A Sydney meeting between WEConnect’s membership, (women-owned businesses), and corporate members, revealed the pragmatic barriers and the opportunities facing corporations when seeking to engage with innovative small women-owned companies. The meeting provided a positive discussion on strategies to assist women–owned businesses. Read more.
However in terms of innovation, the pull-and-tug between corporation’s search for diversity, innovation and disruption, and their own supplier requirements, leaves a gap that often prevents success.
So how can corporations achieve innovation when their own procedures require supplier engagement to be low-risk with demonstrable long-term sustainability, and with capacity to withstand the lengthy procedures around cash flow and tendering? Many innovative small women-owned companies do not meet these criteria, and yet could indeed supply corporations with innovation.
So which party should do the changing to enable easier engagement?
Although the supplier policies and procedures are moving towards becoming more flexible, it is still a way-off in terms of their processes being compatible with innovation and disruption. (This is not surprising as we view Australia’s broader struggle to engage and deliver innovation even when the economy so desperately needs it).
Perhaps a strategy of flexible engagement could begin with shifting the perception of the process from ‘supplier’ to ‘consultant’. That is, a consultant that can build the corporation’s in-house capacity to include innovation through:
a) identifying structures for the product or service to move into the corporate in a low-risk way, step by step;
b) by assisting the corporate to develop the innovative service/ product itself, with the consultant’s, (or other), company also acting as a second-tier supplier of that which needs to be sourced externally.
This would allow innovation and diversity in the door, able to be provided globally, and be a win for both parties.
This culture of collaboration, also shifts the concept of ownership, with criteria based more on:
- Is the company committed to the skill/ innovation/ disruption that the small women-owned company offers?
- Will management provide support for a small company to act as a consultant? And finally,
- Can the consultant think outside-the-box, in order to pave the way for the corporate to achieve the desired innovative service or product?
This supports the trend from transactional supplier engagement to strategic relationships. It also recognizes the assumption that all innovation has risk, and our big challenge is mainstreaming.
Perhaps it also could create opportunities for something new to be developed between small women-owned businesses and corporations.