In our new column, staff share insider advice. Today our certification manager, Colleen LaCoss, discusses a topic most owners don’t know about… but should.
What is supplier diversity?
Whether you know it or not, supplier diversity is what drives you to get certified as a woman owned business. It is a business practice where corporations and government agencies examine the businesses and vendors that they work with to ensure they come from a diverse background, whether this be women-owned, minority-owned, LGBT-owned, disability-owned, or veteran-owned.
This is where you come in. When you produce your WBE certificate verifying that you are a woman-owned business, you are saying to potential contracts that you too are a diverse supplier.
The WBENC network has over 325 corporate and government members on a national scale, with about 50 active locally in WBEC-East. Keep in mind these organizations are not the only ones that accept your WBE certificate (there are tons out there!), these are just ones that pay dues to WBENC to have access to our WBEs. If you’re looking to grow your business, these are great organizations with supplier diversity programs to look into.
1. Every organization and state is different when it comes to supplier diversity, so do your research.
Many organizations have a supplier diversity manager in their procurement office who advocates for contract opportunities to be shared with diverse businesses. Some organizations have an entire department for supplier diversity. Others set specific goals for the year to work with or spend a dollar amount on diverse businesses.
Sometimes an organization, state, or government agency will offer to certify you as a woman-owned business, but keep in mind this may not be transferable to other states or organizations. The WBENC certification, and other diverse certifications (see question 4), are the most widely accepted certifications that are transferable across hundreds of corporations, government agencies, and most states.
I always recommend that business owners take a look at their targeted clients ahead of time to get to know the supplier diversity program and what certificates they accept, that way you’re not surprised when it comes time to submit a bid or sign a contract.
This lack of consistency across the supplier diversity world can be pretty frustrating to business owners. Consider taking a look at WBENC’s hundreds of corporate and government members. Being a corporate member of WBENC means they are more likely to support supplier diversity and make it easier for WBEs to get involved in their procurement supply chain.
2. Being a diverse supplier does not guarantee you contracts.
What it does is guarantee you an equal opportunity to compete. Yes, occasionally having that diverse supplier certificate can be the cherry on the top, but you still must have competitive prices and a superior product or service. The most successful WBEs build business relationships in order to build their business.
3. Many of your target clients have their own internal database or portal that you should join.
A great first ask when pitching to a supplier diversity professional is for the link to their internal supplier diversity portal. Then upload your information and WBE certificate. WBENC has a huge database of WBEs that corporates can access, however many procurement folks at your target corporation will quickly scan their internal database first before sending out an RFP. Yes, uploading your certificate to a number of different portals seems tedious (so be strategic about which ones you join), but it may give you just a tiny bit more of an in when new opportunities come up.
4. Being a WBE is just one of a bunch of ways to be a diverse business.
Your WBENC certification verifies that you are a WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise). However there are other certifying agencies and certificates out there including the MBE (Minority Business Enterprise), DOBE (Disability-Owned Business Enterprise), and LGBT-Owned. When a potential client asks if you are a certified diverse business you can confidently say “yes, I’m a WBE.”
5. Your WBENC certification is nationally recognized, but every state government is different.
The great thing about your WBENC certification is that it opens doors in every state, and we have offices in 14 territories with staff ready to help. Your WBE is recognized by hundreds of corporations and government agencies, as well as thousands of other women-owned businesses.
But when it comes to the government, every state is different, so if you’re interested in using your WBE for a specific government agency not local to your business, try reaching out to any of our 14 territories. They are all knowledgeable about their specific states and regions. All you have to say is “I’m a certified WBE through WBEC-East, and I’m interested in how the supplier diversity program works in your state/city/county government.”
6. Supplier diversity is not good will… it’s good business sense.
According to a recent study by Ernst & Young, “companies with diverse partner business strategies claim around $3.6 million in re-investible funds for their company bottom lines for every $1 million spent in procurement costs.” That’s a huge return on investment! Plus, bringing in diverse talent can lead to new innovations, strategies, and ways of thinking, which can ultimately help bring your business to the next level.
7. You can have supplier diversity goals too.
It’s not just for huge corporations. WBEs often overlook the huge pool of potential clients that are sitting right under their nose- the 15,000 other certified WBEs! Many women business owners seek to work with diverse businesses, including other women owners. Think about how you typically seek out new vendors, and then set a goal for yourself to consider working with more diverse suppliers, whether that’s hiring an accounting firm or a graphic designer.
Get Started Today
Already certified? Tune in to our regular “Maximizing Your Certification” webinars to learn how to take advantage of the opportunities available to your diverse company. WBEC-East provides a host of opportunities for you to network with corporate representatives and other diverse businesses. Check out all of the available resources we offer to help take your company to the next level.