International Day was the first day of the MSDUK (Minority Supplier Development United Kingdom) Conference hosted especially for International minority businesses from the USA, South Africa, Canada and me the only Aussie. There were approximately 80 delegates in attendance who represented UK ethnic minority businesses and supplier diversity professionals from USA and UK corporations. The event was held at the Grange City hotel which was a short 5 min walk from my hotel at Tower Hill.
The panel I was speaking on was first up on the agenda for the day. I was extremely nervous, but nothing a little rescue remedy couldn’t solve. The panel was titled ‘Global Opportunities: Next stage of growth for minority businesses’, with a purpose of exploring the current landscapes and trends across the global, and the opportunities for growth for minority businesses seeking to expand their footprint. Javette Hines from Citi did an amazing job in facilitating and it was an honour to share the stage with Joset Wright-Lacey (National Minority Supplier Development Council NMSDC, USA), Mayank Shah (Minority Supplier Development United Kingdom, MSDUK), and Cassandra Dorrington (Canadian Aboriginal Minority Supplier Council CAMSC, Canada).
I shared information about the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy and the results from the first year that demonstrate the growth for Indigenous business since its inception, I also spoke about Supply Nation’s Australian Supplier Diversity Index (ASDI) benchmarking tool, Indigenous business direct (the public directory of Indigenous business) and the growth markets in Australia.
There were some common themes shared regarding the challenges for minority businesses across the global, these included access to capital, identifying new and emerging markets, embracing technology and growing minority businesses in demand categories to meet member need. It was interesting to hear how different the political contexts we each are working in. MSDUK is still waiting to understand what Brexit will mean and its impact, CAMSC has a focus on gaining Government support for social procurement policy and NMSDC is in the midst of a presidential election, and working on their 2020 strategic plan.
My nerves subsided with each question I answered, well at least my hands stopped sweating and I began to ease into the conversation more comfortably. The panel was a great experience, something I will never forget. I felt really honoured to speak about Australia and the work of Supply Nation. Many delegates came and spoke to me afterwards and were very impressed with the Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) and the work our Government was doing for Indigenous business. I’ve found everyone intrigued by Australia, yet when I invite them down under they are seriously hesitant because of the long haul flight! I’ve told them to toughen up. It seriously isn’t that bad.
My absolute highlight of the day was hearing Janice Bryant Howroyd (ACT-1 Group) speak on the entrepreneur’s panel sharing ‘key ingredients for a successful Global business’. This is the 2nd time I’ve heard Janice speak; (she is definitely worth a google, she was ranked #34 on Forbes 2016 America’s self-made women list with a net worth of $420 million), I heard her in the USA a couple of years ago. She never fails to inspire and amaze me. She speaks with conviction, experience and a genuine desire to support minority businesses. My key take-aways from Janice, were to find what makes you indispensable to the organisations you work with and her ABC of success.
A – Ask the right questions and listen for the right answers
B – being where you say you will be, when you say you will be and how you say you’re going to be there
C – circular communication – everyone who needs to know, knows and understands the desired outcomes.
The day finished with a robust afternoon tea, known as ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ meaning discussion over high tea. If you were a business, you participated in business to business meetings, while other professionals engaged in themed table discussions. I had four scheduled business to business meetings with minority businesses from the UK. It was great to network and learn about other businesses. We talked about our business offerings and with each new one on one meeting I learnt a little more about how business is done in the UK, and the challenges that ethnic minorities are facing with procurement. I definitely feel there are opportunities for UK ethnic minority business to joint venture with Indigenous businesses for global reach and to compliment and expand their capabilities. I loved the high tea concept, and the food was delicious and amazing.
From Day 1, I gained insights into the UK economy and Brexit, a thorough understanding of ethnic minority business offerings and how they do business, I grew my business network, and made many new friends. I was inspired by the entrepreneurial success stories shared particularly by Janice Bryant Howroyd and I am hopeful that minority businesses from around the global see the power in the collective; that businesses working together can create successful partnerships, increase capabilities and tackle new markets.
It was a full on day. Lots of learning, and very rewarding.
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