If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me
An Interview with Our Founder Lamont Robinson
by Kristin Bentley
Growing up in the inner city of Chicago on its dangerous West Side, Robinson LaRueCo Consulting (RLC) Founder and CEO Lamont Robinson knows well the challenges of living in an under-served community. As a child, he remembers wondering why he never saw a business owner who looked like him and over time began to believe it just wasn't possible.
After attending an annual conference hosted by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in Chicago over fifteen years ago, Robinson discovered the laws and programs centered around supporting under-served business owners in the US.
"That conference is what really opened my eyes to see that there's a better way to increase the wealth within underprivileged communities," explains Robinson, also the author of Transformnational: Journey of a Bastard. "These small, locally-based businesses are the ones hiring individuals from communities similar to the one I grew up in."
At the time he attended the conference, he was working in the procurement department for a healthcare company and had never even heard of supplier diversity. Once he learned what it was all about, and was offered to take over the company's internal program, he knew it was a field he wanted to be in. Soon after, supplier diversity became not only a job but his life's mission.
Growing up in a community where crime and gang violence was visible on its streets, Robinson has always had a desire to help those seeking a better way of life. He just didn't know how, until he began working in the supplier diversity profession.
"Being able to follow your dreams, while helping others achieve theirs, is the ultimate goal.
Established in 1969 by President Nixon, supplier diversity is a program set up to be a matchmaker system between diverse businesses, those that are minority, women, veteran, disabled veteran and LGBTQ-owned, and public and private sector entities.
After losing his wife to brain cancer in 2018, Lamont Robinson is a single parent to his five children: Malik, Jacqui, Imani, Payton & Antonio (by Shandee Arceneaux Photography)
To support this system, RLC offers services to help companies launch or maintain supplier diversity programs, guide diverse suppliers in successfully developing their brands (going from local to global), and connect diverse business owners to diversity advocates (such as the NMSDC).
Corporations also benefit from supplier diversity by building communities through creating jobs, becoming competitive in their markets amongst their competitors, reducing costs, maintaining compliance in regulated industries, having the ability to customize solutions to their individual needs, and growing their client base. Robinson calls these the six C's: community, competitive, cost, compliance, customization and clients.
"We're building an ecosystem," says robinson. "The more corporations help diverse suppliers, the more job opportunities will be added in under-served communities. In a way, we're all creating jobs through the services we provide."
Over the years, Robinson has achieved recognition and respect within the supplier diversity industry. He's been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Dow Jones Report, Minority Business News USA, Hispanic Network magazine, Black Enterprise magazine, Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology magazine, Veteran Business Journal, Journal of Healthcare Contracting, Women's Enterprise USA magazine, and many others.
His awards include, Top Corporations for LGBT Economic Empowerment, Top 75 Leading Men in Corporate Diversity, One of the Top Supplier Diversity Programs for African Americans, Women Enterprise Corporations of the Year, Top 30 Champion of Diversity, One of the Top 100 Supplier Diversity Professionals, and several more.
Robinson's career became so successful, he knew the only way he could continue to grow was by starting his own company. With the support of friends and family, RLC was founded in 2012.
Lamont Robinson singing at the 2017 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Las Vegas (Photography provided by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council)
Laying the foundation of his company with the intention of becoming an independent consultant, Robinson says it wasn't until 2018 that he saw it becoming a larger organization with potential to have an impact on a broader scale. He now sees RLC as a consulting firm that will help transform the supplier diversity community while expanding into other expertise driven by his passionate team, one he created with professionals he knows well and respects.
"While RLC has witnessed great success in a short period of time, we have worked hard to build our name and brand in the supplier diversity community for years, specifically within the healthcare space," shares Robinson. "RLC is a natural extension of the reputation I've built and will amplify our reach for helping others and spreading the importance of diversity."
Continuing into 2019, Robinson envisions RLC having a significant impact on the healthcare industry. He plans to do this through his team's ability to help hospitals launch new programs and Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs) improve supplier diversity efforts, and by becoming the voice for those interested in the supplier diversity and healthcare space.
"The exciting part of the year is always the first part of the year," he says. "It's when you can put your thoughts down and build structure, be able to work with people as passionate as you, and together establish something that is needed and new. That's when you're able to dream, and I'm a dreamer."
Another major thing coming up this year for RLC is launching a healthcare accelerator. This will provide the company the ability to help the most innovative diverse manufacturers, inventors and service providers in the healthcare space. RLC will then be able to introduce those companies to GPOs, providers and even other diverse healthcare manufacturers, who are always in need of innovation.
To be able to receive this level of innovation from diverse entities improves healthcare overall, according to Robinson. RLC strives to be at the forefront of it all because, ultimately, innovation in supplier diversity will help the healthcare industry to provide better care for their patients.
"In order for us to become effective across the country, and eventually globally, we have to begin by regionalizing our brand awareness," says Robinson. "Most of our clients presently have a local reach, so it's important that we provide support for those needs by putting together various regional engagements."
By hosting events in large cities throughout the country designed to educate communities on what supplier diversity is and its benefits, and to brainstorm current industry trends and those heading into the future, RLC is positioning itself as a trendsetter. "We're a national brand, but when regional opportunities come our way we'll be able to meet those needs much faster than if we were just operating as one national group," he adds.
RLC's company culture is one that encourages its team to be free-thinking. "Everybody is an entrepreneur within our company. if there's an idea that someone has that's innovative and makes sense to our brand, I want them to run with it and own it."
Robinson continues on to say that having team discussions centered around RLC's upcoming regional events has allowed his team this kind of personal ownership by initiating conversations that have demonstrated out-of-the-box thinking.
"As we continue to focus on our big picture, the most beautiful part that's coming out is discovering what is successful in particular regions, so we can then test it in other markets," he explains.
This adaptability, flexibility and interest to receive feedback from the communities is how RLC believes it can best serve its clients. Included in the company's philanthropy is also supporting local nonprofits, which allows it to further provide developmental opportunities to the communities it serves.
"Because of our networking abilities, we can connect nonprofits to the local corporations that are interested in supporting them, creating further symbiotic opportunities for everyone," he says.
Several years down the road, Robinson sees RLC getting more into mergers and acquisitions while establishing organizations that didn't previously exist. These newly formed organizations could, on a large scale, assist more than just healthcare.
"RLC will begin to have a greater voice holistically in supplier diversity. If we do this right, we'll have the heartbeat of the communities across the country."