From the outside, it may seem like a chance encounter or coincidence. Peggy Del Fabbro, CEO of industrial construction firm M. Davis & Sons, Inc., sat down at a table during a meeting at the 2017 WBENC Summit & Salute and one of the first people she meets says, “Hi, I’m Marsha from Diageo. I wanted to meet you.”
It was Marsha McIntosh, then Director of Supplier Diversity for Diageo, an international producer of spirits and beer. Diageo North America had just launched a formal Supplier Diversity program in 2015, and networking events, including WBENC conferences, continue to be a key driver in the company’s effort to build a more sustainable supply chain. At the time, Marsha was looking for a women-owned business in construction to help with a big opportunity in Baltimore. A few phone calls and emails later, Peggy had her staff onsite in less than four days. The project? Construction of the first Guinness brewery in the U.S.
But as Peggy will tell you, what may seem like a chance encounter is actually the result of years of deepening her engagement within the WBENC network both regionally and nationally, cultivating relationships, and always coming to every encounter 100 percent prepared.
“The number one piece of advice I would give is to be prepared,” she says. “The first time I went to Summit & Salute was not even close to what I do now. I just walked around meeting people, but I didn’t really have a strategy.”
Now she and her team spend up to six weeks doing their homework before big events, and always come prepared with a color-coded spreadsheet of targeted corporations they know will attend. (At the 2017 Summit & Salute, Diageo was on their list.) They also use the opportunity to deepen relationships with existing customers by setting up quick, in-person meetings with supplier diversity representatives to provide an update on the relationship and any current projects.
On top of preparation, Peggy says it was her engagement with the WBENC network that put her in the position to have a seat at a table with other leaders and supplier diversity representatives in the first place. After first volunteering and attending events with her Regional Partner Organization (WBEC PA-DE-sNJ), Peggy got involved nationally with the Women’s Enterprise Forum, which led to participation at committees at Summit & Salute. She also makes a habit of arriving early to meetings and trying to meet people she doesn’t know.
“This type of opportunity happens when you’re prepared, when you’re involved, when you put yourself out there, and when you aren’t afraid to meet someone you don’t know,” she says.
Peggy also acknowledges that it can take time to get traction on leveraging your certification and the WBENC network for business opportunities. M. Davis & Sons first became certified in 2009, but after two years, Peggy realized she personally needed to get more engaged to take full advantage of the opportunities and resources available. She has been so successful in that regard, M. Davis started its own supplier diversity program in 2014 and now comes to WBENC events not only with targeted potential clients, but also a list of procurement needs for potential WBEs.
“When we decided to form our supplier diversity program, it just felt like it was a good idea,” says Peggy. “But the reaction and support we received from WBENC Corporate Members was just more than what I expected. We’ve been able to expand our reach as to what kind of suppliers we’re getting, and we have some really fantastic suppliers. With other WBEs, the relationship is just a little different.”
Since starting the program in 2014, M. Davis has spent more than $19 million with small and diverse-owned businesses, representing 17.45 percent of their total procurement spend. The company has WBE suppliers from across the country and has increased spend specifically with WBENC-Certified WBEs by an astounding 476 percent.
“I love it when we can do business with another WBE,” Peggy says.
Peggy’s Keys to Success for Fellow WBEs
Get engaged with the WBENC network and your RPO. Start regionally, make connections, and then work your way to more involvement at the national level.
Do your homework and come prepared to all WBENC events. Come with a strategy and stay focused.
When at WBENC events, be sure to carve out time for existing customers to deepen your relationship.
Always be open to meeting someone new – you don’t know where a conversation may lead!
Pay it forward – work with other WBEs to expand your supplier base and deepen your relationships.
About M. Davis & Sons, Inc.
M. Davis & Sons, Inc. is a fifth-generation women-owned industrial contractor and fabricator located in Delaware that has served customers for more than 145 years in the oil & gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, food, beverage and industrial markets. Learn more.