How Max Rutherford fosters relationship building in Austin’s advertising industry.
Eleven years ago, GSD&M Vendor Partner Diversity Director/SBLO Max Rutherford created the Small & Diverse Business Summit for one reason—to build relationships. An annual event that brings together small and diverse vendors with power players in the Austin, Texas, advertising industry, the summit helps bridge the chasm between small diverse businesses and large advertising firms. As Rutherford sees it, meeting face to face demystifies the introduction process and fosters greater understanding.
“I created the event because many small and diverse companies never get past the front door of large agencies without some form of introduction. So, from the start I wanted it to be a relationship-building event,” explains Rutherford. “I wanted the leaders of small and diverse businesses to be eyeball to eyeball with the leaders of the advertising industry so that everyone can see we’re all just people. From there, they can build relationships and follow up. It’s not a time for pitching. It’s a time to talk, to share, to discover. Of course, COVID forced us to do it differently this year and go virtual. But I didn’t want anyone to lose this opportunity just because of the current circumstances.”
They didn’t. Held virtually on December 8, the summit covered a vast range of topics vital to small and diverse businesses, including breakout sessions and compelling speakers. Introduced by GSD&M CEO Duff Stewart—who Rutherford credits as “one of the greatest supplier-diversity champions”— the event was hosted by McPherson & Berry CEO LaSonya Berry. Providing jovial stewardship, she introduced keynote speaker Robinson LaRueCo Consulting CEO Lamont Robinson, who spoke movingly about his upbringing, race, determination and the value of role models. Next Berry called on VIVO360 founder and CEO Sophie L. Gibson to moderate a panel featuring GSD&M Executive Producer Becky Carrel; Dieste Inc. Director of Agency Operations Laura Hinguanzo- Andrade; Quriosity owner/Executive Producer Qadree Holmes and The Cortez Brothers President and Executive Producer Bernadette Rivero. Riveting, entertaining and stirring, the panel also provided practical knowledge and exclusive wisdom. That was no accident.
“GSD&M was also once a small business,” adds Rutherford. “And the founders ensure that every employee never forgets that. Our commitment to small and diverse businesses is devout. This event is a confirmation of that commitment. We want them to know that they have a mentor and a champion that will support them in any way that they need. And that’s not just a moral imperative. It’s good business. New money will come from diverse communities. We believe that supplier diversity is an effective vehicle to reach those communities. Supplier diversity is the right thing to do and it’s better for business. In truth, the advertising industry has a lot of work to do in that regard. But we take it on ourselves to figure out how we can make it better. We want to be the catalyst that moves that forward. And this event is one wonderful way to be that catalyst.”
Eleven years ago, Max Rutherford started the Small & Diverse Vendor Partner Summit to help build relationships between small and diverse businesses and the powers that be in the advertising industry. He has fostered more of those relationships than can be counted. But he remains undaunted, as there is so much more he wants to do.
MORE FROM THE EVENT
WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO MINORITY OWNED AGENCIES WHO HAVE TRIED FOR A LONG TIME AND STILL HAVE YET TO GET THE OPPORTUNITY, EVEN WHEN THE CLIENT HAS REFERRED THEM?
If an agency doesn’t align with your company’s values, then look for agencies looking to bring diversity to the table and have native level cultural fluency and competency.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH BIG AGENCIES ONLY TRUSTING A CERTAIN NETWORK OF VENDORS?
Eventually, you will have to accept the reality that there are certain agencies that have a protective ring of vendors that is not diverse at all and you will never be able to breach the walls with them because they are happy with the way they are and will continue to do things the way they’ve always done them.
WHAT NETWORKS CAN WE JOIN TO CONNECT MORE AND WITH A GOAL OF GROWING OUR BUSINESSES?
• National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC)
• Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)