As it did to a number of local and national institutions last month, change came in January to the New England Minority Supplier Development Council. And according to Dr. Fred McKinney, it’s a change minority business owners can believe in.
At the start of 2009, the 35-year-old Boston-based nonprofit merged with its Connecticut counterpart to form the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council (GNEMSDC). The organization is now headquartered in Hamden, Conn. McKinney, who had been president of the Connecticut council since 2001, is its president and CEO.
The GNEMSDC is an affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, a network of 38 regional councils across the country that boasts over 3,500 total corporate members and more than 15,000 certified minority-owned businesses in its network. Last year, the NMBSC facilitated $104.7 billion in corporate member purchases from minority-owned business enterprises (MBEs).
The merger will be celebrated today during a member’s luncheon at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, featuring a keynote speech by Dr. Lynn Brown, executive vice president and economic advisor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
But while the council’s scope, base of operations and leader are new, McKinney said its mission will remain the same — helping certified minority-owned businesses connect to large corporations so that they can grow.
“We provide sales and marketing assistance to certified minority businesses who have an interest in selling goods and services to large corporations, government agencies, health care institutions and other organizations,” McKinney said. “And minority businesses come in all different industries and sizes, from professional services to manufacturing to business services to financial services — you name it, you’ve got minority businesses in those industries.”
The merger, which the boards of the two regional affiliates agreed to back in November, brings minority supplier development efforts for all six New England states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — under one roof.
On top of that, said McKinney, it also significantly increases the pool of certified MBEs and corporate partners that are members of the council.
“For the New England council, they had at the time of the merger about 200 certified minority businesses that they were working with, so that’ll almost double the number in the organization’s total when added to the 250 certified members from the Connecticut council,” said McKinney. “On the corporate side, New England had about 90 unique corporate members. You add that to 110 corporate members from Connecticut, and you’re up to 200 corporate members in the region.”
And that means a “win-win” for member MBEs, who now have more corporations to call on in the pursuit of business opportunities, and the council’s corporate partners, who now have “more choices in terms of the number of minority businesses that they can work with,” according to McKinney.
“So if you were, for instance, a Boston-based minority business that was certified with the New England Minority Supplier Development Council, now you have better access to corporate members based in Connecticut, like UTC, Aetna, Xerox, Pitney Bowes and GE,” he continued. “It opens up opportunities for minority businesses in [the former] New England [council], but also in Connecticut, because now they have access to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard University, State Street and a lot of other corporations.”
That kind of access can give business owners a leg up when trying to navigate corporate bureaucracies, which can be stifling.
“Large corporations are not the easiest things in the world to get through. Our contacts are people who can get through, who can assist those minority business enterprises and help to speed up the sales process,” McKinney said. “We don’t guarantee that minority businesses certified in our organization are going to get business. But we can guarantee that they’ll get access.”
That last point is critical, McKinney said, noting that some business owners operate under the misconception that merely pursuing certification as an MBE means corporate contracts will start flying their way.
“If you … don’t come to our activities or events, and you don’t call the office to see what’s going on, and you don’t interact with the corporations who are members, then you’ve basically wasted your money and your time, and I can basically guarantee you that your certificate will provide zero value for you,” he said. “But if you make the calls, if you come to the events, if you put in that effort, then you’re going to get something out of it.
“We tell our minority business owners that corporations are not going to do business with you [just] because you’re a minority — they will do business with you [if] you’re good and you can convince them that you’re good,” he continued.
"Everybody does not win in business. Mutually beneficial exchanges do not necessarily take into consideration the impact that these transactions may have on others who are not directly involved," Dr. Fred McKinney wrote in this Feb. 5, 2009, Banner commentary piece. "But I choose to focus on the positive aspect of the term." More »
“Most customers we’ve met because of our certifications,” says Derek Brooks with a chuckle. “It’s one tool in your bag.” But as his wife and Inside Cable Inc. business partner Alexis Brooks points out, the tool can only work if you actually take it out of the bag and use it. “It’s only helpful if the company that’s certified knows how to leverage it,” she says. More »