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How to Grow your Business with Supplier Diversity Programs


What if I told you that there was a company – whom you know well – that spends $2 billion a year hiring and contracting with small and diverse businesses? And what if I further told you that this company is always looking to expand its network of small business suppliers and that your business could be one of them? Would you be interested?

Of course you would.

That company happens to be our friends at Bank of America and these contractors are hired through its small business supplier diversity program. The bank puts it this way:

In 2020, Bank of America celebrates 30 years of commitment to engaging with diverse-owned companies. Through our Supplier Diversity program, we support the growth of minority, women, veteran, disabled, service-disabled veteran, LGBT+ and other diverse-owned suppliers.”

Bank of America is not the only one doing this. Most large, Fortune 500 companies have their own supplier diversity programs for the same reason: To get the products, supplies, and services they need to run their businesses, while also supporting local and historically underserved business.

They do this in a variety of ways. One way, yes, is that they contract with smaller companies to get goods and services, but often these sorts of programs do much more. As an example, look at BofA’s program:

  • Delivering training to small and diverse businesses with insights on accessing capital and credit, expanding their businesses and creating local economic impact
  • Supporting non-minority owned businesses use of diverse-owned businesses in their supply chains”
  • Encouraging participation in our Supplier Diversity and Development Mentoring Program – a high-touch mentor program customized for each company to drive optimum developmental impact

Supplier diversity programs exist to help businesses owned by traditionally underrepresented or disadvantaged people get better contracts and grow their businesses: Women, minorities, LGBQ, veterans, and so on. For large corporations, it is a no-brainer: There is a trackable high return on investment by using supplier diversity programs. And for you, the small businesses, these sorts of larger contracts are a great way to take your business to the next level.

3 Tips to Get Started

Here are three tips on how to get going with corporate supplier diversity contracts:

1. Register with a certifying organization: Although you can self-certify as a diverse supplier, most businesses like to hire small businesses that are certified as diverse to meet their legal diversity benchmarks and requirements. Such organizations include, but are not limited to: the Small Business Association, Vets First, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Women’s Business Council. Certification varies from organization to organization, but generally it requires documentation of one’s status and having the required diverse ownership.

2. Attend diversity supplier events: Events where organizations actively look for diverse suppliers happen regularly, often under the penumbra of “Business Matchmaking” or “Supplier Diversity.” The CVM blog is a good resource for this. Events happen often – look up when the next one is in your area online, or here.

3. Do your homework: While yes, these programs are designed to help small businesses get big contracts, the first issue is how well you, as a supplier, are able to fulfill these corporate needs. This is not charity and there is competition. So do your homework. Read up on supplier diversity programs, learn the requirements of each company you are interested in, find out what a successful bid looks like, speak with others who have successfully navigated this path, and so on.

If you do, congratulations, because it’s worth it. Indeed, getting one of these sorts of contracts can be, if not life changing, then business changing.

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world’s leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

Web: or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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