By Monica Stavish Skaggs
The day George R. Simms came into the world, his parents raced 65 miles down a two-lane road, with his mother in labor. Their destination was a segregated Charity Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Decades later, Simms is intent on providing opportunities to help minority groups get ahead. In March, he was named president and CEO of the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council, a nonprofit group that provides a direct link between 100 corporate members and government entities and 400 minority businesses. Simms previously served as the council’s chief operating officer and interim president/CEO.
“I was born during the challenging times of segregation and raised in the lower 20 percentile of wealth in this country. We were poor and I didn’t even know it,” Simms said. “That’s why this work for me is both business and personal. I know what people are living through.
“My ‘why’ is to eliminate economic injustice through operational excellence,” he added.
Celebrating 50 years of service this year, the Ohio MSDC is one of 23 affiliates of the National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. The Ohio MSDC helps MBEs access business opportunities and works with corporations to develop corporate supplier diversity programs. The Council’s corporate members spend more than $6 billion with certified MBEs on an annual basis.
MBEs have access to business opportunity fairs, customized executive education and networking. Activities foster long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships between corporate purchasing representatives and MBEs.
The eldest of five, Simms credits his parents with instilling faith, hard work, self-discipline and strength in their offspring. Recalling additional support from extended family, neighbors and his church, he considers himself “incredibly blessed.”
“I had loving parents. But they were also challenging,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t go to bed until the kitchen was clean.”
Simms’ drive for success can be summed up this way: “First, I don’t have a ‘maintain’ bone in my body. I believe everybody was created for greatness. Second, every great task or accomplishment was deemed to be impossible at some point. Third, I believe all things are possible.”
That resolve propelled him to earn degrees in mechanical engineering from Southern University and petroleum engineering from Louisiana State University. He holds a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification and a Supply Network Design (Jedi) Certification.
Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement approach to removing waste and inefficiency while focusing on customer needs.
Simms brings decades of corporate leadership and people skills to his new role. As a senior executive, he had a wide-ranging career, focusing on global manufacturing, supply chain, strategic planning and implementation, and innovation. At NASA, he was involved with the space shuttle program in Huntsville, Alabama. While delivering results at a plant operated by Exxon Mobil Corp., he honed in on process development and safety.
“If we didn’t get it right in that plant, we could have blown up half of Louisiana,” he said bluntly.
Later, Simms spent nearly three decades with Procter & Gamble Inc., where he oversaw several brands including Sunny Delight, Pampers and Folgers. Early on as a plant manager, he had to make difficult decisions.
“The toughest thing I ever did was shut down a Sunny Delight plant,” he said. “I spent time getting to know people and their families. Having to tell them the plant was closing was hard.
“I was very transparent with everybody about a sourcing study that had been performed,” he continued. “I believe in being transparent with people even when it hurts to tell them. We also helped the employees develop new skills.”
After retiring from P&G, Simms started Breakthru Business Solutions, a management and operations consulting business that provides customer-focused concepts and methodologies to improve organization and business results.
Navigating a path
While Ohio MSDC celebrates 50 years of service, Simms also emphasizes the future. He urges the council’s regional groups to work together with a collective, statewide mindset.
“A key way to bring people together is to have a goal that’s bigger than individuals,” he said. “Still, if you’re not careful, people will feel disenfranchised. We’ve got to make a statewide imprint, but also keep regions alive.”
The Council also wants to achieve $30 billion in MBE spend as part of the NMSDC’s $1 trillion goal. This five-fold increase will yield $9 billion in corporate savings and will represent 5% of Ohio’s GDP.
As the group navigates the path for future generations, Simms is determined to play a role.
“Success for me is putting an organization in place that will outlive me and continue to touch lives,” he said. “Our goal is to double revenue every seven years.”
To learn more about Ohio MSDC, visit ohiomsdc.org.
To learn more about Ohio MSDC's 50th anniversary, see https://mbnusa.biz/detail/ohio-msdc-marks-50-years-of-advocating-for-mbes.
George R. Simms Charity Hospital New Orleans Louisiana Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council minority businesses Ohio MSDC National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. MBEs Supply Network Design (Jedi) Certification Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification NASA Exxon Mobil Corp. Huntsville Alabama Sunny Delight Pampers Folgers Breakthru Business Solutions P&G