NMSDC Conference 2015

From Saturday 1st to Thursday 6th November 2014, Supply Nation brought a delegation of eight Certified Indigenous Businesses and one corporate Member to the annual National Minority Supplier Diversity Council Business Opportunity Fair and Conference in Orlando, Florida. The big, bright lights of Disney World set the scene for what was to be an intense, hard working and fruitful week in the sunshine state.

International MBE Day

The first event attended by the delegation, was NMSDC’s International MBE Day. The MBE Day is designed to welcome international delegates, educate them about the possibilities in the US through partnerships and JVs, and to facilitate structured introductions between suppliers and buyers.

“Globalisation of supply chains is not a new idea” said NMSDC President, Joset Wright-Lacey. “It is a business imperative for minority business enterprises seeking to be supply chain partners for multinational corporations.” The theme of globalising supplier diversity programs continued throughout the conference — a first for the NMSDC conference.

Carmen Castillo, CEO of SDI International, an NMSDC Certified global procurement outsourcing company she founded, spoke about how partnerships have given her access to foreign markets. Simultaneously, international partnerships expand her ability to serve her existing multinational clients in more of the markets in which they operate. This is a valuable lesson for Supply Nation Certified Suppliers, as they look to grow their businesses globally.

NANA-Supply Nation Dinner

Owned entirely by its 13,500 Iñupiat shareholders, NANA Development Corporation is the business arm of NANA Regional Corporation, a Regional Alaska Native corporation formed in 1971 under the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act. NANA is a multi billion dollar diversified multinational organisation, and is a leader in engineering and construction; resource development; facilities management and logistics; real estate and hotel development; and information technology and telecommunications. They employ over 11,500 people across the globe.

NANA, who holds the unique position of being both certified by NMSDC and a Supply Nation Member, is building its presence in Australia and is eager to build a strong relationship with Certified Suppliers. Through partnerships, joint ventures, and shared learning, NANA and Supply Nation hope to be able to mutually grow the size of their businesses. The jointly hosted dinner was organised to facilitate introductions between Supply Nation delegates, the NANA senior leadership team, and other NANA stakeholders.

Dennis Jose, CEO of Certified Supplier Carey Queensland, found the NANA Dinner invaluable. “I liked the NANA dinner because it gave us a chance to meet executive members of NANA that would normally be unreachable. We knew NANA was one of the keys for us before we left Australia, but trying to research such a massive group was difficult and cold calling is difficult in Australia let alone to a new country! We achieved in one dinner what would have taken 6-12 months to do ourselves.”

Business Opportunity Fair

The Business Opportunity Fair was an eye opener for the Supply Nation delegation. There were 700 tradeshow booths and 7000 people all in one room networking, doing business, and learning about corporate and government supplier diversity efforts across the US. Corporate and government Members display at the Tradeshow, and have their booths manned by their supplier diversity and procurement teams. They are there to attract the next minority owned business that will enhance their supply chain and boost their profits. A large portion of Fortune 500 companies were represented, including Coca Cola, Google, and GM — to name but a few.

Supply Nation also had a booth, which became the makeshift base for our delegates who spent the day networking and doing business with fellow Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) and corporate America. Many MBEs from the US were curious as to how to enter the Australian market, who Supply Nation was, and why we were there. Supply Nation staff would then act as matchmakers between MBEs and Certified Suppliers.

Conference Days

The conference itself was spread across two days, with plenary sessions and workshops being held in the morning and closed invite only events being held in the afternoon. Dozens of different workshop session covered topics like “Everything you wanted to Know about Supply Chain Management but were Afraid to Ask”, and “Communicating the Impact and ROI of Supplier Diversity initiatives”.

CEO Charles Prouse moderated a session called “Globalization of Supplier Diversity Initiatives”. The workshop focused on the value proposition of corporate global supplier diversity initiatives and the benefits of partnering with certified suppliers from other countries. The expert panel was dynamic, engaged and entertaining – with Mr Prouse even getting the crowd to say “g-day”, instead of the usual “good-morning”!

Different panel discussions each day focused on different issues. One panel focused on the globalisation of supplier diversity and the benefits of US MBEs using the global link councils as a tool for finding global partners.

The International focus of this year’s NMSDC was unprecedented. It represents the next step for supplier diversity in the United States. As the world becomes more globalised, large corporates are increasingly looking towards having suppliers that can meet their needs in every market in which they operate. It is vital that supplier diversity initiatives recognise this trend and adapt accordingly. Never before has the global link partnership been so important.

Gala Dinner

The gala dinner and awards night was an opportunity for the Australian delegation and all other delegates to let their hair down and reflect on the conference just past. Johnson Controls won the Global-Link International Award for their outstanding efforts across the globe in supplier diversity. Chrysler won the Corporation of the year and there were four classes of Supplier of the Year – each of which was won by a deserving organisation.

Aims and achievements for participants

86% of the Australian delegation that responded to a survey after the trip said that all of or most of their objectives for the trip were met. 100% of respondents researched and sought out more than five US based businesses with whom they thought they could do business.

The next steps for delegates on the trip are all about follow up. Chasing leads, locking down opportunities, and delivering on promises made are the actions that are going to make travelling half way across the globe. For Mr Jose, it is about prioritising those opportunities that seem most real. “I’m going to follow-up on all contacts, but I’m going to focus the majority of my time and effort and 2-3 key players. These are the ones I want to build a relationship with and explore opportunities with.”

Paul Brock, CEO of Carey Training summed up the sentiment of the trip; “It was great to come away with a number of strong leads, but equally important to me was the chance to grow friendships amongst the Supply Nation delegation. I am genuinely grateful for that opportunity.

“As a person who only found out about his Aboriginal heritage in the last decade, it was hidden from me for many years, to be able to have so many constructive conversations about race in the American context was a deeply moving personal experience. To be able to see, first hand, the progress that has been made there made this a wonderful professional and personal experience,” he concluded.