Enhancing Supplier Diversity & Streamlining Procurement: Texas A&M’s Success with E&I’s Staples Contract

An Interview with Robby Bounds, Texas A&M University Executive Director of Procurement Services

In this blog post, we delve into how Texas A&M University (TAMU) took significant steps to enhance its supplier diversity initiatives and streamline procurement processes through E&I’s Staples contract. Robby Bounds, Texas A&M University Executive Director of Procurement Services explains why this contract was selected and how it aligns with TAMU’s goals, the advantages of working with diverse suppliers, and the impact this collaboration has had on the university’s operations and the broader Texas community.

Choosing E&I’s Staples Contract: TAMU’s Determining Factors

When considering E&I’s Staples contract, TAMU prioritized factors that align with its mission for supplier diversity and efficient procurement. TAMU is a longstanding member of E&I, and we’ve experienced the exceptional value their contracts provide. Our choice to utilize E&I’s Staples contract was guided by:

  • E&I’s proven RFP excellence: E&I’s meticulous solicitation, selection, and award process set industry standards, ensuring we get the best value.
  • Customer Service: The unparalleled customer service offered by Staples, combined with competitive pricing, made it an ideal choice.
  • Texas HUB Program Commitment: Staples’ commitment to the Texas HUB Program solidified our decision to enhance our e-procurement offerings.

The current contract was adopted and implemented into our e-procurement platform in or around 2016. Texas A&M University System members utilize Staples punchout capabilities through one of two HUB resellers – Summus and Tejas – depending on their geographic location.

TAMU’s Commitment to Supplier Diversity & the Texas HUB Program

A state of Texas-certified HUB is a business that is a for-profit entity that has its principal place of business in Texas and is at least 51 percent owned by an Asian Pacific American, Black American, Hispanic American, Native American, American woman and/or Service-Disabled Veteran, who resides in Texas and actively participates in the control, operations, and management of the entity’s affairs.

Texas A&M University is a strong advocate for the Texas Historically Underutilized Business (HUB) Program, providing economic opportunities previously unavailable to ethnic minorities, women, and service-disabled veterans and their businesses.

Our goal is to provide a good faith effort to solicit and increase purchases from HUB vendors to the greatest extent possible.

Why Diverse Suppliers Matter to TAMU 

Using diverse suppliers promotes economic opportunities and access to businesses that have often faced barriers and disadvantages in accessing government contracts and business opportunities.  By actively promoting the inclusion of HUB businesses, Texas A&M encourages a more diverse supplier base and fosters an environment that values and supports businesses from various backgrounds and perspectives.

The Texas HUB Program plays a crucial role in promoting economic equity, diversity, and inclusion by creating opportunities for historically underutilized businesses to thrive and contribute to the state’s economy. Buying from HUBs keeps state revenue in Texas and ultimately benefits Texans.  Most importantly, providing opportunity to the historically underutilized business community is the right thing to do! 

Unique Advantages of Partnering with Diverse Suppliers

We view our HUB vendors, especially the resellers, as our partners and an extension of the companies they represent. They allow us to leverage the competitive advantages of a large distributor, while maintaining the flexibility, adaptability, and expanded customer service experience of a smaller operation. Our resellers understand the individual needs of their customers and our departments can reach out to our resellers for assistance with sourcing, product questions, or billing inquiries. This approach has led to increased value, improved customer satisfaction, and mutual long-term business success for the distributor, reseller, and the University.

How Staples, Summus, and Tejas Helped TAMU Achieve its Supplier Diversity Goals

Staples was founded on the concept of the office supplies superstore to provide an incredible range of products to instantly meet the demands of business customers.  Summus and Tejas were built on the concept of expanding the distributor experience by bringing the superstore to the customer.  This synergy has elevated our customer satisfaction while meeting the intent and purpose of the University’s HUB goals. It should be noted however that Summus and Tejas were chosen as resellers because they are well-run, efficient, small businesses with exemplary leadership.  The fact that they are part of the

HUB community made them a perfect fit for this partnership.

The use of our HUB partners has increased our ethnic minority spend and elevated Texas A&M University and its sister institutions to higher rates of participation by these underrepresented groups.  This achievement does not go unnoticed by our legislators and constituents.  It proves that Texas A&M is serious about its commitment to a more inclusive business environment and contributing to a fair and equitable economy for all Texans.

Exceptional Support from Summus and Tejas

Tejas Office Products is the Staples reseller for Texas A&M University, while Summus Industries is the reseller of choice for many of our sister institutions based on their geographic location. Both vendors have a long history with Texas A&M University and offer incredible customer service, from product sourcing, guidance, and support, to tracking sales and financials.

Promotion & Outreach Efforts on Campus

We introduced this contract through a “soft” launch, including mailings through our campus mail service, as well as showcasing Tejas on our AggieBuy e-commerce marketplace.

When it comes to promoting a contract, one thing that gets lost in this day of automation is the personal touch. We encourage our small vendors to get their names out to the departments, whether by picking up the phone or by having their reps drop by on occasion. Small orders are the bread and butter of most distributor/reseller relationships and those are generally at the discretion of department staff.

Texas A&M University has a full-time HUB Program with a staff that does an amazing job of assisting historically disadvantaged businesses. Their outreach includes facilitating potential HUB vendors in obtaining certification, promoting economic opportunities, business matchmaking, and educating the university community about the importance of the Texas HUB Program.

Key Benefits of Using the E&I Staples Contract

This contract offers competitive pricing, an enormous product line, a streamlined procurement process, technical expertise – especially with integrating catalog into an e-procurement platform – compliance, and diversity spend. The list goes on. The unparalleled customer experience provided by our HUB resellers along with the product selection, efficient supply chain, and cost savings has proven to be a winning combination for our e-procurement system.

Best Practices for Working Successfully with Diverse Suppliers

  • Work with quality vendors that have a history of solid service to your institution.
  • If there will be a distributor/reseller relationship, ensure the distributor is comfortable with the potential reseller and vice versa.
  • Clearly communicate all expectations.
  • Taking extra time in the matchmaking process will result in a stronger, more resilient distribution partnership.

TAMU’s adoption of E&I’s Staples contract, in conjunction with HUB resellers Summus and Tejas, has helped the university support its supplier diversity goals, streamline procurement processes, and realize cost savings. By partnering with E&I and embracing diverse suppliers, TAMU has established a model for creating economic opportunities, fostering inclusivity, and contributing to a fair and equitable business environment.

Interested in enhancing supplier diversity on your campus and streamlining procurement like Texas A&M University? Check out E&I’s commitment to Supplier Diversity and contact us today to learn more about how the Cooperative’s Supplier Diversity contracts can benefit your institution.

About the Author

Founded in 1876 as the first public higher education institution in Texas, Texas A&M University (TAMU) is a public, land-grant research university serving nearly 75,000 students across multiple campuses and colleges. TAMU has been an engaged and active E&I member since 1953.


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