Developing Your Diverse Suppliers

It's More Than a Nice To-Do

Developing your diverse suppliers is more than a nice to-do — it’s a business imperative.

We all know that social responsibility can be expressed in terms of eco-friendliness — doing the right things, and doing things right (we also call this “effectiveness and efficiency”) — especially when it comes to saving the earth. But we often overlook the fact that developing our diverse suppliers is an important aspect of our social responsibility as well. And it’s about more than just sponsoring a diversity and inclusion conference, meeting, or lunch.

A real focus on supplier diversity means taking the time to make an impactful difference in your diverse suppliers’ growth and scale. This can have lasting implications for your university, as well as other universities and corporations across industry lines. In addition, the effect you have on the supplier you develop is priceless.

Paying it Forward

We’ve all heard that old cliché: what goes around, comes around. When diverse suppliers developed by other universities end up benefiting you by adopting quality standards, best practices, and implementing lessons learned, they pay it forward to you by being competitive, qualified, and capable of delivering the excellence you are looking for. You can call this karma, or simply a return on your investment in doing your part to contribute to the overall impact our diverse suppliers make when we invest in them.

How many times have you asked a diverse supplier: “Have you done business with any other colleges or universities?” We ask this because the decision other universities make when contracting for similar services matters to us. Oftentimes, because the supplier has the experience of working with another university, we believe they can and will deliver for ours.

Why Develop Your Diverse Suppliers?

  • So they can be the level of supplier we need them to be, which leads to more inclusion and diversity in contract awards.
  • So they can grow, scale, and get experiences outside of our institution and bring those experiences back to serve us with their newfound expertise.
  • Because it’s part of our social responsibility, which includes valuing our community of current suppliers and those we have identified as interested in doing business with us.
  • To motivate suppliers to improve their services and increase their competitiveness among other suppliers. Many times the diver supplier actually ends up being the benchmark!

How Will This Benefit Universities?

  • Developmental programs and strategies are an efficient approach to getting more from your diverse supplier.
  • Reduced costs due to competition and an increase in your supply chain diversity.
  • By creating increased efficiencies in products and services.
  • By experiencing demonstrative continuous improvement and quality control.
  • By fulfilling the desire to make lasting contributions to the communities we serve and are a part of.
  • Many times, we discover effective cost-saving ideas and practices that stem from a diversity of thought and approach to our needs as a university. Had we not engaged with the diverse supplier, we would never have known and possibly would have passed up a golden opportunity and a mutually-beneficial relationship.

What Does Developing Your Suppliers Look Like?

  • Benchmarking: Helping your diverse suppliers understand the gap that may exist with leading providers of the same product or service and helping them explore ways to bridge that gap.
  • Role Playing (when coaching): Setting examples, and even case studies using real-world experience, to cause corrective action — after all, when we know better, we do better. Reviewing why a bid was not awarded to a diverse supplier is a great place to start.
  • Using and explaining industry-specific protocols to indicate the type of product delivery needed.
  • Ensuring these suppliers are focusing on continuous improvement and the use of technological advancements to achieve and maintain competitive advantage.
  • Providing education, mentoring, and coaching.

Deciding to focus on the overall success of your suppliers so that they can be more impactful for you is really an investment in your own institution!

What Does Kent State University Do to Develop Their Diverse Suppliers?

  • Annual Kent State University/Turner Construction School of Construction Workshop Series
  • IT Intensive
  • Mentoring
  • Interactive Supplier
  • Diversity Database
  • Advocating and Connecting

Self Reflection

  • What does your university do?
  • What would your university like to accomplish?
  • What is your approach to development of your diverse suppliers?
  • What is your opinion?
Portrait of Veronica Cook-Euell, M.A., M.B.A., M.Ed, Supplier Diversity Program Manager at Kent State University

About the Author

Veronica Cook-Euell, M.A., M.B.A., M.Ed is the Supplier Diversity Program Manager at Kent State University. She is responsible for developing strategies to increase minority business representation in securing contracts, driving supplier diversity initiatives, and serving as an advocate and a liaison for diverse suppliers. She can be reached at


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