Stepping through the revolving doors into the lobby of Cincinnati’s Duke Energy Center, the hum of busy downtown traffic outside transitioned into the spirited greetings and friendly chatter of attendees and guests gathering for the 24th Toyota Opportunity Exchange. It became clear right away that the next two days of seminars, networking and business connections were going to be “The Place” for MBEs and WBEs ready to discover new business opportunities.
Toyota’s 2013 Opportunity Exchange, held in mid-November, continued the company’s annual tradition of providing a dynamic forum for diverse business owners, strategic partners and existing suppliers to build relationships and expand their understanding of the company’s supplier diversity processes and philosophy. With nearly 1,700 attendees — including more than 300 Toyota suppliers exhibiting at the event’s trade show — Opportunity Exchange is among the largest events of its kind in America and serves as a benchmark for supplier development both within and outside of the automotive industry. Most impressive, however, is that millions of dollars in diverse supplier contracts have been generated over the years as a direct result of connections made at Opportunity Exchange.
Sustaining growth through change
How has Toyota been able to sustain the interest and active engagement of MBEs, WBEs and suppliers at Opportunity Exchange for more than two decades? Much of that success is due to Toyota’s corporate commitment to continuous improvement. Through shifts in programming and presentation style — in addition to the integration of technology — the Opportunity Exchange experience remains equally as fresh and relevant to longtime veterans of the event as it is to first-time attendees.
In his opening remarks at the 2013 Opportunity Exchange, Jim Holloway, general manager at Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America Inc., explained the motivation for changing the format of the friday’s seminar session. “This year, we presented one moderated conversation, going in-depth about the relationship between Toyota and one of our MBE Tier I suppliers, as well as the relationship between a Tier I supplier and one of its Tier II suppliers who is an MBE,” he explained. “This [presentation] provided us all with remarkable perspectives and offered snapshots of the Toyota supplier experience from different points of view.”
Jim Holloway, purchasing general manager, TEMA
Dr. Robert Wallace, founder and chairman, BITHGroup Technologies and event moderator
Stacey Wade, president and chief creative officer, NIMBUS
The revised seminar format reflected Opportunity Exchange’s 2013 theme — “Leveraging Connections and Activating Opportunities” — by focusing on the tan- gible business outcomes possible when making the most of strong relationships. Moderator Dr. Robert Wallace set the stage for the discussion by introducing John Munson Jr., TEMA purchasing supplier diversity manager, to represent the Toyota perspective and Stacey Wade, president and chief creative office of NIMBUS, an MBE indirect supplier. Wade’s full-service agency has been supporting Toyota with strategic and creative marketing communications services since 2009.
As they recounted the evolution of NIMBUS’ supplier relationship with TEMA, Wade emphasized the importance of patience and persistence. “We appreciate that John and his team have developed a high level of trust and confide in our agency’s capabilities and capacity,” he said. “It’s a true partnership that’s only possible by taking the time to fully understand each other, establishing open communications and, of course, ensuring my team and I are delivering consistently excellent results.”
Amanda Clark, indirect procurement manager with Gentex, shared her point of view as a Tier I supplier and the value of developing a mutually benefit Tier II relationship with an MBE located in their home state of Michigan. Gentex, a supplier of automatic-dimming rear view mirrors for Toyota, had a specific supply chain need and, through the company’s sourcing initiatives, Clark met SongSoo Anderson, president of eM Services LLC. The candid responses provided by Clark and Anderson demonstrated the powerful business case for diversity and illustrated why taking a collaborative approach to improving services and processes, ultimately, benefits all parties involved.
John Munson Jr., purchasing supplier diversity manager, TEMA
Osamu “Simon” Nagata, president, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., delivers keynote remarks for the recent toyota opportunity exchange.
Nobuhisa “Noby” Tanaka, purchasing executive advisor, TEMA
“Dr. Robert Wallace did a masterful job moderating our session, challenging us to go in-depth about the dynamics of how our respective partnerships began and continue to develop,” Munson noted. “Because we each approach supplier relationships from a different perspective, we were able to cover a lot of territory. I think the session offered a valuable mix of insight and inspiration, as well as offering real-life examples of Toyota’s commitment to supplier development.”
Another significant facet of the 2013 Opportunity Exchange was that Javier Palomarez, president of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, was the event’s keynote speaker. The USHCC and Toyota have developed a dynamic partnership in recent years. In his remarks, Palomarez motivated attendees to remain steadfast in advancing diversity and inclusion in the American economy.
Going digital to enhance conversations
Integrating digital communications into the Opportunity Exchange experience is another important way Toyota generates energy for attendees before, during and after the event. Posts on Twitter at #ToyotaOE and Facebook at Facebook.com/ToyotaOE provided live updates throughout both days of the 2013 Opportunity Exchange, and attendees were encouraged to comment with feedback and to post their pictures. Munson blogged about the event on http://ToyotaInAction.com, and event surveys were accessible online through QR-coded links on tabletops as well as iPad stations.
Toyota also brought back one of the more popular digital features from the 2012 Opportunity Exchange, a real-time system for gathering feedback and comments during sessions by sending text messages. Responses to questions posted on screen during the sessions prompted attendees to interact and, literally, see what their fellow attendees thought about a topic, providing a new dimension of interaction and engagement.
“We saw last year that this interactive system brought an interesting dynamic to the conversations, so we wanted to experience that energy again in 2013,” said Matt Greene, TEMA purchasing supplier diversity assistant manager. “Attendees have been enthusiastic in their support of the technologies we’ve introduced into the Opportunity Exchange experience, and we believe these digital elements are helping Toyota open doors to even more great ideas and innovation.”
Opportunities to go places, together
Toyota’s dedication to supplier diversity and its commitment to creating opportunities for MBEs and WBEs brings special meaning to its current “Let’s Go Places!” advertising campaign. The legacy of business success driven by Opportunity Exchange not only contributes to Toyota’s ability to design, build and sell better vehicles, but also ensures its diverse suppliers are better positioned to help build stronger American communities.
Toyota’s 25th Annual Opportunity Exchange will be held Oct. 27-28, 2014, in Cincinnati, Ohio. For up-to-date event and registration information, please visit online at www.toyotaopportunityexchange.com.
USHCC’S Javier Palomarez Says Supplier Diversity is Smart Business
According to Javier Palomarez, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president & CEO, not only is supplier diversity the right thing to do, but, more importantly, it is a profi business practice that sets a company’s brand apart and allows it to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy.
During a keynote speech at the Toyota Opportunity Exchange, he said the reality is that to be competitive in the economy of the new America, companies must recognize working with diverse suppliers is crucial to their future commercial success.
This claim, Palomarez told the packed crowd, is confirmed by extraordinary evidence.
According to a study conducted by The Hackett Group, a leading business consulting firm companies with diverse supply chains saw a 133 percent greater return on investments compared to their counterparts.
Companies working with minority-owned businesses also spent 20 percent less on their operations and have procurement teams half the size of their competitors, the report indicated.
“That’s the power of supplier diversity,” Palomarez stressed. “Moreover, those who work with minority-owned businesses gain a host of additional competitive advantages.”
These perks include the loyalty of sought after diverse communities and companies that harness the talents and skills of entrepreneurs who tend to be younger, more technologically literate and innovative than their counterparts.
“Toyota has demonstrated a global industry leader isn’t defined by the healthiest profit greatest number of vehicles sold or the greenest technology — all of which Toyota has, by the way,” Palomarez said. “Instead, true leadership is definition by actions that cannot be quantified by metrics, but by their impact on people, businesses communities and entire nations.”
He stressed again that the reality is if you invest in a company, you invest in a community. “And when you invest in a community, you invest in a country,” he said.
Palomarez said having such power to foster the growth of minority-owned businesses creates a happy cycle of opportunity, innovation, profit, wealth creation and the next generation of loyal customers.
“A brand’s legacy goes far beyond numbers, and Toyota’s legacy is about empowering entire communities — not through charity, public relations or lobbying, but by being collaborative,” he noted. “Gone are the days when being competitive required conventional business models that concentrated the wealth in traditional sectors.”
Today, Palomarez emphasized, smart business models capitalize on the power of America’s small business community.
“Particularly minority-owned firms,” he concluded. “These firms bring innovative ideas that add to the bottom line and empower communities that broaden a company’s consumer base. That is smart business.”