Guest post by Monya Emery, Verizon’s Supplier Diversity Manager, working closely with small business owners across the country to help them become one of Verizon’s vendors.
Deciding to do business with a large corporation is a major decision, and it can be a challenging task. Lots of small business owners dream of one day working with large companies. They see themselves bidding on and winning contracts, while growing their small businesses into global forces.
Over the years Verizon has worked with countless small businesses. Some of these partnerships have been successful, and others not so much. To help small business owners who may be considering whether to vie for a larger company’s work, we will periodically offer a series of tips on this site. Here is the first one:
Do the Research
When you identify the corporation you are interested in working with, you need to know as much about that business as possible. Research is critical, and the best place to begin is the company’s website. Large corporations often have exceptional websites that, in addition to the products and services they sell, also include a host of valuable tidbits about other aspects of the business. These include the names, bios, and often pictures of the company’s top executives; the company’s mission and values; data about sales, revenue and financial performance; the latest news; and new innovations and facts about the company’s direction for the future.
On the company’s website, you will often find a page that discusses how it works with outside suppliers, its supply chain or procurement processes, what products and services are procured and the minimum requirements to do business with the company. For instance, many companies will only work with suppliers that have been in business for a number of years, that are legally bonded and insured or that have certain industry certifications. You may also be able to get insight into whether the company’s procurement process is formal or informal, centralized or decentralized. In addition, large companies will often require new suppliers or vendors to register in a special database and complete preliminary paperwork. Quite a bit of this information can be located right on the website.
Most corporate websites also have a corporate responsibility (CR) page, which shows the corporation’s impact on the communities it serves. As an example, check out Verizon’s CR website here. This may be a way for your small business to work with some of the corporation’s CR initiatives.
If you are a diverse supplier, look for links to the corporation’s supplier diversity page (check out Verizon’s Supplier Diversity website) to learn about the policies and processes that help such suppliers do business with the corporation. Diverse suppliers are usually required to be certified as Minority, Woman, Veteran or Service Disabled Veteran-owned Business Enterprises (MWDVBEs) through a third-party advocacy organization, such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council or a government agency. Diverse suppliers may be asked to provide the corporation with copies of certification documentation and register in a diverse supplier database.
Once you check out the company’s website, don’t stop there. Do an Internet search on the company to find the latest news, articles and other resources that will be helpful to you. Determine if this corporation is planning to launch new products or services, if it has recently won a contract or if it is subcontracting to other businesses. Knowing who a company’s subcontractors are can give you a leg up in doing business with that corporation because there may be opportunities for you to become a second tier supplier (a vendor with an indirect contract that supports that company’s procurement needs).
Thorough research helps you to better understand the corporation’s needs, and it gives you valuable insight into how your business can help meet those needs. Don’t just walk in expecting a contract because you offer a great product(s) or service; figure out how your small business can enhance the corporation’s current processes or solve a problem. Be able to provide current and effective recommendations and solutions.
Large companies will definitely notice if you fail to do the research. It may take a bit of time and tenacity up front, but it’s easy to do and will be so very worth it to your small business if and when you secure that contract.
Be sure to check back again soon for additional tips on how to work with larger companies. And if you are in the midst of trying to work with a large company, share how your research is going.
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