Danni Green: Advocacy & Education in Support of Supplier Diversity
As a veteran advocate of supplier diversity, I know that the healthcare industry, as a whole, has made great strides in expanding the range of companies that play a key role in developing products and services. But, I also know there is room for improvement. While the industry is attuned to the capabilities of diverse suppliers, I believe there is opportunity to shine a brighter light on the economic benefits of doing business with these fine companies. That's where I lend a hand.
Owens & Minor has been involved in supplier diversity for nearly 30 years and is viewed as a leader in this area. Among our peers, we lead the pack with diversity suppliers as a percentage of private label producers and as a percentage of overall revenue—almost three times the percentage of overall revenue when compared to our nearest competitor. At Owens & Minor, our initiative is designed to attract diverse suppliers that bring value through manufacturing our products or who create benefits from providing services. Many of them have a niche offering that distinguishes them and differentiates the value they bring.
Because there is still a need for energetic and sustained support, my role is primarily advocacy and education. I operate very much like a business, but my products are the diverse companies in my portfolio. I work with our product category managers and sourcing managers to understand our product focus and then with our customer relations team to find a good match for the diversity companies in our portfolio.
Today, we have a large group of diverse suppliers. While many of them are very small, a select group of them have grown to $20-30 million in annual revenues. They have the ability to compete on the national stage across a wide variety of product categories. I focus on understanding their capabilities and promoting them within the company, so that we get in the habit of including them in requests for quotes or proposals. These companies are competing with their larger cohorts for the same opportunity.
My role is two-fold—education and advocacy. I educate our key Owens & Minor leaders to make them aware of the capabilities of our diverse suppliers. As a good corporate citizen, we promote our diverse suppliers and help them leverage their capabilities. We are very active in a number of ways to help strengthen these suppliers and to foster their growth.
There are a lot of challenges for small businesses in the healthcare industry. The need for strong quality assurance, adequate insurance levels, and sufficient working capital can preclude smaller companies from engaging in the market for healthcare products and supplies. Our efforts help diverse suppliers gain the necessary size and stability to compete in the market.
For example, we have a mentor-protégé´ program for diverse companies, and we have had a number of successful participants. We mentor these businesses. We help them improve their management practices, steer them to sources of capital, and work with them to remove obstacles that allow them to grow their businesses. We make market intelligence and other resources available to help them identify business opportunities. We give them intense support for two to three years. The goal is to help them get to the next level.
Many of these small, young business have very fundamental challenges. Their footprint may be too small. They may not have access to capital or favorable lending rates. We assess them, their products and product quality. I pair them with a developmental counselor who can help them cultivate their business and find their right niche to position themselves as value-added players.
The Owens & Minor diversity program started out of compliance with federal contracts, but it has evolved into a strong commitment to these diverse companies that offer agility and innovation that enables them to create solutions in the most cost efficient way.
Owens & Minor conducts an annual symposium to promote supplier diversity among the leading institutions in the healthcare industry. We use the symposium to bring diversity suppliers together to help them, as well as to recognize their achievements. They even have the opportunity to meet Owens & Minor competitors. The event provides an educational opportunity to learn more about what's going on in the healthcare industry and how they can grow their businesses. Conference attendees tell us that the annual event is a valuable networking opportunity for them.
Another way we promote supplier diversity is through our national membership in several organizations. One is the National Minority Supplier Development Council. We engage with them to help them work with a partner like Owens & Minor. The council also helps us to identify potential diverse suppliers. I also serve on the board of the Healthcare Supplier Diversity Alliance to help foster diverse businesses.
Many of these diverse suppliers are small businesses, and when we can partner with them to help foster growth, they have proven they have a positive impact on their own communities. Century Hosiery, located in Denton, N.C., is one of these suppliers. They have experienced considerable growth since working with Owens & Minor—so much, in fact, that they needed additional wastewater treatment plant capacity. They donated the land for a new plant for their community and successfully worked with their local government to help obtain a federal grant for the project. Construction of the new wastewater treatment plant also enabled some citizens in an adjacent neighborhood to obtain public sewer service for the first time, improving public health in the community. So, as our supplier diversity program helps strengthen small businesses, it also has a positive impact on communities around the country.
Beyond that, our supplier diversity initiative creates value for Owens & Minor customers, because in many cases they are responsible under federal and state government contracts to reach targets for diversity spending. For example, our hospital customers often come to us and ask how Owens & Minor can help them achieve their diversity goals. One of the resources we have for them is a catalog of diverse suppliers. This catalog includes all the products made by these suppliers for our MediChoice® brand. It also highlights and showcases these suppliers. That's another added value—helping hospitals meet purchasing goals for diversity in suppliers.
I love what I do because our efforts have a positive effect on the lives of people in the communities we serve. Together, we help diversity businesses grow. Together, we help communities grow. And, together, we help Owens & Minor grow. We're building good will, but at the same time we're also contributing to the bottom line in healthcare.