Supplier diversity professionals look for ways to drive the inclusion of diverse businesses within the global corporate supply chain. Understanding the needs, frustrations and competencies of the diverse businesses and the corporation is essential to making a meaningful impact on both concerns.
During my career as a corporate supplier diversity professional, we created an advisory board of diverse business owners that resulted in invaluable insight on what was needed to grow, scale and sustain them. This knowledge allowed us to create meaningful mentoring programs that aligned with the businesses involved.
There are two types of mentoring—formal and informal. Both types can be impactful on diverse businesses. Our informal mentoring relationships often included multiple coaching sessions, network building, strategic planning and even global business missions and university entrepreneur programs. We’ve had several diverse-owned businesses expand their global footprint, increase sales and expand product portfolios through informal mentoring.
Likewise, formal mentoring can facilitate the needs of the diverse-owned business and the corporation. Formal mentoring is a more structured relationship that is administered by a third-party, requires participation for a fixed period of time and can have a formal reporting process. The mentee is assigned or selects a mentor and commits to a one- to two-year program of classes and sometimes a group project.
Armed with the needs of both the corporation and diverse businesses, the mentoring program is designed around the four “E’s” of successful mentoring programs: Enable, Evaluate, Execute and Embrace.
• Provide mentee with tools to properly assess his/her business objectively and create a strategic plan for growth.
• Pair the mentee with one or more persons within the corporation who align with the mentee’s business needs and products/services.
• Mentor works with the mentee on the strategic plan, evaluates the viability of the plan and provides guidance and insights.
• An analysis of the mentee’s business strengths and weaknesses is agreed upon and developed.
• The mentee and mentor “work” the plan, frequently assess the planned outcomes and make appropriate adjustments.
• The team creates an action plan to serve as a guide throughout the program and changes it based on feedback, trends and directional changes of the corporation or diverse business.
• Mentee and mentor commit to the direction and goals established.
• Needed change is executed and embraced to realize the opportunities for scale, sustainability, global reach and/ or enhanced product/services.
With the commitment of both parties and oversight by the supplier diversity professional, significant outcomes from participation in the formal mentoring program can benefit the businesses of the mentee and the mentor.
MENTEE/DIVERSE-OWNED BUSINESS BENEFITS
• Gains better understanding of corporation’s products and services to establish business opportunities.
• Builds business capability and scalability.
• Gains knowledge of global and customer opportunities.
• Secures new business. • Builds professional network and skills.
MENTOR/CORPORATE REPRESENTATIVE BENEFITS
• Learns challenges of diverse-owned suppliers.
• Helps build a stronger supplier base.
• Gains a reliable supplier for international operations.
• Able to introduce supplier into other divisions/ business units and customers.
It is true that mentoring can be impactful to any business of any size, however, the impact of mentoring to diverse-owned businesses, many of whom are considered small, can be a game changer. Mentoring provides them with resources and knowledge not always viewed as available to them on their own. An impactful mentoring engagement, whether informal or formal takes commitment from all parties involved.
Whether you are a corporate supplier diversity professional or a diverse-owned business, consider mentoring as a strategic endeavor to sustain, grow and/or disrupt your business.