The Minority Supplier Development Council (MSDC) provides a direct link between corporate America and minority-owned businesses. The MSDC certifies minority-owned businesses and creates access to business opportunities for them. To assist its minority business enterprises (MBEs) in a meaningful way, especially in such volatile economic times, MSDC provides education, networking opportunities and useful resources. The PA-NJ-DE Minority Supplier Development Council proudly presented its 26thAnnual Procurement Conference and Business Trade Show and on Monday, September 19, 2011, class was in session! One critical strategy the organization emphasized for their member MBEs is to become masterful at business expansion, cultivate and develop mutually beneficial strategic alliances and identify and capitalize on future demands. The conference is a vehicle to help companies expand their markets, build capacity, and examine the marketplace to identify new customers.
The conference was held at the Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey and commenced with a networking breakfast. One of the major changes in the conference, under the organization’s new leadership, was that all of the seminars were held in one room, the Grand Ballroom, with the corporate members and the MBEs all in the same room. Many attendees appreciated the opportunity to get the most of the conference without missing any workshops. Five master classes were conducted on Day One of the two-day conference, which was filled with some of the heavy hitters in the realm of business.
The first master class was taught by Dr. Randal Pinkett, Chairman/CEO, BCT Partners. He was the winner of Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. Author, Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success (which he sold and signed after class) and Spokesperson for the Minority Information Technology Consortium. He decided to keep it raw and real with great advice for small businesses looking to expand using the theme, “Finding Strength in Numbers: Combining Old School Solidarity with New School Sophistication”. Size matters. He coined many phrases to include, “It’s hard out there for a pimp when you’re trying to make money for the rent”. He stated three ways for small businesses to increase their capacity: via the joint venture, the merger or the acquisition. He gave several examples of major corporations who have embarked in one or more of these methods, including Verizon and Mitchell & Titus, LLC, the largest minority-controlled accounting firm in the United States. He urged how necessary the corporate member-MBE mentorship is. Corporate members can actively provide referrals, connect MBEs for the purpose of developing strategic alliances and/or joint ventures, and provide assistance in securing government contracts. He was adamant that this cannot be achieved by African Americans working with other African Americans; partnerships need to be formed across races. Everyone has to sacrifice something: control, money, etc. He elaborated on the great ANDs of sports and entertainment, such as Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr. and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Dr. Pinkett asked the audience, “Who will be your AND? Who will be the people you partner with? Who will be the company you form your joint venture with”? He ended with several clichés to include TEAM means together everyone achieves more. Finally, he reiterated that small businesses need to find strength in numbers.
The second master class for the day was a panel discussion on the topic, “Joint Ventures/Strategic Alliances: How to Make It Work Right”, which was presented by Pfizer. The panelists incorporated David Segura, Vision IT; Carlton Hardee, Volt; Rondu Vincent, Pfizer; and Jackie Hill, MDBA, US Commerce. The discussion was moderated and a bit overshadowed by Harvey Butler, Founder and Managing Director, Butler Management Group. He actually took approximately 45 minutes teaching prior to the panelists ever uttering a word. The information was valuable; however, the format was inappropriate. Butler taught about the Eight-Step Strategic Alliance process: business plan, build, buy or ally?, alliance partner selection, alliance framework, alliance management, alliance measurement, alliance marketing, and alliance exit. He stated that 50 – 60% of strategic alliances fail. A successful strategic alliance must be a mutually-beneficial agreement between two or more entities (i.e.: clients, a competitor, and/or suppliers) behaving as a single entity. He suggested that regarding small business strategic alliances, you should be leveraging partner resources, which derive synergies that yield greater value than if these entities were separate.
During lunch, the third master class took place. Michael Robinson, Program Director, IBM, Global Supplier Diversity Integrated Supply Chain, explained that in order to do business with IBM and many other major corporations, small businesses need to have adequate capacity. He encouraged MBEs to partner with other MBEs, ensure that both entities share core values, understand the culture of your company, learn the potential partnering company, and know what they do. Small businesses must understand in which geographies their customer base is growing. Companies that have grown have grown from acquisitions. Robinson proposed that MBEs should measure their success based on their clients’ satisfaction and provide their competitive advantage.
Master class #4 was a theatrical and lively session hosted by Julia Hubbel, President and CEO, Hubbel Group. She taught about what corporate America wants and the secrets of supplier diversity. She encouraged the MBEs in the room to identify their niche and articulate what it is that they do better than anybody. She said businesses have seven seconds to get in somebody’s bandwidth. Corporations only want to know what you can do for them. She advised the MBEs to create capabilities statements. Going through this process will afford small businesses the opportunity to clearly articulate what solutions they offer, what problems they solve and how they can improve corporations’ market value. She suggested that businesses choose one product or service that they will focus on. She dissuaded the audience from using the word “help” and to replace it with words like “build, develop, organize, produce, compose, invent, establish, originate, transform, assemble, synthesize, strengthen, and create”. Businesses need to establish a value proposition. MBEs also must conduct adequate research and know where they fit. She encouraged the participants to understand their industry and embrace the challenge of differentiation. Businesses need to prove they understand the unique problems and challenges of their prospective customers. Hubbel states, “Your message has to be sticky and simple”. We conducted an exercise where we completed the sentence, “I am the only one who ____________”. She advised MBEs to be patient. Sometimes it takes years to get a particular client’s business. Let them know you’re willing to wait. And sometimes it takes a partnership. She advised the following steps:
- Pick an industry
- Join the associations
- Become active, visible, a leader
- Attend meetings, conferences, fairs
- Learn the players
- Become an expert in the field
- Sell to the smaller corporations first
- Formulate partnerships; do the joint ventures
She sold and signed her book, Tackling the Titans, after the class.
The final master class of the day, “How to Engage with the U. S. General Services Administration” was conducted by David H. Ehrenwerth, Regional Administrator for the U. S. General Services Administration’s Mid-Atlantic Region and Helena Koch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, Small Business Utilization, Philadelphia, PA. Koch taught about the schedules program. There are 50 categories of goods and services. The federal government does not exclusively buy from their schedules. State and local agencies also share these schedules. There is free help available to assist small businesses in securing government contracts. The government is also working on changing the window to receive payment from 30 days to 15 days, as it realizes how critical cash flow is to a small business. She suggested that businesses know whether they want to bid on GSA contracts or Open Markets. The federal government spends $28 billion on contracts. The government and small business are business partners. The contracts under the GSA program lasts for five years with three (3) five-year options. GSA provides commercial products and services. Koch suggested that businesses update the information on their CCR report and maintain a good profile, as they use that site constantly. She advised MBEs to take time on this site: www.fbo.gov. She gave participants a plethora of websites to review in addition to her contact information should businesses need assistance. They will.
The day concluded with a Networking Reception at the pool. That venue was absolutely beautiful. Participants got an opportunity to unwind, talk, eat, drink, relax, and dance at poolside. It was a perfect way to end the day.
Day Two commenced with a breakfast and a State of the Council/Region address by PA-NJ-DE Minority Supplier Development Council President Wade Colclough. He stated, “Networking is important, but the outcomes make a difference”. He reiterated the importance of forming partnerships between the corporate members and MBEs. He acknowledged the hard work of the local organization’s staff of five and their responsibility to manage the area from Harrisburg to the Walt Whitman Bridge, the entire State of Delaware and Southern New Jersey. He welcomed the new board members. Colclough proclaimed that in 2011, MSDC PA-NJ-DE has disseminated over 200 procurement opportunities to the member MBEs. They are planning a Town Hall meeting and an educational workshop on “How to work a Trade Show”. He stated if businesses have not generated a plan before today, it’s too late. He also shared that 75% of the organization’s membership dues are spent on programming.
MSDC PA-NJ-DE also participated in the “Ready to Learn” School Supplies Drive for the Atlantic City, Camden, and Pleasantville, New Jersey public school systems. The Mayor of Atlantic City, the Honorable Lorenzo T. Langford, presented the MSDC PA-NJ-DE with a proclamation via his wife who is also the principal of one of the local schools. They were extremely grateful for the various companies’ generosity.
The program continued with the highly anticipated Business Procurement Trade Show. Approximately 60 corporate members and MBEs rented tables, displaying their unique products and services. MBEs got the occasion to talk face-to-face with corporate members’ supplier diversity officers to find out if the corporation is seeking to purchase their specific product or service, determine the process and the likelihood of doing business with them. Some companies simply offered a business card while others sat with MBEs to give valuable information including who else they knew that is seeking that product or service and great advice on how to increase sales. While this was going on, some MBEs got a chance to participate in the one-on-one procurement matchmaking sessions. These sessions consist of MBEs meeting with corporate members who are definitely seeking to purchase that specific product or service and have expressed an interest in working with that particular MBE.
The final master class was hosted by Warren M. Thompson, President and Chairman of Thompson Hospitality Corporation. He has purchased over 31 Bob’s Big Boy Restaurants and has been recognized as “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the National MBA Association. The Black Enterprise Magazine presented Thompson Hospitality the coveted “Company of the Year” award. He told great story after great story of strategic alliances, joint ventures, and mergers and acquisitions he has implemented since the birth of his business. He allowed for questions from the floor and there were numerous questions thrown his way. A participant asked him, “When did his ethnicity no longer matter”? The answer: that has never happened. Thompson stated that he has a Caucasian business partner. Thompson is African American. He shared that there have been times when it has benefitted him to be a minority business and there have been recent times when he strategically sent his partner to meet without him as his ethnicity would have been a detriment to the business deal. He also buys through the supplier diversity program. However, there are not many minority businesses that sell what he buys, so that has been challenging. He has food services locations in many colleges and public schools across the country. Thompson has decided not to do business within the prison system although there are many opportunities in this industry. He offered continued support to MSDC and MBEs.
After all of this excellent information, there’s only one thing left to do. Go home to follow-up with e-mails, phone calls, one-on-one meetings and strategic alliances.
Master your hustle.