Before 1992 supplier diversity was relatively informal at UPS (Atlanta, GA), says Bill Moon, VP for supplier diversity procurement services at the worldwide package and document delivery company. "But it was becoming clear that we needed some structure and some process for our supplier diversity activities.
"We formed our supplier diversity group in 1992. We joined some of the local NMSDC affiliate groups and became involved with WBENC at its inception nine years ago."
Today, he says, UPS is actively involved with thirty-seven NMSDC regional councils and all fourteen WBENC councils. "Actively," he says, "means we have someone on the board or working on one of the committees."
Moon himself chairs WBENC's national council. He has been with UPS nearly forty years.
"In order to be active in so many WBENC and NMSDC councils, we enlist the help and support of our regions and districts on the UPS package ops side," Moon explains. "We have more than 150 supplier diversity advocates and coordinators in the field to help support supplier diversity activities and drive our goals and objectives down through the organization."
When the program started, Moon and his group had less than twenty matchmakers and similar events on their supplier diversity calendar. This year they have more than a hundred. "We simply couldn't do it if we didn't have the network of advocates and coordinators and the support of management," Moon says. "Our CEO is a champion for supplier diversity and diversity in general at UPS."
Kathy Homeyer and Fritz Valsaint are corporate supplier diversity coordinators, Homeyer concentrating on women's groups and Valsaint on minority involvement. "Our role is to make sure our coordinators in the field are aware of upcoming events, or see if they need help with speaking engagements," Homeyer explains.
UPS, she notes, "has a presence in almost every community in the nation! We serve all these communities and they give us business and we want to give back."
Pyramid Consulting: a WBE providing IT services
Namita Tirath, VP of sales and marketing at Pyramid Consulting (Atlanta, GA), says her company has been doing business with UPS for five years. "We became part of the Georgia chapter of NMSDC in 2000 and that's when we got connected with several Fortune 500 companies," she says. UPS was one of them.
Pyramid Consulting is a ten-year-old IT service and software company specializing in staff augmentation, project development and document management solutions. The company employs about 550 techies stationed in several offices across the U.S. and a global delivery center in New Delhi, India. Employees also work at client locations.
The company's work for UPS is mainly staff augmentation. Some eighty Pyramid people are deployed at UPS projects throughout the country.
"They come in as developers, project managers and subject matter experts and become part of an engagement that is overseen by UPS," Tirath explains.
Second to first tier
Pyramid was co-founded by Sanjeev Tirath, who is Namita Tirath's husband, and Ramesh Maturu. Namita bought into the business eight months later, bringing five years experience in programming based on an MS in math earned in India and a CS degree from Gwinnett Tech (Atlanta, GA).
When she originally joined the company Tirath was an independent consultant, but her role has expanded to overseeing sales and business development. "I manage our current customer base and seek new customers in the U.S.," she notes.
Before 2000 Pyramid often worked as a second tier supplier, supporting the larger companies that supplied giants like UPS. So Pyramid was essentially working for the giants, but wasn't recognized for its work, Tirath says. "We realized that the large corporations needed to know us on a one-on-one basis."
To promote this, Pyramid sought certification as a minority by the Georgia branch of MSDC (GMSDC) for the private sector, and as an (8a) small disadvantaged business to support its bid for government work.
Successful mentor/protégée relationship
VP Moon recalls that UPS was thinking about getting actively involved with the Georgia governor's mentor/ protégée program about the time Pyramid joined GMSDC. UPS mentored Pyramid through the eighteen-month protégée program, and the relationship continued afterward. "We were featured on public television along with UPS," Tirath notes proudly.
"This was the first structured mentoring program we really got involved with," Moon says. "The Pyramid people were already pretty savvy, but we helped them grow their business with us and other corporations. We also sponsored their principals in the Kellogg and Tuck business school programs."
UPS was the launch pad
"UPS was a launch pad for us," Tirath says. "It was the first company that actually helped us do business with the whole corporation and its multiple sites. UPS helped us scale up to provide service fast and to several locations. It was a huge learning curve for us."
In addition, she notes, Mike Murphy, her mentor in the protégée program, helped her build marketing procedures "for going out to other companies that he thought we could do business with."
Building business with others is a keystone of the UPS supplier diversity philosophy. "If we see we're providing more than 25 percent of a company's revenue, we raise a red flag and require that they grow their business outside of UPS at the same time they're growing with us," Moon explains.
"The focus of our program is what we can do to help our existing suppliers grow their businesses. Whether it's sales materials or a finance issue, we have experts within our company who can counsel and advise them."
"In 2004 UPS nominated us for the GMSDC supplier of the year award, and we went on to win the national award," Tirath says with pride. "It was a huge, huge honor, and a wonderful marketing tool."
"We're helping each other," Moon points out. "Pyramid has been a key player in helping us solve many complicated business problems, and that's ultimately what you want. It's a relationship where both parties are adding value."
Moon notes that UPS requires all its first-tier suppliers to have formal supplier diversity programs. And "We also encourage our diverse suppliers to practice supplier diversity themselves. Many of them do."
It's working. Tirath says Pyramid recently purchased a new facility to house its worldwide corporate HQ staff and training center. "One of the first things we did was put bids out to our local diversity council to secure MBEs for moving and janitorial services," she declares.
"These ideas come from working with supportive corporations like UPS. They have ingrained in us that supplier diversity is important and we need to build on it."