Hot takes on supplier diversity and sourcing PPE from Maree McMinn

Maree McMinn has led business transformations for over 25 years, focused on developing strategic pricing and supply chain disciplines for business to business, technology, distribution and retail organizations. Maree’s key areas of expertise are as a thought leader in connecting technology, data, process and people to drive measurable outcomes.


On Thursday, June 4 our CEO, Claire Coder, interviewed Maree and asked her about her knowledge and expertise pricing, sourcing and supplier diversity. The video of this interview has been edited and posted online on Claire’s Linkedin page. Below is a transcription of the interview. 




[CLAIRE] Maree, welcome to Clarifications. We are so excited to have you. 


[MAREE] Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here. 


[CLAIRE] Well, Maree, I called you because when I need to figure out anything regarding pricing or sourcing, you’re the woman. You've been in pricing and sourcing for 25 years, you've worked at Fortune 100 companies 500 companies, the big guys. You even run your own company. I need some clarifications around sourcing. 


[MAREE] Bring it on


[CLAIRE] Especially around PPE, personal protective equipment. There's a lot going on in that industry. What is the hardest part in sourcing PPE?


[MAREE] So for me PPE—we bought PPE in the past, but it's things like prescriptive eyewear and shoes and some other, you know, safety harnesses that type of stuff. But this is a whole shift in the types of PPE we are buying. Under the COVID situation, we really had to look more broadly so I had to get up to speed really quickly on medical-grade masks, hand sanitizer requirements, germicide EPA List N so all of these things I've never really had to deal with before all of a sudden had to become an expert in these spaces. 


[CLAIRE] And I'm sure given your leadership in the position that you're in, you're getting a lot of inbound requests. So we have PPE—


[MAREE] You know, as you're talking to people, you know, I had I had some people brought to me from reliable sources that I knew previously but as I'm starting to ask the questions—"What do you have? Where is it? How much can I get?” The big question obviously, it's the pay term. If people wanted you to pay upfront, if they needed you to pay in terms of made you uncomfortable, that should be a gut check, make sure that that was legit. Now, there were people who were willing to do that. So it kind of gave you a disadvantage in the marketplace even on legit products, but you needed to make sure that was clear. So as you started to kind of interview potential suppliers that, they started to show their colors pretty quickly and if stuff wasn't at least in transit, preferably stateside, we were passing. 


[CLAIRE] And as this need becomes the new normal, as a seller of PPE, how do I negotiate? How do I make sure that I hold strong and are able to achieve what we need to achieve is a company? 


[MAREE] Right. Well with demand so high on these items that certainly gives you an advantage as the supplier in the space, right? Making sure you're consistent to your brand overall, whatever you're doing at pricing especially in a volatile market with this PPE. So you've got to keep that in mind stay true to who you are, always. And in pricing it's really important to know and tie pricing to brand and make sure you can leverage that together. 


[CLAIRE] Maree, we first met at the National Certified Woman-Owned Business conference. You headed up supplier diversity at a variety of past companies. How do you weigh minority, women-owned businesses, small businesses in your decisions? 


[MAREE] That's what I always tell my minority-owned, women-owned small businesses, veteran-owned businesses: there's nothing that's guaranteed for you. What you get is you get the attention for me because you have that certification. So you still have to come, you have to come correct and you have to compete with the big boys

and it's unfortunate because not always can you—are you able to do that. But what I have found in my career and looking at small businesses, women-owned businesses is there's two things to really look at your overhead’s lower, therefore, your pricing can be incredibly competitive. Two, you’re so innovative and willing to partner that that changes the dynamics of the value equation. And so when you talk about those things those are really key. But you know, it doesn't—being a woman, unfortunately, being a minority-owned business; it doesn't give you a full-on advantage. It just, in my case, it gives you a shepherd right to help you get navigated. We were really successful. In fact, we had a woman-owned business who I worked with in the past, we purchased a hand sanitizer from and we were able to get her into the larger organization.


[CLAIRE] That is amazing. So Maree, you’re remarkable in your field. I want to know what is one misconception that you would like to CLARIFY?


[MAREE] You know, I think I'll go back to, you know, this idea of supplier diversity, again. So the misconception is that oh, well, they're woman-owned, they’re minority and so they have a leg up. You don't. What you really have though is that ability to find your champion when you do have that certification. So I think that's one thing I'd like to clarify this point. Just because I think it's so timely and important and it's something that I care deeply about. So it's one of those things that you just got to keep your eye on it and go for those certs because they're really important if you can qualify.


[CLAIRE] Awesome! Thank you so much, Maree.


By: Ally Williams