The number of minority- and women-owned business enterprises operating in the U. S. has grown dramatically during the past decade. A study commissioned by the Institute of Supply Management in 2001 said 3.25 million minority-owned businesses generated $495 billion in sales — that’s an estimated 61% of the country’s more than 5.3 million small companies. A considerable number of these companies offer viable and cost-effective business solutions that the cable industry has only begun to tap.
Large supplier companies used to dominate the landscape, keeping a tight hold on supply, pricing and service. Today’s business landscape is more varied, composed of a bevy of smaller and diverse business providers. These companies strengthen the communities where cable does business, offer competitive advantages to the cable industry, enhance large businesses by providing more personalized service and support and introduce and sustain pricing competition.
Cable operators such as Cox Communications have been successful in leading the charge on supplier diversity. As Sherryl Love, Cox’s VP of materials management, stated: "Before 2002 we lacked a corporate-led minority supplier initiative. Since the inception of our initiative, in four years we have gone from $30 million to more than $70 million in spending with minority suppliers. We established Diversity Champions in our 18 locations to focus on minority spending growth. Cox has also developed a strong second-tier program with our top 34 suppliers, and we plan to extend our program to our top 100 suppliers. Bottom line, we feel choosing the best suppliers from a broader pool will strengthen our company and communities."
By measuring and comparing results year over year, recruiting and training purchasing officers who are passionate about supplier diversity and encouraging other suppliers to implement effective supplier diversity programs themselves, Cox Communications has seen proof that a diverse supplier base works in its best interests.
For cable companies that have made a commitment to supplier diversity, the Walter Kaitz Foundation has been instrumental in facilitating access to diverse suppliers through its National Supplier Diversity Initiative. This initiative includes a series of workshops for industry procurement officers and executives of women- and minority-owned business suppliers who want to understand how to become a viable supplier to the cable industry. The workshops help member companies increase the breadth and depth of available vendors and provide the opportunity and marketplace for a greater selection of service providers. We will be hosting workshops this week in Las Vegas at The Cable Show on Monday and Tuesday. Register on site Monday, May 7, 10 a.m., in the foyer of the Mandalay Ballroom L.
Supplier diversity has become an economic issue directly related to the cable industry’s ability to compete and win in a global marketplace — it’s now our issue!
David Porter is executive director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation.