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Supplier development chief tackles challenges
Eric Watson focuses on boosting CMSDC
Published Thursday, July 25, 2013 10:00 am
by Herbert L. White

The Carolinas Minority Supplier Development Council can’t afford to do business as usual.

Eric Watson, the council’s new executive director, said the organization needs an infusion of programs to make it more attractive to vendors and corporations. CMSDC has 140 corporate members and 400 minority suppliers.

“One of the challenges to this work or for anything that’s been established for over 40 years like the supplier development council is too often we think about it by looking back,” Watson said. “We’ve got to think about it with a forward look. The path forward is exciting.”

Since taking over in May, Watson, a retired Delhaize America executive, has been on a listening tour of the membership to determine a strategy to upgrade CMSDC, whose membership includes the Carolinas up to central Virginia. One theme that has been consistent is emphasizing a forward-thinking plan to grow the council.

“Things are going very well,” said Watson, who retired as Food Lion’s vice president of diversity and inclusion. “That (first) month was spent setting up my 90-day play where I would just do assessments, basically listening. I’ve been talking to our corporate members, our MBE members, talking to strategic partners…getting a feel for what’s the foundation people understand today.”

As the nation’s business climate changes, Watson expects the relationship between suppliers and corporations to do likewise. In order to strengthen their bonds, the council’s focus will shift to helping both communities develop strategies to improve their bottom line.

“Things that need to revolve, or evolve, are clear,” he said. “We need to find new revenue streams, we’ve got to make sure there’s a clearer value proposition for all involved, both MBEs and our corporate members.”

CMSDC is also addressing demographic changes by diversifying connections with entrepreneurs – Watson’s strength from his Food Lion days. Although African American membership has been the council’s bedrock, adding more Latino and Asian businesses adds value to CMSDC’s brand and boosts its relevance.

“We clearly have to be much more innovative, we’ve got to elevate the brand and we’ve got to transform the model,” Watson said.


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