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PATHWAY TO YOUR SUCCESS - PART 6: What The Corporate Supply Chain & Corporate Contracting Are Really All About

 This is episode six of my nine-part series on the “Pathway to your Success”. In this segment I am covering what corporate supply chain and corporate contracting really are all about; what it means for your business; and how it really and truly can help you build a legacy business that gives back. It's about understanding the environment that you're stepping into, the role that you play, and setting yourself up for huge success. – all of which encompass the corporate opportunity, the corporate demand for innovation and the role of small business.

I want you to think about something for a second. Go back in time. You can go back 10, 20, 30 years - doesn't really matter. Just think about if you were still dealing with regular mail, you didn't have a fax machine, you didn't have the internet, you didn't have video conferencing -- how might your business be operating right now? Imagine that a buyer put a request for proposal in the mail. You got it seven days from then, because that's how much time they allowed it. Then you had three weeks to work on it because you didn't really necessarily have a computer to work on. A lot of your responses had to be manually typed, then you had three or four days to get it back to the requester, and in most cases they said it had to be in their office by 12 o'clock on a Friday or close of business on a Friday.

In some cases, this was even before express delivery. This was before DHL, FedEx, UPS, or any type of overnight service. So, you had to hope that the post office reliably delivered it and you got it certified so that there was a signature to prove that it was received timely. That whole process took a month. Now, you may not actually remember this, but I'm pretty sure if you're old enough you do remember this, and whether you were in business or not, you kind of remember it. That was just the way it was. Gosh, going back far enough, this was even before cable television. We had regular broadcast TV. We only had four channels. So, it gets rather fascinating because you fast forward to today and you think, “wow, a lot of things have happened between five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago”.

Even if you only go back two or three years, a number of things have changed. It's like nothing stands still. For instance, if you follow gardening, you understand that if something's not growing, it's stagnant, and if it's stagnant it ultimately withers and dies. So, if you're talking about growth, then you either are growing or dying. You either are doing things to advance the cause, or you are standing still, becoming stagnant, and you risk falling behind. There's an interesting phrase that caught my attention. It's an old English proverb: “necessity is the mother of invention”. It means roughly that the primary driving force for most new inventions is a need. If necessity is the mother of invention, and the driving force for most new inventions is a need, then what is the greatest need for any company? That greatest need is growth.

Anyone that's trying to run a $200,000 business every year (and there's nothing wrong with a $200,000 business), but it's at risk of going out of business. Number one, $200,000 is worth less each and every year with inflation. Number two, as your costs go up, $200,000 a year is no longer profitable. And number three, a $200,000 a year business is probably highly susceptible to competition. Somebody's going to force you to actually lower your price so that you can no longer make $200,000. The number can be 2 million, 20 million, 200 million, 2 billion -- doesn't really matter. The major need for change, for any corporation, is the need to grow, and that is inherently true for most any business. There has to be growth -- either revenue growth or profit growth. Everything else spins out from that.

Now, what drives growth? This is where we get to “necessity is the mother of invention” and innovation. What does it mean to innovate? The common definition is to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas or products. Let's expand it a little bit more. Innovation is a new idea or more effective device or process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies or business models than are readily available to markets, governments, and society. Innovation addresses the need for large corporations to grow, which of course becomes a necessity for them in terms of their ability to invent that which has not been yet invented.

Looking at the last six months, five years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, there has been a lot of invention and innovation, and guess what the source of a lot of that innovation has been: small business. Yes. That's been the source. I think there's something in the neighborhood of 32 million small businesses just in the United States alone. In the everyday lives of these small businesses -- where they don't have all the money and all the people in the world to bring to bear on any problem that confronts them -- they are constantly  looking for new ways to get more done with less. Just that need alone causes them to be innovative, to find solutions, to do things in different ways and to be able to implement change and create greater value for their customers – i.e. lower costs or more revenues for their customers as well for their business.

I remember when I worked for a large oil company, one day senior management came out and said “we need to be more innovative. We need to think more like small businesses. We need the agility, the nimbleness, to be able to respond to things quickly. And we need to be able to have systems that aren't so cumbersome and that aren't so unnecessarily burdensome that, when we want to do something different, it takes three, four, five, 10 or 15 years. We need to be able to be more responsive to our customers’ needs. The market is constantly changing. It's a dynamic marketplace. Our customers are demanding more, and our competitors are really nipping at our heels”. So, it made sense that they started watching to see what small businesses were doing, and started figuring out which of the solutions offered by small business could they adapt to their organizations.

There you have it. That is the role of small business and large corporate supply chains. That is why corporations are actively and aggressively seeking out participation of small businesses. That's why they spend tons of money every year putting themselves in places where they can interact with small businesses: trade shows, conferences, etc. That's why they're lead sponsors for a lot of events and galas and other things where they know small businesses will be in attendance. 

Diverse small businesses, and people who have had different life experiences are in even greater demand. For example, a woman-owned business; a black-owned business; a veteran-owned business; a disabled-owned business, a Native-American owned business; Hispanic-American, Asian-American, etc. Corporations are saying, “Hey, we understand you view the world very differently -- possibly due to how you grew up in your household and what you may have been confronted with in your family alone; and/or what your parents had to do to get you ready to compete as an adult. The way you approach things could very well be exactly what we are looking for. So, what you brought to how you run your business that’s working, that's leverageable and scalable are things for which corporations are looking.

Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook was a college student, as was Michael Dell. Bill Gates and Paul Allen were college students. He and Paul Allen started off in a garage. These are people that have done some amazing things. They were just entrepreneurs, small business folks, but they all started because they saw a need and they decided that they wanted to see if they could apply some innovation to address that need. Remember, a big business is nothing more than a small business that did a lot of things right. And that should be your business. I'm going to leave you with that. There's a huge need for what you do, and big corporations are looking for it. So, if necessity is the mother of invention, then innovation by small businesses is the engine that powers invention.

Our next episode - Part Seven of this series - will be “The Corporate Opportunity -- Do They Take Small Businesses Seriously?” So, please go to our website “” and join our email list to be notified of upcoming events, podcasts and blogs.


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