It's a maxim in business: It's not what you know, it's who you know. While much can be said for the inverse, good connections are vital to business success.
Programs around the country have certified businesses owned by women or minorities to connect suppliers with corporate participants. Those programs inspired the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) in 2004 to create a Supplier Diversity Initiative for LGBT-owned Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs). Eleven corporations joined the program's launch, a number that has grown to more than 130 today.
(Photo courtesy NGLCC)
IBM was NGLCC's first founding partner and was joined on the initiative by Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Motorola Inc., Travelport, Intel Corp., Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, American Airlines, American Express Co., Ernst & Young and the former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
Nearly 300 businesses have been certified under criteria that include at least 51 percent ownership by LGBT individuals. NGLCC, which conducts the certifications, has set a goal of 400 participating suppliers by November.
''Certification means access – access to corporate decision makers and access to resources for long-term business growth,'' says Phil Giorgianni, NGLCC's senior manager for supplier diversity and outreach. ''Diverse suppliers have access to dedicated supplier-diversity professionals to be their advocates within large corporations.''
Certification also includes a site visit by NGLCC that is intended to ensure that corporate resources dedicated to the LGBT community actually get there.
IBM turned to NGLCC after having established its own diversity program but finding LGBT businesses hard to identify.
"It was like looking for a needle in a haystack,'' says Irwin Drucker, who in 1999 became IBM's first LGBT supplier-diversity program director. ''Sometimes my 'gaydar' would work, but for the most part, after three years, we had only six identified LGBT suppliers.''