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Minority-owned businesses need lift, too

Participants during a Business Opportunity Exchange event of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.
Participants during a Business Opportunity Exchange event of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

We can all agree that our state and the nation are at a tipping point, challenged by a confluence of issues that have tested who we are. The COVID-19 pandemic, the economic downturn it spawned, and the social justice crisis born of recent tragedies on our streets have combined to threaten our entire societal construct. As a result, minority businesses have been disproportionately affected and many are at the brink of extinction. What is needed now from business leaders is courage and a focus on creating real opportunities for minority businesses. Our organization was founded for that very purpose, as leaders from AT&T, The Coca-Cola Co., Cox Enterprises Inc., Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power and WestRock joined forces to create what is now the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC) in 1975.

As the leader of an organization whose mission is to foster the growth and development of minority businesses, I am keenly aware of the significance of this historic moment. Our future depends on how we address this crisis. How do we want to be remembered in this unprecedented time? We must not forget the voice and privilege we have as a business community, nor the influence we can have during these difficult times. We must come together to address the economic inequality, systemic injustice and lack of opportunity that have brought us to this juncture. Now is the time act!

What does that action look like? In a word – opportunity! The long-term solution is to bridge wealth and power gaps through economic mobility born of real opportunity. Minority businesses are underrepresented, underutilized, and clearly do not have a seat at the table. Business leaders must expand their contract opportunities for diverse businesses, as those opportunities turn into jobs that pay bills and build wealth. What we have learned in our 45 years is that minority businesses positively impact the bottom line and create tangible shareholder value. The Hackett Group reported that supplier diversity programs add $3.6 million to the bottom line for every $1 million invested in diverse procurement. In essence, supplier diversity is not merely the “right thing to do,” but it is good business. When we factor in the community impact of the contracts, jobs and revenues our opportunities create, it is truly a win-win investment.

Stacey J. Key, Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.
Stacey J. Key, Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

There are four pillars that should anchor our approach to changing the economic landscape for minority businesses – Courage, Commitment, Communications, and Collaboration.

Courage

Have the courage to abandon the status quo and create real opportunities for minority businesses. Executive commitment and principled leadership are where the change begins.

If you have a supplier diversity program, enhance or improve it, utilizing best practices readily available from organizations like the GMSDC. If you have not established a program, we are here to help. Our economy depends on it and time is of the essence.

Supplier diversity creates opportunities for businesses from historically disadvantaged communities. Use your influence now to benefit those who need it most, who also happen to be your customers.

Commitment

Make the survival of minority business a priority by committing to economic equality economic mobility. Step up and step out boldly by doing your part in erasing economic inequality.

Discuss your commitment to diversity in the C-Suite or the Board room. Make investments in mentoring and small business programs that help sustain diverse businesses. Initiate uncomfortable conversations about biases – implicit or explicit – that exist in your workplace and make a bold commitment to CHANGE.

In some cases, our underwhelming supplier diversity goals are too-easily attained in the normal course of business. No matter the size of your business, you can choose to be more inclusive in your sourcing and vendor selection. This unprecedented time demands that we do more, even though it may be uncomfortable.

Communication

Communicate to your entire organization the commitment, vision and path forward. Ensure that every crack and crevice of your organization is on board and singing from the same sheet music! Leave no one behind! Make sure everyone can articulate the plan, understands his/her role, has the necessary resources and is ready to go.

Share with your external audience your commitment and the steps you are taking to evolve. Your customers want to know that you are in the fight alongside them.

Collaboration

Identify organizations you can work with to successfully execute your commitment. Identify the point people within your organization and empower them to meaningfully collaborate with your strategic partners.

Focus your entire organization – every department – on fostering an environment of collaboration across the organization, with creative and innovative approaches to what you do best. See to it that every race, religion, culture and community is at the table -- one united team supporting the commitment.

I challenge every company to get more involved in the business of supplier diversity. Evaluate your policies, procedures and protocols for areas where the language is weak, or compliance is non-existent. Your customers are strikingly diverse – from all races, genders, nationalities, cultures, religions, orientations, social strata – and they choose you over your competitor for a reason. You should strive to offer contract opportunities to the communities you serve. Silence (or inaction) is no longer an option. The change you must make requires the courage to act.

Join the community of business leaders who feel we can not only make a change, but be the change. People empowered with with vision produce dynamic ideas, create things and make life better for all of us, while taking care of their families and building legacies for the future. I urge you to embrace this vision for a better tomorrow and take ownership of this change. If you need information about how to structure or improve your supplier diversity program, the GMSDC is ready to assist. Forty-five years ago, the Georgia business community came together to make a difference. We can do this again!

Stacey Key, president and CEO, Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council.