Cheri K. Henderson - 2022 Global Supply Chain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Hall of Fame
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A: I am the founding president of TriState Minority Supplier Development Council [TSMSDC], which serves Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. In the mid-80s, the TMSDC was a mere concept. Since then, the Council has evolved into a capable and financially solvent organization with the support and aid of generous resources and ideas. But it has taken steadfast dedication to promote diversity, equity and inclusion to influence ‘real’ business opportunities.
Prior to setting up the Council, I was a teacher in the Knoxville [Tennessee] school system and worked for the Tennessee Office of Minority Business Enterprise. TSMSDC was founded in 1988, which at the time was the Middle Tennessee Regional Minority Purchasing Council.
Q: When and why did you become a supplier diversity and minority business development champion?
A: Much like the Council’s mission, I have been unwavering in my commitment, regardless of significant changes in the marketplace. I believe in what I do and the positive impact the Council has made over the years. The outcome presents more opportunities for even greater success in the future, based upon the Council’s solid foundation. Further, with change comes a new challenge; with every challenge there is a new goal; and with every goal met, there is the exhilarating feeling of achievement. TSMSDC has many success stories to share and, no doubt, is making an even greater impact. TSMSDC is still a work in progress. The best is truly yet to come.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for MBEs?
A: MBEs face challenging economic times, but TSMSDC is working hard to open wide the doors to opportunity to meet the talents, ambitions and capacity of certified minority businesses across the footprint of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
MBEs must remain cognizant of the new business landscape, which dictates the need to be increasingly innovative and collaborative.
They must find ways to stand out from their competition; to brand themselves for consumers; to have quality deliverables and pricing; to demonstrate knowledge and expertise and, above all, to provide value.
Forward-thinking corporations must realize the economic impact of a diverse supplier base and provide new opportunities within their supply chain. It is important that they view minority suppliers as a vital and integral part of the supply chain.
Q: What must MBEs do to participate in emerging technologies like – AI, IoT (Internet of all things), metaverse – and the globalization of supply-chain delivery?
A: It’s no secret that emerging technologies are changing the way businesses operate, and even how employees work. In every industry, one can find businesses using innovative technologies to get ahead of the competition. I would venture to say that in the next five years or so, there will be even more profound changes in business processes. For sure, cloud-first information technology is growing in the industry for small, minority and medium-sized businesses.
Q: What is your vision for supply-chain diversity over the next five to 10 years?
A: The bottom line is this: Corporations are now facing the need to somehow navigate their way through increasingly complex challenges—challenges so intricate and nuanced that it will require super teams to solve them.
What will these super teams look like? They will need to be diverse, equitable, inclusive and representative of our entire world. To build teams like this, adopting or embracing supplier diversity is a direct and natural extension, where we must look at our supply chain and ensure that whoever is working for our suppliers (all the way down the line) is also committed to the same level of diversity and inclusivity that will lead to equity, and ultimately, excellence and success.
Q: What would you like your legacy to be as a champion of supplier diversity?
A: Upon reflection, my legacy aligns with steadfast principles for a diverse supplier ecosystem to sustain long-term economic vitality, growth and scalability. My passion has been and continues to be motivated by intentional ways to make connections that count so that people feel included to speak up, share perspectives, discuss and challenge the status quo.
My legacy will be that of a ‘relationship builder’ driven by diversity, inclusion, commitment and opportunity.
To learn more about TSMSDC, visit TSMDC.com.