Supplier diversity is a missing business strategy, argues Jamie Crump in her book ‘Backstage Pass’

Jamie Crump, President of the Richwell Group

While a lot of organizations today see supplier diversity as the role of procurement within the company, if there is a diversity goal, then each of the different players in an organization has a role. Supplier diversity is a much broader initiative that, like any good business strategy, takes a village. It isn't for show, and it should not solely be a “supply chain issue” either, says Jamie Crump, President of the Richwell Group, a consulting firm that focuses on strategic sourcing and supplier diversity.

In her new book, “Backstage Pass: Pulling the Curtain Back on the Business of Supplier Diversity,” Jamie says that a sound supplier diversity program is very much C-suite material and that elevating it to a business strategy improves your bottom line.

Last week in an ISM online interview, supply chain expert Joanna Martinez talked about the book with Jamie, who has over 25 years of experience in supply chain and supplier diversity.

Her book details how supplier diversity is often a missing business strategy today, treated as a program or community-driven initiative instead of a necessary means to becoming profitable, just like a marketing strategy.

"We now know what companies stand for and can make informed decisions about who we do business with,” Jamie says. “Customers want to see diversity and acceptance" in the companies with which they do business.

Driving force for diversity

But why is supplier diversity so important?

Jamie details three reasons:

  • Customers are becoming much more informed in terms of how companies drive their business and what the companies stand for. Customers have the ability to make informed choices and want to see diversity in the companies with which they do business.
  • A company’s workforce, or talent, also sees supplier diversity as important. Workers are demanding that companies run innovative and profitable businesses that use diversity to help get them there.
  • Business results also can hinge on supplier diversity. Jamie says research shows that the more diversity you have in the ranks of the company, all the way up to the C-suite, the more profitability the company can gain. Diversity is linked to profitability throughout the company, the book says.

With that in mind, how can companies achieve the supplier diversity that links to profitability?

Jamie details five primary characters that make up a good supplier diversity strategy — including a look at how each operates in their realm, where conflicts sometimes arise and how they can interact better for a more successful business strategy. Each character has a role in supplier diversity and what it does to the bottom line of the business. These five characters include:

  • The C-suite
  • Supplier Diversity Professional (SDP)
  • Supply Chain Professional (SCP)
  • Diverse Business Owner (DBO)
  • End Users

Jamie said her book is different from similar efforts because it takes a strictly business standpoint. It is almost a how-to manual for companies that want to do the right thing, she said.

Supplier diversity and today’s change

As we see with today’s social movements, every change has its critics — so what do you say to them?

Jamie notes that a lot of critics want to have a “belief” conversation, which often casts aside supplier diversity. For Jamie and her book, the politics is a side conversation to supplier diversity, which in the end is about better business results.

If you tie supplier diversity to sales and to the core of what the company does, it can help you retain clients and get new ones. It can help you attract talent and retain it. It will make you more profitable with a higher degree of innovation, and you can use it as a differentiator with clients.

For example, the book reports that for every percentage increase in racial or gender diversity up to the rate represented in the relevant population, the organization sees an increase in sales revenue of approximately 9% for racial diversity and 3% for gender diversity.

Companies with the highest levels of racial diversity report on average nearly 15 times more sales revenue than organizations with the lowest levels of racial diversity.

Post COVID-19, despite fear of cost cuts to recoup business losses, Jamie argues that launching your supplier diversity initiative is still timely. Not only due to the current spirit for improvement and reform, but also since, if done right, it not only improves your bottom line but also has a great message — from which the leaders, not laggards, will benefit.

With that in mind, what has Jamie seen that’s worked really well for someone contemplating a supplier diversity program?

In her last corporate gig, Jamie made her team responsible for both strategic sourcing and supplier diversity.

By changing their titles and roles to encompass both, the team would figure it out together instead of being at odds with one another. The representatives with the responsibility for both roles would have the accountability to achieve for both sides.

Jamie also spoke to the false ways in which companies undertake supplier diversity, such as passing along quotas to MSPs.

“Like everything else in life, there are going to be people out there who are disingenuous in terms of what they are trying to accomplish,” Jamie says.

Knowing that, she was asked — how do you find out what is real or true?

Jamie said you can look at what the company is really doing in terms of supplier diversity — if you do a search on supplier diversity on their website and nothing comes up or only a few really dated pieces appear, you know where supplier diversity really lies within that company. There are all kinds of ways to get around supplier diversity initiatives, but with the due diligence that the supply chain can bring to the table, companies can really get to the bottom of it.

In essence, now is truly the time to be looking at supplier diversity within your organization, she said. As everyone starts to re-evaluate their supply chains, if you have supplier diversity as a true business strategy, then you can set your organization up for success with that as a true differentiator, Jamie said.

You can order her book here, or reach her for more information at jamie@therichwellgroup.com.

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