At Time Warner, supplier diversity is not only an important part of the commitment to being a good corporate citizen, but also a business imperative, says Greta Davis, national director of supplier diversity for Time Warner.
The philosophy is that any company that expects to be successful in the twenty-first century has to understand and adapt to the changing demographics of its customer base. Companies that actively embrace diversity and continually demonstrate their commitment to it will ultimately establish a sustainable competitive advantage in the future marketplace, Davis asserts.
Investing the Time Warner way
The company goes beyond working with diverse suppliers: it invests in companies run by diverse management teams or those that target underserved markets. The company takes an active investor role, and diverse suppliers must meet a stringent set of criteria in order to be part of the program.
Supplier diversity taskforce
Time Warner also works with diverse suppliers in the more traditional way. Most procurement takes place on the division level. Company divisions, which include Turner Broadcasting, Warner Bros, HBO, New Line Cinema, AOL and Time Inc, each have a supplier diversity strategy and a group of advocates, procurement folks with a special supplier diversity charter.
There is also a supplier diversity taskforce made up of directors and executives from each division.
Building the program
Construction is an obvious involvement for the parent company. "When we built our new headquarters in New York City our goal was to bring in 35 percent minority contractors, and we met with each company and were very proactive," says Davis.
Time Warner just completed a new conference center and was equally proactive in using diverse suppliers.
Otherwise, Davis notes, each division has its own supplier diversity effort, "but it is my responsibility to develop and direct our national program strategy so that we maintain synergy and consistency in the companies' overall supplier diversity efforts."
In its supplier diversity leadership role, Davis' group works with local and national minority business organizations like NMSDC, WBENC and others. "We have a supplier diversity day here where we spotlight some of our diverse suppliers and educate our own employee base on the importance of supplier diversity," she says.
"We also ask suppliers to tell us who, among all our divisions and businesses, they are most interested in doing business with." If they're not sure of that, prospective suppliers can go to www.twsupplierdiversity.com and other Time Warner websites to get both a geographic and a functional view of possible areas of opportunity.
Supplier opportunity events
Procurement matchmaker and spotlight events take place division by division. They usually focus on the divisions' specific areas of need, like special events, premiums and promotions, accounting and finance and, of course, IT.
"Some divisions have people in place to facilitate the conferences, but for the most part my department works with each division to help out as needed," Davis says.
Her group also goes to many of the conferences put on by WBENC, NMSDC and others, especially in the Time Warner hub cities of Los Angeles, Washington, Atlanta and New York, "where we have a major presence in the minority business community." Davis represents the company on the national boards of WBENC and NMSDC, and the divisions are involved in local chapters. Time Warner looks for third-party certifications from those groups.
Meet Rokkan, Time Warner's interactive agency
John Noe, CEO of Time Warner supplier Rokkan (New York, NY), is Korean. So is his partner Charles Bae, VP-creative. Partner Chung Ng, COO, is Chinese and partner Marielle Echevarria Reading, VP-client services, is of Cuban extraction.
Rokkan is a full-service interactive advertising agency, ranked by Ad Age magazine as one of the fastest-growing in the industry. "We're involved in anything that's Web-related and on the Internet," Noe explains.
That includes developing enterprise technical solutions, optimizing interactive marketing budgets, and dipping into search-engine marketing, e-commerce and a myriad of other look-ahead strategies.
Four working areas
The work breaks down into "four big chunks," Noe says.
The first is strategy and analysis, planning the approach and metrics. "You look at what the clients are doing and what they could be doing better."
Then comes interactive marketing: campaign strategy, messaging, keeping the websites fresh. Next is design and creative technology, including working with video, flash and more.
"The fourth big chunk is applications development, including hard-core coding, contenting, systems and so on." That part breaks into apps that Rokkan pre-builds, customizes and launches for its clients, and platforms that require more custom work.
Right now Rokkan has thirteen employees, including four developers, three project managers, several designers and an information architect.
Noe studied architecture at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), and that was fun. "I got a kick out of working in AutoCAD," he says. "But I realized there wouldn't be much actual creativity in my work for years and years.
So when he got his BArch in 1999 he went to work at Proxicom, a Web development company. He and his friend Ng, a marketing BA from Pace University (New York, NY), started Rokkan in 2000.
"We started off real slow, part time, working out of my living room in Jersey City, NJ to get off the ground." Their first office was over a Chinese restaurant. "A friend's uncle gave us the space for six months in return for a website we created for him."
Things got pretty good
Then the young entrepreneurs brought in Deutsche Bank, their first big client. "It's funny," Noe says. "I left Proxicom because I was only working on financial projects there, and here we were with a big bank. But when you start your own company things look different to you."
Rokkan moved on to a Broadway address and then its current, with-it SoHo location. The partners made contact with Time Warner at the end of 2003. It was done through networking. "One of our clients at Deutsche Bank knew somebody at Time Warner and recommended us," Noe says.
The Time Warner procurement agent asked Rokkan to bid on a redesign of Time Warner's timewarner.com website, and that was pretty big business. "We didn't win that, and we didn't expect to," Noe says. "We were going against companies fifty and a hundred times larger then we were. But they told us they wanted to broaden the pool.
"By then we were 8a and NMSDC certified," Noe says, "but honestly we haven't tapped into our minority status as much as we could have. We've been relying on our referral base and trying to grow the company organically."
Time Warner involvement
The bid, though unsuccessful, was impressive, and other work started to come in from Time Warner. Rokkan is currently doing a lot of Web development for the company and some strategy as well, Noe says. "We've been doing mostly internal sites like intranet and affinity groups." For example, Rokkan built the entire intranet site and content management system for NewLine Cinema, part of Warner Brothers.
Rokkan is also working on an online fact book for Time Warner, including video clips. "The technology really supports the creative part," Noe says with relish.
Contributing to growth
"Every day and every hour there's something new for each of us to learn," Noe says. "Time Warner was our first media client. We have a good relationship with them and it's always helpful to be involved with a company like that."
They've worked with other media companies since, as well as the likes of IBM, D&B;, Schering, InvestCorp and the National Basketball Association. "We just finished a website and marketing program for the Da Vinci Code video game, and we're currently doing the user experience design for the Virgin America site," he adds with pride.
But Time Warner is the one that offers constructive collaboration. "I don't think you can compare them with anybody else as far as support goes," Noe says. "They recommend us to everybody."
Rokkan's diverse partners are clearly very young, very entrepreneurial, and really enjoying their work. "You learn you can always work harder," Noe says.
With hard work, creative and technical smarts, plus a little help from good friends like Time Warner, the interactive agency is shooting up to the top.