Herb Miller’s commitment to supplier diversity has found success in part because of his belief that these partnerships are founded on trusting relationships, rather than informal contacts.
Miller put it this way: “It’s not about the sales. It’s about the long-term working relationship.”
Miller, senior manager of supplier diversity and business development at Michels Corp., essentially serves as a mentor to businesses. The relationships he helps forge in turn ensure that Michels Corp. can consistently meet whatever inclusion goals are attached to any given project.
And there are plenty of goals to meet. The family-owned, Brownsville-based contractor works in places throughout North America. This means that it is dealing with the requirements that vary by region.
For instance, a lot of the work Michels Corp. does in Canada comes with significant Native-American business-contracting goals. Separately, the company has to stay on top of the inclusion goals that are set by each state’s department of transportation. Wisconsin’s goals, for instance, are different even compared with those found in Minnesota and Illinois.
“It’s a challenge because of all the … different places clients and all the places where we work,” he said.
This makes it all the more important that Michels Corp. develop lasting relationships with suppliers and subcontractors, Miller said. These companies can be relied on to know what’s expected of them and what’s at stake.
Miller is also active in a number of organizations, including the National Association of Minority Contractors, North Central Minority Supplier Development Council and the Green Bay Packers’ mentor-protegee program.
Serving in these roles accomplishes a number of goals, both for the company and for society. Having a seat at the table means Miller is able to help make decisions that affect small businesses both in the region and throughout the country, he said.
The Packers’ mentor-protegee program is one that might not be known to a lot of people, but it’s had great success for participants. In fact, the program boasts a 90 percent success rate, Miller said.
Miller said a mentor-protegee approach is important for success in construction, he said.
“It benefits everybody because you develop a partner in a business that’s pretty much cutthroat.”