Jerry Fulmer, Supplier Diversity WEC Energy Group (Photo by Karen Stokes)

The Resource Group and Ascension Wisconsin hosted a Supplier diversity symposium on April 30. Speakers, panelists, hospital and healthcare executives, participated in the symposium to educate attendees on the contracting process and strengthening relationships with diverse owned businesses.

The Strengthening Relationships…Building Community event offered workshops, speakers and panel discussions specifically designed for small and diverse businesses looking to pursue or continue doing business with Ascension through the Resource Group.

Rick Norris, Director Community Business Development Partners Milwaukee County and Reginald Layton, VP Supplier Diversity, Johnson Controls (Photo by Karen Stokes)

In 2011, Ascension introduced its centrally coordinated contracting and supply chain model under single leadership. The organization is called The Resource Group. In 2017 The Resource Group topped $900 million in annual savings and $2 billion in cumulative savings.

The Resource Group funnels in small minority businesses and are a supplier for the nationwide hospital organization.

Michael Wray, Vice President, Clinical Integration of the Resource Group said, in 1999, Ascension became a ministry that quickly grew to be the largest non-profit Catholic healthcare institution in the U.S., now the largest of its kind in the world.

Jessie Leonard, associate director WBE certification/Milwaukee WBCC (Photo by Karen Stokes)

“Our approach was to bring our model to Ascension and that is user directed integrated solutions,” said Wray. “We are blessed to work with Ascension.”

According to the US Census, The U.S. population is becoming more diverse as minority populations quickly grow. The minority population will account for nearly 90 percent of the total growth by 2050.

The panel discussion was moderated by Heather Olson, president and CEO of the North Central Minority Supplier Development Council and the panel included, Jessie Leonard, associate director WBE certification/Milwaukee WBDC; Rick Norris, director Community Business Development Partners, Milwaukee County; Reginald Layton, VP Supplier Diversity Johnson Controls and Jerry Fulmer, Supplier Diversity WEC Energy Group.

The panel discussed knowing your business, doing your homework, how to interview Corporation representatives and other opportunities in Milwaukee.

Michael Wray, Clinical Integration of The Resource Group (Photo by Karen Stokes)

“People know their craft but are not working on their business,” said Norris. “Working on your business means getting out of your comfort zone or what you’re used to doing. Minority business owners tend to focus on minority businesses being a sub instead of a prime.

Everyone on the panel stressed knowing your company and knowing the corporations you’re looking to approach for business.

“You need to do your homework about who you want to do business with and where you fit,” Fulmer said. “You can’t really come in there and talk about your business, you have to understand the complexities of their business, find out what their problems are and find the solutions to their problems.”

“Look for lead triggers. Lead triggers happen everyday on the news your Facebook account in all your notifications,” said Layton. “Johnson Controls is buying Tyco, stocks went up, every time there is a difference it opens the door to present yourself.”

Norris reiterated, “You have to do your homework. The gatekeeper will know from your conversation that you understand their business.”

Layton suggested interviewing the corporations, “Interview us. What do you buy? How much do you buy? You should be drilling us on issues rather than doing your elevator speech hoping that you would fit in a plan that was already written before you came into the room.”

When asked about the future, Leonard said “Adapt and change how you develop your business and your customer contacts. You really have to look at how technology is going to impact your business.”
According to Norris, there’s an area that’s been greatly underutilized by minority business women in Milwaukee County is the area of airport concessions.

“Airport concessions alone are approximately $40 million. Over five years ago we only had one or two concessioners and through our efforts we have 10 concessioners that have been certified,” said Norris.
The DNC convention is coming in 2020. This will present opportunities for Milwaukee.

“This is the time to really get involved,” said Norris. “If you have not gone to Milwaukee to register your company, you should. We’re talking about a quarter of a billion dollars and 50 million of that will be put in the hands of minority and women owned businesses. In order to do that you need to get involved with this process.”

Definitely utilize the advocacy organizations,” said Olson. “We’re not simply here to certify your company were here to grow your business.”