In June, the WBENC network will come together in Detroit, Michigan for three days of rich programming, networking, and celebration at the 2018 National Conference & Business Fair. We are thrilled to have an amazing group of co-chairs who have collectively made this event a reality, including DTE Energy, Ford Motor Company, GM, Dakkota Integrated Systems, LLC, Dura, and Strategic Staffing Solutions.
We invite you to learn more about each of co-chairs and their dedication to supporting women-owned businesses. Today, we’re proud to introduce Tony Tomczak, Chief Procurement Officer at DTE Energy, a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide.
In his role Tony is responsible for DTE’s supply chain and buying activities. He also leads DTE’s Fleet and Facilities organizations. Tony recently sat down to give us some insight into his career and the latest trends in his industry.
Q&A with DTE Energy's Tony Tomczak
What are you most looking forward to at the 2018 National Conference and Business Fair?
I’m looking forward to the energy and utilities focused workshop. It’s always interesting to hear from my peers and also connect with women-owned businesses looking to learn more about my specific industry.
What is your fondest WBENC memory or experience?
I find the one-on-one match-making sessions very meaningful. Listening to the WBEs talk about their businesses with such enthusiasm is very energizing and I enjoy working to connect the products and services they offer with what DTE Energy is looking for.
Who or what inspires your career?
The mission of my company. DTE is dedicated to being a force for growth in the communities we serve. For me, personally, that means focusing DTE’s procurement spending on companies based in Michigan and in the city of Detroit. As a company, we made this commitment because we serve the people of Michigan. Our mission to create jobs and build the local economy inspires me because it creates a better quality of life for the hard-working families in our state.
What do you see as the coolest or most important trends in your industry?
The energy industry is changing and my company, DTE, is amongst those leading that change. We are transforming the way we produce power to focus on more renewable energy resources like wind and solar. We’ve made a commitment to reduce our carbon output 80 percent by 2050. We also have a huge array of programs designed to help our customers reduce their energy use as well. Our focus on the environment and sustainability is about making the world better and cleaner for future generations.
What book are you reading?
The book I’m reading now is called Devil in the White City: Murder, Madness and Magic at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. It’s about the 1893 World’s Fair, but the story is intertwined with the story of the serial killer H.H Holmes who used the fair to lure his victims. I enjoy the mixture of suspense and history. It’s an interesting read.
What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs?
- Get WBENC certified -- At DTE Energy, all of our minority and women owned suppliers must be certified. Getting certified opens doors for a small business. It gets you extra attention and is one of the best marketing tools available. It’s worth the investment of time and energy
- Understand your customer – If you want to do business with a large company, know what products and services they are looking for. Build relationships with their buyers. Learn about any additional requirements they have for suppliers. Visit the company’s web site, look over their investor presentations, read what others are saying about them. Know their market. Try to find out about their strengths and challenges.
- Be persistent and patient – It may be a year or more before an existing contract expires and new opportunities open for bid. Don’t get discouraged. Use that time to build relationships and sell yourself and your business. Make sure you are fully prepared to offer the best possible proposal when the time comes.
What’s the best career advice you ever received?
Don’t give up. The best victories are always hard to achieve. Keep pushing and be resilient, even amidst obstacles.
How do you define success?
Success is when you can see the visible results of your work making a change in your environment or in the way people do things. In 2010, DTE decided to focus on buying from Michigan-based suppliers. We’ve focused on that over the past several years and now it’s a way of doing business for us, and we’ve created jobs and helped grow the economy. So, when I see my work impacting local families and building communities, that, to me, is a sign of success.
How has your involvement with WBENC impacted your career?
Involvement with WBENC has helped DTE, and our entire supply chain, become more aware of opportunities to partner with women-owned businesses. Just last year, DTE spent more than $205 million with WBEs – that’s 57 percent of our total diversity spend -- and an increase of $38 million over 2016.
What are some of the bigger challenges and barriers you’ve faced in your career? How have you overcome them?
Earlier in my career I worked in procurement at another company. It was very difficult for me to achieve a work/life balance in that position, so I made the very hard decision to leave and come to DTE Energy. It was the best choice I could have made. It’s a wonderful company and I’ve had a fantastic career.
What is your proudest moment thus far in your career?
Each year, DTE Energy wins several industry-wide awards for its commitment to supplier diversity. I’m proud to say that our awards continue to grow, both in number and in the level of prestige. It’s a great external reminder that DTE continues to be a national leader in supplier diversity.
About DTE Energy
DTE Energy is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Operating units include an electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in Southeastern Michigan and a natural gas utility serving 1.2 million customers in Michigan. The DTE portfolio includes non-utility energy businesses focused on power and industrial projects, natural gas pipelines, gathering and storage, and energy marketing and trading.