gird for survival in the economic downturn
“Diversity in the technology industry is a critical ingredient for sustainable growth and success in today’s globally connected world.” – Michael Yuan, VP, CIeNET International, LLC
“Our inclusive procurement strategy provides a mutual competitive advantage as our company helps its M/WBEs achieve their growth and development objectives.” – Peter Panzarella, Pitney Bowes
By Angela M. Hutchinson
'Supplier diversity is valued by corporations because it brings them innovation, the best suppliers and the best solutions,” says Harriet R. Michel, president of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). “It is valued by the broader society because it enables all sectors of society to become economically viable.
“Supplier diversity helps to build strong minority companies that provide employment opportunities, thereby strengthening minority communities,” she adds. “Since many MBEs are smaller companies, they are as susceptible to economic downturns as other small companies. And they are further hampered by often being undercapitalized.
“But minority businesses typically are also more familiar with difficult situations and hard times so their ability to survive is greater. Most will survive, and many are thriving!”
There can be no doubt that today’s economy is affecting women- and minority-owned companies in technical fields. The diverse suppliers interviewed for this article agree that they’ve seen a decrease in the purchase of products and a decline in the outsourcing of technical services. For MBEs to survive in the economic downturn, they must become ever more competitive in the bidding process by seeking ways to reduce costs while still providing quality products and topnotch service.
Fortunately, supplier diversity is a vital aspect of many companies’ diversity and inclusion efforts. These forward-looking firms understand that a supplier diversity program adds value to a company’s overall success. They are willing to work with their minority suppliers to help them overcome challenges.
Diverse suppliers tend to be among the smaller and nimbler in their categories, and are prized for their ability to make quick decisions, their increased focus on innovation and their commitment to meeting client needs.
At Manpower, Inc (Milwaukee, WI), for example, Jeanna Winkler, manager of supplier diversity and supply chain initiatives, declares that “Manpower receives dedication and commitment from the small businesses we qualify. They help find solutions and meet our business needs.”
More and more corporations are joining diverse business organizations like NMSDC to network with minority business owners. Peter Panzarella, VP of global finance shared services and chief procurement officer for Pitney Bowes Inc (Stamford, CT) says, “These memberships help Pitney Bowes ensure supplier certification, identify diverse business owners, participate in educational seminars and benchmark our supplier diversity program against peers and other Fortune 500 companies.
“Diverse suppliers add value to our company’s supply chain through shared best practices, integration of new technologies and diverse perspectives.”
MBE/VBE Premier Fulfillment partners with Dell
Darryl Smith has been CEO as well as majority shareholder of fifteen-year-old Premier Fulfillment (Dallas, TX) since 2007. Premier is a minority-owned business, a veteran-owned business, and is certified by the U.S. Small Business Admin as a small disadvantaged business.
At the company, Darryl Smith is responsible for business strategy, alliance formation and business development. Scott A. Paul, president and co-owner, manages day-to-day operations. The company delivers value-added logistics and technology lifecycle management services to many customer segments, including consumer products, technology and education.
Headquartered in a 100,000 square foot distribution center in Dallas, TX, Premier partners with Dell to provide electronic device warehousing, configuration, delivery, installation and recycling services to Dell customers. Premier also handles kitting, packaging, assembly, inventory management and warehousing for several other Fortune 500 consumer products companies, including Mary Kay, Uniden and Palm Harbor.
Meet Premier Fulfillment CEO Darryl Smith
Darryl Smith, an African American and former marine, was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, CA. “I left after high school to attend college on the East Coast,” he says. “Since then I’ve traveled all over the U.S., lived in Hawaii, and visited the U.K., Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Australia. My travels have helped me appreciate the differences and similarities of my diverse workforce and customer base.”
In 1988 he received a BS in economics from the U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD). After graduation he served for six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, getting leadership experience
he still relies on today. “The challenges I faced during Desert Storm prepared me for the challenges I face today as an entrepreneur,” he reflects. In 1996 he completed an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA).
Smith agrees that the economy is affecting his business. “We’ve noticed some decrease with consumer products customers, and found it difficult to engage in technology service projects with some commercial clients,” he admits.
“Fortunately, the bulk of our technology fulfillment business is servicing K-12 schools, and most of it is funded by bonds already raised before the economic downturn. Our largest consumer products company, Mary Kay, sells cosmetics.” The cosmetics business, he notes with pleasure, “is virtually unaffected by economic downturns.”
Dell: a supportive client
One of Premier’s most supportive corporate clients is Dell. “Dell supplier diversity has helped us establish, maintain and grow relationships with various Dell stakeholders,” Smith says. “They have identified Dell supply chain initiatives that fit our capabilities, and introduced us
to managers who are responsible for identifying potential service providers like ourselves.”
Dell has also introduced Smith to other company suppliers looking for strategic partners,
and “Dell’s supplier diversity people have helped us identify and engage national supplier diversity organizations that can help us expand our network of potential partners and customers,” Smith reports.
“Dell’s intense focus on supply chain excellence has helped us improve our planning, inventory management, quality control and reporting processes.”
Small business is the engine
Smith describes small business as the engine of the economy. “We provide more than half
the new jobs,” he says. Most minority- and women-owned businesses also qualify as small businesses, and “Larger companies value the flexibility and creativity offered by small,
diverse firms. We bring a different and fresh perspective to technology.”
Premier is a company that’s passionate about diversity and involved in serving its local community as well as its big corporate clients, says Smith. “We install computers in schools located in rural areas, suburbs and the inner city. Our technicians deal with teachers, administrators and students from a broad array of ethnic and social/economic backgrounds.
“While our personnel have great technical skills, we believe their soft skills are also important to help us deliver a superior customer experience. We find that hiring people who look like and think like our customers is a source of competitive advantage.”
MBE CIeNET International worked for Pitney Bowes almost from the start
CIeNET International, LLC (Oak Brook, IL) is an IT consulting, systems integration and applications development company founded in 2000. The company has more than a thousand employees worldwide, with development and service centers in San Francisco, Toronto, Beijing and other Chinese cities, and Taipei, Taiwan.
CIeNET specializes in mobile technologies, embedded and enterprise systems. It is certified
as an MBE by the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, an NMSDC affiliate. The company worked for Pitney Bowes almost from the start.
Michael Yuan is a CIeNET VP
Michael Yuan is VP of corporate and market development for CIeNET’s
U.S. operations. “We provide software system design, development and
testing services for many of PB’s mail finishing and post-age meter systems including their new MailStremeOne,” he explains. “We also work in development and testing of high-speed printer software, product localization for Asian markets, and system testing support services for both U.S. and E.U. markets,” says Yuan.
Yuan admits that the economy has had an effect on his company’s consulting and staffing work for the technology giants. “Traditionally the large companies hire our consultants and outsource projects to us. But when the economy goes bad their first move is to shed consulting positions and take back outsourced work,” says Yuan.
“On the other hand, as the economy turns around they’ll be looking to us again to help them quickly staff new projects and take care of new business.”
Serving as a bridge
Yuan, who is Chinese American, lived in Central America for more than six years. “My Asian and Latino cultural background coupled with my U.S. education provide me with unique understanding to serve as a bridge between our global customers and the technical engineers and managers in our development centers in the U.S. and Asia,” he says.
Yuan graduated from Florida International University in 1985 with a BSCS. Two years later he completed an MSCS from Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1999 he earned an MBA at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL).
“My technical and business background plus more than twenty years of technical consulting experience help me quickly understand our customers’ business needs, properly manage our customer relationships, and, most importantly, provide value-added support to our customers in the U.S.,” he says.
Variety of management work
Yuan started as a technical consultant and programmer with AT&T Bell Labs (Naperville, IL).
He went on to a variety of management and executive positions with technology companies serving clients in telecom, finance, insurance, human capital management and manufacturing.
“Over the years my responsibilities expanded to managing large-scale, global system implementation projects using enterprise application integrations, broadband wireless technologies, e-commerce, content management, Web and portal solutions in Asia, Europe,
the Middle East and North America,” says Yuan. He’s managed projects in Asia, Europe and
the U.S. for multinational corporations including Blue Cross Blue Shield, GE, IBM and Motorola, as well as public agencies like the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.
What does Yuan enjoy most about working with PB and its clients? “I like the people and
I really enjoy developing business solutions with new technologies,” he says. “CIeNET
responds positively to challenges like tight schedules and high pressure to deliver quality product and solutions.”
CIeNET also values diversity in the technology industry. “It is a critical ingredient for sustainable growth and success in today’s globally connected world,” Yuan says.
“Under the current challenging economic conditions companies are looking for innovative and creative ideas to attract new customers, cut cost and increase workforce productivity. An open working environment with a diverse workforce will not only reduce overall cost, but also encourage innovation and add value to product and services. The result is a package that’s more attractive to a wider range of potential customers.”
Nathan and Leslie McNeal: co-founders of McNeal Professional Services
Leslie McNeal is president and CEO, and her husband Nathan is VP and COO, of McNeal Professional Services, Inc (MPS), located in Kennesaw, GA in the Atlanta metro area. When they started the company in 2001 it was just the
two of them providing staff augmentation to Motorola through Manpower. Today the company has expanded into wireless engineering, with a staff of fulltime RF engineers and back-office support to manage its operation in twenty-four states.
Heavily involved in telecom, the MPS wireless engineering division supports most of the major carriers. It provides turnkey, project-based solutions in
the areas of optimization, performance, distributed antenna systems, data collection, benchmarking and other RF engineering services. It has constructed a number of million-dollar turnkey projects.
Leslie McNeal graduated from the University of West Georgia in 1992 with a BS in business management and started in HR, training and development and consulting. Nathan McNeal completed a BSEE in 1996 at Morehouse College and Georgia Institute of Technology. He began with an engineering consulting firm in a variety of senior engineering and managerial roles.
Over the past seven years the McNeals have worked closely with Manpower. “Manpower was the first large staffing firm to give us the opportunity to provide contingent workers,” Leslie McNeal says. “We have consistently had contractors billing through Manpower, and we have been placed on additional client accounts because of the quality of our technical people.”
The diversity of its staff is important to McNeal Professional Services, Leslie McNeal notes.
“We find that inclusion is one of the factors leading to our success.”
Cherokee Woody Williams of Bright Lighting Tower Construction
Native American Woody Williams is president of Bright Lighting Tower Construction (BL, Tulsa, OK), a leader in civil tower construction for nearly twenty-five years. Starting as an electrical contractor, BL went on to ace construction projects for engineering firms, lighting projects for stadiums and construction and electrical services for cell-phone towers. The company has built more than 600 towers in the Midwest and West for U.S. Cellular and other wireless companies.
“The recent economic situation has definitely impacted our business,” Williams says. “We’ve needed to find ways to reduce costs while still providing our trademark excellent workmanship, quality and service.”
BL is a member of the Oklahoma Minority Supplier Development Council and recognized by
the Cherokee Tribal Employment Rights Office. The company is also HUB Zone certified and certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
U.S. Cellular has been a client of Bright Lighting for years. “We appreciate their insistence on quality results from their subcontractors,” says Williams. “In response, we put pressure on ourselves to maintain even higher standards than expected and set a benchmark for service and quality in our industry.”
Supplier diversity is smart business
“Supplier diversity is not just about compliance; it’s smart business,” says Ying McGuire, a senior manager at Dell, Inc. “Many incentives drive us to help build a strong small business community. It benefits both us and our industry because small businesses are current and future customers.
“As we continue to streamline our operations, consolidate our supply base and grow globally, small business will help us meet these challenges. That’s why we want to maximize our use of diverse suppliers, and have a pipeline of diverse suppliers that can grow with us long-term.”
Pitney Bowes’ Peter Panzarella adds that “Broad and diverse procurement participation will
help meet the needs of a diverse customer base, and that offers us a competitive edge. The supplier diversity program at Pitney Bowes is integrated into our company’s culture, values and mission with a long-term goal to increase M/WBE procurement.”
Tracye Smith Miles, manager of supplier diversity for U.S. Cellular Corp, says, “The relationships we forge with suppliers are critical to the success of our company. We are well aware of the rapid growth in population and purchasing power within the minority marketplace.
“Over the years we’ve built solid relationships with many diverse suppliers; their participation encourages economic development and helps build our customer base.”
Manpower’s Jeanna Winkler adds that “Manpower understands that a sound supplier diversity program is a critical component of our values and our success.”
COMPANIES WITH A STRONG SUPPLIER DIVERSITY FOCUS
Check websites for current listings.
|Company and location
|The Coca-Cola Company (Atlanta, GA)
|Dell (Round Rock, TX)
|Manpower (Milwaukee, WI)
|Pitney Bowes (Stamford, CT)
|U.S. Cellular (Chicago, IL)
|Wireless telephone services
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