The long-range goal of 8-PAC in the private sector is to make minority (MBE) and women (WBE) business enterprise programs obsolete by helping to institutionalize diversity. In order for minority businesses to participate and deal, they cannot remain small and disadvantaged. Ideally, we want all MBE|WBEs to be serious players in the marketplace.
The fundamental question we remain perplexed by is: What are corporations looking for from their minority suppliers? The objective answer is that they are looking for the same thing they want from all of their suppliers; quality products and services, on time and for the right price| companies that are good at what they do, competitive, resourceful and can get the job done.
However, subjectively, we also know that many suppliers often get contracts because someone in the corporation knows and likes them. That’s just the way the world works. The importance of relationships in business is one reason it’s been so hard for MBE|WBEs. Corporations have a certain comfort level with suppliers that look and act like their executive and middle management ranks| which are most often white males.
Dialogue about the true strategic direction of a large corporation will rarely be available through mass media or your local newspaper, rather this information is garnered through dialogue with insiders. This fundamental is a key strategic disadvantage for most MBE|WBEs. The question is: how do we level the playing field?
IN THE EARLY 1970s, It was a matter of political correctness. Scores of large corporations, responding to the demands of African-Americans and other minority groups for equal access to business opportunities, established programs to ensure that certified minority companies would be included in the corporate purchasing process. In 1969, President Richard M. Nixon signed Executive Order 11-625, which called for the enlistment of the private sector to develop programs to broaden business opportunities and the capabilities of minority entrepreneurs. Today, minority business development programs are viewed as politically and economically correct.
That is not to say that it’s any easier for minority businesses to land contracts with major corporations. To be successful, entrepreneurs must understand the goals, customers and culture of potential corporate clients, and be able to present quality products and services at a competitive price. And they must understand that minority business development programs are not a free-for-all sweepstakes for contracts. This said, there should be some means by which due-diligence and market intelligence can be performed in a scalable fashion.
According to its website, the NMSDC Network includes a National Office in New York and 39 regional councils across the country. There are 3,500 corporate members throughout the network, including most of America’s largest publicly-owned, privately-owned and foreign-owned companies, as well as universities, hospitals and other buying institutions. The regional councils certify and match more than 15,000 minority owned businesses (Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American) with member corporations which want to purchase goods and services.
Chapters hold trade expos and seminars year-round to increase interaction between minority businesses and corporations. However, it has been recently contended that the council was doing more public relations than providing actual business opportunities for members.
More on this in future posts.