For more than four years, Bridgett Battles has managed community engagement and supplier diversity for Jefferson Health (No. 13 on the Fair360 2023 Top Hospitals and Health Systems list).
The Director for Community Engagement and Supplier Diversity was constantly approached by vendors of color asking how they could conduct business with Jefferson Health.
“One of the challenges in the industry is often MWBEs aren’t aware of open-to-bid opportunities,” she says. “The second challenge is with capacity. With an organization as large as Jefferson, MWBE’s may not be able to deliver the scale to our demands. We also must keep in mind incumbent vendors who have strong relationships with our supply chain which makes it difficult to compete.”
Innovating Supplier Diversity
Jefferson Health’s solution was “Supply Chain Connect.” The program is designed to connect underrepresented business owners like minorities, women, veterans, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ individuals with opportunities at the healthcare provider.
“Our office of Enterprise Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with Supply Chain, meet with vendors monthly ‘Shark Tank Style,’” says Battles.
This is where she leads with the walk and not the talk. Battles solicits, invites and prepares vendors to present to Jefferson Health’s decision-makers. This program builds trust with local, diverse suppliers and ultimately creates economic inclusion.
“Vendors get the opportunity to pitch to us,” she says. “Even if they don’t make it to the next round, I partner with advocacy agencies. We may not be able to give you a contract or an opportunity, but now you’re building a relationship and most importantly, you have been heard.”
Potential suppliers are presented with a template of the information they must put together, including their company’s mission statement, core products, services, and capabilities. Suppliers also need to identify their marketing strategy and what value they provide beyond the price of their product or service.
“I need to review their capability statement,” says Battles. “Understanding how they manage their business, customer service, and commitment to supplier diversity is a start to building a strong platform to be awarded a contract with Jefferson.”
Bridging the Gap
An estimated 10,000 certified businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans, LGBTQ+ and disabled people earn $10 million a year or more and are ready to compete for business, according to research from McKinsey & Company. Yet, in a separate study, only 38% of diverse suppliers indicated they received increased investment from marketing and advertising communities in 2022.
Battles says one way to bridge the gap is by tying leadership compensation to diversity goals, something Jefferson Health has done.
“Bringing these things to the forefront, tying it to your compensation, tying it to your organizational goal, that is the only way we’re going to make an impact,” she says.
An essential part of Battles’ role is to collaborate and cultivate relationships that improve the lives of the diverse communities Jefferson serves.
“I’ve talked to at least 30 or 40 business owners in a year now,” she says. “Because I’m dedicated to that, they have a name and a face. It’s not that they’re going to talk to a portal. I have created relationships. That’s part of the impact.”