CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Want to determine the strength of a business's
commitment to diversity? Find out where its money goes. Tammy
Troilo-Krings, of the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina, knows
this principle firsthand.
Her company, Travel Solutions (TSi), makes every effort to give its
business to minority-owned companies -- especially those that are
Native-owned. On the flip side, TSi was recently chosen by Cleveland-based
KeyBank to handle its corporate travel expenditures.
"KeyBank has a passion in working with minority companies, as opposed to a
'mission,'" said Troilo-Krings. "Some companies have a minority department.
They may put procedures and processes into place -- and sometimes this
makes it even more difficult for minority companies to get a foot in the
door. But there's no fire in their belly; it's just something they have to
do. It's kind of, 'Here's our Web site. Register and we'll call you if we
ever need you.'
"On the other hand, KeyBank seeks out these [minority-owned] companies --
and makes sure these vendors can support their business successfully. Key
doesn't equate 'minority' with 'inadequacy' or 'mediocrity,' like many
Key's passion for diversity, as described by Troilo-Krings, is evident when
considering the position of Poppie Parish, KeyBank's vice president of
supplier diversity programs. A 25-year veteran of supplier diversity,
Parish cited her primary directive as identifying minority businesses to
provide goods and services to fulfill Key's procurement needs.
"It's exciting to me to be in an organization at this point in my life that
understands the importance of using women- and minority-owned businesses,"
said Parish. "I began my career in the utility industry, where using
[minority businesses] was mandated because one of our largest clients was
the U.S. government. Here at KeyBank, we are not mandated, but feel it's a
strategic business move to partner and build relationships with such
Previously contracted to do business with one of the top three travel
companies in the United States, KeyBank's supplier diversity department
chose TSi for three main reasons: cost effectiveness, service and Key's
corporate diversity goal.
"Our projected [minority business] spend for 2005 is $60 million," said
Debbie Manos, director of procurement for KeyBank. "This year alone, our
commitment with TSi will be $15 [million] to $20 million. Since we began
making a concerted effort four years ago to build these relationships,
Key's [minority business] spend has surpassed the $100 million mark. Next
year, our annual goal is $70 million in total [minority business] spend."
KeyBank sets a corporate supplier diversity goal which encompasses every
line of business within the bank. In order to reach this year's goal of 8
percent, Parish's team knew they'd have to do something different.
Historically, Key's purchases were made up of numerous minority businesses
that were small in scale and size, but that didn't add up to much.
Through their research, TSi appeared on the procurement team's radar
screen, and everything began to change.
"Our strategy continues to change, trying to get larger contracts," said
Manos. "We asked, 'Would it be cost-effective, of greater value, etc. to
outsource our travel expenditures to TSi, who works with air carriers to
pay within a week of booking?'"
In the past, individual Key employees would pay for travel with their
credit card, then wait for reimbursement. Now TSi pays the airline, and
KeyBank pays TSi. This new program is in place across the entire company.
"We are now putting the traveler in the hands of TSi," said Parish. "We
have had an increase in service quality over the previous provider, looking
at travel events where the traveler needs help."
Troilo-Krings said, "We had been talking with KeyBank for a while about
providing travel services. The fact that we were [Women's Business
Enterprise National Council-certified] supported their interest in us. They
were with a very large agency. Nobody was really complaining; there were no
real service issues. They had been with that agency for a long time, but
really wanted to work with a minority organization. We were able to offer a
nice package, to give them a considerable cost savings."
As Troilo-Krings pointed out, it's easy to make "the usual promises that
'We're the better provider, we'll give you better service.' But that's lip
service until you get into actually doing it." The TSi team was quite
surprised, however, at the accolades from KeyBank travelers once the
changeover took place. "We were told the service level had improved 1,000
percent," said Troilo-Krings.
"KeyBank gave us the opportunity to prove ourselves," she said. "They have
extended it to a partnership by introducing us to others who are looking
for a similar affiliation. That's been overwhelming -- that Key has that
kind of commitment to the community to support businesses like mine.
They've offered us the ability to expand -- it's been an awesome
experience. It wasn't just overwhelming; it was a bit shocking. And it
comes from the top."
KeyBank Chairman and CEO Henry L. Meyer III extended a personal invitation
to Troilo-Krings to attend a small event. There she was invited to talk
about her company, to other such strategic Key partners.
"I start to feed off their energy, their excitement about this," said
Troilo-Krings. "It wasn't until I started getting engaged, especially with
Poppie and Debbie, that this became such an exciting venture. That's
because of their enthusiasm about their program, and their commitment to
"Now, because of their references, just in the last six months we have
acquired two additional customers. These are not new clients that they sent
to us, but prospective clients we sent to KeyBank for a reference. They've
also shown a very genuine interest in helping grow my business. They've
introduced me to the regional president to develop a banking relationship
with her, and have shared their success story with prospects for me, and
are enthusiastic about doing that for me. They've been very good for us."