We sat down with Lee Lewis, Global Supplier Diversity Manager at Enterprise Holdings to discuss the company’s commitment to supplier diversity, trends in this area, and how other organizations can successfully implement their own supplier diversity program.
At Enterprise, we have a set of eight Founding Values that drive our supplier diversity program. Among them are:
The goal of our program is to have our supplier base bear a reasonable resemblance to the communities in which we do business. We do this by identifying and encouraging equal opportunities for minority-owned, women-owned, disadvantaged, and other types of small businesses to work with Enterprise Holdings. In the process, we create relationships that enhance our ability to grow our business.
Enterprise was once a small business – in fact, our founder, Jack Taylor, started the company in the basement of a dealership with just seven cars. Today, we operate in 100 countries and maintain a fleet of more than two million cars. We are an example of what a small business can become.
Small, diverse-owned businesses tend to be on the cutting-edge of thought leadership, innovation, and fresh ideas. Their entrepreneurial spirit embodies a certain hunger to succeed, and studies have shown that partnering with diverse-owned businesses often results in cost savings.
“Enterprise was once a small business – in fact, our founder, Jack Taylor, started the company in the basement of a dealership with just seven cars. Today, we operate in 100 countries and maintain a fleet of more than two million cars. We are an example of what a small business can become.”
As Global Supplier Diversity Manager, my responsibility is to introduce stakeholders and decision makers to organizations with whom there is a potential to build a partnership. I do this as a member of our supply chain management team at our world headquarters, and by interacting with a network of purchasers throughout our global operations. Maintaining daily contact with these decision makers not only promotes the cause of a diverse supply chain, but also provides the opportunity to truly partner with them to find the best suppliers available to us.
Enterprise is a member of several national organizations that advocate for diverse-owned businesses, including the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), the Woman Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) the Airport Minority Advisory Council (AMAC), and the LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). These organizations are designed to promote the cause of their constituent businesses while providing tools and resources to contribute to their development. They organize meetings, conferences, educational workshops and matchmaking opportunities in an effort to build relationships between suppliers and corporations. Much of our outreach is conducted in partnership with these and similar organizations.
Attaining buy-in is all about establishing the value proposition and business case. It is important to show stakeholders how working with diverse suppliers contributes to their bottom lines. It is also critically important to show how these partnerships further the mission, methods, values, and goals of the company.
Some misconceptions I have seen include:
Each of these misconceptions are just that — we proudly partner with diverse suppliers who demonstrate their capabilities despite these preconceived notions.
“Each of these misconceptions are just that — we proudly partner with diverse suppliers who demonstrate their capabilities despite these preconceived notions.”
When taking over this role, the first challenge faced was in creating awareness and buy-in. We overcame this by creating a campaign of “awareness and care-ness,” which included the following:
One feature of our program is the Supplier Diversity Task Force, which is a working advisory board consisting of senior leadership who also happen to be stakeholders. These members represent a wide spectrum of internal departments. Not only do they bring their knowledge and expertise to our initiative, but they also act as ambassadors for it within their respective departments and among their executive-level colleagues.
One trend is that many organizations are going global with their programs and adapting them to the laws and cultures of the countries in which they operate. My responsibility is to help our international teams understand and act upon these concepts. In support of this, we maintain a key partnership with WEConnect International, an advocacy organization for woman business owners outside the United States.
Another is that Tier 2 programs are becoming more prevalent. This simply involves encouraging or requiring primary (Tier 1 or direct) suppliers to utilize diverse suppliers in their efforts to supply the company. Enterprise just developed a small Tier 2 program and will be expanding it going forward.
The Enterprise supplier diversity program currently acts similarly to a consultancy. While goals are established and performance is tracked and evaluated, the process involves referring potentially qualified suppliers and decision makers.
In the future, the process will involve supplier diversity becoming an integral part of supplier consideration for every product and service procured by the company. This will allow us to implement supplier development, evaluation and mentoring programs.
Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) will raise the standards of performance, resulting in better relationships and delivery of the most quality products and services.
Lee Lewis is Global Supplier Diversity Manager for Enterprise Holdings Inc, the industry leading global transportation solution, offering an award-winning business rental program, retail car sales, employee commuting, and fleet management.