Raising the bar with a results-driven business strategy.
Ford Motor Company has long had a reputation for being committed to supplier diversity. But what I found in speaking with the team is not just a great supplier diversity advocacy, it is a great study in leadership.
Outreach on Display
One of the first things I do when I want to sell to a company is look at their supplier diversity presence on the company website. When you go to the Ford website you are greeted with pictures, names and titles of each of the team members. That may sound like something that should be obvious, but it is surprising how often the team you should be working with seems to be a covert operation. If you’re lucky you might get “a” name of someone on the team. With Ford, you know Brian Lloyd is program manager for production, Sanaa Saad is business analyst for production and Vincent Tucker is business analyst managing Tier 2 and supplier engagement. Marisa Pappalardo is program manager for indirect purchasing, Candice Sparkes is the business analyst for indirect purchasing and Travis Spencer, Head of Supplier Diversity & Inclusion, is pictured next to CEO Jim Hackett. Yes, there are pictures of everyone here, no cloak and dagger, no guessing. That is a real breath of fresh air for people who try to understand who they should be talking to at corporate.
An Inclusive Team
I was struck that my conversation was with the entire team. By that, I mean their summer intern was on the call and they all participated. You can tell when people feel comfortable talking on the record with the boss on the line. There was no reluctance at all with the Ford team. That is inclusion.
I quickly learned that COVID-19 has not slowed them down one iota. They discussed multiple initiatives they are working on to adapt and deliver results. Like many companies, their team has been 100% virtual for much of the year with no end in sight. It didn’t take them long to pivot and move matchmaking opportunities to video. It also didn’t take long for them to see they could conduct more sessions in a virtual environment. They stepped up their number of meetings with potential suppliers. They have already determined they will keep virtual meetings as part of their outreach going forward because it is easier to make the direct connection and is less expensive for the diverse-owned company. “If we can make it easier for companies to meet with us,” Lloyd noted, “then we want to continue to do that.”
Next Level Connections
Ford has refreshed their website presence and it is all useful and informative. If you visit their Supplier Diversity Programs page you will get a wealth of knowledge about initiatives such as their Widening the Inclusion Network (WIN) that includes four areas: Historical Spend Performance, Level of Involvement with Advocacy Groups, Workforce Diversity, and Community Outreach.
The Mentor Me program is a way for certified diverse businesses to gain mentorship and feedback on their business from a team of senior executives from Ford and/or their partner organizations. The Skills for Life program provides industry experts on hot topics and tools that can help diverse businesses grow and develop.
There is a new Tier 2 reporting system, UniTier. This system, for which Ford provided funding and project management to the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC), will change the way corporations track and report on Tier 2 diversity spend. Suppliers can now upload their diversity spend to multiple customers simultaneously. Reducing the amount of uploading and reporting is a real gamechanger for supplier diversity.
The registration portal is so often a place where a company will input information, which may or may not be relevant to what you are selling and then you hope it gets where it needs to go. For the Ford site, that operates on supplier. io. You input your company information and get a map of what the registration process is. There are five phases: Registration Confirmation, Initial Assessment, SDD Interview (Capability Evaluation), Buyer/Business Owner Introduction, and Opportunity Assessment. It took me less than 10 minutes to register and I received a confirmation that told me what to expect next.
Walking the Walk
The Ford program is what a diverse-owned business hopes to see with every company they interact with. The passion is there from every member of the team. There are new and unique approaches to the spirit of supplier diversity—finding business opportunities for diverse-owned businesses. The team is front and center. No nameless, faceless corporate contacts where you hope you get the right one. Travis, Marisa, Brian, Sanaa, Vincent and Candice have built a business strategy that is delivering results and has raised the bar for everyone else.