Its renewal time for a couple of our WBE certifications and we’re hearing from customer Supplier Diversity departments all over the country. Well, not exactly their Supplier Diversity people. Rather, their online registration systems are reaching out to tell us our certification is expiring and we might be dropped from their database if we don’t immediately upload a new copy. For some of these potential customers, it is the only interactive contact we have … the required record in their supplier database. We’ve had lots of experience with unreturned phone calls, unanswered emails, and when we’re lucky enough to corner a real person at one of the multitude of supplier diversity conferences we re-learn how much Supplier Diversity relies on these registration systems to track, vet and work with its diverse supplier base.
I wish we could get the kind of transparency we practice with our suppliers. We always go to our supplier database when we’re going to make a purchase. And, if none of our suppliers handle that product or service, we use our connections in the small, veteran and MWBE supplier community to practice what we preach.
I often wonder how many MWBE suppliers are listed in these random corporate and government databases. And, how does Supplier Diversity actually use these registration systems? I think many of us — the suppliers — would hope to know answers to a few basic questions:
- Is this company’s Supplier Diversity database used to share opportunities with potential new vendors on a regular basis? If not, how is it used to connect with us?
- Beyond registering in this Supplier Diversity database, how can we proactively engage with your organization to develop a potential relationship? What is the process to identify buyers of our goods and services in your company? Who can we call? Who can we meet with?
- Does your company buy our goods or services directly from diverse suppliers or are we expected to subcontract through a prime vendor? If the answer is a prime, who is the prime and can you suggest who we contact there?
So much for hopes, I have some blue sky wishes, too. In a perfect world we could be direct in our communications. It would benefit the potential customer as well as the supplier to expend its resources in the most productive and efficient manner, right? I wish:
- They could tell us if there was a real opportunity for us to do business with them in the future.
- If the potential for those opportunities actually exist, could they please give us a contact who will actually answer emails or return phone calls? We’re happy to fill out all the supplier diversity forms and database requests and keep them current, but some real feedback would be most appreciated!
I think all we diverse suppliers really want is an opportunity to bid competitively to provide our goods or services. And five minutes every three, six or twelve months with a real buyer is priceless to us in learning how to best support your organization.