Create a Coherent and Accessible Process for Local Vendors
Your vendor information must be transparent and accurate
Examine your institution’s outward-facing information for vendors. What information does your website give a potential new vendor who may be a local or small business owner? Is the information about vendor requirements comprehensive and transparent? Do the necessary website updates as soon as there is an internal agreement that the information will accurately describe what vendors can expect.
Know and be clear about what types of vendors the institution is prepared to direct business to. Does your website information list the types of products the institution is looking to purchase? A “come one, come all” call for vendors can be unhelpful, as it may attract vendors who are selling goods and services the institution does not ever purchase.
Coordinate with partners for information dissemination and collection
Share your data with the local economic development and capacity-building agency. Economic development and in many cases organizations that oversee special service or business districts can help identify local vendors who can supply for particular spend categories.
Look at your procurement RFP process. How does information about new RFPs get disseminated? If new RFPs only get announced through the existing vendor database, it will be difficult to diversify the vendor pool. Use local economic development capacity-building partners to disseminate RFPs to a broader network of local businesses.
Consider strategic vendor partnerships with new vendors
Oftentimes a local business may be well on its way to having the capacity to work with a major anchor, but still lacks one or two of the business requirements needed to establish a contract.
In cases like this, it can be useful to introduce that business to a larger, perhaps national, firm that is also interested in establishing a business relationship with your institution. By pairing the two enterprises in a collaborative support model, the local business may get the technical support that they require and the larger firm can serve as a mentor while generating revenue of its own. In other cases, the local firm may have something needed by the larger company, such as the ability to provide timely delivery or local sales and customer support, creating a mutually beneficial partnership.
At Drexel we facilitated a formal relationship between Telrose, a local distribution firm, and Office Depot, a national office supply company, to create a Tier 1 Small Business Administration certified diversity partnership that meets federal grant and contract diversity requirements. Telrose is the sole-source supplier for office supplies at Drexel, and our resulting purchasing volume enables substantial reductions in the overall cost of office supplies. Our procurement office meets quarterly with Telrose to review the account purchase activity, adjust contract pricing in response to new product availability and shifting purchase patterns, and maintain competitive pricing structures.