business matchmaking forum three years ago, and "We attended, and have participated in its matchmakers since day one."

This year the SBA solicited corporate sponsorship for the events, and FedEx signed on as a major supporter. The first matchmaker of the year was held in February in Oakland, CA.

Meeting up with Zycron
About four years ago Taylor met a representative of Zycron, Inc (Nashville, TN) at an NMSDC-sponsored regional matchmaker in Nashville. That was a match, indeed. "It started a very important ball rolling for us and for them, and it underlines the reason we're so supportive of matchmakers," Taylor says.

Zycron has become an important MBE IT supplier to FedEx. The company was started in 1991 by Darrell S. Freeman, and Vince Windrow became his partner the next year. Both men are African American.

The company began in computer hardware and software supply, but quickly moved to IT services. "The sales cycle is shorter there and the engagements tend to be longer," Freeman explains.

Today Zycron is a leading IT staffing firm. Its pros handle areas ranging from helpdesk and systems support to complex project initiatives like enterprise solutions, network and management services. The company has offices in several Tennessee cities; Chicago, IL; Irving, TX and Tampa, FL.

Supplier of the year
"Zycron's contingent staffing services meet our business requirements with outstanding service and quality and on-time delivery," Hughes says.

At the NMSDC last year, Zycron was nominated by FedEx and chosen among all nominees as minority supplier of the year. "We're extremely proud of the company," Taylor says.

"And I'm proud, too," says Zycron CEO Freeman. "The relationship we have with FedEx is wonderful. First, we get to do business with a super company, and second, we can claim FedEx as our client. That helps make us a player in a lot of markets, because everyone knows and admires FedEx!"

Competing for every opportunity
Freeman explains that at the time he met the FedEx folks, "They had a proposal out for supplemental staffing. We submitted a proposal and were selected to be one of the companies welcome to pursue business opportunities at FedEx.

"We have to compete for every opportunity," Freeman stresses. "First you compete to get on the list and then you compete with other companies on the list.

"I always feel that if we can compete and win at FedEx we can compete and win most other places. It helps us grow and expand in other markets. As a CEO I know it makes our company better, not only at FedEx but in other places around the country," Freeman explains.

Starting out
Freeman got his 1987 BS in computer technology and his 1990 masters in industrial studies from Middle Tennessee State University. "I went to school thinking I wanted to major in something that would allow me to support my family. The computer field was very hot at the time so that drove my decision," he says.

He briefly pulled down a paycheck at Sting Ray Computer Services, an IT staffing company, before he launched his own business in the same field.

"We financed the business on my credit cards until we established a relationship with some banks in town," he recalls. "Once we were able to demonstrate a history of success, the doors of banking opened to us.

"It's been a good run for us and I think the best years for Zycron are still ahead."

180 and counting
"We have about 180 employees and we're always looking for good people," Freeman notes. About 80 percent work for Zycron full time; the rest are contractors.

FedEx is one of Zycron's top three clients, among other major players like Caremark, TVA, Firestone, Hospital Corp of America, the cities of Memphis and Nashville, TN and the state of Florida.

"We're involved with minority supplier councils everyplace we have an office," Freeman notes. "We believe in what the councils are doing and as we've grown and become successful we like to support them any way we can."

Zycron was in the SBA's 8(a) program from 1994 to 2003. "We liked the program a lot and profited by it, but by the time we graduated, less than 1 percent of our business came from 8(a) government work," Freeman notes proudly.

Freeman is chair of 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, incoming chair of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and an organizer and co-founder of Reliant Bank, a community bank in Nashville, TN, among other positions of honor.


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