Spending Like it Matters: LGBTQ+ Supplier Diversity 101 with NGLCC’s Sabrina Kent and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Tarrance Frierson

Jennifer Brown | |

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In this episode, originally recorded as a DEI Community Call, Tarrance Frierson and Sabrina Kent join Jennifer Brown for a conversation focused on cultivating supplier diversity and particularly how businesses can advocate and champion for the inclusion of diverse business enterprises that include LGBTQ owned businesses into their supply chain.

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

Doug Foresta: Hello Will to Change listeners. Want to join the Beyond Diversity Book Insider Family? It’s easy to do. Visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com and go to the tab that says Books. Click on that, you’ll see a drop down for Beyond Diversity that will take you to the landing page where you can enter your details to join the Book Insider Family and get early access to exclusive updates and invitations to launch events. Again, that’s jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Go to the tab that says Books and the drop down that says Beyond Diversity to sign up prior to the books launch on November 9th 2021.

Sabrina Kent: For companies who are trying to identify diverse suppliers and their existing supply chain, what we see a lot is companies asking organizations like ours. They’re asking us to come in and deliver presentations to folks in their supply chain to understand, one, that this is the company’s values. We’re not going to scream from the rooftops, “Tarrance’s business is gay-owned.” But it helps the business owner understand, “Okay, this company values my diversity.” And for an LGBTQ person, it’s really important to know that because I’m LGBTQ, you’re not going to pull the contract away for me, right? Because that is still legal in over 30 states in this country.

Doug Foresta: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors and entrepreneurs as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion, and now onto the episode.

Hello and welcome back to the Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta and in today’s episode, which was originally recorded as a DEI community call, you’ll hear from Tarrance Frierson, who has worked as Director of Global Supplier Diversity for Bristol Myers Squibb, as well as Sabrina Kent, Senior Vice President at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the NGLCC for conversation focused on supplier diversity and how businesses can advocate and champion for the inclusion of diverse business enterprises that include LGBTQ owned businesses into their supply chain. And you’ll also hear about how Bristol Myers Squibb has made some big commitments around diversity, equity and inclusion and supplier diversity on a global scale. All this and more. And now, on to the episode.

Jennifer Brown: Now I’m going to introduce Tarrance and Sabrina. So, boy, I have known these folks for a long time in the context of being a certified LGBT owned business. So, for some of you who don’t know, supplier diversity is what we’re talking about, and for diverse suppliers and how that is defined as minority owned businesses, women owned businesses, LGBTQ owned businesses, disabilities, and I think more and more actually.

In fact, Tarrance and Sabrina probably know a lot more than I do. But we have been in that world for, I know I’ve been in almost 15 years. And Tarrance and the company he works for, Bristol Myers, is such a champion, such a huge kind of voice in the supplier diversity world, particularly for LGBTQ. I don’t know about others, Terrance, but there are some companies that are really dedicated to diversifying their supply chain with us, with companies like us, and it’s so meaningful to know that we’re desired for how innovative we are. We are desired for who we are. We are desired in terms of, yes, we help companies meet their goals for diversifying their supply chain, but it’s bigger than that. I mean, it really goes beyond what’s required by the federal government or whatever.

I think, you all tell me if I’m wrong, but LGBT spend is not something that’s required, examined, collected. And yet we have all these companies involved with the NGLCC who are going above and beyond all requirements and saying, “You know what, this is important. This community is important to us and economic contribution to the small business community is important to us.” And when you make spending choices as a company, big and small, and everything in between, events, custodians, marketing agencies, materials creation, shipping, there are so many choices, places to spend your money, and to have it be driven by that supplier diversity lens is making a huge economic difference to those of us on the other side.

So, I just am so grateful to both of you, in our ecosystem and everybody. I hope your little call to action for all of us, if you’re part of an affinity group or ERG, make sure supplier diversity is a part of your strategy. Make it your business to pull in diverse suppliers into that pipeline into those vendors and RFPs, into those relationships because we are the big companies of the future. But we need the partnership of the big corporations who are our clients to really make that choice, give us those chances. So, thank you both. And that’s the way of introducing you, that’s very personal to me. So, say hello to the community. Sabrina, why don’t you go first?

Sabrina Kent: Awesome. Well, thanks for that, Jen. I feel like you introduced NGLCC and LGBT supplier diversity better than I could. So, I think my job here is done for the day. This has been great. I’m super excited to be here. My name is Sabrina Kent. I use she/her pronouns? I’m the senior vice president, overseeing suppliers to receive partnerships and programs at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

And as Jen just put so eloquently, we are in the business of ensuring opportunity for LGBTQ entrepreneurs. And to Jen’s point, we’re not all bakers and florists. We are aerospace engineers, we are construction managers, we’re architects. We’re everything in between. And the whole concept is to ensure that our business owners, just like employees in a workforce, are able to bring their full identities into the work that they do, and therefore drive innovation, competition, and the bottom line. So, I’m really excited to be here with two good friends today. It’s going to be a fun combo.

Jennifer Brown: Oh, Sabrina. Thank you. Tarrance, take it away.

Tarrance Frierson: Thank you, Jennifer. And good afternoon, everyone. I am equally excited to be joining the amazing Jennifer Brown and Sabrina Kent. As Jennifer said, I’ve worked for Bristol Myers Squibb, Director of Global Supplier Diversity for BMS. And NGLCC is one of our partners and we perfectly align with them around how we advocate, we champion and we execute, on maximizing the inclusion of diverse business enterprises as that includes LGBTQ owned businesses into our supply chain. And we believe it’s that diversity of our supply chain, the diversity of our workforce, the diversity of the communities that we serve, our patients, is what really makes us great, and which elevates our competitive advantage in the industry. And I’m just super excited again, to be here and to be participating.

Jennifer Brown: Thank you so much. Terrance, you have a new job, don’t you? But you just had it. That’s a big promotion.

Tarrance Frierson: Yes, it is. I don’t see all the faces on the call. So yes, prior to rejoining Bristol Myers Squibb, I was at Southern California Edison as the head of supplier diversity and just super excited to be back with the BMS team in August. The company made some big commitments around diversity, equity and inclusion and supplier diversity being one of those and really on a global scale. And so, I was very excited about this opportunity to rejoin the BMS team. Rondu Vincent, Farryn Melton. This great leadership who are so, so actively engaged and committed to our mission.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah, I’ve seen BMS on the stage now for so many years at these conferences. And it certainly leaves me with a brand impression, a very specific brand impression, when you see companies that supportive and overt and public about this, and particularly taking the lead on LGBT certified businesses, which is, and correct me if I’m wrong, but can you all explain, historically, for those of us who are learning about supplier diversity, so what identities are required and what percentage and what’s the billion-dollar roundtable? I also want to know, and if you could talk a little bit about that.

And then, where are we on getting more teeth in the LGBTQ small business spend, that companies are holding their own feet to the fire with? Are there sort of conversations in our government that are evolving to progress us to become a metric that is, the track that is required? Where are we? And I don’t know, I might be behind in my information. But if you could, either one of you sort of explain the status of where we are on that, because when it gets real, that’s when companies start to really say, “Oh, gosh, now we have to count our suppliers.” Now we have to make sure we are intentionally spending more by a percentage or whatever those metrics are. And I know HRC measures supplier diversity spend, but I’m not sure that it’s a hard metric.

Tarrance Frierson: Sabrina, I’m going to let you take that question. With NGLCC being one of the recognized, they are party certifying agencies, nationally or globally, actually.

Sabrina Kent: Yeah, globally. You bet. I do the baseline for those that are unfamiliar with supplier diversity to answer the first part of your question, Jen. Certification is for businesses that are majority owned, operated and controlled by a diverse person or persons. So that could be ethnic racial minority, that could be women, that could be LGBTQ plus in the case of NGLCC, that can be disability owned, that could be [inaudible 00:10:33]. As it relates to the billion-dollar round table, these are corporations that spend at least a billion dollars per year with our diverse owned firms.

So, I’m glad that you point out HRC recognizing supplier diversity. That’s something we worked on with them for a very, very long time to ensure that a company can’t get a 100 on the corporate equality index if they have an existing supplier diversity program that’s not inclusive of LGBTQ. I think, when you look at the sort of ecosphere of LGBT inclusion from a business lens, we think about marketing to the LGBT community, oh, we recognize that this is a $900 billion community that could be investing into our companies. We want them to buy with us, right? So, marketing to the LGBT community. And then it was inclusive workplace policies, making sure that LGBTQ people are protected at work, that there are little benefits for their spouses and partners, so on and so forth.

And then, something that is often still, but now more recognized is spending with our community, investing back in our community. We were just talking about before all this Pride Month, and so on, and so forth. And I get, I do probably 50, if not more presentations, panels, you name it during Pride Month. But I really am more concerned about the other 11 months of the year, and how you’re working with LGBTQ people, uplifting LGBTQ voices. And also, I want to know that if your company is waving a rainbow flag on pride, that it’s produced by an LGBTQ vendor. But I also want to know that if your office where you’ve just built out a new office, was your office furniture sourced by an LGBTQ company, right? What are you doing to invest back in our community to create general generational wealth to provide longevity and sustainability in our community?

So, the baseline is creating opportunities for diverse firms. The question about goal setting on the federal level, there is not federal recognition right now for LGBTQ owned businesses in contracting opportunities. And that’s something that we are working very closely with the SBA and the current administration on I think, for maybe obvious reasons, the previous four years, those were kind of hopes that we had abandoned and focused our efforts more on the local and state level. But I would also say, in terms of companies and their individual goal setting, it is subjective, and I’m going to call BMS out here, not only because Tarrance is on this call, but because they are a company that is doing this with such intention. They are not just saying, “Yeah, we accept LGBTQ suppliers in our supply chain and we’re leaving at that.”

They’re working on the different lines of business where they’re integrating supplier diversity deeply into procurement, to make sure that at any opportunity that’s coming up for an RFP across the board, that diverse vendors are being qualified and vetted for those opportunities. They are mentoring our LGBTQ and diverse owned businesses. And they’re also setting very specific goals and metrics to say this is what we want to spend with each group, whether it’s LGBTQ women, minority, veteran disability, so forth, or a combination thereof. Although Tarrance could talk about it more, but I think it’s so important because BMS is a company that’s really integrated its supplier diversity approach into its entire line of business. And that’s where we see the most successful outcomes for diverse suppliers and for those companies.

Jennifer Brown: Thank you, Sabrina.

Tarrance Frierson: I’ll jump in there. And just to underscore Sabrina’s point about the commitment of Bristol Myers Squibb and really how we are laser focused on creating space for inclusion of all diverse businesses, but more specifically LGBTQ owned businesses. From 2019 to 2020, we’ve increased our spend with LGBTQ owned businesses by more than 62%. And we strive to keep continuing to grow that number. And that’s why our partnerships with NGLCC and other advocacy organizations and the strong relationships that we’re building with LGBTQ on businesses is so important to our mission.

And so, if you are an LGBTQ owned business, and you are interested in doing business with Bristol Myers Squibb, you certainly can. Go to at Bristol Myers Squibb, bms.com and search for us under Supplier Diversity and make a connection with us there, and hopefully, we’ll be seeing people more in person next year with some of the conferences that we had been looking forward to getting back out there to that human interaction.

Jennifer Brown: I love it. There’s a couple of questions in here and I just wanted to make the point, the challenge of finding the existing LGBTQ owners in your existing supply chain, right, Tarrence? I’m sure it’s hard because there are so many different barriers, right? We don’t know who they are. They aren’t disclosing who they are. They don’t even know supplier diversity is a thing often. And they would never, I think there’s some strong beliefs around, I don’t know if it’s tokenization, not wanting to kind of step forward and say, “Yes, I’m proud, I’m certified and I want these contracts.”

And I have heard people push back when I’ve talked about supplier diversity. I’ve heard them say, “I wouldn’t want any special treatment. I want this to be fair. It’s just really interesting. That’s not what we’re talking about, but it is something I hear. And so, I could just go on and on. I mean, there’s so many barriers that you must face at BMS to get these people counted, get them registered, and really make the business case for getting registered and explain how it is a mutually beneficial sort of one plus one equals three scenario. When I know that many founders probably don’t think being LGBT has anything to do with their business. Or maybe it’s something that we’ve never thought of as an additive thing. We’ve always thought of it as something that we need to conceal.

So anyway, Tarrance, I mean, how do you all go through and encourage the coming out process for the owner of your existing supply chain, because they’re in there. And I’m sure there is a bunch that probably aren’t certified and therefore aren’t being counted and it probably drives you crazy.

Tarrance Frierson: It does drive me crazy. But that’s why partnerships with the NGLCC and other advocacy organizations are so important to this mission, because they’re directly engaged with the community. And it’s important for us to be listening and hearing what some of those challenges are for LGBTQ owned business owners in terms of disclosing or self-identifying.

But as far as a supplier diversity of professionals, a DEI thought leader, I think it’s important that we show up authentically as ourselves and really, in terms of how we’re creating that space for LGBTQ business owners to engage with us. And we’re very clear with any supplier, regardless of your diverse status that is looking to do business with BMS. What’s first and foremost important to us is your capabilities. We are not awarding contracts based on your diverse status. That’s extra, that’s additive. It’s nice in it and it does support us in our reporting of our diversity spin.

But first and foremost, we need to know that we are doing business with the most capable and innovative suppliers that are out there in the marketplace. And we know that does exist in the LGBT community. And we know that because we are doing amazing work with some of those suppliers. So, to your point, Jennifer, I think it’s important for us to just be authentic in our engagement with suppliers and creating the space for them to join us on this journey and, and not pressuring, we have to meet people where they are.

Sabrina Kent: If I could just add to that, I think you’re spot on Tarrance, because what I was going to say is, at the end of the day, I tell any certified supplier, “It’s great that you’re certified and that you should view your certification as expanded networking as a foot in the door, as an opportunity to build relationships because we do business with people that we like. But also, at the end of the day, it’s going to be your quality and competitive bid that wins the contract. I need to know that you’re fulfilling a bid in my supply chain. I also need to know that you’re going to do it for not three times the price as your competitor that’s non-diverse. Because the non-diverse person is doing the exact same thing at a third of the price is going to win out nearly every single time. So, I think that’s really important.

I think the other thing is for companies who are trying to identify diverse suppliers and their existing supply chain, what we see a lot is companies asking organizations like ours and NMSDC and WBENC, and Disability:In and NaVOBA. They’re asking us to come in and deliver presentations to folks in their supply chain to understand, one that this is the company’s value, right? We’re not going to scream from the rooftops, “Tarrance’s business is gay owned.” But it helps the business owner understand, “Okay, this company values my diversity.” And for an LGBTQ person that’s really important to know that because I’m LGBTQ, you’re not going to pull the contract away from me. Right? Because that is still legal in over 30 states in this country. We need the Equality Act, but it is really important.

So, it’s not just a matter of self-identifying. It’s a matter of a company saying, “We welcome this aspect of your diversity with open arms. And you don’t need to be afraid to be you in the process of this.”

Jennifer Brown: Did you just mention Disability:IN, which is the, with founders of Disabilities. And then you mentioned another which is for veterans, is that correct?

Sabrina Kent: Yes. NaVOBA.

Jennifer Brown: NaVOBA. How do you spell that?

Sabrina Kent: N-A-V-O-B-A. The National Veteran Owned Business Association.

Jennifer Brown: Veteran Business Association. Got it. Okay, great. Great. So yeah, so everybody, I hope you’re talking to some supplier diversity pros. Yeah, and I’m appreciating a lot of the, I knew this topic would be an important one and maybe unfamiliar with a bunch of folks in our audience. How can ERGs and affinity groups, because we have such a representation of that on these calls usually make this real. You both have such deep I think, knowledge about the most effective ERGs supplier diversity strategies, not just for LGBTQ, but perhaps other categories of identity too.

I mean, my vision is that each network is sourcing potential vendors and preparing them and sort of shepherding them through the process. Because I think a question came up earlier, it is arduous, no joke, especially if you hit a couple different categories. There’s a question of how many certifications do I get and there’s a lot of paperwork and there’s taxes that you need to, tax filings you need to share. There are interesting status qualifiers to say that you’re LGBTQ, which is always a fun thing to talk about, like “How do we know you’re in the community? And what do you require?”

And so, maybe Sabrina can talk a little bit about that later. But, tell us those of us who are in that ERG community, what specifically can we be doing to become that pipeline and also to shepherd small businesses through a really arduous corporate process? Because, unfortunately, these processes are built by the corporates and we have had, it’s not necessarily built to be optimized for resources strapped and time strapped small businesses. So, I think that’s a barrier to certification, honestly, that I have heard a lot about.

Sabrina Kent: I’m just going to say, you asked the perfect question to the perfect individual, Tarrance, because we do an annual BRG challenge at NGLCC with EY every year, and right now Bristol Myers Squibb is our reigning champ from 2020. And the key focus we look at a variety of things as it relates to the ERG or in the case of Bristol Myers Squibb, their TMRG’s, their team member resource groups. But the biggest thing we look at is the connection with supplier diversity. So, no pressure Tarrance but you all have this one in the bag.

Tarrance Frierson: Thank you, Sabrina. And even before joining, my rejoining Bristol Myers Squibb, I will tell you, Bristol Myers Squibb changed the game in terms of employee resource groups or business resource groups. The model is one where we have stood up our resource groups almost like business units, and we have a dedicated leader who is not the executive sponsor, but leader of the organization that is really driving the strategy for how that a PBRG or that group, helps us advance the business objectives in a way that links back to the community that they represent.

And so, they are an important part of our supplier diversity plan and journey. We do see them as a channel by which we can understand the community in which we are wanting to serve, a channel by which we can source diverse suppliers to come into our supply chain. They are also leaders, our project leaders have different initiatives that are happening across the company, so they are another way to make sure that we’re facilitating the awareness of the diverse supplier community and how they might be able to support projects that we have going on across the enterprise.

So, it’s a very important network partners with us on this diversity equity inclusion journey. And so, if your organization is currently not leveraging the ERG or BRG community, maximizing that opportunity to leverage them, I highly, highly encourage it. We would be happy to connect you with any one of our groups or the leaders across all the groups at BMS, to ideate, around how that can really come to life at your organization.

Jennifer Brown: Thank you. And remember everybody, I’ve noticed that supplier procurement and sourcing, remember, they have to sit across all categories, and the likelihood that they are going to know all the potential suppliers and different identity communities and be able to get those in and pair them with the right opportunities, it’s a lot to ask. And so, there’s a bottleneck there. And when I think of the multiplier effect of ERGs, it’s that everybody knows suppliers. Everybody in our community and every community knows the small business community, right? We work with them, they’re our friends, they trust us.

So, I think that this function, again, kind of putting them on people’s radar screens, really saves time and money, and is a straight shot to making sure the right suppliers are getting on the right radar screen to be considered for those big contracts. So, I think, too, that this channel makes a lot of sense. And I love that Chris just made a wonderful point in chat that said, “You know, we struggle with that business case piece with D&I sometimes, but this one feels really clear, really concrete.”

I couldn’t agree more. I think companies have to spend money, and it’s not necessarily, I don’t know if people would have a problem with making different choices and saying, “All things being equal, we’re considering these five suppliers.” This is the thing that sort of volts. It makes our choice a little easier, because we also want to diversify our supply chain with this choice for who we’re going to spend money with.

So, but we have to get managers and leaders on board, which we all know is an interesting journey. We have some other questions here. Let’s see, “Do lists exist anywhere?” Oh, great question. What do we think about that? I don’t know the answer to that. Actually, I wish I did. And it seems like a very obvious question. Sabrina, what do you think?

Sabrina Kent: I can answer that. So, hey, Chris. Yes, Chris. Thanks. So, you get access to our databases of certified suppliers by partnering with organizations like ours, right? We don’t publicize this information in a public way because we’re protecting the identity. Yeah, I know. We’re protecting the identities of our suppliers, right? So that’s first and foremost. The second is the data. You don’t want that data being mined, out in the world. That’s not fair. Because now we’re on a list. And all of a sudden, Tarrance has gay business. Tarrance, you don’t want everyone to know, because he’s in aerospace engineering and he contracts with the Department of Defense. And he’s like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Now I feel like one of my contracts is at jeopardy.” Right? So, we’re doing that for the privacy and security of our businesses.

If you as a consumer are looking at a way to support LGBTQ and allied businesses in your local community, go to our website at jlcc.org. Click the affiliate chambers button. We have over 53 affiliate chambers across the US and about 25 more globally. We’re in over 30 countries. And usually our local affiliates have a list of local directories and businesses that you can support directly as a consumer. But as it relates to actually coming to us to get a qualified list of suppliers to meet your bid. That’s where you partner with organizations like ours to have access not only to those suppliers, but to the matchmaking opportunities, to Jennifer’s point about pairing folks with opportunities in your company and getting those businesses out in front of buyers and so forth. That’s where we do matchmaking programs, networking, programs, development and so much more. And then yes, I will put the link in the chat.

And then secondarily to that we have what is called the NGLCC Engagement Center. And that’s our concierge connection service. So, when Bristol Myers Squibb has an RFP opportunity coming up, they say, “Hi, we need a supplier that can do X, Y or Z. Can you please pull a list for us of suppliers that could meet the bid. And if we have enough lead time to pull that together, we can also pre-vet those suppliers anonymously on BMS’s behalf and collect capability statements. So that way, BMS has a targeted list that they can send directly over to procurement into the buyers and sites. These are all the LGBT suppliers that could help fill this bid that we might want to invite. So, [Rova 00:30:03], I will put that in the chat. I hope that answers your question.

Jennifer Brown: Excellent.

Tarrance Frierson: And I fully endorse the Engagement Center in NGLCC and the concierge service. It’s quite amazing, unlike anything that I was experiencing from other organizations, and we’re starting to see other organizations that are modeling, what NGLCC is doing. And where that is really helpful is they’re participating in that vetting process with us. So, we can’t send our category leaders in procurement a list of 200 and 250 suppliers. We really want to partner with the organizations and get down to who are those top or key suppliers that are doing the type of work we’re looking for, and sending a good vetted list to our partners. And that helps us ensure or facilitate, I should say, their engagement on any RFP list that we are putting out and making sure we’re maximizing those inclusion opportunities.

Jennifer Brown: Right. I love that. So, I hope everybody’s catching these. Can you all, for our audience, so we leave this call and we’re all fired up. Who do we lobby in our organization to take a holistic look at this to find out what we’re already doing? And if we’re not doing anything, how to get involved at the corporate level with NGLCC? Who controls those budget dollars, those decisions, just to kind of boil it down, typically?

Tarrance Frierson: From a supplier diversity standpoint, typically, in terms of relationships with like, NGLCC, NMSDC. You’re going to find that mostly in procurement and depending on what the focus is, we may go to other sources within the company to seek other sponsorship support. But primarily, you find that support for supplier diversity within procurement organizations, and whoever the head of your procurement organization is. If they’re top in their game, they are well aware of supplier diversity and would be advocating the champion.

Doug Foresta: Hello Will to Change listeners! Want to join the Beyond Diversity Book Insider family? It’s easy to do. Visit jenniferbrownspeaks.com and go to the tab that says Books, click on that, you’ll see a drop down for Beyond Diversity. That will take you to the landing page where you can enter your details to join the Book Insider Family and get early access to exclusive updates and invitations to launch events. Again, that’s jenniferbrownspeaks.com. Go to the tab that says Books, and the drop down that says Beyond Diversity to sign up prior to the books launch on November 9th 2021.

Jennifer Brown: I want to bring up here the readiness to contract with Bristol Myers, I think is what you’re talking about Tarrance, right? It’s no joke to be ready to work with a corporation. Just the insurance alone, I don’t even want to tell you how much we pay for that, or the ability to respond to an RFP that has 150 questions. So, I think the level that your size as a small business as you’re growing means you are ready to tier one contract. And then tier two, is like in my case, I think about our website developers. They may be small, but we are working with them and we’re growing together. And someday, they may be able to contract directly with a BMS.

But in the meantime, having a JVC as a tier one, and then being able to count all the tier two vendors that we work with, who are minority owned, women owned, LGBTQ owned. That’s where you really get the multiplier effect. So, I appreciate what you’re saying. And I’ve also been to everybody so you know, and I know BMS has a program like this. Many companies have mentorship, formal mentoring programs to grow diverse suppliers. So, I’ve participated in a bunch of those and they’re cool because you have this corporate mentor. And you apply for these programs, but they exist and I would really encourage any of you who are small businesses and growing and really want to contract with corporate.

These are wonderful programs to become a part of. You find out what they’re looking for, you get presentations from different executives, you get feedback on your business plan. Your mentor will push you to think about how do I scale my business in a way that someday or maybe tomorrow or maybe in the near-term future, I will be set up in such a way that I can do a bigger contract. And for any of you who are business owners on this, some of us want to stay small and that’s fine. Some of us though, we have our sights on growing and becoming those medium sized businesses of the future and this is really like a critical way. So, keep your eye out for the mentoring programs through these certification processes, but you have to get certified right? So, that’s a prerequisite. Go ahead, Tarrance.

Tarrance Frierson: I just want to say, Jennifer, that I appreciate something that both you and Sabrina said. You gave an example of how diverse suppliers are also subcontracting. So, typically, you hear people talk about tier two and it’s focused on, well, we look for that from our non-diverse suppliers. We look from all of our suppliers who are doing direct business with us, so we can have that multiplier effect. So, I just wanted to underscore that important point that tier 2 is not a program about non-diverse suppliers and how they’re selling to diverse suppliers.

Jennifer Brown: Right. Right. You can have a woman in business that is certified as such, but when you look at their supply chain, when you look at their workforce composition, you don’t see a lot of that commitment to diversity. So, I love that Elizabeth, you asked this question, because it’s like that, nesting doll. You’ve got to dig deeper to really understand if your suppliers are walking the talk. And I love that accountability that, a BMS, can put that accountability on me as a contractor and say, “Jennifer, we want to see your numbers. We want to see what’s your spend looks like? Who are you spending with? How much? How representative is of that? Are you encouraging, Jennifer, your vendors to get certified, by the way?” So, this is where you know, I have the happy accountability of encouraging everyone in my ecosystem that makes Jennifer Brown Consulting run to get certified. Right? Because they are the medium sized businesses of the future, I hope.

So, anyway, I think that this is an amazing kind of ecosystem to think through the different pieces. And although it sounds a little technical, I wanted to make sure we spent some time on that. Oh, so there’s some other smaller organizations here. And the question is, I’m not sure we’re large enough to have a full supplier diversity or even D&I structures. What do you all advise? I mean, when you don’t have procurement or sourcing and this is not a conversation that’s happening. Is there a simplified way to still ensure that attention is being paid? And maybe some goals are being set around diversity?

Tarrance Frierson: I absolutely believe there are principles or practices that you can follow, even if you don’t have a formal program. And I will tell you, if you really look at the history of most large corporation programs, it started from some of just those simple principles or practices that then evolved and grew into a more formalized program. And then, some programs you don’t like, they came strictly out of compliance. Some folks will say, “We just know that this is the right thing to do. We’re not going to wait on someone to tell us to do it.”

So, I think there are just some principles, just asking questions like, “Okay, well, let’s, let’s see if we can figure out who in our supplier base may be diverse, that may be forming a relationship with an NGLCC, taking your supplier base, and seeing if any of those suppliers happen to be certified through the NGLCC. And starting to document what that spend looks like. And that’s a great conversation starter within your organization. And that could evolve into something so much more for your organization. Before you know it, you have a formalized program.

Sabrina Kent: I think that’s such great advice. And I’m going to answer this from the perspective of the small, non-diverse business that maybe is saying how, where do we even begin as a starting point? One of the things that I’m actually working on is implementing a partnership at NGLCC, that’s for the first small and diverse businesses to be able to engage in supplier diversity in a very baseline way without having to enter into a corporate fee structure in order to do so. So that’s something that I think a lot of us are looking at in our various certifying organizations.

But the other thing is, I’m going to go back to that local affiliate chamber model. If you, as a small business owner saying, “Okay, I really just don’t have the funds to be able to invest in working directly with the certification organization. To Tarrance’s point, find out if the vendors you’re working with or you’re inviting to bid on X, Y, or Z contracts are diverse. But then, also take a look at your local chamber community. It’s much more affordable as a small business to become a member there for less than a grand in many cases a year, sometimes less than $500 to be able to network and meet LGBTQ business owners or diverse business owners at the various chambers and be able to say, “Great, I’m now expanding this network locally.” And to Tarrance’s point, that sort of starts to help build the case for why we might want to look at a national or holistic approach to supplier diversity down the road as a company.

Jennifer Brown: Excellent advice. Really excellent. So, join the local chamber as a company and then begin to benchmark with each other. Like, how are you doing it? How are you tracking it? And then grow together. We’re not alone. And I would imagine everybody, WBENC and NMSDC and others have local chambers also, do they have the same model as NGLCC, Sabrina? No?

Sabrina Kent: Different. They have RPOs, regional partner organizations that encompass given areas. Typically, in those RPO models, they’re actually doing the certifying there in those regional areas. NGLCC, we certify nationally, and so we say your certification is national, your membership is local. And that way you’re getting the benefit of everything being part of a national network has to offer in terms of engaging with the BMS of the world. Our mentorship programs are matchmaking programs, so on and so forth. But you’re also getting that local benefit of networking right in your local community, meeting other diverse entrepreneurs and meeting local corporate folks that might not be anywhere near supplier diversity in that given company, but are still great ways for you to expand your network.

Jennifer Brown: So awesome. This has been so great. People are really responding well to being exposed to this information, both of you. And like I said, everybody, you are talking to the pros, and they’re so generous. You should reach out, make sure you know these folks that they will present on this for hours, if necessary., I know. We’ve all done a lot of this. But as somebody who’s really, like I said earlier deeply benefited from, I had to win the business. Certainly, it was not ever, ever easy and anybody who’s tackled an RFP knows. It is one of the toughest tests that you go through as a growing business. But it also forces you to sort of get your hands around. Can we handle this? Can we grow to a size where we have the staff and the means and the time to manage a big contract?

And I think it’s great for all the entrepreneurs on the call. If this is something that you see in your future, this whole exercise of putting these things in place whereby you can someday become a vendor to Bristol Myers, with the certification in hand from NGLCC and maybe other certifications because you fit multiple categories. I think this is the future. I mean, I’ve always believed, these supply chains are going to change quickly. And my advice for all of you is to run towards this community because it will support you. It will show you how to grow. Corporations want us, which is just the coolest thing to imagine.

Sales is hard enough. Business development is incredibly difficult. Getting on the radar screen of a potential customer is arduous. But if we can kind of come together in these communities and stand up and be counted and be proud and be certified and be ready, it’s to me readiness. I mean this is readiness. Readiness, so that when you see Tarrance sometime in the hall you can say, “Loved to that. I’m ready. Here’s my category. Who do I talk to next to maybe do matchmaking at NGLCC?” All the conferences have this one on one matchmaking you can sign up for which I’ve done a million times too where I get to meet companies across the board and let them know about what we do and they’re there to meet us. They are there to do business with us.

So, it’s just this incredible community that I feel needs a lot more exposure. So everybody, and if you’re on the company side of all this, I hope you are leaving today with some ideas about energizing your ERGs, putting this in our strategic plans, starting to track spend even informally, spend or number of suppliers. Those are two metrics you can track or maybe both I would recommend and then set some goals. Over the next year, we want to double the number of suppliers that we do business with by X or we want to double our spend by this percentage. So, these are all things that I think the conversation can be led from anywhere in an organization, I think. Regardless of whether we have that official procurement team or not. We can get the ball rolling.

Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com? You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion, and the future of work. And discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

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