By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,
When global investment manager T. Rowe Price decided it was time to improve the diversity of its supplier network, the firm recruited Tomaneci Waller Day to head supplier diversity and sustainable procurement in 2021.
As senior manager, Waller Day was tasked with developing a three-year strategic roadmap to set a path for diversity and inclusion efforts in T. Rowe Price’s supplier ecosystem. The firm retains suppliers in industries ranging from corporate services to information technology for day-to-day operations and wanted to ensure that it led a best-in-class supplier diversity program.
Waller Day’s roadmap included creating a supplier diversity policy, developing a supplier code of conduct, obtaining technology for data reporting and establishing avenues to engage with diverse suppliers and educating them about the procurement process.
“Supplier inclusion represents a systemic approach to increasing diversity. I’ve heard so many people talk about the importance of it, but it’s really where this economy is going,” said Waller Day. “Diversity, equity and inclusion truly matter to employees and businesses in the community. It should matter equally to corporations.”
Waller Day provided five insider tips to aid diverse suppliers in conducting business with T. Rowe Price.
Understand your audience
Diverse suppliers should familiarize themselves with T. Rowe Price before attending a procurement meeting or company events. It’s important to have a solid understanding of the firm’s corporate culture, strategic initiatives and objectives. “If you don’t know these things, ask questions,” said Waller Day. “That’s how you set yourself up to align with some of these larger firms that already have a jump up on getting this information.”
Create a single-view of your company
“A lot of suppliers feel like they have to come to the table with everything that they do, and it’s good to know that you’re well-rounded as a corporation,” said Waller Day. “But we want to know what single thing differentiates you from these larger corporations.”
Diverse suppliers should pinpoint their central focus and convey how it stands apart from competitors. They should keep their value proposition simple and clear. Waller Day said diverse suppliers should refrain from leading with their diversity status. Instead, they should leverage the quality of their services and products.
Market yourself with purpose
It’s important for diverse suppliers to advertise not only their products and services but also themselves. Participating in industry panels, producing reports on trends, and leveraging social media to share achievements or exclusive insights can bolster suppliers’ credibility. “Your business reputation is the leading factor in a lot of decisions,” said Waller Day.
Tap into community resources
T. Rowe Price often relies on nonprofits to identify suppliers, holding Supplier Spotlights at organizations’ corporate outreach events. If diverse suppliers are actively involved in the business nonprofit world, they have an avenue to connect with the firm.
“Our suppliers often feel like they’re alone on an island, but we encourage them to engage, volunteer and support regional and national organizations. This allows you to ensure that your company is identified with nonprofits that support the local business community,” said Waller Day. “It also helps you identify other suppliers that you could potentially partner with.”
Probably the trickiest tip on the list, it’s important for diverse suppliers to remain patient. Waller Day said remaining patient is especially hard for solopreneurs who are met with radio silence after numerous calls and emails.
“Most of the time organizations, like T. Rowe Price, have supplier diversity programs that are a team of two or even one,” Waller Day said. “They’re dealing with 300 to 400 inquiries about opportunities and engagement.”
Diverse suppliers should always follow-up on requests. It’s important to stay engaged without being overly persistent.
Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.