In the telecom world, it can be difficult for small, minority, and women-owned businesses to find a way into the industry. Procurement partnerships provide companies with a way to get a foot in the door while building relationship, a reputation – and capital – to succeed.
MMTC’s 10th Annual Access to Capital and Telecom Policy Conference convened a panel of supplier diversity and procurement specialists to discuss minority-owned business certification, supplier diversity initiatives in telecom companies and the advertising industry, and how to build and develop relationships and opportunities within these industries.
Getting certified will open doors to opportunity
Panelists agreed that minority-owned business certification, whether through the 8(a) program for federal contracting or through industry certification through the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) for private sector contracting, is the key to getting in the door.
Senior procurement officials from Sprint, Verizon, and Professional Partnering Solutions (PPS) encouraged entrepreneurs to get 8(a) certified and position their companies in a manner that takes the risk and guesswork out of determining their viability. Dozens of major corporations work with NMSDC and serve on committees to certify businesses and develop best practices. Entrepreneurs should also develop their relationships in government while participating in the two phases of the nine-year 8(a) program.
Identify partners and win contracts
Supplier diversity means that companies must ensure diverse businesses are engaged throughout their supply chains. Joset Wright, president of the NMSDC, urged diverse suppliers to conduct their due diligence before going after a potential partner. To improve supplier diversity initiatives, companies should track the number of diverse businesses to which they have reached out, the number of procurement relationships the company has, and revenue increases resulting from the program.
The panelists advised minority entrepreneurs on how to approach a company or supplier diversity consultant. Entrepreneurs were encouraged to:
- Seek out the corporate directors and managers of supplier diversity and strategic sourcing, who are your advocates within the business.
- Understand how you fit into the corporation’s business model, and develop business plans that are tailored to the corporation that you are pursuing.
- Know your space when you approach the corporation, and be able to quantify how your unique business can help them.
Mark Prince, Partner and Vice President of Media Services at PPS, stated that PPS is at the table with many of the top advertisers that have supplier diversity initiatives and sees supplier diversity becoming an increasing priority.
What’s next: Is procurement enough?
Toward the end of the panel, Lerman Senter’s S. Jenell Trigg threw down the gauntlet to industry and regulators alike. Trigg explained that despite the importance of minority and women-owned businesses to our economy as engines of job creation, these businesses have a hard time surviving in the telecom as a result of industry consolidation and barriers erected through the creation and implementation of harmful designated entity policies. These policies essentially shut out women and minority-owned businesses from Auction 73 such that designated entities won a mere 1% of spectrum licenses while AT&T and Verizon Wireless won 84.4% of the value of licenses.
Procurement opportunities are vitally important, but women and minorities also have a place in spectrum ownership. Competitive new entrants, including small, minority, and women-owned businesses, will drive innovation. In future auctions, the FCC needs to encourage minority and women spectrum ownership by updating its designated entity rules and recognizing that there is value in small, minority, and women-owned businesses, not just for diversity’s sake, but also to increase competition and innovation.
Jacqueline Clary is the John W. Jones Fellow at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. In this position, she focuses on a variety of policy issues to advance minority participation in the media and telecommunications industries. Ms. Clary earned her B.A. from John Carroll University, her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, and is a member of the New York State Bar.