Help Suppliers, Help Yourself

Corporations that go beyond contracting requirements to help develop their diverse suppliers are also helping themselves, said Denise Bailey, a partner in consulting and accounting firm Milligan & Co.’s government consulting and transportation practice in Philadelphia.

Emerging firms working as subcontractors might actually prove to be more agile because they are unburdened with legacy systems, Bailey said.

“Smaller firms often have the flexibility to adopt new technology and systems than larger corporations that have invested significant resources into their current systems,” she said.

For this reason, many corporations help smaller suppliers build capacity, Bailey said. Some of the nontraditional assistance includes marketing, assessment of back office management techniques and access to hiring practices for attracting talent.

It makes good business sense that a percentage be diverse, and even more sense that corporations mentor them to generate more business for everyone, Bailey said.

Diverse suppliers can also provide inroads for the corporations to pick up new customers in their communities, Bailey said. Corporations that help boost diverse suppliers’ capacity also boost jobs, which ultimately strengthens loyalty to corporate brands.

But there is a limit to what corporations can do, she said. They, along with government agencies and nonprofits, can provide mentoring and contracting opportunities, but the rest is up to the suppliers themselves.

“There is no substitute for hard work,” Bailey advises diverse suppliers. “Go to as many matchmaking, networking sessions as you can. Make sure your house is in order, you’re ready to sell, but most important, ready to perform and deliver.”