Recently, the Major League Baseball (MLB) organization conducted their annual MLB Winter Diversity Summit, where MLB decision makers specifically discussed engaging a diverse supply base as a component of the Baseball Winter Meetings.
The invitation-only event provided an opportunity for current and new suppliers to engage with MLB procurement leaders, to increase the possibility for purchasing transactions. Specifically, the “How to do Business with MLB” panel discussed how the procurement process works within the League, and what the teams look for in selecting a supplier.
Corey Smith, MLB senior director of supplier diversity and strategic sourcing, sat down with Black Enterprise to provide some insight into MLB’s supplier diversity efforts, why it’s a year-round priority, and how potential suppliers can work with the League:
BLACK ENTERPRISE: Can you tell me a little bit about your role at MLB?
Smith: I’m responsible for MLB’s overall procurement strategy—how we spend our money with vendors and our supply chain. Obviously, a subset of that responsibility is to ensure that some of that spend occurs with diverse suppliers.
I have a responsibility for the whole league; so, all 30 major league clubs, the commissioner’s office, MLB network, MLB advanced media, such as MLB.com. I also work with the corporate diversity and inclusion office for the minor league.
BE: How does MLB define diversity?
Smith: For us, diversity covers ethnicity, so minority-owned businesses—African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. We also factor in gender, so women-owned businesses. We also have a whole subset of other categories, such as small business, LGBT, veteran-owned, disabled. All of these categories fall under diverse suppliers for us.
BE: What initiatives does MLB have in place to attract diverse suppliers?
Smith: We consider ourselves the premier supplier diversity initiative in the sports industry.
Some of the other leagues, [like] the NBA or the NFL, have great programs, but, for us, we do this all the time, year round. We partner with our suppliers and try to source them across all types of member organizations. We are corporate members of traditional organizations, like all of the Chambers of Commerce [offices]. We’re a corporate member of the Black Chamber, Hispanic Chamber, U.S. pan-Asian chamber, and this year, a corporate member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. All of those organizations provide great databases of suppliers for us. If I’m looking for an African American signage company, or I’m looking for an Asian facilities company, I tap into those organizations, and they provide me with a variety of suppliers on a frequent basis.
We have our own methodology for sourcing suppliers. The individual baseball clubs are great at their local business initiatives. Local business is important; we want to be good neighbors in the neighborhoods that we have these massive baseball stadiums. And, frankly, those are the people that buy the tickets and come to the games. We want to do right by them, right by our fans, and right by the neighborhoods in which we operate. So, we always try to support the small businesses in those areas, in those cities.
BE: How can a potential supplier find more information to start doing business with MLB?
Smith: We have our own registration portal. Potential suppliers can go to our website to learn more about becoming DBPs, [which is MLB’s acronym for “diverse business partners”]. A company can register their information and can even indicate which team they would like to work with.
I spend a lot of time going out and looking for the types of suppliers that we need. I make sure that, before I attend any event, I reach out to the clubs to find out what they’re looking for—if they are about to issue a bid for or a DBP, or if there’s a particular commodity area in which I should focus.
Between the databases, between the organizations that we partner with, between conferences and events, and our registration portal, we find everything we are looking for.
We’ve got tons of people, obviously, that want to do business with MLB. We can’t do business with all of them at the same time, but we have tons of resources to find what you need.