Supplier Diversity and Women-owned Businesses

There was definitely a buzz in the room on the 26th floor of the Royal Bank of Scotland offices in Amsterdam’s business district yesterday. Women business owners were engaging with procurement specialists from the corporate world – represented in this case by IMB, RBS and Accenture to learn how to do business with corporates. “I make people look good”, one of the women in the audience said. “How do I get in touch with decision makers in your company that need my services?” “I need your services”, the gentleman from RBS said, making the point that anyone in a corporation needs to look good when they are addressing the public, or a customer. He looked great, he had definitely put thought into his suit and tie, and clearly became self-conscious knowing that the woman sitting in front of him possibly knew more about choosing the right thing than he did. He is now her contact person within the company and he can direct her to the people she can best talk business with.

It was easy to start conversations with other women business owners later because so many women had asked questions during the Q&A session. One after the other, women stood up and told about their specific business niche – connecting expat women, creating bridges for women entrepreneurs in Africa, training expats in cross-cultural experience (and getting used to living in the Netherlands), and educational products. One of my favourite speakers told us she made more money asking the company to pay what they thought her training was worth, than by stating the price upfront. A great tip there!

I spoke with Jane Stephenson, a soft skills and interpersonal communications trainer who owns a company called Knowboundaries. She has something great to offer companies: she teaches people how to present themselves online and offline. Again, something every company needs, large or small.  Our conversation made me aware that many people could provide the services she is providing but she is being successful because she is finding the right people to speak with and she speaks in a way that the listener wants to hear more.

Yesterday’s event created an effective environment in which people could meet each other.  As a networking expert I look for evidence at an event like this of the  four secrets to networking:

–       know what you want or need

–       tell people what you are up to

–       let people know what you need

–       listen to the needs of others and respond generously.

These key actions apply to networking events, but also to the workplace. Once staff or colleagues apply these four actions, the organization can reap the benefits that networked people offer – connections to resources outside the organization, a shared knowledge bank and a feeling of connectedness that empowers people to go beyond the safe space behind the desk.

NETSHEILA trains the staff of organizations to work together as a network, sharing information about what they need and what their circle of friends and acquaintances can provide. On Monday we start our next series of workshops with teachers at a large secondary school in North Holland. NETSHEILA has a track record in delivering this training that provides concrete results to the organizations and companies we work with.

Yesterday’s event was organized by WeConnect International together with the Workplace Pride women’s program.

About WEConnect International
WEConnect wants to see more women who majority own their businesses (definition: minimum 51% ownership by one or more women) connected into procurement opportunities from amongst our corporate members which includes a broad range of companies in Europe such as: Accenture, American Express, ASDA (Wal-Mart), Capital One, Cisco Systems, Clifford Chance, Coca Cola, Cummins, Ernst & Young, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs, HP, IBM, Intel, Interpublic Group, Johnson & Johnson, Johnson Controls, JP Morgan Chase, Marriott International, MasterCard Worldwide, MSD (Merck), Pfizer, Royal Bank of Scotland, SDI Limited, Sodexo and Wyndham Worldwide. WEConnect International corporate members represent $700 billion in annual purchasing power and are true pioneers in inclusive sourcing and global supplier development and a full list of our global corporate members can be found online here:

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