Utility provider connects diverse suppliers to key company decision makers.
A vendor outreach program that allows diverse businesses to market their capabilities directly to organizations and learn about potential procurement opportunities is essential to a successful diversity initiative. These outreach programs also provide organizations with the opportunity to identify competitive, qualified vendors.
California American Water has wholeheartedly adopted this philosophy as the company recently held its second annual Diverse Supplier Showcase at its San Diego headquarters.
The one-day event focused on connecting qualified, diverse suppliers to the company’s key decision makers and prime suppliers. The event drew 90 attendees who engaged in one-on-one meetings with California American representatives. Ed Simon, director of business performance and supplier diversity, said the company expanded its marketing communications for the event to attract a larger and more diverse group of attendees.
“Every year I seek to improve the attendee experience and engagement of women and minority-owned businesses,” Simon said. “I review which minority groups are in need of more engagement via our diversity spend and place an increased focus on extending invites to them.”
“We want to hire businesses that don’t normally have the opportunity to attend this kind of event,” said Mary Lou Ruiz, a buyer for California American. “As many of these businesses have small public profiles, they can often slip through the cracks of our outreach efforts. But, they’re legitimate businesses, and they deserve an opportunity to make others aware they exist.”
Simon’s goal for the event was not only to provide a showcase that benefits vendors but also produced tangible results by ensuring company officials are left with a list of vendors they could immediately partner with.
“We provide company participants with a binder with all of the vendor capability statements and their contact information,” Simon said. “So every participant walks away with a binder they can conveniently reference for their procurement needs.”
California American Water’s parent company is American Water, which is the largest most geographically diverse publically traded water utility in the U.S. This year, several American Water executives attended, including California American Water’s President Rich Svindland and American Water Chief Procurement Officer Josh King. A 10-year supply chain veteran, King called the event one of the better supplier showcases he’s attended in his career.
“By partnering with American Water for the event, California American was able to leverage the company to provide greater opportunities for the diverse businesses that attended,” King said “We had a very good mix of established diverse businesses who do business with American Water and businesses that want to do business with the company. We also had non-diverse, larger companies who potentially could use some of these suppliers as direct contractors, which benefits American Water.”
Partnering with California American is just one part of American Water’s commitment to supplier diversity, according to Larry Wooten, senior manager of Supplier Diversity for American Water,
“We are really focused on increasing opportunity for diverse businesses as an organization overall and have encouraged our subsidiaries to do events such as this one,” Wooten said. “It’s very important that you have opportunities to work with us if we’re going to be your water source. So, we want to be able to articulate that to the community, at large. We’re a company of inclusion. It’s important that we give back and support the communities in which we serve.”
Svindland said the company aims to work with vendors and suppliers that reflect the communities that it serves.
“We want local vendors to be a part of our communities,” Svindland said. “We want them to reflect the demographics of the areas we are serving.”
Members of California American’s Operations, Engineering, Supply Chain, and Project Management Services teams and other company management members were also in attendance. Company representatives for American Water in Illinois and from the Mid-Atlantic region also attended for suppliers who were looking to expand their business outside of California.
Suppliers were allowed two minutes to present their company’s capabilities. Company representatives were granted time for follow-up meetings after each presentation through the PollEv application. BeNeca Griffin, CEO of Moments of Focus LLC, received a follow-up call and request for a meeting from American Water’s Supply Chain Team shortly after the showcase.
Other showcase highlights included opportunities to network with other diverse suppliers and roundtable discussions that provided suppliers with the opportunity to gain further insights about working with California American Water and American Water.
“It was a fantastic event full of great information on how to do business with both with California American Water and American Water,” said Cecelia Bolden, chief development officer of SDI Presence LLC, an IT managed services provider. “I was able to connect with other diverse firms whose services we may be able to use on projects.”
AMERICAN WATER DIVERSITY VIDEO