CDW: Diversity’s Best-Case Scenario
If money talks, then $1.9 billion says quite a lot. That’s what CDW spent last year alone on supplier diversity. What’s even more remarkable, that’s pretty much the normal amount CDW spends each year to ensure that its supply chain matches the diversity of its customer base.
Headquartered in Lincolnshire, IL, CDW provides technology products and services for businesses, government and education. Founded in 1984, CDW employs more than 8,700 professionals. And it generated more than $15 billion in sales last year. From discrete hardware and software products to integrated IT solutions, CDW offers a broad array of products and technical service solutions with a product portfolio that includes more than 100,000 products from more than 1,000 brands. Though obviously a very large corporation, what’s astounding is CDW’s ongoing and comprehensive commitment to supplier diversity.
“What’s really special about our program is that it just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. We’re not new to this,” explains CDW Head of Supplier Diversity Kristin Malek. “When you combine that with our annual spending of $1.9 billion a year, it’s a pretty incredible program. What’s more incredible to some, though, was that it was created specifically to meet customers’ needs. We’re a VAR distribution company. We procure on behalf of our customers. So, the program was never just based on chasing diversity goals. It has the very real purpose of helping us meet our extremely diverse customer base. And we’ve been spending at least a billion dollars a year since 2014 to ensure that. Yes, supplier diversity is the right thing to do. But it’s also the best way to serve our customers. This is a real program that makes a real difference.”
CDW Supplier Diversity Manager Mark Key agrees.
“We’re a reseller. We don’t manufacture anything. We buy either direct from manufacturers or from distributors. Product lines go out for bid and our diverse suppliers compete with our other suppliers for those bids. We want our diverse suppliers to have a level playing field to compete for those bids. And, by and large, we’re very successful at that. We have more than 800 partnerships with minority-owned, women-owned, and small, disadvantaged businesses. We spend nearly $700 million on [minority and women business enterprise] partners alone. That’s five percent of our total spending. But again, those are not hollow goals. CDW serves and services a very diverse customer base. Our employees and our suppliers must reflect that diversity to be effective and to provide comprehensive service.”
Together, Key and Malek and the CDW Supplier Diversity team have crafted an effective, working program to continuously enhance supplier diversity. Boasting a two-tier program that even includes an online registration tool, CDW provides comprehensive support for its suppliers to help them better serve CDW customers.
“Our program isn’t just a strategy or a ‘nice thing to have’,” adds Malek. “It’s a must to compete. We’re supply chain dependent. So, our supply chain has to be intelligent and secure, as well as diverse. We’re simply irrelevant in the technology space if it’s not all of those things. For us to succeed as a large, global entity, we must respect the profile of our diverse suppliers. Often, they don’t have the same bandwidth or cashflow or organization and development that we do. So, we lend support and mentoring and help so that they can come to the deal with us, so that they can succeed and grow with us. That’s a win-win-win. It’s a win for our customers, for our suppliers and for CDW. And it works. Last year, we created 8,000 jobs with 20 percent of them in diverse communities, and that’s been replicated year after year. But for us, that’s just business every day.”
“And we’re always open to new suppliers,” continues Malek. “There’s an open invitation at CDW. But you don’t just sign up and start. We prepare suppliers to help them succeed. We have a very significant onboarding process. We do one-on-one training. And we set up new suppliers with our legal team, contract proposal writers, negotiators, etc. The ‘tryout’ with CDW is definitely come-as-you-are. But once you are part of our family, we work to help you succeed.”
With that as one clear goal, what else does CDW look to accomplish through its supplier diversity program? Malek answers that question.
“Next, we want to focus on job creation and where our input is. What ethnicities are we touching? Where are we missing? Where do we need to focus more? We really want to be a benchmark program for technology.”