Nedra Dickson, Managing Director, leads Accenture’s Global Supplier Diversity and Sustainability Programs across 18 countries.
A seasoned and awarded executive, Nedra possesses over 20 years of Technology Consulting, Operations Management, Procurement Sourcing and Category Management experience with Fortune 500 companies across multiple industries. With strong expertise in Procurement transformation and Supplier Relationship Management, she has managed over $2B in contingent labor spend.
Within her current role, Nedra oversees Accenture’s procurement opportunities with diverse-owned businesses as supplier partners globally. Under her exceptional leadership, Nedra has elevated Accenture’s Supplier Diversity spend to approximately $1 Billion globally. Nedra is also credited for swiftly expanding Accenture’s award-winning and world-renown dedicated diverse supplier mentoring program – Diverse Supplier Development Program (DSDP). This program represents customized curriculum set around helping to grow and develop diverse businesses, to support their successful integration into Accenture’s global supply chain. This program is currently operating in six geographies (US, Canada, UK, South Africa, Brazil and India), with expansion considerations underway.
Nedra’s leadership has led to global “Best in Class” recognition for Accenture’s Supplier Diversity Program.
Nedra holds several Board of Director positions within the Supplier Diversity Community.
- Board member of Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
- Board member of Georgia Minority Supplier Diversity Council (GMSDC)
- Board member for Canadian Aboriginal Supplier Development Council (CAMSC)
- Board member of Disability: IN
- Board member of National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC)
- Founding Board Member of GSDA – Global Supplier Diversity Alliance
Nedra was recognized by Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the Top Diversity and Inclusion Officers of Atlanta, Global Supplier Diversity Champion by NGLCC, Georgia Top 25 Women in their Female Success Factor Series, WE magazine as one of America’s Top 100 Leaders in Corporate Supplier Diversity, Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity, WBENC Corporate Mentor of the Yea, USAPCC- SE region Mentor of the Year and most recently as Top 30 Champions in Diversity
Nedra grew up in Arkansas and holds an MBA from University of Southern California, a BS degree from Florida State University and BA degree from California State University @ Northridge.
Nancy Williams is a Technology Industry Executive with years of progressive experience in business development and large-scale account management with organizations such as IBM, Unisys and Comforce. Skilled in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Project Management Office (PMO), Recruiting, Technical Recruiting, and Change Management. She is also a strong educated professional with a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) focused in BBA, CIS from Georgia State University.
With a passion for entrepreneurship, Nancy leveraged her previous IT experience to partner with Roz Alford in 1995 as a Principal with ASAP Solutions Group, LLC. Under Nancy’s leadership, ASAP experienced significant growth, expansion and diversification. She was very instrumental in launching branch offices in New Jersey/New York, Chicago, Dallas and Hyderabad, India and enabling ASAP to provide comprehensive Talent Management Solutions across 46 states and beyond.
As the current CEO, Nancy provides active hands-on leadership and direction to the company’s four business units of Staffing, Consulting, Workforce Compliance and Managed Services. Nancy and her team work hard to ensure ASAP’s continued and sustained growth by developing and implementing business strategies that are customer-centric and addressing our clients’ most common and complex contingent workforce challenges.
Nancy has recently been named in the Staffing Industry Analysts 2018 Global Power 150 – Women in Staffing, a list of the 150 most influential women in North America, Europe and around the globe. Nancy was also named to the Staffing Industry Analysts 2018 Americas 100 list.
Nancy has also been recently become a member of the prominent International Women’s Forum. The International Women’s Forum builds better global leadership across careers, continents and cultures by connecting the world’s most preeminent women of significant and diverse achievement.
Nancy has been inducted into the prestigious group of Women of Distinction. This honorable group is comprised of WBE’s (Women Business Enterprises) that have given countless hours, held distinguished positions within the organization and support to the WBENC organization. She is known as a thought leader and advisor within WBENC and the 14 Regional Partnership Organizations.
In addition to her leadership at ASAP, Nancy reaches out to the community through various avenues of professional and non-profit organizations. She has been a Board Member with the C5 Youth Foundation of Georgia as well as an Executive Committee Officer for the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (GCAPP). Nancy played a pivotal role in the establishment of a jobs program for youth supporting Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV). She actively participates in the promotion and growth of women-owned businesses. She is a founding member of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a founding member of WeConnect (Certification of Women Business Across Many Countries Worldwide) and champions the cause of several organizations including: Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), Technology Associations of Georgia (TAG), TechBridge and the Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC). Nancy graduated from Georgia State University with a BBA in Computer Systems.
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for Atlanta Business Radio, spotlighting the city’s best businesses and the people who lead them.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:17] Lee Kantor here with Roz Lewis. Another episode of GWBC Radio. And these are conversations to grow your business. And Roz, this month, we are going to be talking about the gift of innovation. It is gift-giving season. So, that makes perfect sense.
Roz Lewis: [00:00:33] It is. And, you know, there’s so many innovative ways to give gifts, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:37] Absolutely.
Roz Lewis: [00:00:38] So, yes, of course, for the retailers out there, we want you in the stores purchasing, but think of other ways of giving, too. You know, there are a lot of organizations that you can donate to for different causes. So, we encourage you to always give. And then, give to yourself. And that could be just the gift of time.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:00] So, who do you got with us today?
Roz Lewis: [00:01:03] Oh, we’re going to have an exciting show today, because this morning, we have our special guests. Nedra Dickson, who’s the managing director, who leads—you heard the word, leads, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:01:15] That’s important.
Roz Lewis: [00:01:15] … Accenture’s global supplier diversity and sustainability program and across 18 countries. So, she doesn’t know what timezone she’s in, right? And to think about that, when I’m talking to Nedra, I have to ask her, it’s better for me to text because I don’t know where she is in the world, kind of Carmen Sandiego. And then, we have Nancy Williams, who is the CEO of two companies. And what’s interesting about that, it is not in the same industry. So, she has a diverse portfolio covering all bases, whether staffing under her ASAP Solutions Group or under WeFresh, which I consider to be revolutionary. It’s a revolutionary product that we all need to know about and request and promote.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:11] And we’ll learn more about that.
Roz Lewis: [00:02:12] Yes. So, it’s very exciting to have these two powerhouses with us this morning.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:19] So, who do you want to kick it off with?
Roz Lewis: [00:02:21] Well, let’s go ahead and kick it off and start it with Nedra, you know.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:24] Alright.
Roz Lewis: [00:02:25] And find out a little bit more about the role that Accenture plays. And basically, how does it impact the inclusion of diverse suppliers?
Nedra Dickson: [00:02:35] Awesome. Well, thank you, Roz. Thank you, everyone. This is so exciting to be here. I’m excited to be in Atlanta. As Roz says, I’m having a global role.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:46] Is this your favorite timezone?
Nedra Dickson: [00:02:48] This is my favorite time zone because I am home. So, I would just like to also say what Roz said, this is the time of giving. And it is important that we give self-care, but that we just be kind to each other. And I think that’s really important. So, with that, I think I have one of the coolest jobs ever. I get to travel the world and help small, medium businesses work with such large, complex organizations as Accenture.
Nedra Dickson: [00:03:21] In doing that, they get to give back to the economy. We get to help build communities. It is so important that people understand what small, medium businesses. And as we’re going to talk about today, what women-owned businesses can do. September, Accenture, we have our very first female CEO, Julie Sweet. And I am excited to see her vision, because it’s in our DNA that we not only talk about helping diverse businesses and especially women-owned businesses, we do it.
Nedra Dickson: [00:03:59] And today, we want to talk about how we do that, how we’re leveraging innovation and especially the great things that we’re gonna be doing with Nancy and her two companies. So, I think it’s really important what GWBC is doing here, leveraging our partnership, because collaboration is so important. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about. So, as Accenture being one of the largest technology consulting firms with 492,000 employees globally. That’s just a little that we have here. I think it’s-
Roz Lewis: [00:04:38] Small company.
Nedra Dickson: [00:04:38] Just a small company. But understanding how important this is in our DNA. So, I think that’s something that we’ll get a chance to talk about today, Roz.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:47] Now, why is it important for Accenture to spend time with these small and mid-sized businesses when, you know, a lot of your work is around these large enterprise?
Nedra Dickson: [00:05:01] Well, I think it’s important for several different reasons. We pride ourselves on having a diverse workforce. So, by 2025, Accenture has committed to having 50 percent women, 50 percent men in that large workforce number. We want our supply chain to reflect that as well. And having our supply chain to reflect that, we need to find those diverse-owned businesses. But if you can think about and take you a few years back, doing work with small-owned and diverse businesses was the right thing to do. Now, it makes business sense. We-
Lee Kantor: [00:05:40] Can you speak about that? Because that’s a big thing. A lot of small companies think, “Oh, the big guys, they’re out there doing their thing and, you know, there’s no financial reason to be working with us.” But there really is a financial reason for the larger enterprise companies to work with the small and mid-sized company.
Nedra Dickson: [00:05:58] It absolutely is. For one, the small businesses are going to be more niche. They’re going to be more nimble. They’re able to staff up quickly. They’re able to do things on a faster pace than some-
Lee Kantor: [00:06:14] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:06:14] … of us larger corporations. But keep in mind, a lot of these businesses have corporate backgrounds.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:20] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:06:21] So, they’re very smart in what they do. And I think that’s the other thing. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they don’t have the knowledge.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:29] Right. And they’re not making an impact.
Nedra Dickson: [00:06:30] And they’re making an impact.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:31] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:06:32] The other thing that I want everyone to understand, and especially what ASAP has been able to do and GWBC, is create that economic development. They’re giving back to communities. They’re employing many different people in building that economic side that we so need in this economy. So, that is so important on why we must leverage diverse-owned businesses.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:01] No. Go ahead. Now, for you, when you’re working with a small, like what advice would you give to the small company that wants to work with a large enterprise like an Accenture? You know, sometimes, that’s intimidating. It’s a complex, like a small business, typically, you’re talking to the owner. So, they’re like, “Yeah, sounds good. Then, we’ll do it. And then, they do it. That’s what you talked about being agile and nimble, right? They can make a decision quickly. They don’t have to go through politics or bureaucracy or anything like that. When the small person is doing work with the large company, they may not understand the complexity and the bureaucracy and the way that they’ve got to get champions and they got to get, you know, six different levels, have to approve what to them seems like a simple decision.
Nedra Dickson: [00:07:45] Oh, wow. That is such the number one question.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:50] Unless I missed that.
Nedra Dickson: [00:07:50] No.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:50] Is that not how it is?
Nedra Dickson: [00:07:51] That is exactly how it is. And I have one word that I love to say and I say it and Nancy and Roz hear me say it all the time, you must do your homework. You must do your homework in order to work with such a large corporation. Because not only Accenture, but there other corporations that are willing to work with these diverse businesses.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:14] And not only willing, they want to, they’re hungry to.
Nedra Dickson: [00:08:17] And they do.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:17] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:08:18] I think leveraging so much information is on our website. And if you just take five minutes and go out to our website, there’s very detailed information of what we’re doing, whether it’s around augmented reality, if it’s in block chain, if it’s in robotics. There is detailed information on how we’re leveraging those technologies to our clients. So, if you want to work with an Accenture, do your homework and see if your business can fit into one of those examples. And those success stories of what we’ve done with our clients can do that.
Nedra Dickson: [00:09:00] But I think you touched on something really important. It is a lot of politics. We are large. We do have to have risk. We do have to have background checks. We do have to work with our legal to make sure that all of those things are checked off. So, I think it is so important for a small business to leverage the expertise of a GWBC, to know that they can help them navigate that complexity before coming to myself or to an Accenture. And I can’t wait for you to hear of how Nancy and WeFresh has been able to leverage some of that. Because I think what WeFresh has done so well is they’ve done their homework. They’ve been there. They’ve put their ear to the ground to understand what Accenture is doing and how they can collaborate with WeFresh.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:49] Now, you mentioned like new cutting edge technologies, like AR, AI, and things like that. If I have a business that’s playing in that space and I’m like, “You know what, this sounds like something that Accenture might be interested in.” Like if I’m a woman on business, I go through the GWBC, join that, be active there and then, make an introduction that way, do you think that that would accelerate me getting to somebody at Accenture or can I just look under Accenture and say who’s in that space and just make a phone call and say, “Hey, I got something that you might be interested in.”
Nedra Dickson: [00:10:26] 492,000 people, that’s not gonna happen. I think the very first one. I think going through GWBC and understanding, being certified there. And I work very closely with Roz, so she gets an understanding of what we’re doing in this space. And I think it’s really important for those women-owned businesses to leverage the knowledge and the platform that GWBC has built. And Roz can text me, as she says. And I know that if Ross texted me and say, “I need you to meet with this woman-owned business”, that she has vetted that company.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:06] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:11:07] And that she understands that they have, you know, space or this technology that we can leverage and that we can help them potentially grow their business. So, it’s not only just working with Accenture, but we have the knowledge to help you grow your business through our mentoring program. And I know we’ll talk a little later about that as well, but I think leveraging GWBC is the very first step to that.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:33] And that might be counter-intuitive for the small business person. It’s like, “I’m going to go right to the source. I’m not going to-“, like it may seem like that that’s tangential, but it might be more direct by going through Roz and her team at GWBC to get access to you. That actually might be the faster way to get traction.
Nedra Dickson: [00:11:52] That is the fastest way.
Roz Lewis: [00:11:54] That is.
Nedra Dickson: [00:11:54] And that is.
Roz Lewis: [00:11:55] Yeah. Because when you think about it, you know, that’s the reason that organizations like GWBC exist and WBENC exist, the national organization, is for us to be that central repository of identifying, vetting-
Lee Kantor: [00:12:10] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:12:10] … you know, competitive women businesses. And I use that word, competitive, because at the end of the day, that is what companies are looking for. They’re looking at how can these companies help them expand their market share and how can they continue to help them to grow? You know, partner is a very strong word in corporate language. And so, when you do that, then it is saying you are aligned with their core values.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:39] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:12:40] You’re aligned with their business plan. You understand what those needs are. And, you know, a company like ASAP Solutions Group and now, WeFresh, you know, do have that type of acumen to say, “I am willing to partner.” And then, that T-word, trust.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:59] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:12:59] So, Accenture has to trust who these companies are that they are going to be able to deliver on that product or service.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:06] And like you said, they’re demonstrating the trust by being active at GWBC and behaving as a leader and getting involved and not just writing a check and saying, “Hey, I’m a member and then, hook me up.” It’s being there, volunteering, doing that kind of work that proves that they’re worthy of you making that introduction.
Roz Lewis: [00:13:26] Yeah. And Nedra mentioned homework, right? Doing your homework. It goes beyond that, too. So, it is also not just doing your homework, but clearly understanding, is this the right customer fit for where I am in my business?
Lee Kantor: [00:13:44] Today. Today.
Roz Lewis: [00:13:44] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:13:45] Today.
Roz Lewis: [00:13:46] Today.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:46] Pardon me.
Roz Lewis: [00:13:46] You know, maybe later, you can always future state, but from a current state standpoint, are they the right customer that I’m going to be able to engage and grow my business? So, we do encourage people to come to our organization and network, because it’s built on our work relationships.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:05] Sure.
Roz Lewis: [00:14:06] Relationship is the key unless you’re the only one in the world to provide that product or service.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:11] Yeah.
Roz Lewis: [00:14:11] You have competition. And so, how do you build that relationship, ensuring that you are the right fit? And I’m gonna say it, Nedra doesn’t have to say it or Nancy doesn’t have to say it, it could take two to three years. So, there are very few Cinderella stories-
Lee Kantor: [00:14:28] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:14:29] … that occur.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:29] It’s not an ATM machine, you put your card and the money come, right?
Nedra Dickson: [00:14:32] Exactly.
Roz Lewis: [00:14:32] Not today.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:35] And then, you talked earlier about mentoring. How does that come into play?
Roz Lewis: [00:14:40] Well, the mentoring is an opportunity for you to be able to ensure that you have all the checkpoints that are on the decision matrix of these companies, because that’s something that they’re going to understand your financials to understand even the HR in your company, what’s your delivery, what your customer service is, how you are aligning with that. And not that I think I understand all of this, am I proficient in it? And do I have a track record demonstrating the fact that I am ready? Keep in mind that, you know, especially payment terms, right? Their payment terms are more than likely 60 to 90, 60 means 90, 90 means 120. And unless you have the cash flow to manage that-
Lee Kantor: [00:15:29] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:15:29] … then you’re not ready at their level. You may be ready at another level in the supply chain, but not necessarily at that level.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:38] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:15:38] And that’s part of the mentoring, showing up to make sure that you have now the tools and resources to be able to be competitive in the marketplace.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:49] And as you mentioned, it’s more complex than maybe the small person understands or small business owner understands. They might think that this is a big pot of gold, that all they have to do is show how great they are, then they get access to this.
Roz Lewis: [00:16:02] And I’m still looking for that pot of gold. So-
Lee Kantor: [00:16:04] But even if they were the right fit, everything was right, if they can’t handle not being paid for 60, 90 days, then it doesn’t matter how good the service or product is, it’s not the right fit. They’re not ready yet.
Roz Lewis: [00:16:16] Well, no, they aren’t. However, there are other resources that are out there that may be able. You know-
Lee Kantor: [00:16:23] There have to be a bridge.
Roz Lewis: [00:16:23] … we’re talking about innovation today, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:16:24] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:16:25] So, you’ve got to be innovative. You’re going to have to be creative. If you have the product or service that that corporation needs or want and they’re willing to take that risk, how do you help mitigate that risk on your end?
Lee Kantor: [00:16:40] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:16:41] Right? Of being able to make sure you do have the funds that you need in order to be able to deliver on that product or service. Because you can’t come to and then, say, “You know, I need that check right now.”
Lee Kantor: [00:16:53] Right. And also, it’s not their problem. It’s your problem. And that’s where GWBC has resources maybe that help them mitigate that and help them get the finances they need to make this relationship work.
Roz Lewis: [00:17:05] Well, I always say, put on sunglasses when you see that shiny object.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:10] Good stuff. So, do you want to bring Nancy on?
Roz Lewis: [00:17:12] Absolutely. And I think Nancy is a perfect example of how do you build a relationship with a company like Accenture. And so, Nancy, kind of walk us through, you know, one, how long have you been doing business, you know, with Accenture? And what do you see as your growth that has taken place over the years?
Nancy Williams: [00:17:35] Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me be part of this wonderful panel. Gosh, I’m sitting across one of my favorite persons in the world, two actually, and one of my favorite clients, and that is Accenture. And as many of you have seen us at the conferences and so forth and have heard me say, I owe a lot to Accenture back when I became a business partner with my then partner for ASAP Solutions Group. There were two companies, really, two companies that believed in us. One was BellSouth/AT&T. The other was Andersen Consulting, which was Accenture. And I have worked with them before forming the alliance. So, it’s been about 25 years that I have-
Roz Lewis: [00:18:26] 25 years?
Nancy Williams: [00:18:26] You know, I still feel I’m in my 20s.
Roz Lewis: [00:18:31] Okay.
Nancy Williams: [00:18:31] So, I started with them-
Roz Lewis: [00:18:33] We know. It’s relative.
Nancy Williams: [00:18:33] You know that commercial, where, “When did you know? About 10 years ago when you’re only six years old today?” So, yeah. So, we both have seen each other grow. And the one thing about Accenture that I love, and I love this with all of our clients, is can you sit down across, take a problem, and really noodle on the solution that’s going to drive the innovation, solve the issues and problems that collectively, as a team, you’re both facing?
Nancy Williams: [00:19:01] And that continues to be our relationship with Accenture. I can’t say anything else. I mean, it’s just huge. But it’s taken a long time. You don’t get trust immediately by walking in the door. You know, it takes years to gain the trust. It takes you years for, you know, them to say, “You’re my fixer. You fix my problems.” And that, I get called that, I’m the fixer. It sounds like something like, you know, the annihilator or something, you know. I’m like, oh my God.
Roz Lewis: [00:19:39] The closer.
Nedra Dickson: [00:19:40] The closer.
Nancy Williams: [00:19:40] I mean, you know, closer. You know, the fixer. But that’s really, you know, what it’s about and so forth. And really, how WeFresh came about was really through Nedra and her team in London and so forth. And, you know, I believe, you know, to be in the game, you got to show up, right? And so, one of the conferences was actually at NMSDC in Orlando, the minority business conference. And we were invited to sit at her table for the gala.
Nancy Williams: [00:20:09] And she had had one of her mentor proteges over. And his name is Byron Dixon and owns the formula and so forth called Micro-Fresh. And, oh, by the way, what’s really cool, he’s also an officer of the British Empire, so it’s kind of like a James Bond kind of thing or a knighthood, which I just love saying. So, anyway, he was telling me about this product. I was like, “Oh, wow. That’s really great. I’m glad that, you know, you hooked in with Nedra. You know, she’s a rockstar and she’s gonna be able to help you.”.
Nancy Williams: [00:20:39] And about a month or two later, Nedra does that email to me, “Hey, got a second? I need to talk to you about something.” I’m like, “Oh, my God. What happened?” You know, I’m getting the call. And we’ve all been there. And she said, “Look”, she said, “I want you to think about something. It has nothing to do with ASAP. It has to do with, you know, the guy you met, Byron.” I’m like, “Yeah.” She goes, “He wants to come to North America and he needs a partner. And I can’t think of anybody better than you and James”, who’s my COO and actually my husband, too, “to partner with him.”.
Nancy Williams: [00:21:15] And so, you know, through that advice, we started the talks. And it took literally two-and-a-half years to form the relationship, because we had to make sure, number one, core values were right, our vision was right, that, you know, what was he expecting? What was the entry point into this marketplace? Because my other company is professional services and staffing on that technology, accounting, finance, and so forth, both staffing, solutions-based, payrolling, employer record, SOW, statement of work, and managed services. Okay. Now, I got this product that I’m pitching, right? Then, oh, wow. It gets deployed and totally different but kind of same audience.
Nancy Williams: [00:22:07] And so, it’s been a very interesting journey and learning in what we’re doing. We’re now getting the traction. And it’s been a couple years of saying the same thing over and over and over. And I do want to say, just because you know somebody, it doesn’t mean you get into the door. I mean, one of the meetings that I was so excited about with Byron is it’s a company that is in healthcare. And literally, we know their executives. We know their officers. We know the people. And it’s taken over two years to get this meeting. And so, you know, you just got to keep plugging, you know, at it.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:49] Now, Nedra, what made you think of Nancy? Like because she wasn’t in this industry at all. There was nothing in her background that said, “Hey, she can do this”, like, I mean, she was doing something totally unrelated, but you connected dots.
Nedra Dickson: [00:23:04] I think it was a no brainer. And I say that-
Lee Kantor: [00:23:09] It was a no brainer. So, it was obvious to you?
Nedra Dickson: [00:23:11] It was obvious to me.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:11] But it wasn’t obvious to her. She met the guy.
Nedra Dickson: [00:23:13] And it was obvious to me because you look for those partners that can take an idea that might not be in their wheelhouse, but that they are willing to work and find an innovative solution on that.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:30] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:23:30] And Nancy had proven even with ASAP Solutions, because we’ve thrown many things at them, what’s come into the business, what’s come from our clients and say, “Figure this out.” And she goes, “You know what, I’m gonna figure this out.” I don’t know what goes behind the scenes.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:47] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:23:47] I’m sure there’s some things I don’t want to know, but what she did was she said okay. She was very honest to say, “If I can’t do it”. But the fact that she was open and willing to do it was the reason that I went to her, because I’m like, “I think what he was doing is amazing. And I think this could be on the brink of something else. So, who’s willing or crazy enough to take a problem, and find a solution”, as she said. Two years later, there was not a time frame put on this.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:22] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:24:22] We didn’t know what it was going to be. And that’s what large organizations look for. We look for someone who’s not wanting the easy way, the easy path. I’ve been with Accenture 18 years and there’s no such thing as an easy path. And so, what ASAP Solutions was able to do was to take this, she took it a step further. She not only met with them, made sure, as she said, everything checked out with the core values.
Nedra Dickson: [00:24:51] But she created a name and came up with it. So, that’s innovation. And I think what’s so important today with the GWBC, with the corporation and with the women-owned business, we all have to pivot and you have to pivot using that innovation. And that’s exactly what WeFresh did. So, what do I want to do? I want to learn more about all these things she’s been doing, so I can bring this into my supply chain.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:17] Right. But the innovation part, I mean, you were the genesis of the innovation because you didn’t see what was, you saw what could be. And that is where innovation lives, you know, in that space of what could be. And I think that’s the lesson for a lot of the business owners, is that just because it looks like something, it may be more than that if you kind of open your mind to that. And there’s some things that GWBC with the corporates and with your mentorship and all the programs that help that business owner kind of expand their vision and think larger than maybe that they are thinking that there are a lot of opportunity and possibilities out there.
Roz Lewis: [00:25:58] And that’s the beauty of networking. You know, I was just at an event two days ago in Charlotte with a group of women businesses and literally talking about that. I had a woman on business with one product and she literally—I was on the phone on the way up to shout out with her for over an hour. I was thinking about different ways of how she could promote this new product. One, I tell her she need to get an intellectual property attorney.
Lee Kantor: [00:26:24] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:26:25] Because the idea she had-
Lee Kantor: [00:26:27] Was a good one.
Roz Lewis: [00:26:27] … although she was sharing with me, was a very good one.
Lee Kantor: [00:26:30] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:26:30] And I’m like, “I’m glad you’re trusting of me that I’m not going to this attorney about this.” But once she was in that room, she was also able to meet with other women businesses who gave her ideas without her sharing the trade secret on the product of how they could help her. And you’re absolutely right. That’s the reason that organizations like Accenture and other corporate members who get it and understand the value that our women businesses and diverse suppliers bring to the table, because they do their-
Roz Lewis: [00:27:04] You know, Accenture has this competitive agility that they talk about. And how is that impacted by diverse suppliers? And do diverse suppliers even understand it? And how important that is, is a very key component of them making a difference within those different type of organizations. So, I think what you’re talking about is really key. And what we’re talking about today, hopefully, is generating some thought starters for others to say, “How can I creatively make an impact on what’s happening for the future?”
Lee Kantor: [00:27:44] Now, Nancy, with WeFresh, how has Accenture helped? Kind of now that you are in this business, have they helped in any way to help, you know, kind of get it off the ground and launch?
Nancy Williams: [00:27:55] Yeah. You know, Accenture is a wonderful thought leadership partner, meaning that we collaborate a great deal about, you know, their clients, the issues that their clients are facing that they’re trying to solve. And really, when you look at, you know, a client, you want to be everything to that client. I always say you want to own the relationship, not just in the world that you’re helping a system in, but you want to be looked at as a trusted advisor and trusted partner.
Nancy Williams: [00:28:26] So, in positioning our company, both on the ASAP upside as well as the WeFresh side with their client teams, their managing directors, the operating groups, CEOs, who we know very, very well that we’ve known them for, you know, 20-plus years, because we all started from nothing. And now, they’re running the company. And basically, having them say, “Hey, you know, you’re a consumer products company and you’ve got this, we’ve got a partner that has a side business that is really innovative.”.
Nancy Williams: [00:29:04] Because WeFresh, really one of the biggest advantages to it is prohibiting bacterial growth while promoting freshness. And this makes it very unique. And can be deployed pretty much into everything. And so, it’s a differentiator that’s going to drive revenue. And therefore, when we’re driving revenue, guess what they need? They need consulting, they need technology services, they need a lot of different, you know, expertises as that client’s revenue grows that they can end up assisting them with.
Lee Kantor: [00:29:43] So, it’s creating kind of these win-win situations-
Nancy Williams: [00:29:46] Absolutely
Lee Kantor: [00:29:46] … at every turn.
Nancy Williams: [00:29:47] Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [00:29:48] And then, kind of looking at the relationships through the lens of generosity of, “Hey, we need help, we can work together”, rather than, “Hey, I’m thinking like it’s scarcity where I can’t share anything.”
Nancy Williams: [00:30:01] Yeah, I don’t think you ever look at relationships as in, you know, “I want to keep the pie myself.” I believe that you look at it as in, “I want the multi-tier wedding cake and I’m okay being on a flower on that wedding cake, because it has a lot of substance to it.”
Lee Kantor: [00:30:19] I know, but that’s a mental shift. Not all business people believe that, right?
Nancy Williams: [00:30:23] Well, I would say something about the elephant and the ant, but I’m not going to go there.
Lee Kantor: [00:30:31] So, now, tell us about WeFresh, where you’re at right now in the kind of the growth of the company.
Nancy Williams: [00:30:37] Yeah. Well, you know, it’s amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better business partner over in the UK with Byron. I mean, he’s just spectacular. And we’re doing some innovative things. One thing is I just got off of the call with another company. And basically, they have micro capsules, in which they infuse fragrances in these micro capsules and within the product of WeFresh, right? So, you combine WeFresh with this ingredient.
Nancy Williams: [00:31:13] Not only is the article, if you look at textiles, like clothing and sheets and pillows and mattresses, and shoes, okay? When they put it on, it immediately releases a scent, a fragrance to it. So, combining the two, I don’t believe it exists today. And this was just thrown at us yesterday, but I’m already thinking, “Wow, how nice would that be”, to, you know, put on a garment or crawl into your sheet.
Nancy Williams: [00:31:48] And as soon as you hit the sheet, maybe you have a smell of lavender or as a kid putting on their shoes, their favorite fragrance is strawberry. Guess what? They have a strawberry scent and they feel happy, you know, because scents make us feel happy. And knowing that I’m wearing a product that, oh, my gosh, isn’t going to smell because it prohibits the growth of bacteria, we’re going to be happy people as we’re walking down that street or as we’re climbing into that bed at night.
Lee Kantor: [00:32:20] So, now, is the challenge just getting out there and letting these companies know this exists? Are you kind of in education stage right now?
Nancy Williams: [00:32:27] It’s been an interesting journey. And I really think it’s going to be a grassroots-type program in talking to corporations that we all buy the products from or services, you know, from hotels to retail centers to athletic wear, to cars, to airplanes, right? To cruise lines. You know, they’re like, “Oh, it’s a very interesting product, but it’s going to add costs to me.” But the public isn’t demanding that they want a fresher world.
Lee Kantor: [00:33:01] Right.
Nancy Williams: [00:33:01] Right? And it kind of gets kind of gross, but when you think about our phones, there was just a whole series that it’s 800 times dirtier than our toilet. I want you to think about that. 800 times dirtier. Now, this was deployed into your smartphones or to your accessories and everything, you wouldn’t have to worry about who touches that phone, right? And you wouldn’t have to worry about what bacteria is there. Think about when you go to a hotel, you put your head on that pillow. Have you ever really thought who’s had their head on the pillow?
Lee Kantor: [00:33:38] Yeah, all the time.
Nedra Dickson: [00:33:39] Yeah.
Nancy Williams: [00:33:39] All the time, right? And I tell you what it’s done for me is it makes me start thinking and realizing. You know, I used to think it was crazy when I saw people bring in their own pillows, right? Now, I get it, you know. So, that’s what, you know, we’re seeing and we’re very close on—first of all, Micro-Fresh is a multi-million dollar company outside of the US. They’re very well-known.
Nancy Williams: [00:34:06] And in fact, like in shoes, when they do the back to school program, every single parent looks for that label because they want their kids to have these shoes. So, it’s big. So, we’re very close on signing an international airline deal, a luxury car brand, very, very high end luxury, shoe inserts, too. So, you know, we’re slowly getting it out there and so forth in several bids, what I call RFPs right now, in which we’re collaborating, which is kind of really cool with another diverse company, right?
Nancy Williams: [00:34:46] So, we met a man at a minority conference and started talking to him and we’re like, “Hmm. Could you make this? Could you make that?” “We think we could.” “Well, why don’t we see if you can? Let’s do a prototype. And this is what we need. Go and do it and send it to us.” So, we just signed an NDA yesterday, we’re going to be with them. So, I mean, it’s all about connections. It’s all about splitting the pie.
Lee Kantor: [00:35:12] Right.
Nancy Williams: [00:35:12] I could have said, “No, I want to be the one that manufactures this”, right? “And private label it”, correct? Or I could partner in and have a size and ability. You know, your team should be made up of experts in all the areas that you’re trying to drive as a business, bottom line. And there are people that can do that better than me. And why wouldn’t I want to partner with them? I’m okay sharing. I mean, you know what, a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing, as we say. In green is green people. I’m just gonna tell you, green is green.
Nedra Dickson: [00:35:52] So, I think that makes you understand why it was a no brainer for me-
Lee Kantor: [00:35:56] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:35:56] … to think about immediately contacting Nancy. It’s because that’s her thought process, is that this is not, you know, where my wheelhouse, but I’m willing to share for the bigger pie, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:36:13] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:36:13] And I think that is what has made ASAP solutions and WeFresh stand out from a lot of the other women-owned businesses.
Lee Kantor: [00:36:21] So, they’re in the minority of that thought process, do you find that if more companies thought like she did, then there would be more successful companies?
Nedra Dickson: [00:36:33] Yes. There’s only one Nancy, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:36:34] Right. But just that mindset of-
Nedra Dickson: [00:36:38] But I do think that mindset—I think a couple of things that Nancy said were key, is that this is a grassroots. So, she recognized that she has something that’s innovative, but that she’s got to take the right time, the right approach to get to the right clients. She didn’t just want to say, “Okay, here it is, now, go out and let’s do it.” So, I think if more, you know, businesses, diverse businesses took that approach to not only see, here’s an opportunity to be innovative, but then, let me really think about what’s the right way of putting this product out there so that it’s a product that she trusts. She has her name behind this product. She wants to make sure that it’s the right place and the right product. If more businesses took that thought process and then, just instead of getting a contract-
Lee Kantor: [00:37:30] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:37:30] … then there would be more success stories as WeFresh.
Lee Kantor: [00:37:33] So, being more selective, where then, at first, people think they have to just take anything just to get going, maybe be more selective so that it is the right match. So, like you said, you’re targeting some of these higher end services and products and companies. So, you get one of those on board, the rest of them are going to—if they’re on board, then it’s going to be kind of easier to get the rest.
Nedra Dickson: [00:37:55] Yeah. And she knew she can deliver.
Lee Kantor: [00:37:57] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:37:57] And that’s the other thing. If she’s going to go after a very high luxury brand, she better deliver. And that’s where, you know, the double decade that we’ve been working with ASAP Solutions and WeFresh, is the fact that we understand that she’s not only talking what she can do, she’s delivering what she says.
Lee Kantor: [00:38:20] Right. So, now, Roz, when you’re working with—now, you’re seeing the whole kind of the 360 of the the work that you do right here in this room. Now, how do you decide which corporates to invite to the party and which small businesses like get access? Like what’s your process?
Roz Lewis: [00:38:40] Well, a lot of what we do is just create the environment, right? The opportunity, whether it’s through one of our networking events, one of our expos, even, you know, education program of bringing the corporations. First of all, the corporations have to have within their DNA their willingness to support diverse suppliers, because of all-
Lee Kantor: [00:39:07] And not just talk about it, but actually-
Roz Lewis: [00:39:09] And not just lip service.
Lee Kantor: [00:39:10] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:39:10] Literally walk the talk, you know, like Accenture. And I will say the corporations that are members of GWBC do or of WBENC, you know, or NMSDC, it’s important that they walk the talk. Now, you’ve got to have the representatives who are the liaisons that meet with these suppliers. Also-
Lee Kantor: [00:39:30] So, the leaders in the organizations have to be the right pick, too.
Roz Lewis: [00:39:32] Exactly. And understanding that this is a business imperative, is about economic impact. You know, because when you think about it, these are the suppliers that support the communities that support and buy your product or service.
Lee Kantor: [00:39:46] Right. And every big company started as a small company.
Nedra Dickson: [00:39:48] Exactly.
Roz Lewis: [00:39:49] All of them started as a small company.
Lee Kantor: [00:39:52] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:39:53] Right? So, you want to make sure that they are to the table. There’s enough corporations—right now, there’s over 350 major corporations, Fortune 50, Fortune 100 that are members of WBENC. There are a lot of corporations within our region. Of course, we will gladly add more, as long as they’re coming with the right intent. And that is how do we support? And that support can be, first, by educating our diverse suppliers, because the companies procure differently, you know.
Lee Kantor: [00:40:25] Right. And the homework that you have to do for each one is different, it’s not the same homework.
Roz Lewis: [00:40:28] The homework, yes. Right. And you got to make sure that they buy your widget, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:40:33] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:40:34] That, you know, don’t go after them when they don’t buy your widget. So, that is one of the areas. Now, as we’re re-purposing our mission, and that is to develop more scalable women businesses. That’s really our goal. We’re celebrating 20 years next year. So, one of the things we want to make sure of is that we are relevant and sustainable. And how do we make sure that we create the resources for those women businesses to be scalable? And that’s not everyone, you know.
Lee Kantor: [00:41:11] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:41:11] So, it is literally a targeted group. Believe it or not, right now, with our women businesses, over half of them are over a million dollars of our 1,000 certified women businesses in our region today, which is interesting, as opposed to be less than a million dollars. So, those that are the WBEs that corporations are looking for and willing to invest. Nedra invest a lot of time and representatives like her, who understand strategic sourcing, who understand business development, also invest a lot of time in bringing those suppliers to the table. So, if you are not ready to play in the major leagues, then work on getting ready-
Lee Kantor: [00:42:03] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:42:03] … to play in the major leagues. And from a business planning standpoint, look at how you can grow within the supply chain in order to be able to do that, not just going after these majors. Because at the end of the day, you are also a consumer of which the quality of product or service that is being provided to you, you want to make sure it is exactly meeting your expectations.
Lee Kantor: [00:42:27] Right. And then, everybody has to protect the brand. Accenture has to protect the brand, right? They can’t afford to make a misstep. That’s why it’s hard to work with them in terms of you have to go through a lot of hoops and be vetted multiple times by multiple people to make sure that you are who you say you are.
Roz Lewis: [00:42:45] And, you know, small businesses and women businesses, minority businesses, they need to clearly understand they need to protect their brand. So, how you develop those core values, those tools, and resources in order to protect your brand, making sure that when you’re even aligning with a large organization, you know, it’s a two-way street.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:08] Right. Absolutely.
Roz Lewis: [00:43:08] You know, it’s not about just Accenture, you know-
Lee Kantor: [00:43:11] And it is not charity.
Roz Lewis: [00:43:13] Is at all.
Nedra Dickson: [00:43:14] It’s not a charity.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:14] This is not a charity.
Nedra Dickson: [00:43:16] It’s not charity at all.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:16] There is an ROI involved. And that’s got to work for everybody.
Roz Lewis: [00:43:20] Well, mentoring, you know, partner with someone. There’s enough opportunity to partner that will help you grow. And that expands your network, that expands your ability to learn without having too much of a negative impact.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:36] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:43:37] Because if you do not do a good job, it doesn’t take but a nanosecond for that reputation to spread.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:45] That’s right. And people talk.
Roz Lewis: [00:43:47] And it’s very difficult.
Nedra Dickson: [00:43:48] People talk.
Roz Lewis: [00:43:49] Very difficult to recuperate from that.
Lee Kantor: [00:43:52] Yeah, it’s hard to recover from a bad first impression. So, now, Nancy, any lessons for the business people out there that are maybe at the beginning of their journey that, you know, this is a dream to have partners like you have and have opportunities like have come your way. What advice would you give this small woman-owned business that’s out there that’s just starting out?
Nancy Williams: [00:44:15] Yeah. And I always tell everyone, every client that we deal with, we always have something very much in common. We started from zero. Every single company started from zero. And don’t ever forget that. And don’t ever forget to be humble about that and be thankful to the above, you know, to the Lord above. When I look at, you know, what’s the biggest thing—and people always tease me, say, you know, you’re always selling, you’re always on. And, you know, I guess I am always on because I’m very, very passionate about what we do and what we’re representing in our clients. I believe that it’s my job with a client truly to help them achieve business. Because if they achieve business, you know, they’re going to feel loyal to me.
Lee Kantor: [00:45:11] Right.
Nancy Williams: [00:45:12] So, you know, if you’re starting from zero, you’re just starting a company, first of all, you got to get in the game. You got to get involved with GWBC and WBENC. You know, when WBENC was formed back in the late ’90s, you know, things come your way. And BellSouth at the time said to me, “Hey, you know, we need you to get certified.” “Oh, Okay.” I can’t tell-
Lee Kantor: [00:45:38] Did you even know about that?
Nancy Williams: [00:45:40] No. And I learned it. I will tell you, I learned it about 1995 when BellSouth, we were one of eight preferred partners. It was us, it was Andersen Consulting, it was BearingPoint, IBM and then, like four other, you know, smaller companies. And they said, “We need to have a conversation with you.” And over lunch, they said, “We need you to go and help us find minority businesses and women businesses.” I looked at him and said, “Huh?” And they said, “We don’t think we can talk to anybody else. And can you help us do it?” And the company I was with at the time, I had just won this major deal and with BellSouth and they didn’t want to support it. I’m like, “Are you crazy? That thing is over 100 million, how could you not want to support this?” So, you know what, again, I thought, “How can I skin this cat?” So, I called my competitors. And I said, “Look, I’m forming-”
Lee Kantor: [00:46:41] And you gave them a gift.
Nancy Williams: [00:46:42] I said, “I’m forming an alliance. I’m only gonna choose three. And I wanna make sure we can have fun that you will love my clients as much as I love them. And, you know, we’re gonna have a fair playing field.” And because I’ve won them, I was able to go to London and recruit people to put on projects, actually, that Accenture ended up doing. So, BellSouth said, “Hey, you know, get certified”, which I did. We were already doing business.
Nancy Williams: [00:47:11] And then, they said, “Hey, we want you to go represent us on the National Women’s Leadership Forum.” Well, I showed up. I was like, “Oh, my God, this is so powerful.” And through that, I became, through several years, a board member, part of the executive team, and the chair of the National Women’s Leadership Forum for WBENC. And people always go, “Well, how did you do it?” I said, “Because I got involved, I got passionate.”.
Lee Kantor: [00:47:35] And you said yes.
Nancy Williams: [00:47:37] And I said yes.
Lee Kantor: [00:47:40] Say yes a lot. That helps.
Nancy Williams: [00:47:40] And I said, yes. And the first thing I will always tell people is I’m not really sure how we can get this completed, but let me take a look at it. If we can’t, I won’t take you down this road, because number one, you’re dealing with people’s careers. You’re dealing with their own internal brand, right? So, you don’t want to sit there and risk someone’s careers. I mean, one of the executives at BellSouth one time said to me, “You know, you could sold us probably 300, 400 million dollars of stuff. Why didn’t you?” I said, “Because I didn’t want to fail. And I didn’t ever want to jeopardize your trust because you trusted me. And I also want to make sure I wake up every day and be okay and put my head down knowing I did a great job. And my team has those, you know, leads with integrity and just wants the best for our clients and all of our professionals across the US and world.
Lee Kantor: [00:48:43] Yeah. That’s a great lesson to kind of look at the relationship more like a true relationship and not a transaction. This isn’t-
Nancy Williams: [00:48:52] Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [00:48:52] … something that I’m going to provide a service and that, you know, I hope it works. You know, you’re really watching their back and you’re trying to protect them from themselves in some ways that they know-
Nancy Williams: [00:49:02] Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:49:02] … where the problems are. You’re the expert, so they’re trusting you-
Nancy Williams: [00:49:05] Exactly.
Lee Kantor: [00:49:05] … that you know where the landmines are and you’re going to keep them out of trouble.
Nancy Williams: [00:49:09] And saying no doesn’t mean that they’re not going to give you business, it means it gives them pause. “Well, why would you tell me no?” “Well, this is what I’m worried about.” “Well, maybe if we did this, would you feel more comfortable?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone say that to me and to say, hey, you know, when you’re starting out, quite honestly, you’re funding it by however ways you can. And then, when you get to a size, you go after lines of credit, right? And everything. And, you know, that’s a different story on that.
Lee Kantor: [00:49:42] We’ll do another show on that.
Nancy Williams: [00:49:45] Right. That’s a totally different-
Lee Kantor: [00:49:45] That’s another episode.
Nancy Williams: [00:49:46] But, you know, at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean if you’ve got a relationship and the client says, “Are you sure you can do this?” And you say yes. And they keep asking you and you continue to say yes. And then, guess what, they give it to you. And then, “Uh-oh, I can’t do it.” You know, they’re like, “Why didn’t you tell me that”, you know. And then, it hurts all of us. It hurts all of us when we don’t lead with trust, we don’t lead with integrity, we don’t lead with honesty, okay?
Nancy Williams: [00:50:19] And it’s one of those that it’s like we’ve talked about partnering, you know? Hmm, maybe you could partner, right? And do it together. Own the voice together, own the client relationship together, and stop being—you know, I’m from the south, you know. Hogs, you know, get slaughtered, pigs get killed, right? So, don’t be a hog, be a pig, right? At the end of the day. And I mean, people look at me weird when I say that, but what it means is don’t think that—you know, again, would you rather have, you know, the pie or would you rather have the multi-tiered wedding cake that has a huge ability to provide you more opportunity?
Lee Kantor: [00:51:07] Well, Roz, you said earlier, trust is really at the heart of all of this and that innovation, in order to be able to think in those terms and think innovatively in terms of helping others and really serving them in multiple levels and helping them, so everybody gets what they need. That’s really at the heart of this.
Roz Lewis: [00:51:27] It is. And, you know, that’s one of the things Accenture does very well, especially in the program. You know, bar none, they have one of the best mentoring programs and we touched on it a little bit, but I really want Nedra to kind of expand on that a little bit more about how innovative they are with that. You had to think of their clients, right? So, they literally try and prepare these suppliers as well to be ready to support whatever initiatives there are, you know. And yes, Nancy is somewhat an anomaly, right? So, yes, of how she operates. But it-
Lee Kantor: [00:52:05] But that’s a role model. I mean, we all-
Roz Lewis: [00:52:07] But I was going to say, exactly. She is the role model for people to emulate and understand that if she can do it, so can you.
Lee Kantor: [00:52:15] But those are the behaviors and the mindset you have to have in order to kind of play at this level.
Nedra Dickson: [00:52:19] Absolutely.
Roz Lewis: [00:52:20] But you’re gonna have to deliver on what you say.
Lee Kantor: [00:52:22] Right. So, now, Nedra, you want to talk about the mentoring and how that’s kind of part of the DNA of the organization, right?
Nedra Dickson: [00:52:30] Absolutely. And Nancy’s a graduate of our very first class. So, what we call our DSDPs or our Diverse Supplier Development Program, which we’re running in five geographies now, in USP and the most mature. So this 18-month program partners diverse suppliers with two Accenture executives. And in this program, we give you symposiums that help you grow your business. So, an example of that could be how to hire and retain the top talent, how to gain capital, how to do sales effectiveness. And each year, depending on the business, the agenda is going to change. So, as you can imagine, five years ago, no one was talking about cyber security-
Lee Kantor: [00:53:19] Sure.
Nedra Dickson: [00:53:19] … or social media and how to use that. So, we’re now really telling you on how you can do this and make your business grow. What we’ve been able to do, as Roz say, to be innovative is Accenture invested in innovation hubs around the globe. And we have a fantastic one here in Atlanta-
Roz Lewis: [00:53:40] Yes.
Nedra Dickson: [00:53:40] … in my hometown here, loving it. And what we’ve done is we’ve taken these diverse suppliers to our innovation hubs around the US, around the world for them to see how they can leverage innovation and technology into their companies. So, everyone’s talking about block chain. Everyone’s talking about AI. Everyone’s talking about robotics. What does that mean? How do you leverage that? And I think that’s the challenge that we find with small businesses. How do you leverage that to help your business grow? How do you leverage that to help your clients?
Nedra Dickson: [00:54:18] So, that’s what our mentoring program does, is to take you and to partner around to look at your business plan. Look at your mobility app, is it resonating with your client base? Can we find out what WeFresh is about on that website? This program really is to help you grow your business, but we also bring our clients in. So, we bring our clients in for them to not only see how we’re helping businesses grow, but to give them an insight to some of these diverse suppliers that we’re having as well. So, what I might not be able to do work with you at that time, because being in our program, you’re not guaranteed to do work with Accenture, however, I’m going to bring some clients in to where you might be able to do work with them.
Lee Kantor: [00:55:10] Now, for you, what’s the most rewarding part of the job?
Nedra Dickson: [00:55:13] Oh, so much. I get to see innovative solutions that start at a business table at a dinner, you know, now take off, to see what a supplier can do and watch them hire a high school, you know, senior, to watch them train an intern in their business and give back to the community. I get to do that around the world. That is so amazing to see a small business have an idea and to be able to help them grow that idea, then to be able to take that idea, incorporate it into our supply chain. And then, take that into our supply chain and give it to our clients. I don’t know if there’s any better job around there. And I get paid to do this.
Lee Kantor: [00:56:05] And the impact you’re having, not only to all the people that are benefiting from it, but grilling down to the family that it’s impacting and the communities that are impacting around the world because of that is, I mean, that’s amazing.
Nedra Dickson: [00:56:19] Absolutely. Small, medium, diverse businesses are a necessity to have the economic impact of growth that we want to do. And I just ask everyone, too, for those small businesses that have the idea and you want to work with a large corporation, I mean, I call it persistent patience. And I think that’s exactly what Nancy had, is, as she said, it’s taken years to develop this. And I always say leverage the organizations as a GWBC and a WBENC and NMSDC that can really help you chart that path in working with large corporations.
Lee Kantor: [00:57:01] And it’s like you said, do the homework and see how all of the people connect and see what that spider web looks like and where you can kind of jump on board and so, you can get access to the people you need to to grow.
Nedra Dickson: [00:57:12] It is. And I think one other important thing is for those companies that’s been in business. So, small businesses that’s been there for 10 and 15 years, what worked five years ago-
Lee Kantor: [00:57:23] May not be.
Nedra Dickson: [00:57:24] … may not work now.
Lee Kantor: [00:57:26] Exactly.
Nedra Dickson: [00:57:26] And this is where, again, I think Nancy has really set the bar high. She pivoted. She’s like, “Okay, I’ve done well here, but I might need to pivot my business-
Lee Kantor: [00:57:37] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:57:37] … if I’m going to continue my partnership with some of my clients.” Accenture does it. Other corporations do it.
Lee Kantor: [00:57:44] Right.
Nedra Dickson: [00:57:44] So, small businesses have to do that as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:57:47] Good stuff. Well, Roz, are there any events happening at GWBC that we should know about, anything upcoming?
Roz Lewis: [00:57:52] Well, what we want you to do is stay tuned for our 2020 calendar. That’s coming up. We also changed our URL. So, we are now gwbc.org. And we encourage you to visit our website and look at what’s on the horizon of events. We’re kind of retooling how we engage our women businesses and corporate members and actually expanding that. So, you’re going to see some increased opportunities in order to match your product or service with that of that corporate member. And I want to say one more. We’ve been talking about corporate, you know, buying. Also, think about supporting each other. Diverse suppliers need to support each other. You need to walk the talk-
Lee Kantor: [00:58:46] Right.
Roz Lewis: [00:58:46] … as well. And that is another opportunity to start building relationship who could become a partner or a supplier or customer, you know, of your business. So, you really want to do that. But one thing I want to say, you know, I really appreciate Nancy and Nedra sharing this information today, especially this was the gift of-
Lee Kantor: [00:59:11] That’s right.
Roz Lewis: [00:59:11] … innovation, of giving. And this is on the Accenture website, I encourage you to go there because of the information that they have. But I do want to share this, because this is where the future is for 2020, the focus of design and transitioning is going to be from me to we, that’s W-E. Design will shift to cast this net beyond the end user alone, pivoting from user-centered design to design for all life. But most importantly, those brands with a long-term, forward-looking view that care for the planet and people and the causes that matter to them will emerge as winners. And those are my parting thoughts.
Lee Kantor: [01:00:02] That’s good stuff, Roz.
Nedra Dickson: [01:00:03] Good stuff.
Roz Lewis: [01:00:03] And happy holidays.
Nedra Dickson: [01:00:05] All right.
Lee Kantor: [01:00:05] All right. Before we wrap, I want to make sure Nancy, the websites for your firm if people want to get a hold of you.
Nancy Williams: [01:00:11] Yeah. For WeFresh, it’s www.mywefresh.com. And ASAP is www.myasap.com.
Lee Kantor: [01:00:19] And Nedra?
Nedra Dickson: [01:00:22] Mine is accenture.com, A-C-C-E-N-T-U-R-E-.com. And if you go on, you can search on supplier inclusion and that will tell you all about what we’re doing with our diverse businesses and how you can learn more about our mentoring program. And Roz, one more time for the new URL.
Roz Lewis: [01:00:42] Yes. And please visit our website at gwbc.org.
Lee Kantor: [01:00:48] And then, if you go there, you could see all of the past episodes of this show there at the top on the little radio tower the guys got there.
Roz Lewis: [01:00:56] Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [01:00:58] All right. Well, thank you all for sharing your story today. And thank you, Roz, for putting this great conversation for growing your business in the books once again.
Roz Lewis: [01:01:07] Thank you, Lee and Stone.
Lee Kantor: [01:01:09] All right.
Roz Lewis: [01:01:10] Happy holidays.
Lee Kantor: [01:01:10] This is Lee Kantor for Roz Lewis. We will see you all next time on GWBC Radio.
About Your Host
Roz Lewis is President & CEO – Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®), a regional partner organization of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and a member of the WBENC Board of Directors.
Previous career roles at Delta Air Lines included Flight Attendant, In-Flight Supervisor and Program Manager, Corporate Supplier Diversity.
During her career she has received numerous awards and accolades. Most notable: Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2018 Diversity & Inclusion award; 2017 inducted into the WBE Hall of Fame by the American Institute of Diversity and Commerce and 2010 – Women Out Front Award from Georgia Tech University.
She has written and been featured in articles on GWBC® and supplier diversity for Forbes Magazine SE, Minority Business Enterprise, The Atlanta Tribune, WE- USA, Minorities and Women in Business magazines. Her quotes are published in The Girls Guide to Building a Million Dollar Business book by Susan Wilson Solovic and Guide Coaching by Ellen M. Dotts, Monique A. Honaman and Stacy L. Sollenberger. Recently, she appeared on Atlanta Business Chronicle’s BIZ on 11Alive, WXIA to talk about the importance of mentoring for women.
In 2010, Lewis was invited to the White House for Council on Women and Girls Entrepreneur Conference for the announcement of the Small Business Administration (SBA) new Women Owned Small Business Rule approved by Congress. In 2014, she was invited to the White House to participate in sessions on small business priorities and the Affordable Care Act.
Roz Lewis received her BS degree from Florida International University, Miami, FL and has the following training/certifications: Certified Purchasing Managers (CPM); Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD), Institute for Supply Management (ISM)of Supplier Diversity and Procurement: Diversity Leadership Academy of Atlanta (DLAA), Negotiations, Supply Management Strategies and Analytical Purchasing.
Connect with Roz on LinkedIn.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
GWBC® has partnered with dozens of major companies who are committed to providing a sustainable foundation through our guiding principles to bring education, training and the standardization of national certification to women businesses in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.