Talk or Walk?

Thought we’d take a break from our in-depth review of The Inclusion Dividend: Why Investing in Diversity & Inclusion Pays Off by Mark Kaplan and Mason Donovan to return to our theme of supporting each other.  As SDMWVBE (Small, Disadvantaged, Minority, Women, or Veteran Business Enterprise) businesses we expect large corporations and government agencies to take note of our status and make efforts to include us in opportunities that will allow us to grow our business.  And while these are reasonable expectations, especially for those of us who have made the effort to become certified,  shouldn’t we extend those expectations to ourselves?

We are actually in the middle of a major (for us) building rehabilitation project.  Our dream was to make it a vehicle to showcase local SDMWVBE contractors. Unfortunately, while we were able to line up architects, the plan fell apart.  Despite reaching out to all the general contractors in our WBENC region and those listed with the Allegheny County DMWBE offices, we were unable to engage  — heck, we were unable to get certified contractors to reply to repeated requests to bid.  It may be that the project was too small, but we were still disappointed.  Our general contractor is making an effort to use certified subs in HVAC and electrical, and building supplies are coming from a large WBE, still we fell short of our dream.

We were recently awarded master contracts with two states, one Midwest and one east coast.  Now that we have those established contract vehicles, we’re reaching out to other SDMWVBEs with whom we may be able to partner on specific projects.  Yes, we’re certified in those states and could self-fulfill, but it can only enhance our ability to support the clients if we establish relationships with local resources, especially those in the SDMWVBE community.

We hear so many complaints about large corporate entities — we “make contact, register in their supplier diversity database and then disappear into a black hole” seems to be the most frequent beef.  Those are the companies accused of Talking the Talk, but not Walking the Walk.  We forget that they have priorities and that second or third tier diversity spending might be the best approach for them.  We tend to think from our own perspective, rather than theirs.  While we’re sure a few talkers exist, the great majority of these companies have a real commitment to supplier diversity.

Climbing up on the soap box, we believe that members of the SDMWVBE community should support other members when looking to engage project partners or establish new procurement resources.  We expect our potential clients to “walk the walk” to engage with us.  It only seems fair that we join them in this walk.