Business Cannot Succeed in a Vacuum

| By Sam McClure
In thousands of conversations with business leaders and entrepreneurs over the years, I’ve learned to recognize qualities that are consistently good predictors for success and also some that give me pause and concern. Statements like, "I’m concerned there are too many businesses in my field," or "Can I really succeed or get ahead with 12 of my competitors also working in my immediate network?" are examples of scarcity thinking—and it can be a dangerous mindset for business owners. 
 
The pivotal answer to the question "What makes your business unique or different?" is the moment when the business owner decides a mindset. In that moment, I can start to show them that the  "perceived competitor" is often a potential collaborator and pipeline of high-quality referrals. If businesses and organizations can focus on what makes each great and understand the opportunities to connect and collaborate with each other because their strengths are different—possibly even complimentary—they will increase their scale and capacity. 
 
It’s critical to avoid being isolationist. Businesses and organizations don’t succeed in a vacuum. We are ultimately far more interdependent than we realize, and the successes and strengths of one will always elevate others.
 
In the supplier diversity space, this spirit of working together across communities and diverse market segments is powerful and absolutely critical to moving all our stakeholders forward. I think this kind of inclusion is quite obvious if the “community of identity” is one that is fully inclusive simply by nature. It was in this spirit that the NGLCC brought the National Business Inclusion Consortium together: USHCC, USPACC, WBENCNBJC, USBLN and NGLCC. Some might ask: If there are multiple organizations working in this powerful space, advocating for the economic advancement of specific communities of identity, how do we find ways to navigate the space together?
 
LGBT people are one of the very few segments that include all others; this dynamic is also true for people with disabilities. The organizations working with these communities recognize that identity is complicated. One can be an L, a G, a B or a T and also identify with a certain ethnicity, faith, be a man or a woman, veteran, and/or be a person with a disability. Authentic inclusion is about allowing every person to bring ALL of who they are to the table. 
 
I’m very proud that the NGLCC recently partnered with the Greater Boston Business Council and TD Bank earlier this month to host the first-ever fully cross-segment NGLCC Road Show presentation. Our panel of experts included myself from NGLCC, Patricia Richards from USBLN, Jody Baer from the Boston Area Women’s Business Development Center, Andie Kim from the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, and Jenn Grace, a business owner who has multiple certifications as an LGBTBE and WBE. The panel was rounded out by Marcia Seymour, Senior Manager of Procurement and Social Responsibility at TD Bank. We spoke to all diverse segments about supplier diversity, the importance of certification and most importantly, the danger of scarcity thinking.
 
We must not only advocate for full inclusion, but also coach our stakeholders to work together. We have to listen for the scarcity thinkers and always be ready to remind them that when it comes to our strong business networks, more is more: More opportunities, more ways to work together, teaming for scale, and referral pipelines. 
 
Sam McClure is the NGLCC Director of Affiliate Relations and External Affairs. She has been an entrepreneur, a local affiliate chamber leader, and an advocate for the LGBT business movement for more than 20 years.