Many of the best large companies look to expand opportunities for the diverse-owned business community. Diversity and inclusion are essential to innovation. We know that great ideas — ones that will truly anticipate our customers’ desires and inspire our audiences — are most enlightened when there is collaboration among people with different viewpoints in a business environment that consistently makes everyone feel that their voice is heard.
One of the ways for large companies to achieve this is by expanding their supplier base to include women-, veteran-, LGBT-, persons with disabilities and minority-owned businesses. But you probably think, “Nice idea, but how will my small business ever break into one of these companies?” Here are five things you need to do to increase your chances to make it happen!
- Understand the process. Working with a Fortune 1000 company can be overwhelming. But knowing that most of these large companies have a set process on how to do business with them is the first step. Typically, they have supplier diversity professionals that are a great resource into the company and, of course, a big percentage of their contracts are established through an official procurement process. Procurement officers are assigned to work with the internal contacts that need specific goods or services. These procurement officers issue Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and solicit business proposals to fill these needs.
- Be sure to get certified! Before you can be recognized as a diverse business in your proposal, you will need to have your business certified. Having third-party validation that you are indeed a diverse business can open up a world of opportunities for you. There are several organizations that can help you become certified—each requiring proof that your company is 51% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents from a recognized minority group. This may take some effort, but the payoff is certainly worth it.
- Register on their Supplier Portal. Once certified, a good next step is to register your business on the company’s supplier portal. This is a database of companies that have something to offer in the way of either goods or services. And think about it: Fortune 1000 companies need almost everything! So, you will likely have something they need – but before you have a chance to hit, you have to get in the game.
- Introduce your business to the Supplier Diversity Specialist. Once you target a particular company, review the Supplier Diversity section of their website and find the contact information of one of their Supplier Diversity Specialists. They are very often a great link into the company, so take some time to understand who they are and find a way to connect. Maybe it’s through social media...maybe through a mutual contact you find on LinkedIn. However you can do it, make your company known to them.
- Practice “persistent patience.” Now the wait begins. It may take time before you see an RFP that suits your business. It may take time once you submit a proposal to hear back on whether you are being considered. But, don’t be MIA during this time—stay in touch with your contacts, offering them new information, insights or observations.
If you are able to make inroads with just one large company, your business will reap the rewards for years to come! So get busy and stay tuned for our next article on “Engaging the Procurement Officers.”
Diversity and inclusion are essential to innovation.
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