by Eugene Agee
Vice President, Procurement and Real Estate
Many large corporations are challenged with raising awareness about supplier diversity throughout all levels of the business. Supplier diversity is often misunderstood as a government compliance issue, as opposed to the broader view of benefiting the communities we serve. Supplier diversity creates revenue, promotes economic growth, and increases brand recognition for companies both large and small. In addition, diverse ideas and an inclusive environment power innovation and creativity.
Sprint’s customer base is diverse, and in turn we want our supplier base to be equally diverse. Selling is largely based on relationships. It is imperative to continuously build relationships with diverse businesses to include in our pipeline. Our company actively seeks new opportunities to meet with suppliers and increase our external outreach activities.
[sws_pullquote_right]”Sprint’s customer base is diverse, and in turn we want our supplier base to be equally diverse.” [/sws_pullquote_right]
Purchasing goods and services from diverse suppliers directly affects a company’s ability to grow revenue. Diversity spend and reporting is an embedded, core component of doing business, not just for Sprint, but for most Fortune 500 companies. Diversity requirements are often included in customer proposals and written into our contracts. The risk of not meeting the customer requirements could mean losing the bid, losing potential new business or losing existing business relationships, all of which are directly related to revenues.
There are a few techniques that have been very successful at improving supplier diversity at Sprint and can be transferred to other companies. First, make one of the responsibilities of the supplier diversity team to educate the enterprise about the importance of supplier diversity. The supplier diversity team should be cohesively aligned with sales and supply chain management. Regularly meet with executives to discuss supplier diversity and garner support, and recruit executives to work as diversity champions to help raise employee awareness.
Another idea is to have business units set supplier diversity goals, and have results released to the executive team on a quarterly basis for consideration of realigning non-diverse spend to diverse spend. A supplier diversity course should be available to all employees through an internal education program. Institute a recognition program to award teams for doing business with veteranowned businesses. Finally, hosting an on-site “matchmaking” event between major business partners and diverse suppliers is another successful tool for improving supplier diversity.
Diversity is a business strategy that impacts the growth of a company. A company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion can be seen through its community outreach, recruitment efforts, multicultural marketing and supplier diversity. Diversity has a significant return on investment and all companies should ensure that employees are aware of the importance of supporting diverse suppliers.
Eugene Agee is the vice president responsible for Procurement, Strategic Sourcing, Real Estate, and Environmental, Health and Safety at Sprint Nextel, a position he has held since August 2008. In addition, he manages Sprint’s Supplier Diversity initiatives. Eugene serves as a board member on the Executive Leadership Council, National Eagle Leadership Institute, MidAmerica Minority Business Development Council, University of Kansas, and 100 Black Men of Kansas City.
Linkage’s Institute for Leading Diveristy & Inclusion
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May 30, 2012 5