Certified WBEs connect with companies that value diversity
“If we used the same type of supplier for everything, we wouldn’t be as successful.” – Mark Artigues, Alcatel-Lucent
“Attending trade shows and networking gets us in front of big companies that we never would have met on our own.” – Heather Sanderson, Overture
By Sue Marquette Poremba
In the technical world, the balance between male and female representation has been discussed at length in recent years. It’s important for companies to include women business enterprises (WBEs) when contracting with diverse suppliers, says Sandrine Ennis, president and founder of Talentstream (Vienna, VA), a woman-owned talent recruiting firm.
WBEs can access the bidding process by networking and marketing themselves, and, Ennis points out, recent attention to gender diversity can be a talking point for companies like hers. “WBEs should advertise on their websites that they can help corporations and government agencies meet their diversity needs.”
She also suggests that WBE leaders get exposure to potential clients by speaking at industry conferences and other events. “It’s a good way to get noticed, and also a way to change the mentality about women providing technical services and products,” she says.
Nationwide seeks diversity for innovation
“Participation in supplier diversity is all part of growing the company,” according to Kimberly Proffitt, senior director of finance and supplier relationship management with Nationwide (Columbus, OH).
The insurance company works to ensure that diverse businesses are in the mainstream of the Nationwide supply chain, and supports them as they seek to compete on a bigger scale.
“We use the same criteria to evaluate diverse suppliers that we use to evaluate all the suppliers with whom Nationwide does business. Our goal is to seek out suppliers that provide a differentiated product or service at the right price,” says Proffitt, “and to be sure the demographics of our suppliers are a reflection of our employees and the communities we serve.”
Nationwide has relationships with several women-owned businesses that provide technical services to various business areas. Many were found through networking events and membership in organizations like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). WBENC is a widely recognized third-party certifier of woman-owned businesses. It has fourteen regional partner organizations that work with local WBEs on certification and offer networking opportunities of their own.
“We also interact with our own business unit leaders as opportunities are being developed to determine what future capabilities they will require,” Proffitt adds. “Staying current with their business decisions allows us to identify diverse suppliers that could potentially fill their needs. Nationwide aims to include diverse suppliers in one hundred percent of competitive opportunities.”
Alcatel-Lucent seeks stable suppliers with integrity and experience
Alcatel-Lucent is headquartered in Paris, France; U.S. headquarters are in Murray Hill, NJ. The global communications company provides products and services for IP and cloud networking, as well as broadband fixed and wireless access. Using diverse suppliers allows the company to stay competitive, says Mark Artigues, senior director of supplier diversity. “Contracting with WBEs and other diverse suppliers helps us support our own customer goals as well as the broader economy.”
Artigues says diverse suppliers must have the same characteristics and qualifications of any potential supplier: integrity, relevant experience and solid financials.
The company’s supplier diversity team has access to databases, such as WBENC’s council and regional databases, he says, as well as a network of peers and customers. It uses those resources when it wants to fill a specific need. Proactive WBEs can also find Alcatel-Lucent by visiting the website or attending networking events and conferences, he notes.
Because of the technical nature of the company’s business operations, diverse suppliers with tech skills are in demand. “WBEs do installation for our telecom businesses and some provide engineering services. One of our larger WBE suppliers provides us with IT services.”
WBEs bring a fresh perspective to solutions, Artigues adds, and this helps corporate innovation. “Diverse suppliers help us stay relevant and current. If we used the same type of supplier for everything, we wouldn’t be as successful.”
AT&T; helps suppliers build their own supplier diversity networks
Supplier diversity is a longstanding commitment for AT&T; (Dallas, TX). The company has been involved with supplier diversity since 1968 as a way to bring different viewpoints and fresh perspectives to the table.
In 1989, AT&T; introduced its prime supplier program. Janet Murrah, AVP of supplier diversity, says the object is to help the company’s major service and product providers connect with WBEs and other diverse suppliers.
“Program participants set supplier diversity goals, create plans and tools for improvement, and track and review results. They do this while managing process improvements, producing monthly reports and tracking annual compliance results for the program,” says Murrah.
The company has hosted several networking events to match prime suppliers with diverse suppliers. AT&T;’s global supplier diversity team has held matchmakers, supported events like hack-a-thons and sponsored various technology industry groups.
AT&T; supplier diversity outreach has shifted to match evolving changes in its business. The team now looks at startup companies, developer communities and diverse innovators to find prospective suppliers for emerging business areas, Murrah reports.
“Suppliers, particularly manufacturers, should have a research and development program that continually improves their products and incorporates new technology,” she notes. “These improvements make good business sense and ensure that we maximize our collective resources.”
CVS Health is ramping up supplier diversity efforts
At CVS Health (Woonsocket, RI), supplier diversity is a multifaceted activity. “We want our suppliers to represent the communities we serve,” says Monette Knapik, director of strategic procurement. “With more than 200,000 employees across the country, we want the supplier pool to mirror the customer base as well.”
Supplier diversity at CVS Health has been expanding. “Within the last few years, supplier diversity has become an enterprise-wide program,” she observes.
Knapik says CVS Health works closely with WBENC to find qualified WBEs. “When we need a service or product, I go to the council to find a potential supplier.”
The company has a database of suppliers interested in business opportunities. CVS Health also attends conferences and events to network with WBEs. “Our supplier diversity team has really ramped up its efforts over the past couple of years. We want to go from good to great,” Knapick declares.
“In the area of construction and facilities, there’s a tremendous opportunity to get our prime general contractors to subcontract to WBEs,” she notes. CVS Health has staged several events that allowed suppliers to showcase their services and abilities to general contractors already working with the company. “The general contractors are embracing this. They just didn’t know how to go about finding the diverse suppliers.”
Overture Premium and Promotions provides web services to CVS Health
WBE Overture Premium and Promotions (Vernon Hills, IL) is a product-based marketing firm started by CEO Heather Sanderson in 2001. The company, which grew from three employees to a current workforce of 120, provides web development and other services for large corporations.
“We work with the company’s procurement department to find out their needs. From there we develop a website, either housed with their web portal or on an offsite system where we maintain it for them,” Sanderson explains.
Her company has supplied promotional products and web design for CVS Health for the past several years. “We originally worked with Caremark, which was bought by CVS. We connected with CVS’s supplier diversity team after the merger. Eventually we were invited to bid on a project and we won.”
Overture had been in business a few years when one of its clients encouraged Sanderson to seek certification. “It ended up being a really big deal for us,” Sanderson says. “We’ve secured contracts with very large companies through WBENC by attending trade shows and networking. It gets us in front of big companies that we never would have been able to meet on our own.”
WBENC gives WBE Alom leverage and more
Hannah Kain was not a U.S. citizen when she began her company Alom (Fremont, CA) in 1997, which provides supply chain management. Her lack of citizenship prevented her from obtaining the one thing she really wanted.
“I wanted to be WBENC-certified right away,” says Kain, who was born in Denmark. “At that time you had to be a resident to get certification.” Kain became a citizen in 2001, and submitted her application for WBENC certification immediately.
Kain worked in the supply chain management industry for a number of years before starting Alom. “I set out on my own because I thought there was a better way of doing business,” she says.
Alom offers technology-related global supply chain management services, from digital media duplication facilities to configuration management and electronics testing and repair. Services include procurement, assembly and complex fulfillment. “We’re strong in the technology industry. We have also been involved in the medical and automotive industries, and we just got involved in telecommunications,” Kain says. The company has a separate division for print management.
Kain recognizes that a growing number of large corporations are focusing on supplier diversity, and finds her WBENC certification provides good opportunities to connect and an extra layer of leverage with these businesses. She’s found a number of her larger clients through WBENC relationships.
Kain says her certification provides other advantages. “There’s a lot of peer-to-peer support and business opportunities. That’s not why I signed up in the first place,” she says with smile, “but it has been a nice add-on.”
MDavis weathers the economic storm with WBENC support
MDavis (Wilmington, DE) is a fifth-generation industrial construction company that builds, installs and maintains corporate plants and facilities for national and international companies.
“In 2015, we are celebrating 145 years,” CEO Peggy Del Fabbro says proudly, adding that the company will reach $50 million in sales for the first time ever this fiscal year.
Del Fabbro joined the company in 1987 and is one of its three co-owners. Despite its longevity, the company hit rough times during the most recent recession. Del Fabbro says the company’s strategy to survive the bad economy was to apply for certification as a WBE.
“We felt certification would give us an edge for obtaining work, and keep our people working until things picked up,” she explains. But it turned out to be much more than that. “Getting certified is the best thing I ever did. We already provided outstanding service, and WBENC certification is icing on the cake for our clients.”
MDavis survived the recession well, she reports. “We developed new customers as we pursued a diversified market base through WBENC.”
Del Fabbro calls her WBENC certification a differentiator. “It has provided us with unparalleled networking opportunities and education for me. I think I have changed and improved myself professionally over the last five years, mainly due to what I’ve learned through WBENC.”
WBE Matrix Integration fills IT gaps
Brenda Stallings’s first job was as a typesetter, which gave her an introduction to how technology changes work. But technology took a back seat for a while as Stallings took over a family-owned music store in 1971.
Eight years later, she started noticing new technical products coming to the market, and she decided to turn her focus in that direction. She became a Radio Shack dealer, selling phones and computers. Eventually, she sold off her phone division to focus on computers. And in 1997, Stallings launched Matrix Integration (Jasper, IN), which helps its client organizations implement IT solutions.
“We learn what our customers need in IT,” she says. “For example, we’ll learn what kind of infrastructure the client has in their data center, and then we help them understand the best ways to utilize that technology.”
The swift pace of technology advances makes it difficult for businesses to keep people trained and up-to-date. Stallings believes her company provides that missing in-house expertise for the organizations she works with.
Stallings grew her company without realizing that diversity was a need for the people who hired her. As she began to attend meetings of industry-related organizations, she was asked if she had considered becoming a certified WBE. She had not, but it piqued her interest.
“I asked my clients if this was a benefit for them, and they said, ‘Yes!’ I learned companies have trouble finding qualified women-owned businesses in this industry.”
She has been WBENC-certified for more than a decade, and recommends that other women business owners have a frank conversation with their clients and ask about the value of certification. “I didn’t realize how important diversity was until I heard it from the clients.”
Commonwealth Capital Corp CEO gives back through WBENC
According to Kimberly Springsteen-Abbott, certification is key to doing business with large corporations. “The first question I always get is am I certified,” she says.
Springsteen-Abbott’s company, Commonwealth Capital Corp (Chadds Ford, PA), is a technology leasing equipment company. The company focuses on equipment for the IT, medical and telecommunications industries.
Commonwealth Capital was founded by Springsteen-Abbott’s late husband. As the company began to grow, Springsteen-Abbott took on the role of CEO, and decided to register as a diverse supplier. She does a lot of legwork to find new clients, using the Internet and other networking sources. But she says she is often asked to prove her diverse status. “A lot of places want to speak to me personally to make sure it is a woman running the business,” she says. WBE certification can help move that discussion forward.
Commonwealth Capital now has its own supplier diversity liaison. When her company has contracting needs, she can reach out to WBEs and minority-owned businesses.
She also gives back to the organization that helped her business thrive. “WBENC has been a tremendous asset to me. The council does everything possible to help my business grow.”
COMPANIES WITH ACTIVE SUPPLIER DIVERSITY PROGRAMS
Check websites for current listings.
|Company and location
|Alcatel-Lucent (Paris, France)
|Global communications technology
|AT&T; (Dallas, TX)
|CVS Health (Woonsocket, RI)
|Healthcare and retail pharmacy
|Nationwide (Columbus, OH)
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