Small Businesses Playing With the Big Boys


Chamber Procurement ConferenceYesterday I covered the 2007 Procurement Conference hosted by the Charlotte Chamber Diversity Business Council, a division of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.  The conference is designed to create business opportunities by matching qualified minority and women owned businesses with large companies in one-on-one interviews.  As a member of the planning team I assumed the role of archivist, capturing video clips and photos of the event. 

I must say that any small business owner who missed this event, really lost an opportunity.  It is a rare happening when large firms are looking to do business specifically with smaller minority and women providers.  There were literally hundreds of interviews taking place throughout the day with such companies as Bank of America, Compass Group, Duke Energy, Deloitte and Touche USA, Belk Department Stores and the list goes on. The event was like speed dating for businesses.

Click for event photosBoth parties were pleased that they were able to pre-select the companies they wanted to meet.  This meant that little time was wasted on poorly matched interviews.  The Johnson & Wales representative was so confident in the matching process that he was presenting posted jobs during his interviews to determine a fit.

If you missed this year all is not lost.  The conference takes place on an annual basis. In addition, the Chamber’s Diversity Council is planning more initiatives throughout the year to help local small businesses grow. Board Head, Tony Perez stated at the event, “Our goal is to make Charlotte the best city in the US for minority and women owned businesses,” and I believe the team is on their way to achieving their end.


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Conference Tip:
If you ever have the opportunity to attend a business match making conference, good preparation is critical.  Identify the firms you want to interview with.   Research each company and its home industry. Use the Internet to stay abreast of company news and to identify specific opportunities for your company (Google Alerts can automate this task).  When you meet, deliver a presentation that is targeted to the business; driving home specifics of how you might be able to help them. Mark Williams of Speak-Up Marketing did a great job of this yesterday by preparing several weeks in advance developing a host of customized presentations that established his value proposition and wowed his interview hosts.

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5 Responses to “Small Businesses Playing With the Big Boys”

  1. John Easton Says:

    I am wondering what you might think of using the conference’s company match making process to help match small businesses with one another so they can more effectively do business. This might involve capturing each company’s business needs (need an accountant, need marketing services, etc.) and their business capabilities. Armed with this information the companies can find compatible matches and connect online or through in-person networking events.

    I would love to go to a networking event where I know before hand who I was meeting and why (either to sell or purchase services). This would be more efficient than the traditional method where people face off in uncomfortable exchanges.

    Just my thoughts.


  2. Bernard Truesdale Says:

    I was not in attendance at the conference this year but will actively participate in the years to come. Being an internet retailer specializing in authentically hand crafted art imported from seven different countries, coupled with fine art consisting of open edition prints, limited editions, and originals, I realize the niche market my company serves and would greatly appreciate the opportunity to prepare and present to targeted companies that I may not have had the opportunity to approach under normal circumstances. Commercial real estate always has a need for Art Decor in one capacity or another and I’d love to be the “go to” company providing art in that industry. Please keep me posted!

  3. John Easton Says:

    RE: Mr. Truesdale

    It seems like you have found a sound niche and a potential for a majority firm match. What I would encourage you to keep in the back of your mind in addition to 1:1 interviews are networking opportunitites before, after and between interview appointments.

    Networking at the conference allows you to informally probe majority reps for contacts and opportunities outside of their standard procurement process. In addition, networking creates opporunities to match up with WMBE firms.

    The team looks forward to your participation next year.


  4. Tony Perez Says:

    First, thanks John for creating this, what a great tool! The conference was a huge success. This can only get better! We are on our way to becoming the “Best City in the Country for MWBEs!”

  5. visit Says:

    Good-looking site. Congratulations.

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