Even though he didn’t know how to ice skate as a kid, Walt Gore always thought he was going to have a successful career playing pro hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks. Today, the Chicago native successfully plays the role of director of supplier diversity for Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP), scoring points for diverse businesses across the country.
What kind of work did you do before joining ADP?
Gore: I have been quite fortunate to hold a number of positions during my career. I worked in product development, insurance and financial legal compliance, project management, and procurement. It was in procurement, working as a commodity manager, where I was first introduced to supplier diversity. I was called on to help develop the supplier-diversity process at a large financial-services institution, and continued to take on a larger role over several years. The learning experience was both challenging and rewarding, and left me with the notion that I could actually help businesses succeed while at the same time having a positive impact on my organization and the business community. This opportunity was exciting and led me to pursue a full-time career in supplier diversity.
Where do you find the inspiration and passion for your work?
Gore: At the risk of using what may sound like your average cliché, my primary motivation is in helping others succeed, and is my small way of giving back. This is why I decided to pursue supplier diversity as a career. I believe that supplier diversity in its basic form should contribute to the creation of jobs, income, and ultimately degrees of wealth that will build stronger communities and help grow our economy. With the active involvement of our chief procurement officer, Vito Giuliani, our supplier-diversity team, and other internal advocates, I view this as a means to represent ADP to better serve the communities where we live and conduct business.
How would you describe the philosophies that you implement to drive your day-to-day work?
Gore: I have relied on philosophies that are both clear and simple that enable us to focus on our key objectives. We will actively identify certified diverse suppliers, include these suppliers in our sourcing and procurement process, and work to develop strategic partnerships that will strengthen our supply chain and add value for our clients.
What does it take to create a sound supplier-diversity program for a company as large as ADP?
Gore: In my opinion, the most important requirement for any successful supplier-diversity program is to develop a clear and compelling purpose. Effective communication, stakeholder education, and basic salesmanship are key components in creating a sustainable supplier-diversity process, and must be practiced on an ongoing basis. The most important part of the education process may involve change management throughout the organization (within and outside procurement). Supplier-diversity leaders must understand the procurement process to appreciate the challenges of the procurement professionals and to work closely with the buyers to identify and develop relationships with diverse suppliers, allowing them to effectively compete.
What kinds of challenges do you encounter in your role?
Gore: The fact that we are called on to consistently advocate the inclusion of diverse suppliers can be a delicate process. Furthermore, the fact that we are accountable for diversity spend growth, without the authority to make purchasing decisions, can be viewed as a disadvantage. However, I prefer to take the view that these are simply part of the overall process.
How do you discover and attract new and diverse vendors?
Gore: We leverage direct contact opportunities with suppliers through trade shows, matchmaker sessions, and other external events. We also have access to supplier databases through memberships with national organizations and councils. Many of our suppliers are identified through cold calls that we receive from the suppliers themselves. Ironically, suppliers who may not be in a position to do business with us will often refer other, more qualified suppliers.
What kinds of vendors do you seek out?
Gore: We maintain a general pool of suppliers that are continually updated based on qualifications and the potential to compete in future opportunities. We use a wide variety of suppliers, from providers of simple office supplies to resellers of sophisticated IT equipment and beyond.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned by being a mentor to minority business enterprises?
Gore: I’ve learned that most diverse business owners are very appreciative of the time and effort that mentoring requires. Most importantly, these enterprises are willing to do whatever is necessary to gain a competitive advantage when a real opportunity exists. These businesses are oftentimes more flexible and willing to go the extra distance to provide the level of services that we demand from all suppliers.
What are your goals for the next year at ADP?
Gore: Our goal is to successfully grow our diversity spend by double digits, add strategic suppliers to our supply chain, develop new relationships, and strengthen our involvement with existing suppliers.