Felix Bratslavsky works at Tampa General Hospital, a very large level-one trauma center that is number one in Florida for transplants. The organization has more than 8,000 employees but they still contract out much of their workload.
Gilda Rosenberg started a vending machine company 35 years ago in Miami and she slowly grew it to include major clients like universities, schools, and hospitals. She calls her relationship with the NMSDC a love affair that resulted in referrals, connections, and mentorship that helped her to grow her business.
Tampa General has a minority business program that breaks out the four procurement categories from construction and professional services to general goods and services, and medical services and supplies. The hospital has a lot of contracting opportunities and a lot of partners within the state of Florida and even nationwide.
The Minority Business Enterprise program administered by the NMSDC recognizes for-profit businesses in the U.S. that are 51 percent owned, operated, capitalized, and controlled by minorities.
Felix says that MBEs that want to stand out should strive to be a partner. Add value, be cost-efficient, and know about the customer. Understand the customers’ goals, their missions, and where they’re headed. Bring the solution to wherever your prospective customer is going.
In the case of Tampa General, the hospital recently got a new CEO that is leading the organization down a different path. MBEs that want to engage should recognize that the business has changed paths and they should offer solutions that relate to the path the company is on.
Be an expert in your own business. Instead of coming to the prospect with a variety of items, they should know the situation well enough to narrow the solution down the best possible option and lead with that one.
MBEs must do their homework and focus on preparation if they that want to get noticed. Organizations receive hundreds of emails every day, so generic outreach will generally get deleted.
Learn the process to get on the vendor application and then build a relationship. Finally, come with solutions. Understand your business and their business well enough that you can have meaningful conversations about each.
If you want to be the next partner, you should already know who your competitors are, and who your prospect is currently using and why they are using that company. You should know whether a contract exists, and whether it’s up for renewal.
Companies that do those things win opportunities.
Differentiate yourself by being prepared. When there are so many companies doing the same thing and offering the same service, you have to stand out.
Maybe you stand out on price or on value or even additional services. Whatever it is, make sure that the corporations you’re pursuing know what sets you apart.
Finding the right people
Gilda recalls asking a bank for a $5 million loan for vending machines and being treated as though she was crazy. She said that her connections through NMSDC helped her learn how to negotiate the loan process as she interacted with banking people and how to create bids from connecting with hospital CEOs.
Her biggest challenge in the vending industry has been the labor force. Her first route driver stole from her, so she learned that she had to control inventories differently. As the industry grew into a technological one, she had to bring in geek squads.
She also learned how to find the human resources that support your mission and your vision. She said that finding the right manpower still poses one of her greatest challenges even today. The company struggles to find loyal employees who stick around because small companies struggle to sustain high turnover. The cost of training is simply too high.
She experienced a huge lift when she was introduced to the minority certification program. Then, she slowly grew her network and interacted with larger organizations where she landed contracts.
You must prove yourself to the client. She says the most incredible satisfaction comes from helping minorities nationwide. Her suppliers and equipment originate from minorities. And now newer companies want her to introduce them to other contacts.
Gilda calls her mission a mission to help other minorities. She also calls NMSDC the best college she ever went to. Although she studied economics in college, she grew professionally among the members of the NMSDC. She learned to nurture others.
Don’t think twice about joining the council because there’s nowhere better to network. The council’s handholding helps businesses by taking extra steps to get you to the right people. And knowing the right people can be the key to growing your business and creating value.
“Growing Your Business and Creating Value” episode resources
You can connect with Felix at (813) 844-3474 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the hospital website. You can connect with Gilda at email@example.com. Learn more about the National Minority Supplier Development Council and its offerings at the website, nmsdc.org. If you haven’t connected with me on LinkedIn already, do that at Donald C. Kelly and watch the things I’m sharing there.
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