Diversity Certification – Go or No?: The merits behind becoming a Diversity Certified Supplier

by Glenn Haussman, Editor in Chief of Hotel Interactive, Inc.

Supplier Diversity is quickly becoming a core initiative by many leading lodging companies. But like most new things, figuring out how to make these programs work is a learning process. Both buyers and suppliers are not only learning the ropes of these programs; they’re still creating them.

It’s the same with Diversity Certification. Though savvy suppliers are quickly learning that getting certified as a Diversity Supplier is a smart move to get them in the door, they know it’s not a wholesale solution to business building. Instead, Supplier Diversity Certification is the leading edge of the sword creating an entry point for a potential sale.

It was a common theme expressed by experts at the Buyer Interactive Trade Alliance and Conference (BITAC) Supplier Diversity event being held this week at the gorgeous Aria Las Vegas, the premier resort at the CityCenter complex in Las Vegas.

Fact is diversity initiatives may help encourage inclusiveness but it’s never going to be the business building panacea many newer suppliers make think it is. Instead, certification is really just a means to get more eyes focused on a specific organization. And no matter what one may think, it is definitely not a crutch to be relied upon.

“You can mention [Diversity Certification] in the first phone call, but you should never lean on it,” said Danielle Smith, Manager, Supplier Diversity at Choice Hotels International during an interactive panel discussion this morning. “There are a lot of newer suppliers who feel that you have to give them the business because they are certified.”

Bridget Carter, Manager Supplier Diversity with Harrah’s Entertainment, agreed that certification is really just another tool to get her company to give you an opportunity to make the right sales pitch. “Certification doesn’t guarantee you get the business. [Suppliers] still have to identify the key people in the organization you need to be talking to and communicate effectively so that when there is an opportunity for business you have built the relationship,” said Carter.

The smartest suppliers already recognize this truism. Noel Asmar, CEO and Founder of Spa Uniforms, was certified as a Diversity Supplier just a few weeks back through WeConnect, the Canadian arm of WeBENC. She realizes that in the end certification is just another sales tactic she can use to get in the door and provide some additional contacts. To her it’s well worth the $750 a year fee for certification.

“We will approach it as there is an additional contact/asset in a corporation you are trying to do business with,” said Asmar.

So what are some of the other benefits to going through the certification process? Well for one, Kimberly Smith, Manager of Diversity & Inclusion with InterContinental Hotels Group, said it helps her organization trust emerging companies she has never done business with previously.

“For companies who become certified with agencies, it becomes a Cliff Notes to doing business,” said Smith, noting that certification equates to an understanding the company is financially solvent and therefore can be trusted to deliver promised goods and services. “Being able to know you are certified makes us confident we can give that company’s information to our [hotel] owners.”

What is Diversity Certification? Click here to learn more . . .

Certification organizations also provide a wellspring of additional resources. All of the elements that help build successful businesses such as access to seminars, education and networking opportunities.

“Certification brings with it a lot of opportunities for networking and outreach; I sponsor workshops and participate in networking opportunities. It’s a good way for suppliers to get to know the corporations they want to do business with. By being certified you have opened the door to expanding opportunities,” said Harrah’s Carter.

Finally groups falling under the certification banner are expanding. Now some companies are recognizing disabled veterans while some are starting to accept gay, lesbian and transgender business owners under the diversity banner.

“We think about who are consumers are and try to be reflective of that through our suppliers,” said InterContinental’s Smith. “We try to be all-encompassing.”

About the Author
Glenn Haussman is Hotel Interactive’s Editor In Chief, where he manages all editorial content for the hotel industry’s leading online information resource.

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