BENTONVILLE, AK – The supplier diversity team at Wal-Mart understands the value of small minority and women owned businesses. Maintaining a diverse supplier base puts dollars back into local communities and provides Wal-Mart stores with locally grown produce and local products.
Theresa Barrera, vice president of Supplier Diversity and Management, said, “Diversity was established because Wal-Mart understands there is a need to work with diverse women owned businesses and minorities. When we look at our communities – and at some of the small companies – they are often the ones to come out with the great ideas and new inventions. We have found that our diverse suppliers are more innovative and creative than maybe the larger suppliers. When we build a Wal-Mart store in a local market it sure does feel good to have local people building that store.”
One of the many minority owned companies Wal-Mart contracts with is Horizon Engineering, a civil engineering firm owned by Margo Gray-Proctor – an Osage from northeastern Oklahoma. “We have enjoyed our working relationship with Wal-Mart. Our first project with them was on a learning curve – Wal-Mart is very specific of how they want things done – and rightfully so. They have a great model,” said Proctor. “We know how to hit deadlines, because when we do our job they are making money. Wal-Mart is one of our clients that we want to have repeat business with – we do a good job and they call us back.”
Proctor said that since partnering with Wal-Mart she has been able to grow her company. “We had done several projects at this point upwards in the multi-million dollar range that required skill sets to meet the demands of time equals money. We felt we were prepared to work with corporate America,” she said.
Proctor was first introduced to Wal-Mart’s diversity team three years ago at a Reservation Economic Summit sponsored by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development – during the summit she was awarded “Indian Business of the Year.” Proctor also serves as president of the Oklahoma American Indian Chamber of Commerce. “I invited Wal-Mart’s diversity team to speak at one of the Chamber of Commerce luncheons in Tulsa. They then asked me to talk to their Tribal Voices organization which is comprised of their American Indian employees. In order to maximize my visit I asked that while I was there I meet with their engineering department. I wanted to get in front of them to break that corporate bubble for diversification of my own firm.
“They took the time to set up those appointments for me. I went from working with the Tribal Voices group in the morning to meeting with a group of about 14 people in the afternoon – from engineers to their realty department. We had our marketing material and told them who we were, what we could do and why we felt we would be a good fit for Wal-Mart. It took about six months before we got a call back. Other women and minority owned businesses see corporate business as being hard to get into – so it gives them hope to see our relationship with Wal-Mart,” she said.
In addition to growing her business with Wal-Mart by providing infrastructure for new development – preparing the new site, meeting Wal-Mart’s specifications, and coordinating permits – Horizon Engineering has formed lasting relationships with other Wal-Mart sub-consultants who now work together on other projects.
Phillip Keene, manager of media relations for Wal-Mart’s corporate communications department, said, “We operate large in many respects but we also have the capacity to have these one-on-one relationships that are really beneficial incertain areas and get the maximum return on both the suppliers investment of time and resources – as well as ours. I think Horizon Engineering is a good example of that in regards to scale. There is definitely a way to have a relationship like this – Margo’s story is one of many that work very well.”
Barrera said, “Wal-Mart is committed to working with local suppliers and making sure we sell the products our customers want to buy. Diversity inclusion in general is something that we take very seriously at the company in all aspects – hiring and retention, products and services.”
“Reaching out to diverse businesses and getting their products integrated into communities where it makes sense – where that is what people want – is just a part of the overall picture of how we expand out and welcome that in our stores,” said Keene.
According to their Web site, Wal-Mart’s associate base includes more than 16,000 American Indian and Alaskan Native employees and they partner with more than 3,300 minority and women business suppliers. Their supplier diversity program has grown from $2 million initially to $4.8 billion spent with minority and women-owned businesses in 2007.
CEO of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott, said, “As part of our continuing efforts to become a leader in diversity, we will increase the amount of business we do with minority companies, using our size and leverage to create companies of significant size and stature.”
For information about becoming a diverse supplier for Wal-Mart, visit www.walmartstores.com. For more information about the Horizon Companies visit www.thehorizoncompanies.net.