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Have you ever had an epiphany that changed your direction for good – and for the good? A lightbulb moment. A life-changing revelation. Discovering a clearer focus and depth about a familiar concept viewed from a new perspective.

That’s what happened to me when I woke to thinking about my company’s supply chain with a new focus.

As a woman owner of a meeting and event planning business, looking for opportunities to serve clients as a diverse supplier has been on my radar for decades. I have always supported women in leadership and have played an active role in professional women’s organizations such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF). I still do.

I’ve been a strong believer in diversity – in word and action – when hiring and assembling my team. The belief that diversity brings a multitude of perspectives that energize and foster growth has always been a fundamental part of our culture at Mary O’Connor & Company (MOC&CO).

But somehow, I felt that our company’s diversity picture was incomplete. Were we doing enough?

The lightbulb moment

In 2018, WBENC introduced #ACTIntentionally. Simply stated, the concept is one that suggests women business owners have the power to make deliberate choices to patronize businesses that, in turn, support them. This movement of reciprocal support among women-owned businesses was motivated by a desire to support one another in developing our own global business community.

WBENC’s impassioned campaign inspired me to re-evaluate my firm’s approach to our supplier partners. Suddenly, it became clear…  this was the missing link. Though MOC&CO had been consistently committed to internal diverse hiring practices, we were not fully capitalizing on the opportunity to have impact externally with our supply chain.

Our leadership team took a 180-degree turn and began applying those same principles outwardly to develop a fully diverse supply chain. This means we are “acting intentionally” to include minority-owned businesses (MBEs), veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs), and National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) member businesses as well as women-owned firms. Diversity is and always will be a core value in our hiring and marketing practices.

Every business decision, every day, I have choices—travel, accommodations, professional services, shopping, entertaining, etc. Choosing to support diverse suppliers who support me as a woman-owned business brings our intentional decision-making full circle.

A considerable commitment

One company that inspires me recently celebrated 20 years of encouraging supply chain diversity through their MatchMaker event. Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles of North America (FCA) held their 20th annual MatchMaker event last month. I attended the supplier diversity extravaganza for the second time, and what a fantastic forum it continues to be for connecting minority and women-owned businesses in supply chain relationships.

According to a September 19 blog post on the FCA North America website, FCA has demonstrated its supplier diversity commitment by purchasing nearly $80 billion from minority-, women- and veteran-owned suppliers since 1983. The company spent $9 billion with more than 300 diverse suppliers in 2018. Their goals also are influencing diverse supply chain at a deeper level: they require that FCA’s suppliers are buying from a certain percentage of minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses.

The 2019 FCA MatchMaker event was attended by more than 3,000. As one of those participants, my own thinking about our MOC&CO supply chain was reinforced and encouraged. I came home focused on further improving how our company is advancing diversity in all aspects.

Because it’s mutually beneficial

Today, MOC&CO is resolutely working toward bringing a full suite of diverse suppliers for our clients to choose from on the events we manage. We are adopting new strategies, tapping into a broader ecosystem of resources, bringing fresh solutions and practicing intentional inclusion. We believe these actions are better positioning us to be more competitive and market ready… and we are seeing results and beginning to measure our success in a purposeful way.

Of course, the ultimate choice always resides with our clients. But we are doing what we can to be true to our core value of bringing benefit to both sides of the supplier-purchaser equation through our commitment to diversity.

Whether you’re a minority-, women- or veteran-owned business leader or a business leader in any role, I encourage you to join me in sharpening your focus – and your intentional decisions – on supply chain diversity.

A shameless plug for women-owned businesses

By the way, October is National Women’s Small Business Month. It was named to commemorate the October 1988 passage of the Women-Owned Business Act, which enabled women to secure loans without a male co-signer, directed the Census to track all women-owned businesses, and established the National Women’s Business Council to advise Congress and the White House. Today, 31 years later:

  • Between 2007 and 2018, the number of women-owned businesses surged 58% while all businesses increased only 12%.
  • Women business owners now represent 40% of all privately held U.S. businesses.
  • Women-owned firms employ 9.2 million people.
  • Total revenue of women-owned businesses jumped 45% between 2007 and 2018 – 9% greater than the pace of revenue growth for all businesses.
  • Women-owned firms generating $1 million-plus in annual revenue made an outsized contribution to the economy in 2018. “They are economic powerhouses,” states the American Express report.
  • The number of firms owned by minority women has grown 163% (nearly 3 times that of all women-owned firms) over the past 11 years.

[Statistics from American Express OPEN “The 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.”]

#SupplyChain #SupplierDiversity #Diversity #ACTIntentionally #WomenOwned #WBENC #NAWBO #MBE #VSBO #NGLCC #FCA #MOC&CO


Mary O’Connor is President of Mary O’Connor & Company (MOC&CO), a recognized leader in the global event planning industry and will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020. Mary and her team have more than 100 years combined of event planning experience and have planned events with organizations of all sizes, including many Fortune 500 firms, across a range of industries. For help planning your next corporate meeting, event or incentive travel program, please call 630.443.4300, or visit us at

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