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Op-Ed

Taking Certification to Another Level

The time has come for those of us in the minority business certification community to realize that Corporate America is looking for more than just certification. Corporate America is looking for business qualification in addition to minority certification. And the reality is, Corporate America will buy both certification and qualification from organizations like the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Right now, they buy certification from the NMSDC and, either use internal resources to qualify suppliers, or pay private sourcing services to do the qualification for them. But make no mistake; the preferred way to purchase these services is from one seller not multiple sellers. I think we cannot stick our heads in the sand and wish that Corporate America would be only satisfied with what we have traditionally offered. In a customer friendly world, those who satisfy the needs of customers thrive, while those who don’t, simply go away. The Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council is on the verge of a revolution in the approach we are taking for MBEs of all sizes. I am calling it Certification 2.0.

But first let’s look at Certification 1.0. In the early days of the NMSDC and MBE certification, our corporate members were looking for an independent cost effective organization like the GNEMSDC to verify the legitimacy of the business as a MBE. The benefit of certification was that these MBEs would be provided access to corporate opportunities and programs designed to assist in their development. This approach worked well for the first 30 or so years until corporations discovered and embraced the concepts of strategic sourcing and global sourcing.

Combined, these two approaches viewed procurement as a profit center as opposed to just an administrative function of the organization. Strategic and global sourcing forced buying organizations to rationalize their supply chain by looking carefully at every supplier to make sure that they were getting the maximum value from that supplier. Suppliers that could be replaced by higher value suppliers were eliminated from the supply chain and new suppliers were heavily scrutinized. Senior procurement managers were on the path of reducing the number of suppliers and looking in every corner of the world for world class competitive suppliers. This approach had the unintended consequence of putting strategic and global sourcing in direct competition with the mission of increasing the numbers of MBEs in the supply chain. Corporations realized there were substantial resource costs associated with adding and vetting new suppliers. In this environment, which shows no signs of abating, MBEs have to demonstrate far more than their minority business status. Corporate buyers are looking for MBEs who can deliver high quality, cost competitive goods and services with little or no risk to the corporation. It has been my experience that this is the source of frustration for MBEs who want to enter corporate supply chains and the supplier diversity professionals who are there to assist them. Certification 1.0 is simply not good enough in this new reality.

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