While landing a contract with a large corporation or organization can rapidly accelerate a smaller business’ growth, cracking that nut can be challenging. Even when they’re not in direct competition, each side can distrust the other, often through a misunderstanding of what they can do for each other.
But the Connecticut Supplier Connection, headed by the Business Council of Fairfield County, seeks to correct those misconceptions and help businesses form mutually beneficial relationships, in part through its Supplier Growth Summit.
The state of Connecticut became the first regional growth partner on the IBM portal Supplier Connection in 2016. Later that year, IBM brought four additional regional growth partners onto the Supplier Connection platform. In 2017 the BCFC co-hosted the first Supplier Growth Summit with IBM. The corporation pulled out of hosting the portal in 2018.
But based on its belief that Connecticut suppliers needed national exposure to buyers throughout the U.S. to ensure their growth and success, the BCFC soldiered on, launching the Connecticut Supplier Connection with a new registration portal via technology from provider Supplier.io.
“We started three years ago with zero suppliers” in the CSC database, BCFC Director, Growth Company Advisory Services Gary Breitbart, who oversees the initiative, said. “Last year we saw a 90% growth in registered suppliers, which puts us at nearly 300 – and we’ll pass that number this year.”
The CSC network – which also includes the Connecticut Procurement Technical Assistance Program, the Small Business Development Center, the Small Business Administration, the Connecticut Technology Council and others – has some 1.5 million buyers and suppliers in its database, Breitbart added.
Hundreds are expected at the Connecticut Supplier Growth Summit at the Stamford Marriott on May 21, which combines the expected trade fair, panel discussions and a keynote address – this year by Kent Johnson, aftermarket supply chain director at Stratford-based Sikorsky – with “Match Maker Meetings,” a kind of “speed dating” approach wherein small business suppliers and larger company buyers are paired off for a series of some 140 separate introductory talks. However, Breitbart cautioned, anyone planning on leaving the confab with signatures on new contracts might want to temper their expectations.
Breitbart, who is also the Summit’s program manager, said the Summit will be of particular importance this year, as contract pipelines and backlogs are growing at such companies as Pratt & Whitney, Electric Boat, Sikorsky, Stanley Black & Decker and Medtronic.
Of special interest this year, he said, will be a discussion entitled “How Technology Is Changing the Supply Chain Process.” Scheduled to speak are John Ferraioli, national practice director, digital supply networks at Deloitte, and Edward Lazzari, procurement manager, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Northern New England.
“It’s to make sure that these smaller companies are, as my kids like to say, ‘woke,’ ” Breitbart said. “We want to make sure that we wake them up to the fact that supply chain technology is changing more rapidly than they may realize. We want to explain what they can do to have an impact and stay competitive with all the changes happening in digital marketplaces, e-procurement, spend analytics, big data and blockchain.”
Another topic being considered at the Summit is the fact that some companies are looking to grow their supplier roster while others are shrinking the number they are using. Breitbart said that dichotomy is due to corporate philosophy: Some firms prefer to rely on a small, tight-knit number of suppliers while others feel there’s more flexibility – and potentially more innovation – to be had by working with a greater number of allies.