When confronted with evaluating their success in a given profession, most people boastfully list their achievements and accomplishments without hesitation. But Cecil Plummer modestly demurred and suggested that after less than two years as the president and CEO of the Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (WRMSDC), it may be too soon for him to pretentiously celebrate his success. However, to agree with Plummer’s sentiment would be overlooking the significant impact that he’s made at the council during his somewhat brief tenure.
Under Plummer’s leadership, the Council has increased its corporate membership by 133 percent—growing from 24 to 56 members. Along with the increased membership, the organization’s revenue has grown 35 percent from 2015 to 2016; the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) ranked the WRMSDC as number five out of 23 regional councils; and, satisfaction surveys taken at regional events and training programs consistently rate in the 80 percentile. All of these combined add up to a pretty impressive list of accomplishments for a man who’s been at the helm for only 21 months. Most importantly, they all are beneficial and vital to the success and development of MBEs in the region.
“With such an increase in corporate members the Council is in a much better position as a resource for MBEs. More people to meet, more chances for [them] to sell, that’s very significant change,” he said.
One of the chief strategies Plummer implemented to increase corporate membership is perhaps one of the simplest things many people fail to do—listen. Taking a cue from the political world, Plummer visited each corporate member to find out their pain points and how the organization could do a better job for them. Once he gathered the information, the next step was to deliver.
“[President Barack] Obama had the best technology and the best video conferencing available to him in the world. But when he really wanted to get something done with other world leaders, somebody got on a plane, they gathered in a room, sat down, shook hands looked each other in the eye and got busy. That’s what I did,” he said. “I said ‘Tell me what’s lacking. Tell me what’s missing.’ I listened and I wrote it down. Then, I laid out a plan and told them specifically what we’re going to do about it and that I will continually report back to [them] every year about our progress.”
“Part of the success formula has been to have those really hard conversations with our corporations and say, ‘Tell me where the gaps are that you’re seeing and then we’ll work on providing the curriculum that will allow minority-owned businesses to fill those gaps.'”
Plummer may be modest about his successes but it doesn’t diminish the impact on MBEs. And, he’s quick to acknowledge that the WRMSDC is only a bridge or conduit between the corporations and MBEs. If MBEs are to succeed, they and the corporations, not the Council, must do the true, hard work.
“We are a delivery mechanism, we’re boots on the ground. The real relationship is between the corporations and the MBEs. We can hold as many mixers and business opportunity fairs as we want and if nobody gets any contracts it’s all for naught. Ultimately, economic development and job creation, which means MBEs growing their businesses and getting contracts, is kind of the ultimate measurement of success,” Plummer elaborated. “I don’t have any contracts to award. My job is to put MBEs in the room with people who do and to offer business owners the opportunity to develop their businesses, and opportunities to meet corporate buyers.”
Plummer, born in Oakland, came to the Council after a successful career in the corporate world and a brief foray into entrepreneurship. But his position at the council isn’t just another step up on the ladder of success. Plummer sees a much larger picture that extends beyond his job description and into altruism or a desire to better the community now and for future generations.
“It’s easy to say, ‘I’m working hard, and I’ve got a good life.’ But when I looked around, there aren’t a lot of people like me who were having this same opportunity. So, I thought, as a member of the diverse community, if I don’t care, who’s going to care? I wanted to take the corporate experience that I’ve been given and see if I could use that to help other people grow businesses and create jobs in diverse communities,” Plummer said.
He elaborated, “It’s very important to have these MBEs raised up in our communities as pillars of hope. The more that people can look around and see successful people, whether they are executives or entrepreneurs, from their communities who look like them, the more they will dream, the more that they will believe that their dreams can come true. That’s my motivation.”
In order for communities of color to grow and prosper, Plummer passionately believes that minority advocacy organizations, like WRMSDC, along with its corporate members and MBEs must work together.
“We’re here to help our corporate members support the communities where they live, work and get many of their customers. This Council belongs to the corporate members and is dependent on their commitment and support. It is every bit as vital to those communities as a school system. School systems are there because we understand that we need future generations to be educated, contributing members of our society.
In the same way, we need to have future generations of prosperous entrepreneurs to sustain our communities.”