Richard A. Huebner - 2022 Global Supply Chain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Hall of Fame
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
A: My family was an upper middle-class family in Wisconsin. My dad was a senior corporate executive. He taught me a strong work ethic and took me to work with him on Saturdays to learn the corporate culture. He taught me to always look for the good in others and the importance of service. I learned, out of necessity, to get along with others with my newspaper route that ended on gang territory. Sports, debate, drama and music taught me the value of individual skills to overall team results. In college, I joined a fraternity and learned about working with others, project and financial management, leadership and innovation.
Following graduation, I traveled the U.S. and Canada as a consultant, where I put my skills to the test. I became executive director of a major international organization at age 26, then left to take on a new challenge as President of the HMSDC where I served for 31 years.
Q: When and why did you become a supplier diversity and minority business development champion?
A: My plans upon college graduation were to use my business degree and social psychology minor to serve in the Peace Corps or Vista to help grow a stronger economic base for disadvantaged communities. Those plans were interrupted when I was given the chance to travel the U.S. and Canada as a consultant, then joining the headquarters staff as training director, ultimately being asked to serve as executive director of one of the world’s largest fraternal orders at the young age of 26.
In 1985, I responded to a blind ad in the Wall Street Journal describing a position that would allow me to combine my business degree and skills in association management with my passion for economic development in minority communities. I joined the Houston Business Council, later becoming the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council, in 1985 to fulfill my calling.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for MBEs?
• MBE use seen as a mandate versus using MBEs that can prove their true value in bringing innovative solutions, cost savings, job creation, economic self-sufficiency to their communities and tax savings to all.
• MBEs seen as risky to do business and only used in token capacity where, even if they perform well, they gain little credibility.
• Second tier requirements that give MBEs little opportunity to prove themselves and their value to the end customer.
• Public resentment to the growth in stature of MBEs.
• MBEs use [National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc.] and other resource organizations to get close to their current and potential customers to thoroughly understand their vision, goals, needs, where they can fit in and prove the value they can bring to their customers.
• Successful MBEs, rather than hiding their success, bring credibility to using MBEs because of the mutual success they can drive.
• Second tier requirements understood and enforced for the reasons of value versus mandate. MBEs prove their values in driving the success of second-tier customers. MBEs contributions are visible to gain credibility from their work and enable their continued ability to bring innovative solutions and cost savings to their second- and first-tier customers.
• Corporations begin full tracking of the impact of using MBEs so everyone can better understand and celebrate the difference MBEs make.
Q: What is your vision for supply chain diversity over the next 5-10 years?
A: My vision is that MBEs are finally accepted and appreciated for the value they bring to their customers, their communities and to society at large. Minority businesses are seen for their true value and potential, not just beneficiaries of mandated programs.
MBEs are invited to the table to better understand issues, processes and opportunities that empower them to bring innovative solutions to their customers that give their clients a competitive edge. MBEs no longer wait for a helping hand. Rather, they perform at such a high level that they are sought out, realizing that the more diverse the group, the more success it can achieve.
Q: What would you like your legacy to be as a champion of supplier diversity?
A: The highest compliment I could ever receive is that my life had impact and made a difference. I would like to be known for my integrity, my passion for minority business development, my ability to work with and lead others in a common cause, my commitment to giving my best always, my creative thinking, my belief in God and my commitment to helping others.
Someone once saw potential in me and gave me the chance to serve and lead HMSDC. Everyone has potential if given a chance and proper support and belief to achieve that potential. Minority businesses deserve the same chance and support to prove their immense value for our common good. It is to this end that I devoted my life. My passion for minority business development will never fade!
To learn more about the HMSDC, visit hmsdc.org.