Director of Supplier Diversity, AARP
To accommodate more types of businesses and people, supplier diversity is an ever-changing area of business. We talked to Kimberly Marcus, director of supplier diversity for AARP, to get her take on the hottest trends in this field.
What led you to work in supplier diversity?
I considered my position as Director of Economic Development for the NAACP to be an exciting turning point in my career, as it gave me the chance to tackle issues of immediate relevance to equal opportunity for people of color.
I am no stranger to the world of minority-owned businesses, as I owned and ran my own diversity consulting firm, KC Consulting. As the principal consultant, I expanded on the type of work I had done for the NAACP. I continued to advise client firms on diversity initiatives, and recommended implementation strategies. Ultimately, this led me to supplier diversity.
What was the one thing that ultimately led you to success?
Never stop being open to learning.
What is the most successful supplier diversity trend you have seen?
Technology, flexibility, and innovation. With the constant change in technology, corporations look for suppliers who are very flexible, can adapt, and can change as the company changes. Technology requires companies to hire diverse suppliers who are highly innovative and can help their company beat its competitors.
What do you believe is the best skill to have when working with this initiative?
Empathy and compassion. It is important to be able to put yourself in the supplier’s position of wanting to grow their business with your company, as well as be able to understand the end goal of the business unit, which is trying to have its needs met in the quickest and most cost-effective manner.
What is the most unique supplier diversity trend with which you have worked?
Small diverse suppliers building relationships with other small diverse suppliers, instead of with larger suppliers, to win the bid.
What is one supplier diversity initiative you hope to introduce or work with in the future?
Business transition strategies and succession planning (what that looks like for the seasoned entrepreneur). Also legacy — how to ensure a business lives on after the founder is no longer leading the day-to-day operations.