A Culture of Contribution

A Culture of Contribution

Who's your community?

I returned from the National Minority Supplier Development Council’s annual conference in Detroit just over a week ago. At six days (including travel), it’s the largest single investment of my time each year … time spent away from my business and my family. But also time I’ve found is an essential part of what is typically considered a routine business development activity, but is – in reality – all about the very personal process of developing new relationships and adding depth and dimension to existing ones. Here are my top three takeaways:

1. Where everybody knows your name.
After having attended eight of the last nine national conferences, I’ve noted that with each one I’ve begun to feel a little bit more like Norm in Cheers. There’s a comforting sense of familiarity. Not really in the physical space since the conference is in a different location every year. But in the spirit and “the sense of place” that’s created when minority businesses from all over the country – and increasingly, from other parts of the world – gather to meet, learn, share and, importantly, reconnect in person. While it’s an experience that can be enriched virtually after the fact, I haven’t found that it can be duplicated online. Creating relationships takes more than just pressing a “Like” or a “Follow” button. It takes time and sustained effort.

2. We’re in this together.
Perhaps it’s the mission or the idea of community. And maybe it’s just the shared experience of being an immigrant, a minority, a business owner or a believer that prosperity and success doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. The fact is I’ve found that the NMSDC culture – once you become steeped in it beyond a name badge and the initial awkwardness of not knowing anybody – is one that is welcoming and generous, and becomes even more so over time. It just takes patience, an extended hand and introduction in the moment, and follow-up afterwards.

3. Celebrating contribution.
This year’s conference, and most notably the Awards Banquet, were elevated by the focus on NMSDC’s 45th anniversary. For the uninitiated, it lent itself to a party-like atmosphere. In other words, fun but not necessarily personally relevant. But for those who’ve been more closely involved in the organization, it was an opportunity to celebrate the progress of this collaboration between minority businesses and the largest corporations in the world who value diversity, as well as recognize the contributions of specific individuals.
I was especially moved by the recognition given to “NMSDC’s 45 for 45,” a rundown of the 45 most influential leaders in the organization’s history thus far, and was especially proud to see the names of Clifford A. Bailey, Roderick Rickman, Joan Kerr and Scott Vowels among them. These are the people, along with everyone else on the list, that I referred to in a 2016 speech at NMSDC’s Leadership Awards Gala when I issued a call to action: To lift each other up. To share your talents. To give of yourself in a way that not only helps those with whom you’re connected now, but also impacts those who will never know your name.

Tell us what you think and how you measure the value of the conferences you attend.

While it’s fun at a business event to acknowledge a company or a business executive for their success, it’s often more meaningful to celebrate those who quietly contribute to the success of others.

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About the Top 3 series:

“Top 3” is a quick roundup on our key takeaways from some of the conferences and events we attend.

Bonnie Nijst
Written by Bonnie Nijst

Bonnie Nijst has been a wire service bureau manager, and VP of sales for both a publicly traded broadcast communications company and an Internet startup. She has also served on boards for organizations focused on economic opportunity, diversity, public health and civic engagement. She is president and CEO at FIDGET. Email Bonnie directly at bonnie@fidgetbranding.com or call her at 323.658.8000.