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Advice For MBEs Attending The 2014 NMSDC Conference


2014 NMSDC ConferenceOn November 2-5 in Orlando, FL, the NMSDC will be holding its 2014 Conference and Business Opportunity Fair. The conference attracts corporate leaders, procurement executives and supplier diversity professionals from top multinational companies, as well as leading MBE owners and international organizations. There are great workshops and keynote speeches as well as the opportunity to network and meet people.

It’s a commitment of both time and money to attend any conference. All businesses wish they had more of both but small businesses, like many MBEs, are especially careful about spending.  Each expenditure is an investment that must have a solid ROI. Office supplies or phone and data services more easily demonstrate their importance and it can be tempting to see it as a luxury and discount the benefits of attending industry conferences. 

If you didn’t get a contract with the companies you wanted to after the first time you attend, you may find yourself thinking “why go back?” Don’t make the mistake of thinking this way!  Understand that it takes time to develop a relationship, to really understand a company’s needs and how your goods or services can help them. As an MBE you may need to grow and strengthen your company's offerings so that you are prepared to work with some of the larger global corporations. Also remember that moving from your first contact with a program manager to a sale is a process and annual attendance at the Opportunity Fair can be an important step in that process.

Recognize that the benefits of attendance are cumulative. Each year, you build on what you did and who you met last year.  By this I mean:

  1. Year One – The year of introduction.  You spend your time getting the lay of the land so to speak.  Which companies are there, where are the booths, how do the sessions and workshops apply to me and which I actually attend.  You spend most of your time introducing yourself.  Perhaps one of your clients is attending or another MBE owner that you know but many times first time attendees don’t really know a lot of other people.  That’s the point of going – getting your company noticed and meeting people; connecting with buyers from companies that are looking for your product or service and beginning the process of getting to know each other.
  2. Year Two – The year of reconnecting.  This time you know what to do and who you want to see again.  You should research and strategically target who you want to reconnect with and which companies you want to meet someone from for the first time.  Don’t waste time with every company and person.  If you’re smart, you’ve reached out to people you met last year to set up a meeting or let them know you’ll be stopping by their booth.  You’ll use this conference to further the relationships you made last year.  Of course a business opportunity can arise at any time, and one meeting at any given conference can result in something awesome.  I’m all for that!  But it’s much more usual for it to take time, especially if you are trying to break into a large Fortune 500 company.  There may be a wait before they add suppliers to their roster through an RFI or issue a specific RFP.
  3. Year Three – The year of improving.  The third time you attend, and each subsequent time, you’re improving your relationships across the diversity community.  You’re reconnecting with clients, prospects, and fellow MBEs, people who you have met at past conferences, and perhaps have also seen or worked with throughout the year.  You’re cementing these relationships, but you’re also developing new ones.  Each year, the conference provides a chance to improve and deepen your relationship with the people you know.  It also gives you the opportunity to meet new program managers and procurement professionals from companies that may not have been represented before or may not have needed your services until now.

Of course, reconnecting and improving your relationships will be much harder if you do nothing in between attending conferences.  You need to stay in touch throughout the year by sharing thought leadership, connecting on social media, or some other appropriate way.  If a company offers informational webinars or seminars, attend one.  Learn more about the company and their supplier diversity program from their website and reach out with questions.  Or share knowledge with them by sending an article or information they would like; be sure it’s relevant though!  Honestly, even if it is just to say hello with a holiday note, the important thing is – don’t let contact drop until the next conference.

The point of annual attendance is to help take your relationships to the next level.  Like a good friend, you can always learn something new that will deepen your connection and make you better able to serve them, whatever it is that your company does.  As an MBE, don’t underestimate the importance of the relationships you develop with other MBEs.  They can be a great source of referrals, recommendations and references and can provide introductions to buyers you may want to know.

I’m giving this advice with the NMSDC in mind but it’s really applicable to any conferences or events sponsored by industry organizations.  If it’s relevant to your business then the right people, the people you want to meet will be there.  That’s why you go.  But going once isn’t going to give you the best results.  Repeat attendance, whether it’s an annual conference, or a monthly luncheon seminar, means that you build better relationships.  Better relationships are what lead to greater sales success and growth.

If you’re on the fence about attending or need some reasons to justify the ROI, I hope this helped.  I look forward to seeing you at the conference – be sure and look me up!  I’ll be there!

Angelique Solorio
Corporate Outreach Manager
ATR International

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  Reasons, Supplier Diversity, Business Strategy

Hey IT Hiring Managers! MSPs Can Be Your Friend


MSP, IT ManagersDepending on who you talk to it can seem as though MSPs are the answer to everything or the worst idea ever. Most people’s opinions fall more reasonably on the spectrum, but where you land likely depends on what your role is and how you interact with an MSP. Procurement professionals are more obvious champions while hiring managers and suppliers might give mixed reviews. If you’re an IT manager working with an MSP you’ve certainly got your own opinion – a bane, a boon, or a little of both?

An MSP can help bring costs in line, standardizing procedures that save a company both time and money. Streamlined, transparent processes can provide both supplier and buyer with efficiencies and cost savings and are a good benefit from a well-run MSP. Programs track the activities associated with hiring and managing contract employees and a company can reduce time, effort, and ensure consistency in process and quality across departments this way.  There are areas where this can be done fairly easily without sacrificing quality. But there are also areas with more complex contingent workforce needs that require a deeper understanding and flexibility to work effectively within an MSP model and IT is absolutely one of those. IT department heads and hiring managers may try to work around an MSP with SOWs, but more and more companies are expanding their programs to include these and other types of contract or contingent labor.

So you can’t avoid the MSP, nor should you, really. The best thing is to figure out how you can work most effectively with your company’s program. The answer is by knowing what some of the common problems can be for IT managers and the ways to successfully combat them.

  1. Too few IT firms on the approved list –MSPs are tasked with reducing the number of suppliers, often with good reason. Economies of scale in purchasing can provide savings, often significant ones. The larger your company, and the more growth it has recently experienced (especially if you’ve acquired another company), the more likely you are to have duplicate suppliers. The problem is when the approved supplier list is pared too far back and is dominated by one or two large firms expected to provide talent across the spectrum. For a specialized area like IT this can spell disaster. A good program will include specialty niche firms for the departments that need them.     
  2. Lack of communication with IT staffing suppliers – Some MSPs prohibit contact between suppliers and hiring managers, acting as the go between. To be sure, some managers prefer a gatekeeper and some ground rules that ensure that all vendors have the same opportunities for access are also a good idea, but completely preventing direct communication doesn’t work, especially in IT. Understanding the nuances of a position’s requirements and getting accurate feedback on submitted candidates is critical to success. There is no substitute for direct contact in these instances. When IT is not a core competency of the company but a necessary support department, procurement or program personnel may not have deep knowledge and experience with finding IT talent. Recruiters at an accounting firm are great at finding and evaluating accountants but may not be familiar when it comes to finding the best software developer. 
  3. Rates that drive away quality suppliers and talent – One of the most important things to understand are the current market and salary for each job and how to price things in a way that is fair and equitable to both the company and its suppliers. IT is different from Administrative Support and both are different from Warehouse Manager or Call Center Specialist. The marketplace for IT talent is especially fluid and competitive. Programs try to lock rates in for several years. Again, it may work in some areas but not necessarily well in IT. You may have run into the issue, trying to hire a software developer in 2014 using a rate card set in 2012. It may also be based on categories that apply company-wide, taking little account of the differences between an IT project manager and a sales manager. If this is the case, you’ll likely lose talent to others.  

So what should you do? 

  1. If there is a seat at the table, take it.  Whether it is as the program is being designed, or afterward on an ongoing basis, if you are asked for your input, give it. Be open and honest about what you need but look for opportunities for compromise. Change can be upsetting and it can seem at first that what the program may ask of you is unreasonable but if you keep an open mind you’ll see there are benefits and you can embrace the best parts of the program while also making your case for the things you want to change.
  2. Make sure that the issues above are addressed.  Be sure that you have permission to contact your IT staffing firms as much as you feel is necessary. It’s great to get the efficiencies of using an MSP but don’t give up all your involvement or input. Automation and software are tools to achieve efficiency, not substitutes for human involvement and judgment. 
  3. Understand how the whole system works. Where do you need to put in extra effort to reflect your requirements accurately? For example, take extra care with job descriptions to ensure they ask for what you really need and aren’t boilerplate language. Take time to develop a good relationship with the onsite program manager and recruiters. Help them understand your IT needs better. This way, when they are acting on your behalf, they’ll be doing so with knowledge and facts, surefire ways to more success.

Remember – it’s not all bad news. A good MSP can help you. It can provide structure and efficiencies that save money and time, both things that you can use more of. A smart procurement department and a good MSP can help everyone involved meet their goals. Developing good working relationships with them is the best way to ensure you reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls. Good luck!

Wendy Sun
VP of Recruiting 

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6 Pieces of Advice for Job Seekers Directly from ATR’s Experts


recruitersIt’s not easy looking for a new job. Who better to give you advice than people who work with job candidates every day – our recruiters! They spend their time helping people to write better and more effective resumes, research companies, and prepare for interviews. Staffing 360 talked to our team of recruiters, as well as talent sourcers, account executives, and others, and as you’ll see below, they are full of helpful tips gleaned from years of experience.

1. Be Prepared – The Resume
Your resume is key. Technical recruiter Mansi Shukla told us “the resume speaks volumes about your personality as well as your qualifications. It’s the first step towards finding your dream job!” A good resume was mentioned by all our recruiters, who stressed the importance of updating and tailoring it for the specific job you are applying for. Be honest when you present yourself. Know your skills and their value and highlight those which are required for the position you want.  

Laurence Friedman, one of our technical recruiters, says it’s your job to “convince an employer why their future is better with you than without you” and the resume is the start of that. Know which aspects of your background set you apart from everyone else and capitalize on those points when you write your resume. Ina Magat points out “hiring managers and recruiters look at hundreds of resumes in a day, so yours must be both precise and convincing.”

Megan Doyle emphasizes “formatting is important!” Punctuation, grammar, spelling, etc. all matter. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again. Have someone else proof it for you. It’s hard to see mistakes in something you’re so familiar with.

2. Be Prepared – The Interview
One thing all our recruiters agreed on is that preparation is critical, important, a must do – how many other ways can they stress this! Dana Cookson puts it simply, “Preparation leads to success.” For phone and in-person interviews, Brian Glassanos cautions, “job seekers should always know what the company is about, what they do, and be able to provide great reasons why they should hire you.” Find out about their core values so you can get a better idea if you are a good fit for the position and for the company as well. Dana also told us “the more research and preparation you do, the more impressive you become in the interview.” 

Visit the customer’s website and make sure you understand their business and strengths. Thoroughly research the company, the interviewer(s), and the position. Find out more about what the company does and what skills they are looking for. Michelle Olech, a technical recruiter, says “when you understand the company’s business and the interviewer’s key responsibilities, it will help you discover how you can play a key role within the organization.” Many recruiters, including Jaymeson Zarling, advise candidates to “Ask questions!!” Prepare them ahead of time based on your research.  

Talent Sourcer Megan Connolly tells Staffing 360, “Practice makes perfect. The best way to prepare for an interview is to have practice interviews with friends or family. This way you will be more prepared and more confident when it comes to the real interview.”

Brian adds: “Never allow yourself to go into a situation under-prepared.”

3. Be Professional 
Our recruiters definitely stressed this. Ryann Borja told us “It’s important to make a good first impression.” Luise Sanchez counsels that “a candidate should always be professional – at all times but especially for any interview. Whether you are interviewing for an entry level warehouse position, software developer, or lead engineer, treat it as if you’re coming in to be the CEO.” How important is this?

Laura Curtin explained, “Studies have shown that within 30 seconds the average adult has formed an impression of an individual they are meeting for the first time. With this in mind, I encourage candidates to dress for success.” If you aren’t sure, err on the side of dressing up rather than dressing down and choose the conservative side as well. “If it’s a phone interview, even if they can’t see you, dress for it. You’ll feel more professional and it will give you a boost of confidence,” Ryann recommends. “Make sure to present the best you possible.”

4. Be Confident
Speaking of confidence, our recruiters talked about this – across the board. Again and again, they told Staffing 360 that candidates should be – need to be – confident in their skills and experience. Adriana Pegueros stressed that “Companies are full of people with good backgrounds and excellent resumes; often what will make someone stand out is the confidence to present what you are capable of contributing.” Matthew Smith says, “Develop your story. Make sure you can concisely tell hiring managers what makes you stand out from other candidates.” Confidence is a winning attribute to develop. 

Talent Sourcer Jeff Payne agrees, “Always have a story. Anyone can get a job, but getting a position doing something you really love and are passionate about; that takes more than just a resume.” Krista Jensen also advises candidates to “never downplay any experience they may have. There is always something valuable you can learn from any employment position you’ve held in the past, so it is important to recognize, and utilize those lessons in the future.” You don’t want to be cocky or overbearing but you do want to convey that you can get things done and are confident in your abilities. 

5. Be Honest and Open
Be true to yourself and open with your recruiter. Dan Friedland, one of our technical recruiters, promises, “Try your best and stay true to the goals you wish to achieve. If you know where you want to go and what you want to achieve, I will do my best to find the opportunities that will help pave your path of success and personal fulfillment.” Recruiters are there to help you, but they need your help to do it well. Your search will be more successful if you communicate as much as possible with them about your experience, skill set, and career goals.

Be honest. Debbie McCoy reminds us all that “your word is everything.” Others adamantly agreed. Be honest. Be honest on your resume. Be honest with the interviewer. Be honest when you answer questions. There are plenty of high profile examples of lies being uncovered, and far more examples in the regular world that no one hears about. Be assured, lying will almost always be discovered and will not be tolerated. Consider this advice from our President and CEO Jerry Brenholz, “often times what the person lied about [a degree, past experience, even a criminal record] wouldn’t have kept them from getting the job, but the lying did!” Background and reference checks are done for a reason.

6. Be Positive
Think positive! Stay positive and persistent. Never give up. These were frequent refrains from our ATR colleagues, including Matthew Shrader, Kevin Toombs, and Le Vo. Do not give up! Talent sourcer Sarah Schattenfield shared this perspective, “It can be easy to feel like searching for a good job is somewhat like a needle in a haystack but it is extremely important to stay positive and remember, the perfect job is out there, it is just a matter of finding it.”



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MBE Suppliers: It's More Than Providing A Great Service Or Product


supplier diversityAs I’ve discussed before, MBEs trying to become preferred suppliers for large corporations need to be aware of the many qualifications that these companies consider when choosing who to do business with. To a certain degree, being able to provide the product or services that they are looking for is the easy part, certainly it’s only the first step. Companies have other criteria that they consider important like financial stability, ethical behavior, environmental impact, fair hiring practices, and a host of other things that could negatively impact them if their suppliers were not up to their standards.

More and more companies are setting standards that they expect their third party vendors to comply with if they want to do business with them. Whether they call it “supplier responsibility,” “supplier sustainability,” “supply chain sustainability,” a “supplier code of conduct,” or any other moniker, if you want to be considered as a partner, you should make sure that your company meets all these requirements. If not, it may make no difference how great your product is, you won’t be chosen. 

Whether you are a business owner, a program manager, or a procurement professional, if your company doesn’t have formal policies in this area, you may want to consider developing guidelines. Any company that works hard to do the right thing wants those they work with to be held to the same standards. It can be a real business risk if those you do business with run afoul of proper practices. In addition to reputational risk, you can be held co-liable and there is the potential for real monetary and legal penalties in some cases.

Companies make it clear what’s important to them and generally provide the guidelines and regulations to potential partners on their website and/or as part of the procurement process.  Increasingly, companies audit their suppliers’ compliance and report the results publicly.

As an MBE preparing to do business with a company, you should research their policies. If you’re looking for information as part of developing your own policies, the same advice applies – do your research.  Motorola, Mastercard, Kraft Foods, and CISCO, are all good examples. They also demonstrate how it is a concern across many industries. Obviously companies with significant manufacturing footprints have some very specific and complex areas of concern, especially environmental impact and labor and human rights concerns, but there is also a recognition that all companies have an impact on their community and environment. It’s not just large companies either; it makes sense for any size company to care about its reputation and to be aware of how their external partners are an extension of themselves. 

Each company will have its own nuances but common areas of concern include:

Labor and Human Rights – this category covers such issues as forced/slave and child labor, wages and benefits, working hours and conditions, discrimination, compliance with all labor laws and regulations, and the freedom to associate politically and to unionize.

Health and Safety – this relates to things like occupational safety, injury and illness, education and safety training (especially relating to machinery and equipment), sanitation and even emergency preparedness in case of natural disaster.

Environmental Impact – Concerns in this area include everything from pollution prevention and reduction, proper permitting and reporting, treatment of hazardous substances, to the responsible sourcing of minerals and metals.

Ethical Conduct – This is a broad category that touches on the way a company behaves in general but specifically includes business integrity, financial dealings, not engaging in bribery or other illegal practices, respecting intellectual property, and acting properly in terms of advertising and competition.

As an MBE, are you ready to do business on this level? It is more than likely that you are an honest business person and your company complies with all applicable laws and regulations and acts in an ethical manner; make sure this is true and that you can prove it. This is just one more way that you can ensure that you and your company are fully prepared to serve the clients you are targeting. 

Likewise, understanding the risks involved when working with external partners and suppliers, and taking measures to reduce or prevent problems in the first place, is just good business sense. Choosing to work with suppliers that share your values and commitment to legal, ethical business dealings will raise the quality of the services you receive overall.

Finding out what’s important in terms of supplier behavior and conduct and ensuring that your company meets these criteria OR letting companies know what you expect from them and hiring those that share your commitment and compliance can be the difference between failure and success!

Angelique Solorio
Corporate Outreach Manager
ATR International

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Reasons, Supplier Diversity, Business Strategy


6 Surprising But Effective Ways To Make A Great Hire


successful hiresMaking great hires is often viewed as a bit of an art form, when what we’re really looking for is a recipe for success, a proven process that works. Companies often bring in a number of candidates, interview them, make a “best guess” hire based on the team’s input, and hope for the best. But it doesn’t have to be this subjective. There are fact based studies and long term trends that can make hiring more straight forward and objective.

1. Industry experience NOT required
ATR International has been hiring and training recruiters and account managers for over 25 years. And what we have found is that industry experience is often a negative predictor of success, not a positive one. The reason is that candidates with staffing industry experience are often not happy or successful in what they are doing and think moving to another company in the same industry will help. It usually doesn't. The best approach is to hire for ability, past success, and problem solving abilities. Next, train them yourself and educate them about your industry and you will have much better luck.

2. GPA is meaningless
Google collects data on, and analyzes nearly everything that goes on within their daily operations. This includes their hiring process. And what they found is that a correlation between GPA and an employee’s on the job performance simply does not exist. In other words, a candidate's performance at school is completely unrelated to how they will perform at work. The reason for this is that it takes a different skill set to be successful at school than it does to be successful at work. Read about it in more detail here

3. Facebook? Yes, Facebook
Facebook is often used as a resource to screen out job applicants who are spending their nights getting drunk at the local watering hole or making questionable “social” decisions. But a new study by a trio of universities has found that Facebook can be used to predict success on the job as well. Researchers at the three universities used 5 personality traits, conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion and openness. New hires who received the highest scores from independent evaluators of their Facebook presence in these categories received the highest scores in relation to their job performance 6 months later.

4. Problem Solving
A thirst for knowledge and an ability to solve problems is a proven key for a successful hire. But these traits are often not teased out in an interview. Ask questions like these to get at a candidate’s natural ability to solve problems:

  1. Tell me about a time when you had a major issue to solve and what you did.
  2. Tell me about a personal accomplishment you are proud of.
  3. Tell me something you learned how to do recently.
  4. Tell me about a recent failure. (people who are problem solvers are comfortable failing)

These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. People who love to learn and solve problems will have no problem answering any of these questions.

5. Employee Referrals
They’ve been around for quite a while and are so ubiquitous it might seem as though they are a standard rather than a best practice but recent data confirms how effective they actually are in bringing top talent into a firm. Many studies have shown that employee referral hires are more productive than non-referral hires – right from the start as well as 6 and 12 months later. They perform better and have longer tenures with the company too. Why are Employee Referral Programs so successful? One reason is that employees know what skills are needed and understand your company culture, so the people they refer are more likely to have those key attributes. In essence, employee referrals are very effectively prescreened candidates.

6. IQ vs. Cognitive Control
The common assumption is that a high IQ leads to greater academic abilities which leads to greater success in one’s professional career. However, this common assumption has proven to be wrong. The truth is, people with the best cognitive control are statistically the most successful in life, regardless of IQ levels. Cognitive control, as defined by LinkedIn Influencer Daniel Goleman:

“Cognitive control refers to the abilities to delay gratification in pursuit of your goals, maintaining impulse control, managing upsetting emotions well, holding focus, and possessing a readiness to learn.”

Cognitive control was first brought to light in the famous Marshmallow Test conducted at Stanford University in the late 1960’s. It’s been redone many times and is worth four minutes of your day if you haven’t seen it.


Aside from this entertaining video, employers are now seeing that cognitive control is a major predictor of success in the workplace. A 30-year longitudinal study of more than 1,000 kids found that those children with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s. Cognitive control predicted success better than a child’s IQ. So how do you screen for it in a job interview? Ask questions that will uncover this specific trait.

  1. Tell me about a long term goal for yourself and what you are doing to accomplish it.
  2. Tell me about your most significant accomplishment.
  3. What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?
  4. What is something you would love to accomplish but seems impossible?

Listen carefully to the answers and look for individuals who were not easily deterred in reaching their goals. Individuals who understand that failure is simply a step towards ultimate success.  Someone who can work hard for a promotion but also understand there may be a wait until a business case can be made too. These are the people you want to hire.

Jeff Monaghan
Director of Marketing
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Corporate Spotlight: L. Jay Burks PhD., Supplier Diversity Manager at Comcast


L Jay BurksThis week we turn our Corporate Spotlight on L. Jay Burks, PhD. I met Jay over a year or so ago. He’s been a great resource for me, and I think you’ll all benefit from learning more about Jay and his work. Jay is currently the Manager of Supplier Diversity at the Comcast Corporation, with numerous responsibilities including, of course, increasing procurement opportunities for diverse businesses. 

Prior to joining Comcast, he served for over five years as Executive Director of the State of Delaware's Office of Supplier Diversity. His responsibilities were similar to his role at Comcast, but were executed for the State of Delaware contracting opportunities. Jay has been involved with many organizations throughout his career, supporting them in a variety of ways. From national organizations like the NMSDC,WBENC, and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC), to state and local groups such as the Associated Builders and Contractors of Delaware Diversity Committee and the State of Delaware’s Small Business Advisory Committee. Jay is a tireless supporter of those who share his passion for business and commitment to empowering diverse companies and their owners. His most recent role is on the Corporate Advisory Board for the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN).

Obviously Jay has extensive experience in numerous roles, but his biggest passion remains higher education, for himself and for others. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Morehouse College, a Master of Business Administration from the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and a PhD from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.   

His passion for diversity issues and education come together in his PhD dissertation. The title, “Examining the Relationships between Entrepreneurial Orientation, Procedural Justice, and Entrepreneurial Leadership with the Reward and Performance Expectancies of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses in Government Contracting,” shows the relevance of his research and findings to those of us working in the diversity and inclusion community. You can read the full report in the "Education" section of his LinkedIn profile but I am going to try and succinctly summarize one of his findings.

Dr. Burks’ research found that there is a statistically significant relationship between procedural justice, entrepreneurial leadership and expectancies. For example, if a diverse-owned business thinks that the selection process is unfair they will be less likely to participate, which makes sense. Why would a business person spend time on something that doesn’t seem to promise a decent ROI? Whether or not the process is actually fair is part of the equation too. Both the reality and perception of fairness needs to be changed in order to achieve higher levels of diverse-owned business participation. The findings will be useful in developing effective supplier diversity policies and procedures, which as a result can have an important impact on minority-owned and women-owned businesses’ involvement in economic growth.

There isn’t a lot of research in this area, so his study is useful and important in that sense alone, but he also concludes with recommendations on what these results suggest might be done to improve expectancies and participation in government contracting. These include improving transparency, increasing education and assistance, and standardizing the procurement process and procedures. It might involve better marketing to ensure that diverse-owned suppliers understand the process and how they will be evaluated. It can also mean removing conundrums like “needing government experience” to be hired for any contract, but having no way of getting government experience.  

Again, this is a very brief overview of one of the components, and I’m sure I’ve not really done it justice. PLEASE read the original. You can connect with Jay if you have questions or comments about his work. He is on LinkedIn and Twitter to share knowledge, opportunities, and successes. He also recommends utilizing free help such as Hootsuite and Google alerts for the latest developments. Jay is a great example of the diversity of our community and the strength that comes from differing viewpoints, backgrounds, skills and experience. Thanks for sharing with all of us Jay!

Angelique Solorio
Corporate Outreach Manager
ATR International

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20 Great Quotes For The 4th Of July


describe the imageWe celebrate the founding of our country on the 4th of July with a weekend filled with picnics, parades, and fireworks. We commemorate when we formally declared our independence from England and set forth in writing our grievances with the King. The vote for independence actually took place on July 2nd and July 4th was the day the document was approved. Almost instantly the day was one of celebration, becoming and official Federal holiday in 1941. For many years, the tradition was to read aloud The Declaration of Independence, as it had been read aloud in 1776 in town squares across the colonies.

It’s a great tradition and one that we might all consider re-adopting. Reading the document, aloud or not, reminds one of the beauty of the language, the amazing words that Thomas Jefferson wove together to inspire the colonists, and scores of freedom seeking individuals through the years since then. Here is, arguably, it’s most famous passage:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Reading the Declaration reminds one of the beauty of language. It’s an inspiring piece of work and a testament to the power of the written word. Again and again, we try to express our ideals, our loftiest goals, the answers to our most important questions, in writing. It is in our DNA to communicate with one another. The Declaration of Independence is a beautiful reminder of this kind of achievement at its best. Many others have written about the democracy, liberty and freedom – the founding principles of our nation. I hope you enjoy their thoughts!  Please share your favorite quotes with us below.

Happy 4th of July!

  1. “The basis of a democratic state is liberty.” Aristotle

  2. “A people inspired by democracy, human rights and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism.”  Benazir Bhutto

  3. “Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty.” Louis D. Brandeis

  4. “Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” Albert Camus

  5. “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” Moshe Dayan

  6. “Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.” Albert Einstein

  7. “For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  8. “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” William Faulkner

  9. “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” Benjamin Franklin

  10. “This, then, is the state of the union:  free and restless, growing and full of hope.  So it was in the beginning.  So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith.” Lyndon B. Johnson

  11. “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” Abraham Lincoln

  12. “We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.” Robert J. McCracken

  13. “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” Thomas Paine

  14. “In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

  15. “Liberty is the breath of life to nations.” George Bernard Shaw

  16. “Freedom and democracy are dreams you never give up.” Aung San Suu Kyi

  17. “The road to democracy may be winding and is like a river taking many curves, but eventually the river will reach the ocean.” Chen Shui-bian

  18. “As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” George Washington

  19. “May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!” Daniel Webster

  20. “I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.” Author Unknown

Jerry Brenholz
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.

IT Managers Can Learn 3 Key Things From the World Cup


IT managers, suarezPerhaps you have recently caught World Cup fever or maybe you’ve been a longtime fan, or perhaps you’ve remained immune to the charm and excitement of “the beautiful game.” No matter what, it is likely that you’ve heard at least something about Uruguay’s star player, Luis Suarez, biting Italian player, Giorgio Chiellini. (For more details, click here.) It’s shocking to watch, and further shocking since it is the third time he has done this in his career. Much has and will be written about this and with good reason. There is an opportunity to learn and not just for those directly involved.  

Sports teaches life lessons and this situation demonstrated a few for me, especially as a business owner, manager of people, and staffing industry professional, where helping our clients build a great “team” is what we do every day. Suarez’s bite is an example of the perils of allowing a star player to get away with behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated in most other people. It isn’t a good idea in sports and it isn’t a good idea in business. Excusing bad behavior is a dangerous proposition and can have its consequences. It’s playing out in this situation. Consider:

  1. It is a distraction and morale killer to the rest of the team. His behavior overshadowed the great play of his team. Instead of focusing on the incredible goal that won the game, his coaches and teammates instead spent time and energy responding to questions. It even called into question the legitimacy of their win and advancement to the Round of 16. It has, or should, dampen the pride of his nation, and cause headaches for FIFA. (Trying to win over new fans? This doesn’t help.)  
  2. In the short run, it hurts the team.  He got suspended and couldn’t play any remaining matches, which put his team at a big disadvantage. This is like putting up with an employee who has a bad temper because of his other abilities, only to find out he’s been arrested for a road rage incident over the weekend and now can’t come to work. Whatever his skills are he won’t be using them for your company’s benefit for a while. What good is Uruguay advancing if by his behavior Suarez takes himself out of the game?  
  3. In the long run it hurts the team.  The suspension carries over and affects his ability to play for his professional team, the English Premier League’s Liverpool. At first glance, it was good for them to have one of their stars on the World Cup stage, but now? Not only will he miss actual matches but it’s damaging to their reputation. What will the fans of Liverpool think? The sponsors? In a business setting, this is akin to an employee who codes circles around everyone else but ends up saying something that upsets the client and severely or irreparably damages the relationship. What good is a successful product if the client doesn’t like you enough to buy it from you?    

I am not naïve enough to think that suddenly sports stars are going to be held accountable regardless of their abilities on the field. Different sports and different teams have different levels of tolerance, and every business owner is free to make their own decisions about how to manage their people. I also understand that in sports a win can mean so much money or fame that there are many who will argue it’s worth it.  

But for most of us in the business world, there aren’t as many situations where in a few intense moments, absolutely everything is on the line. Bad behavior over time erodes your team and causes problems. A superstar who is allowed to be habitually late causes resentment in other team members, who in turn either begin to show up late themselves or harbor negative feelings, both of which can easily hurt their own, and thus your company’s performance. When you allow someone to lose their temper, gossip, skip meetings, skirt administrative requirements, or just generally misbehave in ways you don’t put up with in others, you’re also in danger of alienating your other employees to the point that they will consider changing jobs. Unless your superstar can do everyone else’s job too, you’re going to have a problem!

Suarez’s biting incident hurt Uruguay and it remains to be seen how it will affect Liverpool or FIFA. In the meantime, it’s a good idea for the rest of us to look at our own teams and make sure that we’re not coddling a troublemaker at the expense of their hardworking, honorable teammates. Think about the consequences, they matter!

Jerry Brenholz
CEO and President
ATR International, Inc.

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Lessons From The Top IT Employers


IT employeesAs we have talked about many times on this blog, finding and retaining IT talent has been, and for the foreseeable future will be, one of the most pressing business challenges for employers. The challenge has become so great that offering perks such as free gourmet lunches, five figure referral bonuses, and time to work on pet projects have become common place. So it is only natural that Computerworld would rank the top IT places to work.

The rankings are broken down into three categories: large, midsize, and small. You can read the article and see the rankings here.

Each winning company has their unique approach that placed them in the #1 spot. But there are some common threads that run between each of them.

1. Encourage Learning
The world of technology changes rapidly. So encouraging IT workers to take classes and earn certifications benefits the employee and the company. It’s almost imperative for companies competing for the best IT labor to invest in their workforce through tuition and certification reimbursement. Whether it is an annual stipend to spend on education (e.g., $4-5,000 per employee), ongoing internal training, or short, targeted classes (e.g., a week long class on new VMWare Technology), this is an investment that is both good for business and for employee morale.  

2. Food (and other perks)
Free food used to be considered a luxury and only offered by billion dollar high tech companies. But other companies soon learned that it’s a cost effective way to keep your IT workforce happy and productive. Consider the following:

  • It shows the company cares. Sure, IT workers are often paid well but they also provide the foundation and products that make billions for their companies. Using some of that money to provide a free meal goes a long way.
  • Free meals often facilitate greater communication among employees resulting in networking, idea exchanges, and increased camaraderie. All of these things result in a better, more productive workplace.
  • Employees that don’t need to plan for meals, prep for meals, shop, and do dishes often spend more time at work or have better quality time off.
  • Free meals translate into approximately $5,000 of tax free income for the employee. Something every employee calculates and appreciates at some point.
Free food is just one example of the kinds of perks (e.g., onsite fitness centers, hyper break rooms, free dry cleaning, parties, etc.) that started out as cutting edge and are now almost common, at least in some form.  This is one area where smaller companies can compete with the biggies - the fewer employees you have the less it will cost to feed them all!

3. Advancement
Every IT employee has career aspirations. And the majority of the time those career aspirations coincide with company goals. Companies that are successful at attracting and retaining IT workers have formal programs for tapping into each IT workers career aspirations and building a path for him/her to attain them. It’s more than just training and opportunity though; many of the most successful companies provide mentors or involvement from leadership in developing their employees. This makes IT workers happy and the company ends up with motivated, successful employees.

4. Company Culture
Mentioned again and again as a key component for the top ranked companies is a strong set of core values, a clear mission statement, committed leadership - from the top down - and transparent, honest and frequent communication. Computerworld’s top ranked companies all shared this quality. Their employees consistently talked about the difference it makes when the CEO reaches out to personally praise work that a team or individual has done, takes an interest in their career aspirations, has an open door communication policy, or sends flowers to an ailing family member. They also cited strong company values as important to weathering difficult times - an economic downturn or difficult projects.

None of these things is going to replace salary as one of the most important reasons that people work, and these companies all acknowledge that they pay competitive if not generous salaries to their employees. But if you read the profiles of each winning company, regardless of size, you’ll see these four common areas of focus and action. Computerworld’s survey and rankings underscore that it takes more than just money to be a great place to work.

Wendy Sun
VP of Recruiting
ATR International, Inc.
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Industry Experts Reveal The Keys To Success For MBEs


MBE successThe Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council’s (WRMSDC) Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee (MBEIC) held a General Assembly hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on June 6, 2014. The event, “Think like a Corporate Buyer,” included a panel of Corporate Supplier Diversity Professionals from major corporations as well as breakout sessions, and was attended by dozens of area MBEs.  The panel consisted of:

  • Michael McQuarry, Strategic Procurement Manager/ Global Supplier Diversity - Hewlett Packard;
  • Timothy Evans, Supplier Diversity Specialist – Comcast;
  • Lisa Castillo, Senior Global Supplier Diversity Manager - AT&T;
  • David Feldman, Supply Chain Advisor Supplier Diversity/Local Content – Chevron; and,
  • Richard Chacon, Senior Vice President and Director, Supplier Diversity - Union Bank.

Thanks to the Federal Reserve Bank for volunteering to host! Lynn Reddrick from the Federal Reserve opened the event along with the WRMSDC’s new President, Lawrence Wooten, who also facilitated the panel.  Lawrence brings his knowledge and experience from previous Supplier Diversity positions at Pitney Bowes, Time Warner Inc., and other companies to the council, and added his perspective to the panel’s discussion as well. 

Everyone appreciated the opportunity to learn from the distinguished panel.  They covered a number of relevant topics, including how they evaluate suppliers and debrief during the procurement process, dividing the viable candidates from the lesser qualified.  Following the panel were four training segments from MBE’s that shared tips on Marketing /Social Media, RFP’s, and Technology for Your Business. Provided below are some of the points from the panel discussion that stood out to me and that I feel will be useful to any MBE. 

The panel stressed that diversity program managers are your advocates in the procurement process.  Do not be afraid to contact and engage them.  As you explore their website and procurement guidelines, and take advantage of any training or networking events they offer, you will begin to develop a relationship.  Leverage this resource when you are comfortable that you can truly deliver the services or goods the company needs, and feel the time is right.

These corporate managers frankly discussed some of the pain points they experience with suppliers:

  • Suppliers sometimes overstate their capabilities or overextend themselves to get an opportunity with their company.
  • Supplier Diversity managers spend months building relationships to help suppliers get on the vendor list, and when there is an opportunity for an RFP, the supplier fails to open it and respond. They wish to provide that opportunity to those who want it. 
  • Suppliers do not thoroughly read the RFP and follow directions.

Here is some advice on how to avoid these pitfalls:

  • Be realistic about your current capabilities and your core competencies.  Make sure you are ready and bidding on work that you can excel at delivering, otherwise you are wasting everyone’s time and likely setting yourself up for disappointment or failure.
  • Don’t burn bridges!  Better not to have bothered to develop the relationship if you’re just going to do this.  Make sure that you respond in a timely manner if you decide not to bid on the work, send a polite note declining.  If you bid on the work, meet the deadlines.  Remember that this is a community in which managers share information and feedback with other supplier diversity professionals. Don’t underestimate how it may hurt you down the line to behave unprofessionally.
  • Read the paperwork! Let me repeat that – read the paperwork, and read it carefully!  This seems like it should be obvious but the fact that it was mentioned shows that it happens, and more often than it should.  Also, the panel was emphatic - do not be afraid to ask questions! Many feel as though it is a sign of weakness, but in reality, it’s a sign of commitment to understanding and better answering the question.

Two of the factors that companies consider when evaluating potential suppliers that I thought were of particular importance to consider are the level of risk they perceive in working with your company and which companies were really prepared and showcased their product or service the best.  Corporations want to work with businesses of a size and stability that provides a sense of security and low risk.  Risk management in the supply chain is an important consideration. Does the supplier meet the Insurance requirements? Will they survive a data breach? 

Be mindful about the size of your business and recognize the importance of growing into a second tier level supplier.  Express how and why your company is a low risk no matter what size it is.  Talk about the total value that you bring to the table in your service delivery. Suppliers also need to show how they are able to deliver great service and quality products at a good value.  Those that show how they could deliver the total value package – cost, efficiency, superior client service, etc. had a better chance of success.

Finally, Pamela Isom, MBEIC Chair President and CEO of ICE Safety Solutions, gave a wonderful speech reminding MBE’s that they were the guests of honor!  The event was for their benefit, and I think those of us in attendance recognized this.  Events like these that are designed to connect MBEs and corporate buyers are invaluable.  I’ve said it before and this event was no exception.  Pamela also shared a great quote that she recently heard and that I instantly loved!  “Success ends when you die, significance lasts a lifetime.” 

Thanks again to the MBEIC, The Federal Reserve, and the corporate professionals who served on the panel for the advice they all shared.  It’s great to have so many people supporting the Council’s mission to strengthen, educate, enhance, and grow minority businesses.  Looking forward to the second assembly that will be coming later this year: “Share your Breakthrough Moment!”

Angelique Solorio
Corporate Outreach Manager
ATR International

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