Before taking on a major corporate client, do your due diligence. Macy’s Aubyn Thomas stresses the importance of doing your homework before entering into a partnership with Macy’s: “Doing it after the ‘marriage’ is too late.” Macy’s uses programs, including corporate mentorship, to try to establish for potential vendors a clear understanding of operational expectations, swings in demand for products and services, deliverables and the operational demands of the partnership. “Be sure the corporation is clear on your capabilities–don’t over-promise, be honest,” Thomas says, adding that the corporation also has an obligation to put its vendors in position to succeed prior to engaging them as suppliers.
Sam’s Club/Wal-Mart’s White echoes Thomas. “It’s your job to know who we are, what we do, what services we provide, who are customers are,” she asserts. One of the ways her programs seeks to enable this learning is by sending minority and female business owners to Dartmouth University’s Tufts School of Business for business development education last year, with plans to do so again this year.
Have a realistic, executable plan to finance the pursuit of opportunities. “Be prepared to put your personal money on the line,” says James. In addition, he says he aggressively pursued state and federal grants. Also, in his search for a manufacturing partner, one of the objectives was to find a company with a financial structure that could help Agri-Tech Producers with cash flow management and other financial support. James says taking this into consideration when seeking a partnership “will enable growth and scalability” for your business.
Sustainability and environmental responsibility are key factors driving supplier diversity. Says Macy’s Thomas, “At Macy’s, we have an internal focus, for our employees, and an external focus for sustainability, [for suppliers and the communities where stores are located]. Be prepared to show the value proposition your firm offers to help potential corporate partners to achieve both sets of objectives.”