Partnering with Diverse Communities to Provide Economic Empowerment - Keith R. Wyche

Photo credit by #BuyDiverse Podcast powered by the Chicago MSDC and wgnradio.com

I had the pleasure of speaking with President and CEO of the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council J. Vincent Williams on the #BuyDiverse podcast about Walmart’s initiatives to create diverse partnerships through community involvement. After identifying the pain points of the Chicago Walmart communities, I devised a three-step plan to provide the communities with economic empowerment that will hopefully lead to sustained change.

Read my statements below.

“Last summer I was faced with a unique opportunity. After the George Floyd incident, there was a lot of civil unrest and several Walmart stores in various cities were actually damaged. The Walmart in Chicago was particularly impacted. In Chicago we had 8 stores, few of which were severely damaged. So our CEO flew in and met with the mayor and other local leaders, and they decided it was important for Walmart to stay in this community. Chicago is important to Walmart , but he wanted to conduct business differently. He asked me to take on a new role to help reimagine the relationship between Walmart and the communities in which we do business. It is not enough for us to just sell merchandise in a community, we need to be a part of that community in every way possible.

“The first thing that I wanted to do was avoid making the mistake that many organizations make when they want to work with a community. That mistake is that they want to do something TO the community, instead of WITH the community. Initially I met with elected officials, pastors and various community leaders to really get a sense of what they expected to get out of Walmart as a community partner. That was critical because it helped me craft my Chicago strategy and how we could leverage the resources at Walmart to serve as a better community partner.

“One question I heard over and over again was: ‘how can Walmart contribute to economic empowerment in these communities?’ It was a question we have never answered before as a corporation. Initially, I thought that would look like us spending millions of dollars to cover the damages of the stores from the civil unrest. When I dug deeper, I found that we did not have any Black, brown, or neighborhood general contractors doing this work. That was a major problem for me. Because if we are going to be truly community-based, we need to try to leverage the resources, the skills and the talent from those communities. We quickly paused the remodels and held a strategy session where we invited over 25 general contractors from the neighborhood and the community, and out of that, we were able to select two who met all of our criteria (licensing requirements, etc.). So now the six stores that are remaining to be remodeled, will be remodeled by two African owned businesses. That was step one.

“We remodel stores every 3–4 years. But every week, we have maintenance needs and we are going into these communities with high unemployment, and were not seeing people like us doing the work. So, step two involved changing that. We were able to partner with you (CMSDC) and CBRE, Walmart’s facilities maintenance provider, to hold three workshops in December to try and identify, again, neighborhood, minority-owned vendors who could do this work. As of today we have signed six vendors to help in this work.

“Last but not least we partnered with CMSDC to provide an educational call. Everywhere I go, people want to do business at Walmart. Throughout this call, we demystified the process and educated people on what it takes to really be a vendor at Walmart. We brought two of our minority suppliers to help them understand as well.”

Keith Wyche is a change management leader who strives to assist organizations in reaching their potential. With decades of experience managing billion-dollar businesses across several industries, Keith applies a holistic approach to sustainable and efficient change. Keith is an author and leader who advocates for diversity, equity and inclusion in workplace talent and in customers through bridging community gaps. His vast experience and skills allow him to turn around struggling organizations and create strategic solutions for the best results.

A point of view is the angle of considering things. It’s a platform for people with a vision and a story to tell.

A point of view is the angle of considering things. It’s a platform for people with a vision and a story to tell.