James Sturgis Jr. is the Director of Supplier Diversity for the Royal Ahold family of U.S.-based retail grocers. Ahold is an international group of supermarkets and foodservice operators based in the United States and Europe. Sturgis joined Ahold in October 2004 and now represents Stop & Shop in New England.
At Ahold, Sturgis is responsible for ensuring diverse supplier participation in every category of buying. These categories include items that Ahold resells in its grocery stores as well as products and services required to conduct business (not-for-resale).
Sturgis has worked for a diverse group of companies in a wide variety of roles. Some of the companies include General Motors, Lockheed, AT&T and Motorola. Sturgis’ supply chain experience includes roles in manufacturing operations, industrial engineering and strategic sourcing. Before joining Ahold, Sturgis was manager of Supplier Diversity for PepsiCo, Inc.
Sturgis received his bachelor of industrial engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology and his M.B.A. from the University of Miami. Sturgis is now a member of the board of directors for the Center for Women & Enterprise, the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council and the Maryland/DC Minority Supplier Development Council.
Q: What are your responsibilities at your current position?
A: In a nutshell, my job is to identify certified minority and women owned businesses with the capacity to provide a good or service to our organization. No one receives business with us simply because they are a minority or woman owned business. They still have to bring the service, quality and pricing levels to which we are accustomed. They must be able to quantify their value to our organization.
Q: How did you become qualified for the job?
A: I’ve worked for GM, Lockheed Martin, AT&T, Florida Power Corp, Lithonia Lighting, Motorola, Tropicana/PepsiCo and the United States Navy. My experience has been primarily in manufacturing and procurement. I view supplier diversity as very specialized procurement. Instead of looking at the entire pool of capable suppliers, I am looking at a subset of those suppliers.
Q: How does Stop & Shop identify opportunities for minority suppliers?
A: We’re looking for companies that can provide anything that we are currently writing checks for. Some categories are more complicated than others but we try to address them all. We engage vendors via our website, our affiliations with different supplier diversity organizations and conferences we attend. I can be more specific with a phone call if you like. I think the way we reach out is pretty cool.
Q: What qualities are you looking for in companies seeking to do business with Stop & Shop?
A: A financially healthy company, a company that knows my business as well as their own, a company that does their homework before meeting with us, a company that has demonstrated success, a company that provides great service and that really works to partner with us.
Q: How do you handle the rejection of minority business solicitors?
A: I attempt to communicate the rejections in business terms. I’ll explain where the business fell short and perhaps offer advice on not only how they could approach us differently in the future but also how they might approach other companies like mine.
Q: What opportunities for minority suppliers presently exist at Stop & Shop?
A: I actually post all opportunities on www.stopandshop.com.
Q: What has been the performance of minority suppliers?
A: Some good, some bad but at the end of the day, they’ve contributed millions in sales and saved us millions of dollars.