Most consumers are familiar with CVS Health Corp., the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States with more than 7,900 locations throughout the country. What consumers may not know is that CVS Health is a leader in supplier diversity. In fact, the Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based company plans to continue to expand the amount of goods and services it purchases from diverse suppliers — including companies owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals — in 2016 and beyond. To help meet this ongoing goal, the company recently launched an innovative executive-learning program designed to help ensure the inclusion of diverse suppliers in its supply chain.
The program, called CVS Health Executive Learning Series, is an 18-week online and in-class course designed to help suppliers attain the knowledge, skills and capabilities to better equip themselves to do business with CVS Health, as well as other businesses and industries. The curriculum — developed by Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island — is similar to an executive MBA and incorporates finance and budget strategies with leadership, management, social media and technology skills, human resources and communications.
Monette Knapik, CVS Health’s senior director of strategic sourcing and supplier management, said all executives at CVS Health — from the C-suite to frontline management — are advocates of the new program. “We want our supplier base to represent our employees and the communities we serve,” she said. “We recognize that this program is just good business practice.”
Ten business owners were selected for the course and chosen by a committee of national organizations that support supplier diversity, including the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce®, US Business Leadership Network®, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, Rising Tide Group, US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce and Southern Florida Minority Supplier Development Council.
Raul Suarez-Rodriguez, manager of supplier diversity at CVS Health, is pleased with how well the program is going, adding that the company’s relationship with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has been “tremendous” through the many years that CVS Health has been a corporate member and that the chamber has been instrumental in getting LGBT businesses ready to work with companies like the national pharmacy chain. “The NGLCC helps develop LGBT businesses to be well-prepared to do business with corporations like ours,” he said. “The course is really robust and I hope that at the end of the program there is going to be a mentoring-type element attached to it.”
Second To None Inc. was one of the first companies selected by CVS Health to participate in the series. Based in the Greater Detroit area, President Jeff Hall said that Second To None is part technology company, part research and analytics firm and part consultancy. The company helps companies measure, understand and improve the customer experience across every touchpoint and every channel, including in-store, on-site, online, phone and social media.
“It’s been a sincere privilege and honor to have been one of just 10 companies [out of 140 applicants in the U.S.] selected to participate,” Hall said. “I soon came to see this as a multifaceted learning opportunity … on where and how we can strengthen Second To None’s capacity as a supplier to both CVS Health and others who are committed to building a strong base of diverse suppliers.”
He added that the course has already proven to be a great benefit to him personally, as well as to his company. The most prominent learnings were related to understanding supplier relationships from the perspective of procurement, leadership development and effective strategic planning.
“Equally important, participation in this course has opened our company to new ways of thinking about and openly discussing how we can continue to improve our capabilities, systems and operational framework in order to be an even stronger supplier to CVS Health and others,” Hall said.
CVS Health launched the series just five months ago, and already Knapik agreed that it’s been beneficial to everyone involved.
“It’s been exciting,” she said. “We’re not only helping suppliers learn how to generate business with CVS Health, but also helping the economy by equipping diverse suppliers with the skills and capabilities to compete and succeed in a more dynamic marketplace, with both large corporations and small companies. Our program helps with their business development and their education, helps grow their businesses and, ultimately, helps grow our economy. We are really excited about the possibilities.”
By Genny Hom-Franzen