Recognized by NGLCC as a true LGBT champion
By Peter Fretty

The NGLCC’s 2018 Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year Award recognizes to a true champion for the LGBT business community – Todd Rice. As the manager of American Airline’s Procurement Center of Excellence, Rice handles recruiting for various procurement and supply chain teams. He also works to develop and implement training programs for the employees. His team also handles systems, processes, supplier risk analysis and supplier relationship management. “I try to hire the best and brightest, then provide training and tools to maximize their potential,” he says.

Rice relishes the opportunity to work closely with American’s supplier diversity team. “Being an openly gay man and having worked in the procurement and supply chain field for all of my career, it only makes sense to want to provide an opportunity for small and diverse businesses to get their foot in the door,” he says. “No person or company should be denied a shot because of what makes them unique.”

Rice started working events many years ago, representing American Airlines and its supplier diversity/procurement and supply chain teams at numerous expos and conferences, trying to find small and diverse businesses. He volunteered for the Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council for several years, eventually co-chairing the certification committee. American is a founding partner of the NGLCC, and Rice started volunteering there several years ago as well. He is currently co-chairing the certification committee as well as the supplier task force. Among other NGLCC activities, Rice has mentored roughly a dozen LGBT businesses over the past eight years.


The Need for Champions

It’s vital that corporate America includes LGBT owned businesses in their supply base, explains Rice. “It shows customers that the business does not discriminate, and that sexuality or gender identity does not matter in business,” he says. “If you can provide a quality product or service at a competitive cost, you should be given an opportunity to at least get a foot in the door, see if it makes sense, show us what you can do. It really does send a message to our passengers and our colleagues that any kind of discrimination will not be tolerated at American Airlines.”

Having champions like Rice in place can make a significant difference.  Case in point: Like many large corporations, American has numerous business units throughout the organization spending money. American was sponsoring a recent LGBT event and needed to purchase some promotional items. A group outside of the purchasing team was doing the buying, was getting ready to place an order from their usual supplier.

“Having attended numerous NGLCC events, I knew of several LGBTBEs who could provide the items. I provided the buying team with contact info for a few of the LGBTBEs, and asked them to reach out and get quotes,” says Rice. “They were able to find a quality product at a cost lower than their standard supplier. And we had an LGBTBE provider for our LGBT event. If the people doing the buying aren’t aware of potential suppliers, they won’t award them the business. By giving them the contact info, it was easy for them to reach out and award a contract.”

Even with champions excited to work with diverse suppliers, Rice acknowledges that its often easier to go with the existing supplier. “It takes time to research potential new suppliers,” he says. As such, anything the supplier diversity team can do to facilitate the process helps. For instance:

  • Utilizing a one stop portal or database for

buyers to find potential diverse suppliers to include in bids.

  • Vetting new diverse suppliers, so the purchasing professionals don’t have to take additional time and effort.
  • Establishing goal or requirement that the supply chain team must include a certain number or percentage of diverse suppliers in their bids.

“It is about realizing the importance of providing opportunities for qualified diverse suppliers to compete,” says Rice. “If the diverse supplier cannot provide the required quality, service and delivery at a competitive cost, they should not get the contract. But perhaps after that first opportunity they’ll be better prepared to do so the next time.”


Sage advice

From a supplier’s perspective, getting into a new account and securing opportunities can be frustrating. However, as Rice tells Affinity Magazine, “Patience is a virtue! Suppliers need to remember that when they finally reach the buyer, they may not be in the market for what is being sold,” he says. “If a contract was just awarded for your offering, you need to accept that. You still need to stay in touch, reaching out occasionally, so they think of you when the next opportunity presents itself.”

Rice also recommends learning as much about the corporation as possible. “For example, gain an understanding of volumes and lead times, so that you know whether or not you can meet them. You shouldn’t be bidding on our requirement of a million units needed next month if your annual capacity is 100,000,” he says. “And, if you can only provide a certain portion of a requirement, find another LGBTBE that you might be able to partner with. You might be surprised at what can be achieved together!”

Lastly, Rice suggests capitalizing on the advantages and opportunities provided by organizations like the NGLCC. “Get certified. Go to your local events. Network. Learn from the corporations that are at events,” he says. “And build relationships with other LGBTBEs. You truly will be amazed at how much everyone wants you to succeed.”