When organizations embrace diversity and inclusion, the best results materialize when a strong understanding of both the overarching goal and the value exist. This understanding comes through when looking at Google’s commitment.
Google has a holistic diversity and inclusion strategy clearly focused on four key areas: hiring more diverse employees, fostering an inclusive workplace, expanding the pool of technologists and bridging the digital divide.
Google’s Small Business Supplier Diversity Program is a key component of the organization’s plan to bridge the digital divide by helping underrepresented communities take advantage of technology and the economic engine it provides. “Our program is designed to connect more minority-owned businesses to opportunities to do business with Google,” said Chris Genteel, Google’s head of diversity markets and supplier diversity.
The reasons for Google’s commitment to supplier diversity are crystal clear.
First, suppliers have always been key to the company’s success and drawing from the most diverse pool of talented partners helps it innovate. Because Google is often entering new industries and creating new products, it needs creative, agile suppliers who can help bring ideas to life and exciting solutions into its product ecosystem.
“We simply can’t be competitive, if communities that are underrepresented in tech are also not represented in our supplier base,” Genteel said. “With our Small Business Supplier Diversity Program, we want business owners in minority communities to know that Google is open for business and ready to work with them.”
Second, commitment to diversity within the supplier network also stems from the company’s mission to level the playing field for users and suppliers. Being a data-driven company, Google wanted to know whether diverse-owned businesses were getting the same economic impact from working with Google as nonminority businesses were, relative to their composition in the market.
“Our data told us we weren’t quite there yet,” Genteel said. “That’s why Google is doubling down on its commitment to buying more and using more services from diverse-owned businesses.”
Fortunately, this commitment is tied to the company’s vision, he explained. “As our founder Larry Page stated in the recent Alphabet Founders’ Letter, we are excited about empowering great entrepreneurs and companies to flourish, improving the lives of as many people as we can,” Genteel said. “I think this is pretty core to what the Small Business Supplier Diversity Program has aspired to achieve since its inception.”
Strategically addressing obstacles
When Google created its supplier diversity program just over a year ago, the team was determined to address some of the challenges diverse suppliers often face. Taking this approach has ultimately fueled program success.
Talented minority suppliers need more visibility. There’s often a sense among small businesses that the playing field isn’t level when it comes to getting on companies’ radars to sell goods or services. “With Google’s Small Business Supplier Diversity Program, we’ve created a way for small businesses to get exposure to thousands of potential buyers through our internal supplier search tool,” Genteel said. “We also decided to target U.S.-based businesses — MBE [minority …enterprise]-certified or not — that are truly small, meaning they have an annual revenue of $15 million or less and employ 50 or fewer full-time employees.”
Real relationships matter. Minority business communities want to have a real relationship with Googlers — Google’s employees — all of whom are potential buyers. “Our current suppliers tell us that they love the direct, unique partnerships they’ve formed with Googlers,” he said. “To continue to nurture those relationships, we’re going to the communities where MBEs exist.”
Since the program’s launch, Google has held over 100 events and forums in minority communities to encourage MBEs to apply to its program. “Many of these gatherings have taken place in partnership with the membership organizations we participate in — like NMSDC [National Minority Supplier Development Council], WBENC [Women’s Business Enterprise National Council] and NGLCC [National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce], along with gatherings like the National Congress of American Indians Annual Convention & Marketplace,” Genteel said.
Knowing that every employee is a potential buyer, over the next few months, his team plans to significantly increase internal efforts to educate Googlers about the impact of strong supplier partnerships with diverse businesses. “We will also continue to show up in minority business communities around the country to invite more suppliers to join our network and take advantage of all the benefits we offer,” Genteel said. “That’s how we’ll ensure every business has a fair opportunity to do business with Google and, ultimately, change the composition of our supplier base to reflect the diversity found in the marketplace.”
Cash flow enables survival. Receiving payments quickly is critical to small businesses; slow payments can be a barrier to success. “As part of our Small Business Supplier Diversity Program, we do our best to pay our suppliers within 15 or fewer days of their invoices’ approvals,” Genteel said.
Like many decision makers in today’s digital economy, Google buyers often turn to the Internet to find and compare businesses before contacting a supplier. A strong presence online is therefore critical to attracting new business — whether from Google or any other buyer. But, minority businesses are less likely on average to be found online than nonminority businesses.
Google took this lack of online presence as a supplier development challenge to help everyone in the program grow on the Web. To facilitate the process, the technology giant created its Accelerate with Google Academy program, an intensive and customized 12-week program with a free digital tools curriculum to help businesses market themselves successfully by revamping their websites to generate more business leads than ever before. For more information, please visit https://accelerate.withgoogle.com.
To date, more than 1,000 businesses have taken advantage of the program; the majority of them are MBEs. Google also has partnered with Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business Executive Education program to deliver a Digital Excellence Program for Minority Entrepreneurs. For more information, please visit http://exec.tuck.dartmouth.edu/programs/minority-programs/digital-excellence-program-for-minority-entrepreneurs.
“We co-created the curriculum and cover tuition for the three-day training for selected supplier diversity program participants to learn how to create a digital strategy,” Genteel said. “Tuck has been delivering business education programs to MBEs for decades, and they have been an outstanding partner to help us take digital strategy and tools into the classroom.”
Feeding the supply chain
Google is actively looking for ways to connect more teams with suppliers from the program — leading to repeated businesses for many suppliers.
A great example of an MBE connection is Google’s partner Mercury Promotions & Fulfilment Inc. in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Since Mercury’s first contract with Google, the company has been able to make more connections and grow its business with Google.
Outside of Google, Genteel also recognizes the great work its suppliers do with communications agency República LLC from Miami, Florida, one of this year’s NMSDC Corporate Plus® MBEs — a Google-nominated supplier.
“Googlers look for partners to grow with us, rather than transactional suppliers. We solve big problems and have big ideas, and we look for partners who can challenge us and help us create exciting products,” he said. “Google is open for business and ready to work with them.”
Interested? Genteel encourages all interested diverse organizations to apply for Google’s Small Business Supplier Diversity Program by visiting http://google.com/supplierdiversity.
Article by Peter Fretty