Decision Vision

A Podcast
for Decision Makers

Episode 65

Should I Have a Supplier
Diversity Program?

 

Episode 65: Should I Have a Supplier Diversity Program?

Should my company develop or formalize a supplier diversity program? How does a supplier diversity program build my own company’s value? The answer to these questions and more are answered by Stacey Key of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council in a conversation with host Mike Blake. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company. (This episode was recorded March 13, 2020)

Stacey Key, Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council

Stacey Key is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC), the leading authority on supplier diversity and minority business development in the state of Georgia. Key has more than 20 years of corporate experience in sales, marketing, operations and customer service at global brands like IBM, AT&T, Schlumberger and Samsung Telecommunications.

Prior to joining the GMSDC, Stacey was responsible for leading nationwide marketing efforts at Samsung Telecommunications as its Marketing Director. She also served as Vice President – Public Sector for Schlumberger, the world’s leading supplier of products and services to the oil and gas industry. She is an accomplished entrepreneur, with more than 15 years of experience at the helm of a successful family business.

Stacey has been recognized as a leader throughout the state for her career accomplishments and community service. Some of her awards and honors include: the 100 Influential Women to Know by Engineering Georgia, Who’s Who of Black Atlanta, the Business Advocacy Award from MARTA, the Atlanta Business League’s 100 Top Women of Influence, Diversity Plus Magazine’s Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity, the Black & Latino Council’s Global Commerce Award, and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Apex Small Business Champion Award.

Key earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Computer Science from Western Kentucky University, and an MBA from Kennesaw State University. She holds a certificate in Mergers and Acquisitions from Kennesaw State University and is a graduate of the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2014. Key is actively involved in the community and serves on numerous boards of directors, including the Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Midtown Alliance and the Renew Atlanta Infrastructure Bond Advisory Committee. She is the proud mother of one daughter who is a college student.

You can learn more about the work of the GMSDC on their website, and you can also find them on Twitter and Facebook. To get in touch directly, call them at 404-589-4929.

Decision Vision Podcast Episode 65 | Should I Have a Supplier Diversity Program? | Stacey Key | Brady Ware

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Transcript: Should I Have a Supplier Diversity Program? – Episode 65

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Intro:
Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions. Brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional full-service accounting and advisory that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make vision a reality.

Mike Blake:
And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owner’s or executive’s perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.

Mike Blake:
My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a Director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia, which is where we’re recording today. And as of March 13th, when we were recording this, we are not yet under quarantine. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast. The beauty of being a podcast. I guess you probably could do it under quarantine. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator. And please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.

Mike Blake:
So, today, we’re going to talk about implementing a supplier diversity program. And I think most people who are listening to this podcast have heard that term before but may not know exactly what it is. I think they don’t know exactly what the benefits are in providing one, and then how you actually go about doing it. It is not necessarily as simple as saying, “Hey, I want to give people of color a chance to supply stuff for my business.” And I think it’s a little more complicated than that.

Mike Blake:
And also, in order to make it a sustainable exercise, it needs to go beyond a purely socially motivated activity. At least, I think that’s the case. We will find out. I am not an expert on this. And as we do on our program, I invited somebody who is an expert on this. And joining us today is Stacey Key, who is President and CEO of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council. Stacey has more than 20 years of corporate experience in sales, marketing, operations and customer services at global brands like IBM, AT&T, Schlump Berger, and Samsung Telecommunications.

Mike Blake:
Her educational accomplishments include a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from Western Kentucky University, her MBA from Kennesaw State University and the Regional Leadership Institute in 2018. Stacey sits on the boards of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Midtown Alliance, and as a graduate of the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2014, the best class ever, where she is my classmate.

Mike Blake:
In 2018 and ’19, Stacey was named to the list of 100 Influential Women to Know by Engineering Georgia Magazine, was named to the Atlanta Business League’s 100 Top Women of Influence, and received the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce as APICS’ Small Business Champion Award. She has many more awards. Her trophy case looks like Michael Jordan’s. But we don’t have time to go through all that because we have a topic to discuss. Stacey, thank you so much for coming on the program.

Stacey Key:
Michael, thank you so much for having me. Wow. Listening to myself. I don’t really know that person.

Mike Blake:
So, you’re head of the Georgian Minority Supplier Development Council.

Stacey Key:
GMSDC, it’s actually called.

Mike Blake:
Okay, GMSDC. And it’s Georgia’s leading small business development supplier diversity organization. it’s been around a long time, hasn’t it?

Stacey Key:
Actually, thank you for that lead-in. We’re celebrating 45 years this year. And it’s been a journey, I will tell you. And a little bit about it, if I have the liberty, a little bit about our history.

Mike Blake:
Please, please.

Stacey Key:
… and our pedigree, 45 years ago, if you can imagine, corporation, the Coca-Cola Company and some other major corporations, WesTrac, which was then MeadWestvaco, Cox was involved, Delta involved, AT&T, Southern Company, Georgia Power, these companies came together and decided that they wanted to open up their supply chain and be more inclusive. And so, they led the charge to form this non-profit organization to help them in doing that. Again, there were other major corporations at the table at the time, but they saw the long-term vision and value and, actually, return on investment to their shareholders of expanding their supply chain to include others that can bring innovative solutions and products to the table.

Mike Blake:
And you have quite a bit of corporations that are engaged with you right now, isn’t it? What’s the number?

Stacey Key:
We have over 400 corporations. And all the ones you know and love here, of course.

Mike Blake:
Yeah.

Stacey Key:
You’re a Southern Company, Georgia Power, UPS, the Coca-Cola Company, Home Depot, Cox obviously, Delta Airlines, everybody, NCR, AT&T. All those you know and love are engaged, and involved, and have a commitment, again, to drive shareholder value by opening up that supply chain to include others.

Mike Blake:
And roughly how many minority business suppliers are there that are kind of under your tender caring stewardship?

Stacey Key:
I love that tender caring stewardship. We have over 700 minority businesses throughout the great State of Georgia that are involved and certified through us. And let me take a minute to tell you a little bit more about GMSDC. And so, corporations formed us. And so, are our customer is primarily corporate America. The minority businesses are the constituents that we serve on behalf of corporate America. And so, the process is that we certify minority businesses. We certify that you are who you are, a minority business, that you own, manage and control 51% of that business. And we’ve heard some of those horror stories of companies that are not quite that, but I’m in the business of making sure that the suppliers I bring to the table for the Coca Cola’s, and the UPSs, and the Coxes that they are who they say they are, and I’m in the business of protecting them and their supply chain.

Mike Blake:
So, let’s go ahead and jump in to that then because I think that’s that’s very important. There’s, obviously, an incentive to become identified as a diversity supplier. Is that the right term of ours, diversity supplier?

Stacey Key:
Diverse supplier. And that includes, it could be women. That can be minority-owned. It could be veterans or not diverse, but veterans are part of that. LGBTQ a part of that.

Mike Blake:
Oh, they are.

Stacey Key:
They are part of that.

Mike Blake:
Okay, I did not know that. Okay.

Stacey Key:
Yeah. And there are organizations that certify the women, LGBTQ, those other organizations that are there, and they’re part of the family that they certify those other groups.

Mike Blake:
And is that a certification a definition that is determined at the state level or the federal level?

Stacey Key:
Neither.

Mike Blake:
Okay.

Stacey Key:
GMSDC is a private sector certification.

Mike Blake:
Oh, okay.

Stacey Key:
So, corporations look to that. If you’re doing business with the State of Georgia, they use a certification that is done by either GDOT or MARTA. I sit on the GDDOT board and, actually, head of the Equal Access Committee in the State of Georgia. If you’re going to do business with the City of Atlanta, they have their own, but they all are asking for the same thing. They call them different things. DBEs, if you’re looking to do business on a federal level, it’s got Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. That’s not based on ethnicity. That’s based on size and income of the business.

Mike Blake:
So, definitely a lot of ground kind of being covered here. I’m going to take a little bit of a different tack than I originally thought because our conversation is taking a different tack and it’s fine. Some of my listeners, some of our listeners may be thinking about becoming identified and certified as a supplier in this regard. And I know I have clients that, perhaps, would be eligible, and they decide not to for whatever reason. I think some of them say, “Well, I don’t need an advantage.” Others say, “I don’t want the government involved.” And, now, they just learned this is not a government exercise. It’s actually a private exercise.

Stacey Key:
There is no government involved. It’s private enterprise.

Mike Blake:
And others worry that it’s a bunch of hoops that you have to go through, and is it really kind of worth it for the opportunity? So, before we dive into the main questions I want to talk about, could you kind of make the pitch for somebody listening that if they’re eligible as a female-owned businesses, African-American, LGBTQ, whatever the classification may be, make the case that it’s worth it?

Stacey Key:
So, let me tell you this, not every business should be certified. For those that should be, let me tell you, where else can you go for an introduction to someone at Coca-Cola, UPS, Delta Airlines to sell your product or service? Where else can you go to get in front of them, someone brings you to the door, opens it up, and sits you down in front of them. There’s no way that a small, diverse business would have the access and/or the connections to be exposed to the vast array of corporations that are a part of our organization. And that’s why they come to the door. And everyone comes with the idea of Coca-Cola, Home Depot, all of those. But also, a side benefit is you may be able to market your product and services to 700 other small businesses that are part of the family. Your services, you’re in a CPA accounting kind of-

Mike Blake:
Correct.

Stacey Key:
Every single small business needs one. Why can’t it be you? And so, we open doors to other small businesses. We open the door to corporate America. And if you feel you have the gravitas to be able to do that on your own, then maybe it’s not for you. But for the majority of the small businesses, they do not have access to that door and GMSDC opens that door.

Mike Blake:
So, the impression I have, and this is purely an impression. I’m embarrassed I do not have data to back this up. I should look this up today.

Stacey Key:
You have, yeah.

Mike Blake:
But I think my impression is that companies that are looking for diverse suppliers frequently can’t find enough to fit the bill. There’s kind of a shortage. Is that an accurate picture in a lot of cases?

Stacey Key:
In many sectors and industries, that is absolutely correct. And that’s my job of helping them do just that. And so, corporations don’t have the time or the resource to go in and find diverse suppliers. Hence, that’s why maybe they become members of GMSDC because my job is to work on their behalf to do exactly that.

Mike Blake:
So, I didn’t know this. It’s worth underscoring, is that not only are you certifying, not only are you advocating, but you’re actually walking people in the door to the decision maker, the people that have the potential to sign multi-million dollar contracts.

Stacey Key:
We are connecting them to the supply chain to do business. We are looking for companies that are corporate-ready to go to the table with appropriate products and services. So, part of the things that we also do with our suppliers is make sure you are corporate-ready because I may have the vision that I’m ready, but can I afford to wait 120 days for my invoice? I’ve got a full cash. Do I have a product or service that corporate America is looking for? If I’m selling widgets, are they looking for more widgets? That’s the part of the discussion we have as part of the developing because we certify, develop and connect them to corporate supply chains.

Mike Blake:
So, you then also serve a vetting role?

Stacey Key:
Absolutely.

Mike Blake:
But it also sounds like if somebody is not ready for primetime, you don’t just sort of leave them there. You have a process and a program in place to help them get ready for primetime.

Stacey Key:
Absolutely, corporate-ready. We have developmental programs. In fact, about 10 years ago, we took over the State of Georgia’s Mentor Protege Program. And that’s a program that partners a small business, not a minority business necessarily, but a small business with a major corporation for growth, and development, and for long-term sustainable growth. So, think about if you were a company, and you’re partnered with UPS for a year. UPS is bringing the vast resources of their company to the table to help you grow. Where else is that happening?

Mike Blake:
Nowhere.

Stacey Key:
Exactly.

Mike Blake:
Certainly not my round. Look, I’m a white guy. Nobody’s given me an outside complaint. That’s just a reality. But it sounds great.

Stacey Key:
And we have white guys in that program. Again, it’s about small business. It’s not about ethnicity. It’s not about income. Well, income, yes. We’re looking for companies that are part of the mid protegé that are, at least, a million dollars but not not over $30 dollars. And so, that’s a sweet spot for us to help grow them to the next level.

Mike Blake:
So, why does Coca-Cola, why does Delta or Cox care? Why do they feel like a special effort is required, necessary, desirable to diversify their supplier base?

Stacey Key:
Because it brings shareholder value. Do you actually think people would do this just because? No. Because they clearly understand that using diverse suppliers with innovative products and services that they don’t currently have access to today brings shareholder value. It drops to the bottom line. That’s why they care.

Mike Blake:
And can that translate to a smaller business too? We’ve talked about sort of brand names, right? And although I think it’d be great if Home Depot and Delta are listening to this podcast. I think most of my listeners are a little smaller than that.

Stacey Key:
But you know what? I’m gonna send this to them, so they have an opportunity to hear this podcast.

Mike Blake:
Well, great. Well, Delta, Home Depot, Cox, welcome aboard. We’re glad to have you. Glad to have you. So, you’re walking me up to them?

Stacey Key:
That is exactly correct.

Mike Blake:
There’s no off switch, is there?

Stacey Key:
Yes.

Mike Blake:
But let’s take kind of a smaller business now, right? Does this scale downward? Can a smaller business benefit? Are some of the corporate partners with whom you work, are they smaller businesses?

Stacey Key:
Well, there’s a concept we call like tier two. And so, for example, if I’m a a major corporation, and I have a relationship with the Coca-Cola Company. And so, Coca-Cola has a process in place, and most do that, says, “Stacey Kay Inc., and I’m doing business with Coke. Coke also wants me to do business with other small suppliers as well, feeding that supply chain.” And so, there is an opportunity. I may not be able to be big enough to actually do business with Coca-Cola but I can do business with the prime that is doing business with Coca-Cola. So, downstream, I’m engaging other smaller suppliers that are not quite as big to do business with me, but they can do business with my prime suppliers.

Mike Blake:
Like in the auto industry-

Stacey Key:
Correct.

Mike Blake:
… they have tier one, tier two-

Stacey Key:
Exactly.

Mike Blake:
… all that stuff.

Stacey Key:
That’s exactly correct. There a prime industry that’s done an outstanding job of feeding that complete supply chain of small businesses and giving them opportunities. And then, ultimately, I grow up, and maybe I can be a prime. Not necessarily but that potential exist.

Mike Blake:
So, you said a diverse supplier base drives shareholder value. And I think I’ve seen-

Stacey Key:
And innovation.

Mike Blake:
Okay. I want to drill into that because I think I’ve seen the high level case but, candidly, that is not something I’ve studied in great depth. What are the levers where having a diverse supplier base translates into that higher shareholder value?

Stacey Key:
And so, as I open up the supply chain, cost because supply chain is about driving cost out of the business, which is value. And so, I may have a select group that I currently do business with that I have not opened up. By opening it up, I have the potential [1], to lower my cost.

Mike Blake:
Through competition, if nothing else.

Stacey Key:
Absolutely. Bringing in a new product that provides value to my customer that may allow me to raise my pricing because I’m adding additional value. So, I’ve got top line revenue there. They may have an innovative thing that gives me a competitive advantage that sets me apart from my competition. So, now, I own market share. Again, driving value.

Mike Blake:
So, is another part of this, also, just simple visibility? For example, as you know, I’m involved in the tech community.

Stacey Key:
Yes.

Mike Blake:
I go to a tech meeting. Pretty much there, everybody looks like me or my wife. All right?

Stacey Key:
Okay. And we need to talk about how, ’cause we have a technology industry group, how we help you change that.

Mike Blake:
Yes, absolutely. And there are others in our class that are interested in that, as you know, and are trying to do what they can as well. But I’m clueless. But the point is, is that the normal places where if I were looking for a supplier of some technology solution within a diversity-driven community, the normal places I look, I’m just not seeing them, right? And I don’t think that it’s a function that people of color, that people who are of a different orientation or whatever are unwelcome. I think just the outreach has not been there. There’s a lack of awareness.

Stacey Key:
I think you’re going to see, there’s a more of a technology focus because technology is the foundation for many things. For example, we’ve got a technology industry group. And then, we also have transportation and logistics. We also have focused on retail or the movie industry. And a lot of that’s focused around technology. And so, our technology industry group is going to be the kind of the peach tree, with that peach, the color peach, one little thing when you’re doing experiments, but our technology group is kind of the-

Mike Blake:
The peach pep.

Stacey Key:
It’s going to be the catalyst.

Mike Blake:
The petri dish.

Stacey Key:
Petri dish.

Mike Blake:
That’s it, yeah.

Stacey Key:
Petri dish. But art technology group is going to be the foundation for all of our industry groups because it’s at the core of what you do. So, if there’s something innovative that the technology group can do to help the transportation and logistics industry group. Is there something that the manufacturing group can help with? That’s the key for us. And so, I think, there’s more technology out there that’s being developed by people of color. I think getting them access to and exposed to that broader ecosystem is key. I know there’s Rodney Sampson, who he’s out there, he’s working hard around this technology.

Mike Blake:
Boy, is he ever?

Stacey Key:
Yeah, he’s working hard. And there’s recently online, the Russell Innovation Center that’s coming online that’s got to focus around technology.

Mike Blake:
I was just there two weeks ago.

Stacey Key:
So, you see it coming and more and more. You’re going to see more of that. And today, I’ve got some phenomenal suppliers that have some great technology today that they’re working on and doing things with corporate America, but there’s more to come.

Mike Blake:
So, I think there’s a pretty compelling case that a diverse supplier base is a good thing to do.

Stacey Key:
Absolutely.

Mike Blake:
And this can scale down. You touched upon this, but I want to make sure. If I, myself, am the owner of, say, a $20 million business, I can still benefit from this, right?

Stacey Key:
Let me tell you, we have companies that are billion-dollar enterprises. Absolutely. Again, for the mid protegé, we do want $1 to $30 million. Yeah. And so, yes, if you’re $20 million, any business that’s interested in growing. If you’re not interested in growth, then maybe not. But if you’re interested in growing that business, I would look at all my options around the business plan to diversify my options.

Mike Blake:
So, I’m listening to this now, this program now, and I realize that I would benefit from having a more diverse supplier base.

Stacey Key:
And maybe you even need to partner with a diverse supplier. That’s even opens up a whole another avenue.

Mike Blake:
Well, let’s talk about that because I would like to get into the nuts and bolts of this, right? Right now, I realize I’ve got a supplier base that is not very diverse. I need to change it. First two or three steps to implement are what?

Stacey Key:
Well, first of all, if you are a corporation or entity, you want to develop a policy, something that the whole organization can rally around and be a part of, something that truly reflects the culture of the organization and what you intend to do. So, first of all, it’s establishing a policy, “Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re going to open up our supply chain. We’re going to use diverse suppliers. I need everybody on board. That’s my policy.”

Stacey Key:
Then, you start developing processes around and execute on that. How a supplier is going to know that I’m now excited about this? How do I communicate that to everybody? How do I find diverse suppliers? What areas of my business am I going to have opportunities for suppliers? All of that’s the background. And that’s where a GMSDC organization, we help corporations come to us every single day due to do just that.

Mike Blake:
So, a charged word that is associated with diversely suppliers and, frankly, anything where diversity is engaged in business is the word quota, right? And quota is a very charged word. You particularly see it in diversity, hiring, affirmative action. I’m not going to open that Pandora’s box here.

Stacey Key:
Let’s open that door. Let’s open the door because when you-

Mike Blake:
Take it down.

Stacey Key:
Yeah, yeah. When we’re dealing with corporate America and the private sector, there are no quotas. There’s no set-asides. That’s more government-related.

Mike Blake:
Really?

Stacey Key:
So, you have to compete for the business.

Mike Blake:
Okay.

Stacey Key:
And so, when a diverse supplier wins, it’s because they’re the best of the best. The pricing and the product and service, all of that meets the corporation standards. They’re not lowering standards to do business with diverse suppliers. Their suppliers are coming up to the corporate standard.

Mike Blake:
So, okay. So, I’m delighted you’ve kicked down that door because I thought I knew the answer to that question. I don’t. So, if you don’t kind of know this world, I think you’re thinking, “Oh, gosh, if I put in this program, then we’re going to have a quota. And meeting that quota leaves all kinds of awkward distortions.”

Stacey Key:
It does not.

Mike Blake:
But you’re saying quotas is not part of it. Quota is not best practices.

Stacey Key:
There are no quotas in corporate America in doing business. Now, government sectors and federal government may have the 8A Program, which is a set-aside specifically. They may have designated and organizations may have designated, but in corporate, that just does not exist. They are interested in doing business with the best and brightest to derive shareholder value to their corporations. There is no favoritism here.

Mike Blake:
Okay. So, how do you ensure that setting up a program like this has impact beyond PR and marketing that has a real substantive impact that digs itself into the supply chain?

Stacey Key:
And we call it having teeth to the program.

Mike Blake:
Having teeth, I love it.

Stacey Key:
Well, you set some measurements. You set some goals. And so, when you’ve got your C-suite involved and engaged in this process, and so the whole company, it’s part of their culture, it’s part of their DNA, and you tie it to performance. “Oh, my. I measured on that now.” What gets measured gets done. And so, now, I’m integrating it in the culture of the organization. And so, it’s beyond just PR because people are compensated based on it, people are measured based on it, and there’s requirements for how does this impact our bottom line? So, when you have those kind of measurements involved in the process, people rally around it or are part of that.

Mike Blake:
So, some companies go so far … Actually, I’m going to ask that question later because there’s another final question I want to ask. When you do measure the integration of a diversity supplier program or supplier diversity program, what do you think are the most important metrics? What KPI would I be looking for?

Stacey Key:
And so, some of the metrics that are there today. For example, last year, I believe our number was about $7 billion was spent on diverse suppliers in this state last year.

Mike Blake:
That’s a big number.

Stacey Key:
It’s a huge number, $7 billion. So, spend. How much are you spending? How many diverse suppliers that are a part of your supply chain? What strategic areas are you using them as part of the supply chain? What are you doing to help develop them and grow them as part of your supply chain? Some of the measurements that are there today to help and guide this journey.

Mike Blake:
So, I believe that some of, at least, larger companies will actually have a person who is in charge of-

Stacey Key:
Supplier diversity?

Mike Blake:
… supplier diversity.

Stacey Key:
Yes, and that-

Mike Blake:
Chief diversity. Your chief supplier diversity officer, in fact.

Stacey Key:
They have a resource committed to this process. That’s absolutely required. Some have one, some have two, some have five, some have six. Whatever that number, I’ve committed resources because it’s important to my business.

Mike Blake:
And do you need to commit that resource because it’s just so time consuming and the expertise is so specialized that you can’t sort of make that a side gig, you’ve got to really kind of commit yourself to it?

Stacey Key:
My personal opinion is that it should not be a side gig. However, there are people that have that role of supplier diversity, and they may have sourcing, which is they’re a buyer as well. So, depending on the organization and the timing of when they develop their program depends on the resources and the commitment.

Mike Blake:
So, I have to imagine all programs like these are not alike, right?

Stacey Key:
Yeah.

Mike Blake:
What Delta needs and what Home Depot needs, they’re different.

Stacey Key:
That is correct. The programs are different. And as they should be, the needs of their businesses are unique and should be different, yes. But they have some common things across all businesses in terms of their focus and and some of the measurements, but the execution could be different based on that individual business.

Mike Blake:
So, this may not be a fair question, but I’m in the business of asking unfair questions.

Stacey Key:
Okay, okay, that’s fine.

Mike Blake:
Can you describe common threads that run through most diversity supplier programs? Talk about measurement. That’s one.

Stacey Key:
Okay. That’s the-

Mike Blake:
What are some other threads?

Stacey Key:
All of them have a resource, even if it’s a shared resource. Most of them are measuring spend, how much they’re actually spending. Most of them are looking at the quantitative or qualitative parts of it in terms of helping suppliers grow. For the most part, they care that they grow them and have a long-term relationship. And all of this is relationship-based. And so, typically, I do business with people I know, like and trust. And so, that’s a common thread that you’re going to see among most of them as well. But those are some of the basic things that you will see across the board. The measurements, I’ve got a resource, how many I’m doing business with, the spend, how much I’m spending with them, helping them develop, and grow, and understand my organization, so that they can truly be a partner as opposed to a vendor.

Mike Blake:
So, I am going to go back a little bit in our interview here because I think it’s now relevant here, which is talking about a mission statement. And I’m actually a big fan of mission statements because I’m a big Simon Sinek fan. And it borders on the man crush.

Stacey Key:
Okay. Oh, wow, man crush!

Mike Blake:
It borders on the stalker kind of level, okay?

Stacey Key:
Okay.

Mike Blake:
So, Simon, I love you! Come on our podcast. But he’s, obviously, big on missions if you’re familiar with his work at all, right? And so, I’m curious, as I’m formulating a mission to address this kind of activity, supplier diversity, are there sort of best practices for the elements of what that mission ought to contain?

Stacey Key:
Well, again, you have to customize that mission to the culture of the organization. So, you can’t have a cookie cutter. What works for Southern Company and Georgia Power may not work for Delta. So, you’ve got to customize it based on the organization and the commitment. But again, the bottom line, as part of that mission statement, it is to say we are committed to utilizing, and growing, and incorporating diverse suppliers in our supply chain to create shareholder value and create jobs in this great state, because that’s what that does. And so, some semblance of that and how they craft it based on their culture and their unique organizational traits is up to them.

Mike Blake:
So, how do you go about – not you personally, but a firm that’s sort of in the reach of our voice today. How do they start to go about recruiting candidates to become diverse suppliers? Obviously, they can work through you, but even you can’t handle every potential request coming in.

Stacey Key:
Oh, but we can. Small but mighty.

Mike Blake:
Okay.

Stacey Key:
Small but mighty. Yes, we can. But no, if an organization is looking to do outreach to identify diverse suppliers, you’ve got to establish some communication channels. Again, GMSDC, because corporations don’t have a time and resources, “GMSDC, I need your help. I need to find suppliers that can sing, dance and jump through a hoop, and then bend over backwards at the same time.” That’s what I go find. I go to my network, I go to my small business partner networks, and I identify those suppliers, and vet them, and bring them back. Now, they can put out communications using all kinds of of tools. They can use their individual corporate websites. They can send a blast-out. They can do all that work, or they can rely on organizations. That’s our core competency. That’s what we do every day and leverage us to do that.

Mike Blake:
Can you work with out-of-state clients?

Stacey Key:
Well, I am part of a network, a nationwide network across the country of councils. You’ve got the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council. You’ve got the Michigan Supplier. So, part of a network. My corporations are not all in Georgia. For example, Accenture has a large presence here, but they’re headquartered in Chicago. And Accenture is one of our key partners. Johnson & Johnson, they’re headquartered up on the East Coast. But Procter & Gamble, they may have some distribution channels here, but they’re in Ohio. And so, we work with corporations all over the country that are interested in having suppliers in this state. But again, I have counterparts across the country that can service them if they’ve got other interests in other states throughout the country.

Mike Blake:
So, that’s a benefit. You’re not a government organization. So, although your name-

Stacey Key:
That’s right.

Mike Blake:
… says Georgia, that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily beholden to our state.

Stacey Key:
It says Georgia because I certify, develop and connect minority businesses in this state. I work across the country with all of the Fortune 1000 corporations that are interested in doing business in this state.

Mike Blake:
So, do companies alongside working with you, do they have their own parallel programs to help identify suppliers? Are we-

Stacey Key:
Absolutely.

Mike Blake:
What are some of the things that they do?

Stacey Key:
Yeah. Again, for example, we get requests all the time but, again, it just happened this week, Hartsfield Jackson Airport just held their annual outreach. We partner with them or we’ll work with them because they’re a member of GMSDC, but they do all the lifting and they do all the work. So, they do the outreach to the whole community and say, “Hey, we’re having an annual conference. We love you to be a part of it,” and they do the outreach and invite suppliers, and working through their prime suppliers as well.

Mike Blake:
Okay. So, in effect, they have kind of their own captive trade fair out there.

Stacey Key:
They have, yes. They have their own database of people that they’ve done business with that want to do business and they do outreach to those organizations as well.

Mike Blake:
Okay.So, I love to learn a little bit more and let you share more about what your process is for vetting potential suppliers because that seems to me to be a huge amount of value that you bring knowing that it’s got your seal of approval, that it’s okay, right?

Stacey Key:
So, that seal is cuts being a certified minority business. And anybody who is an ethnic minority can be certified through us. Again, there are other sister organizations if you’re going to get women, or LGBT, or even veteran. And then, SBA has a self-certify for small business. So, you can go to any one of those organizations, but there’s a process. We’re going to ask for operating agreement. We’re going to look for bank statement, bank signature cards. We’re going to make sure you all manage and control your operating agreement for that entity. We’re asking for a lot of information to make sure we’re protecting corporate America and that you are who you say you are for doing business.

Mike Blake:
So, you’re putting on the rubber glove.

Stacey Key:
That’s exactly right, and all the way up, and we’re using them.

Mike Blake:
Okay. How long does that process take?

Stacey Key:
It could take anywhere from 30 to 60 days.

Mike Blake:
Okay, not long.

Stacey Key:
Yeah. Again, assuming you bring all the stuff in, it’s electronic, you upload all the information, and we take it from there.

Mike Blake:
And like so many things like that, the more organized your information is, the easier your job is.

Stacey Key:
Yes. We have a checklist on our website. You go through the checklist. We do a pre-certification webinar. You can sit in the comforts of your home and listen, and we go through the whole application, and we could take you through the whole process.

Mike Blake:
So, what are some mistakes that are made that are sort of cautionary tales from folks that have tried to put in programs like this and they have not been successful? What are some what are some crashes along the side of the road we can look by and say, “We shouldn’t do that”?

Stacey Key:
I don’t know if this crashes along the road, but if you don’t have the commitment from your C-suite, And you’ve not got the commitment from the organization, it’s tough to execute. You’ve got to have buy-in. Everybody’s got to be all in. Otherwise, you’re swimming up the stream the whole time and it’s harder. But when you’re C suite comes out or your CEO says, “We’re gonna do this, I need all hands on deck,” everybody lands up to support the effort. When you tie it to compensation, guess what? Everybody’s focused.

Mike Blake:
Sure does.

Stacey Key:
Laser-focused and intentional about the actions they take. So, it’s getting the entire organization is probably the number one thing. Supply chain can’t do it by themselves. They’ve got to have their end user groups involved as part of this process.

Mike Blake:
Now, will your office also not just bring people to the table but can you also help a company formulate those policies, procedures-

Stacey Key:
It can.

Mike Blake:
… or maybe even help them make the internal argument to the C suite-

Stacey Key:
We do that all the time. We’ve got some best practices that we share that help. Companies come and say, “We’re new. We’re starting. We’re gonna start down this journey, but we’re gonna need your help.” We may partner them with another major corporation, like AT&T, as a buddy, because AT&T is big, bad and audacious. They spend well over $2 billion with diverse suppliers. And so, we can do that as part of our network and part of being a part of our family.

Mike Blake:
So, you answered the question that I thought might be unfair, but if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last half an hour, I don’t think you have an unfair question. So, sounds like AT&T is a great example of somebody who’s doing this very well.

Stacey Key:
AT&T is a perfect example of some and there’s others. They’re not alone who’s doing it well. As I said, the Coca-Cola Company, UPS, Cox, Southern Company, Georgia Power, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, we’ve got some great partners that are doing some phenomenal things. Accenture does some phenomenal, phenomenal things. You’ve got SunTrust. You’ve got Bank of America … no, I’m sorry, SunTrust, now Truist.

Mike Blake:
I still struggle with that.

Stacey Key:
Yeah, the SunTrust, now Truist.

Mike Blake:
I know you have to correct yourself, and that’s appropriate. I have to admit, when I hear it, I still feel like I’m biting into aluminum foil. I’m still struggling with it.

Stacey Key:
I’ve got SunTrust, now Truist. Wells Fargo. So, you’ve got some great companies here in Georgia that are truly committed and laser-focused. E&Y comes to mind. E&Y is incredible. They do a phenomenal job. Their Entrepreneur of the Year program that is the best conference I’ve been in in my career. They’ve got some good stuff.

Mike Blake:
It’s well known, but I did not know that there is a diversity supplier element to that.

Stacey Key:
It’s an entrepreneur segment to it that has not just diverse suppliers but it has entrepreneurs. Their conference, the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year, outstanding. It’s the best conference I’ve been in. It’s incredible.

Mike Blake:
I’m, again, going to go off script because it’s so fascinating to me and I’m kind of thinking through in real time, how can I kind of implement some of this? So, my firm is 65 years old.

Stacey Key:
Wow!

Mike Blake:
We’re based in Ohio. And to be perfectly candid, we do not have enough diversity in our company. I don’t think that it’s a specific thing. In fact, I’m confident it’s not. I would not be a shareholder if I thought that were the case. But I think that firms like us don’t know how to diversify our supplier base or by extension, a lot of our inputs are people.

Stacey Key:
That’s right.

Mike Blake:
Getting more people of color, getting more people that are diverse into our industry, and then getting them into our firm. Is that the kind of thing you help in E&Y with because they’re just a big competitor to us. I imagine they just face similar problems on a larger scale.

Stacey Key:
I am going to tell you, E&Y has been at this for a very, very long time. And their CEO is all in globally. They’re not doing it just here. This is globally for them. But for a company of your size, you’ve got history of 65 years, there’s an opportunity for you to form some strategic alliance and partnerships because you may have a core competency and skill that other firms don’t have that you can bring to the table. And so, in working with another diverse business or businesses, depending on the key pieces of elements of your business, that could make sense for you. So, it not only brings suppliers, it may be it brings up opportunity for corporations to grow your business by working with corporate America as well.

Mike Blake:
This is a major strategic decision for a company to do. I think it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which this is not a good thing for a company to explore, because why not take advantage of the opportunity? It seems to cost you so little to do it, right? It’s just-

Stacey Key:
Well, again, you’ve got to commit resource to do it. And so, it’s been shown, the return on investment here, it pays for itself tenfold. I mean, yeah.

Mike Blake:
How can people contact you to learn more about this? What’s the best way for someone to reach out to you? I mean, you’re kind of shy, I can tell.

Stacey Key:
Yeah, I know.

Mike Blake:
But maybe we can get them to get you to come out of your shell and talk to them.

Stacey Key:
So, you can always go to our website at www.gmsdc.org or you can call our office. Let me give you a number, 404-589-4929. And again, you can Google us, www.gmsdc.org, find out all about what we do, how we do it. We’re celebrating 45 years of doing just this. I’m telling you, we’re creating jobs. I think, last year, the number was about 55,000 jobs in the state from diverse suppliers. So, we’re part of this economic engine of the state that’s growing this thing. So, this train is moving and moving fast.

Mike Blake:
Well, that’s a great place to leave it. You want to be on a fast train. You want to be on it, not in front of it. So, if you are, give Stacey a call or give her staff a shout. That’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Stacey Key so much for joining us and sharing her expertise with us today. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week, so please tune in, so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us, so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision Podcast.

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