Presidents Message

What inspired you to serve on the MBDOC?
Interestingly, I view the opportunity to serve on MBDOC as the perfect occasion to serve our community in a fashion, which improves the lives and fortunes of many. This service is a volunteer effort.  And, I serve with some of the most committed Memphians I have met.  We all view MBDOC as an opportunity to serve without a great deal of hoopla and to make a measurable positive difference in the business community of Memphis and the region.  Further, MBDOC provides us a chance to develop and create, “TAXPAYERS.”
“Leadership is: knowing what to do next; knowing why that is important; and knowing how to bring the appropriate resources to bear on the need at hand.”  My friend Bobb Biehl made that observation, which I have noted to be accurate.  I am grateful that the leadership provided by the Honorable Mayor Wharton, the Memphis City Council and particularly the Office of Contract Compliance; all recognized that MBDOC needed to be established and populated with some of Memphis’ most zealous businesspersons.

What do you hope to accomplish as a member of MBDOC?
We are all hopeful that we can, through our efforts, transform Memphis and the region into a, “Full Opportunity Marketplace.”   What that means specifically is this:  “We will work tirelessly to assure that every businessperson in Memphis has an ‘even handed’ chance of being successful, without regard to race, gender or national origin.”  Moreover, our objective is to make sure that our City Government makes a concerted, successful effort to make sure the supply chain looks a good deal like the entire taxpayer base and the citizens of this community.  Our envisioned future for Memphis is that we all live in a
Municipality where the business community is as successfully diverse as our population.  We must all appreciate that what strengthens the Hispanic Business Community, strengthens the Memphis Business Community; what strengthens the Black Business Community strengthens the Memphis Business Community; what strengthens the White Business Community, strengthens the Memphis Business Community.  And, a strengthened Memphis Business Community affords us all an opportunity to recruit and retain the talent that will make Memphis the model progressive city of the twenty first century.

What has been your experience with obtaining business in this community?
Serving at the Black Business Association of Memphis (BBA) has provided me the circumstance to work in concert with our member businesses to seek business opportunities, which improve their revenues.  This continues to be a challenging proposition.  It is true that corporate America is doing business with fewer vendors today. All seem to want to shrink their supply chains for efficiency.  We make it a practice to challenge corporations to at least consider that their supply chains should somewhat mirror their consumer base.  This is an easily embraceable notion.  When our member businesses have a value proposition, which addresses the goals and objectives and the needs of a company, we can make a compelling business case for doing business with us.  And, we have become pretty proficient at this.  As a salesman, (I continue to view myself as a salesman, first) I view each RFP, or Bid as a business case.  When we have a solid value proposition and a valid business case, we win the RFP or the Bid…sometimes.  We must also continue to inform all persons from CEO’s to purchasing managers that supply chain diversity is an asset for this community.  We have a great deal of work to do in this arena.  Purchasing agents have a tendency to do the same things they have always done. It seems, “Come wealth or come woe, their status is quo.”  Our challenge is to construct the inertia which compels them to change and improve their purchasing processes such that all are given a legitimate opportunity to, “Earn” their business.

What are successful entrepreneurs doing differently in our community?
I am really happy that you asked this question.  I have identified many successful entrepreneurs from the minority and majority community.  For years I have been studying them like Jiminy Cricket.  What has been noteworthy is that successful entrepreneurs, no matter what their ethnicity, backgrounds, national origin or gender, all subscribe to some pretty common, “Success Principles.”  They all seem to have a clear vision, solid strategies, practical processes and consistent execution.  And, they all make it a practice to have their customers know that their business is valued and appreciated.  They all seem to understand that the purpose of the business and of everyone in their business is to secure, maintain and retain customers.  Successful businesspersons of all stripes seem to understand that the customer is king.  They all use technological innovation to improve internal processes.  They all seem to attract the right persons to work with them.  And, they all have an authentic style of effective leadership. 

In your opinion, what is the solution to fairness in contracting?
Fairness?  My mother taught my brother and me as youths that, “Fair is a condition of weather, which is always subject to change.”  I am inclined to change that question and ask, “What must we do to make sure our practices in letting contracts are open and afford all an even handed opportunity to participate?”  (See some words have caused me difficulty for some time.) 
I believe a set of fully vetted processes, which evaluate RFP’s and Bids before they are constructed and evaluate the responding RFP’s and bids and evaluate the outcomes of awarded contracts is essential to affording all an even handed opportunity to be successful.  In short the solution to fairness in contracting is MBDOC.  At MBDOC, I think we must do a few things.  First, we must make decision makers aware of the current level of diversity in their purchasing practices.  Then we must assist them to construct, “Deliberate Practices,” which embrace diversity.  Then, and this is the heavy lifting, we must make a concerted effort to cultivate the diverse businesses that can efficiently provide the products and services addressed in the RFP’s and Bid requests.  We always encourage purchasing decision makers to be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars.  We only encourage them to make decisions, which have financial integrity and long term economic integrity.   MBDOC is the answer to the question.

Any parting remarks?
How much time do I have? (Smile)
As a person who is developed in years, I have observed much.  In business, much like in sports, (and this is the first sports analogy), “When the playing field is level, and the rules are published and the umpires and referees are honest, we are all capable of competing and winning.”  Of course that is true if the athlete (businessperson) has trained (prepared), worked out (planned), and practiced (executed) effectively.

Moreover, I too often hear that, “We chose the best ‘qualified’ vendor.”  This one (i, me) has difficulty with that word, “Qualified.”  You see as an African American I happen to know that we were “Qualified” to play baseball before 1947; “Qualified” to vote before the Voting Rights Act of 1965; “Qualified” to go to equal schools before 1954; “Qualified” to be free before 1865.  

It has been said that, “Sports are life in microcosm.”  But sports are usually more even handed than the life many of us have lived.  In boxing, they did not give Gene Fullmer an extra set of arms and gloves when he fought, “Sugar” Ray Robinson.  Peyton Manning does not get an additional offensive lineman to afford him more time to locate a receiver before passing the football.  Mickey Mantle did not get five strikes, while Willie Mays was afforded three strikes.  A free throw was shot from fifteen feet for both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.  LeBron James does not have to make baskets in a twelve foot goal while Dirk Novitzki shoots at a ten foot goal. 

Unfortunately, business has not been so even handed.  Perhaps MBDOC can level the playing field.  Such is my hope.  Be Blessed.

Have a productive day!

Here to help Memphis WIN,

Roby S. Williams
President, Black Business Association of Memphis
Committeeperson MBDOC