by Gwendolyn Turner
As the co-founder of The Capacity Center, a Princeton-based business strategy and development firm, I am impressed with the efforts of large corporations to diversify their supply chains. I have had the pleasure of meeting dynamic women entrepreneurs with businesses that are cost competitive, innovative, and offer strategic value to large organizations. While women-owned businesses have heard of Business Diversity (ie Supplier Diversity Programs), many aren’t quite sure what’s in it for large corporations.
The business case for Corporate and Government Diversity is simple: Women overwhelmingly make the purchasing decisions in the household. Over 80 percent of all household buying decisions are made by women. Large corporations have taken notice of the purchasing power of women and have focused their attention on this important demographic. The purchasing patterns of women are incorporated into a company’s strategic plans, marketing decisions and, most importantly, its procurement strategies.
Business Diversity Programs are designed to provide women business owners with access to corporate contracts and even the playing field for small businesses seeking corporate contracts. Business diversity programs have two major objectives: to increase company spending with women-owned businesses and firms through mentorship and development.
At The Capacity Center we believe the business case for business diversity is clear: it is a strategic imperative for corporations to partner with those who purchase their goods and services.
To take advantage of what business diversity programs offer, here are three things you can do to prepare your business:
1. Get Certified. Obtaining certification validates that your firm is woman-owned. If you are not certified, your firm may not be considered for procurement opportunities. Certification is key — many firms will not begin the relationship building process if you do not have current certification. Certification can be obtained through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). WBENC has a number of regional affiliates that will certify your firm within 90 days.
2. Know the facts. All corporations don’t operate the same way, so it will be vital to do your research. You may want to visit industry trade shows so that you can meet and network with the people from the company. Obtain as much insight as possible on the supply chain strategy, supplier optimization, and innovation practices. Understand how your firm can fit into the corporate strategy, and tailor your business strategy to offer solutions to supply chain issues.
3. Be patient. This process takes time. Don’t expect to get a contract on your first try. When working with large corporations, relationships matter. People do business with people they trust, and it may take you months to develop relationships. Procurement executives can be a great resource to help you determine which companies to target.
The Capacity Center has developed and mentored entrepreneurs on business plans, corporate supply chain strategy, RFP responses, and marketing plans. Over the years, many business owners have asked if their company was too small to partner with large corporate firms. We encourage them to partner with larger firms that will give them scale. Many of our corporate business diversity clients are focused on development and mentoring. We also stress the importance of partnerships. Our small business and large business clients focus on demonstrating value, and creating partnerships is often key to making firms attractive and winning corporate contracts. Partnerships can be just what your firm needs to take advantage of the business diversity opportunity for women.
The Capacity Center serves as a liaison to the CEO and other key members of the leadership team. We work closely with the CEO by monitoring and managing the action plans developed by the firm. We develop strategy for growth and encourage the healthy development and expansion of businesses.
You can contact The Capacity Center at www.thecapacitycenter.com or follow on Twitter @thecapacitycenter.