From the top down, UPS
offers strong support to W/MBEs
“Working with smaller firms is good for us,” says the
IS contracts manager. “ASAP is one of thirty such firms
we engage with and they are outstanding.”
Kathy Homeyer is director of supplier diversity at UPS (Atlanta, GA). “My job description is essentially to hook up minority- and women-owned companies with our buyers at UPS,” she says.
The UPS supplier diversity program, she notes, was launched in 1992. “Many of our buyers had been bringing in diverse suppliers for years, but when I came on board in 2002 we made it more official, to make sure everyone understands we have strong support from the top down.”
She heads up the program, but “It takes all of us to make it happen,” she says. Besides the buyers, many field people are involved. “A woman at the controller level in Chicago sits on the WBENC partner board there and we have her help and buy-in. She urges all her support people in the Chicago area to get involved.
“UPS as a corporation touches every community and we want to make sure we represent that.”
Mentoring improves the process
Of course, “We still have plenty of challenges. But we continue to improve our process and get the word out. We want to make sure our good diverse vendors get their share because we value what they bring to the table.”
Mentoring, Homeyer notes, is “our number one success story.” UPS, in fact, was one of the founding supporters of the Georgia governor’s minority business mentor-protégé program, which has been in place for several years with the aim of making a difference for smaller companies through mentoring. “We have a lot of experts here,” Homeyer says with a smile. “We let the mentees talk to our Capital Corp subsidiary, our finance group, our business ethics group, even our foundation group. Paying a consultant for all that expertise would cost a lot of money, if you could buy it at all.”
All up the line
At the end of the day, Homeyer adds, “If we think a mentee is really good but we can’t do business with the company ourselves, we are happy to pass them on to our friends and even our competitors.
“I think that’s what makes supplier diversity folks different from most other groups. Most groups would never do that,” she adds.
It seems that everybody at UPS likes to do the right thing to help diverse suppliers. Homeyer points to James Mallard, VP of global procurement, her boss’s boss. He’s a strong advocate
for supplier diversity, she says. “Sometimes when he’s invited to meetings at other companies he’ll bring a couple of our supplier diversity people along to see if we can involve some of our MBE friends.”
ASAP meets UPS
Nancy Williams is one of two co-founders of WBE ASAP Staffing LLC (Norcross, GA). ASAP is a $65 million staffing company now, employing about a thousand people in offices across the U.S. and in India. Williams is on the board of WBENC and her partner, Roz Alford, is on the board of WBENC’s Women Presidents’ Organization. In fact, ASAP has twice been a WBE sponsor of WBENC’s annual conference of women business owners and corporate members. But nine years ago the company was fairly small, just going through WBENC certification, and not very well known.
The women had, however, met an important exec at BellSouth who suggested that they would do well with UPS. In fact, Williams recalls, “He told me he had talked to a peer CTO at UPS who was expecting my call.
“But when I called the UPS CTO,” says Williams, “I reached his secretary who told me I had literally forty-five seconds to make my case via voice mail. I’ll never forget that pressure!”
But she got her wits together and left the message, and the exec did, indeed, call her back. “We talked for about twenty-five minutes and then he said, ‘You seem like a very good company; I want you to meet some of my team.’ One of them was John Ilardi in the UPS Mahwah, NJ office.” Ilardi is now IS contract manager for UPS, the exec who works most closely with ASAP.
Of course Williams and her partner Alford went up to Mahwah to see Ilardi and some others. “But before we went we did a lot of research on UPS,” Williams says. “They had just done their famous rebranding and come up with the slogan, ‘What can Brown do for you?’ So Roz and I wore brown suits and tried to look the way we thought UPS would want its partners to look.
“At the end of the meeting the UPS team asked, ‘Do you have anything else to say?’” Williams remembers. “I said, ‘Your company’s slogan is What can Brown do for you?’ Well, Brown can make me a Brownie!’ To this day they still get a chuckle out of that!”
Within a year ASAP had a contract with UPS. “That’s how we started building our relationship with them and we never went back,” Williams says. “You’ve got to have the right solution
and the right pricing, but at the end of the day it’s both a friendship and a partnership with
Making an impression
Williams believes that ASAP’s major success to date began with “getting personal introductions into other corporations. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the business because your team has to make the best impression and it’s got to be the right timing and the client has to have a need. But at least it puts you a few steps ahead!
“We’re even willing to invest a few years getting acquainted with a big company, if we have a good idea that when the timing is right we’ll get some business. UPS gave us their backing and their support and they have passed the word on to their friends about what we can do. After that it’s up to us and our team to deliver.”
What ASAP does for UPS
John Ilardi is IS contracts manager at UPS, reporting to the service manager. He manages IT consulting and, as such, is the UPS exec who works most closely with ASAP and other members of the IS community.
“Our people give me their requirements and I find the vendors who can meet them,”
UPS, he notes, manages a lot of its own apps development and maintenance. “But when we have a requirement for a specific initiative that we haven’t already covered, we’ll often work with ASAP to meet our requirements. They’re able to identify candidates who can perform to our standards and they do a very good job at it.”
It’s primarily contract employee work, he adds. “ASAP is sourcing contractors for us. They’ve dispelled the myth that you can only get quality personnel from a huge firm, because doing business with smaller firms like ASAP has proved very successful for us.
“ASAP is one of about thirty firms we engage with but they are a standout; they take the relationship very seriously and they’re able to perform.”
Eighty percent diverse
Of the thirty or so firms Ilardi has brought in, some 80 percent are diverse. “We started this about eight years ago,” he says. Before that UPS was working with just a few “big player” contractor firms and only doing about half a million a year in minority spend.
“We improved that immediately by inviting many more minority firms to come in. Today we’re doing $50 million a year in minority spend, just in IT, with WBEs and MBEs,” he says.
“It’s been very, very successful for UPS,” he adds. “Small firms have a tremendous amount of flexibility and can provide excellent candidates to perform the services. There have been no missteps along the way and our venture has exceeded all expectations. It’s great!”