Black Enterprise Magazine-Creating Opportunities for Professional Services Firms


Nadia. Quarles director business diversity Creating Opportunities for Professional Service Firms Professional service industries constitute the fastest growing portion of our economy and are a significant contributor to high-wage employment. Most professional services opportunities are obtained through relationships with senior leaders within a company, rather than traditional purchasing channels. They are often overlooked by supplier diversity professionals, and as a result of long-standing exclusive relationships, minority professional service firms remain substantially underutilized by corporations, foundations and educational institutions.

Supplier diversity professionals can embrace a number of best practices to help minority professional service firms gain access to opportunities:

  • Conduct a company-wide audit to determine which service categories lack minority firm participation.
  • Learn the language and culture of the service industry. If the desired services are in the legal arena, obtain a basic understanding of legalese. If it is money management, learn the investment strategy of the company and core competencies of the firms. Find the experts, ask the questions, and read industry periodicals.
  • Educate potential minority firms on the nuances of how business is conducted within your company. Assist with navigating through relationships and cultivating a business partnership.
  • Encourage senior leaders at your company to refer minority firms to their counterparts at other organizations.
  • Leverage internal resources to integrate practices throughout the company.

As the Director of Business Diversity for the University of Chicago, I am the first point of entry for many firms. Understanding the jargon and cultural mores of an industry helps me effectively communicate a firm’s qualifications to University leadership. I need to have just enough knowledge about the firm’s business to get them into the room. Then minority firms can directly market their services to key decision makers throughout the University. Building these relationships takes patience and effort. At the University, we are building sustainable partnerships with minority professional service firms one relationship at a time.

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