The Roaring Twenties Redux: Supplier Diversity
by CEO Lamont Robinson
My favorite decade to study in school was always the Roaring Twenties. If there was one word to describe the decade, it would be change. The United States was in the middle of transitioning from the wartime devastation to significant economic recovery. The decade was labeled “Roaring Twenties” because of the myriad of advancements made and widespread social and economic change due to prosperity brought on by the Industrial Revolution.
The twenties spawned some of the most innovative products in the history of this country such as the washing machine, refrigerator, steam iron, vacuum cleaner and traffic light. However, the most important consumer product in was the automobile. Henry Ford revolutionized factory production with his innovative assembly-line methodology. The car industry spawned others as motels and gas stations were created to serve the needs of this new mobile society. Ancillary industries such as rubber, glass, and steel grew to support automobile production.
Music provided the energy of the twenties as Louis Armstrong helped to launch the start of The Jazz Age. Fast, syncopated sounds ushered and influenced new dances and cultures embraced by the youth. This was a new generation that was consumed with their image which included what they owned, who they knew and how they looked. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs such as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone created products to meet the needs of this trend.
The convergence of music, products, and culture provided the spark needed to drive entrepreneurship while influencing future generations of inventors and entrepreneurs.
Fictitious characters emerge such as The Great Gatsby and his fast-paced nouveau riche lifestyle. Regardless of income, it seemed most were striving towards a Gatsby lifestyle, imagining it as an eternally vivacious daily approach. Clearly the U.S. would not be identifiable as the powerhouse it is today without the influences of the Roaring Twenties and the Jay Gatsby image.
As we all know, many good things come to an end. The decade’s extravagance led way to its downfall as the crash of the stock market in 1929 began The Great Depression. Excess changed to dearth. Energy transformed to static. Exuberance became fear. Even though much of the progress from the early part of the decade dissipated, we were able to gain appreciation and validation that true innovation stands the test of time.
When a nation is transformed like the U.S. in the twenties, entrepreneurs are typically at the forefront. Entrepreneurs in a changing climate are the ones identifying the trends, creating products to meet needs, analyzing the impact of legislation changes, and taking the necessary risks to build their businesses.
I see a very similar process for the 2020’s. We are at the precipice of change in this country brought on by technological advancements, increased importance of social media, shift in procurement methodologies, and potential political transformation through new legislation or White House occupants.
We are also starting to see the influence of Millennials and their impact as entrepreneurs themselves or eventually supplier diversity professionals. Youth drove the Roaring Twenties whether through The Jazz Age or as consumers. They’ll also drive the Roaring Twenties Redux, and those entrepreneurs that are able to get ahead of the trends driven by Millennials are the ones building the future Fortune 100 companies.
Supplier diversity professionals, supplier diversity advocates and certifying organizations will all need to find innovative ways to lead this transformation. Supplier diversity will not survive if it maintains status quo over the next 10 years.
Corporations seeking to justify all resources will struggle maintaining supplier diversity departments without supplier diversity professionals using the same level of innovation typically generated by entrepreneurs they support. Supplier diversity advocates and certifying organizations will struggle increasing membership without understanding trends and how those trends impact the diverse suppliers and corporations that support them.
All of us in the supplier diversity community have the chance to lead a new generation and mindset for this Roaring Twenties Redux.
We will strengthen foundations that will spawn innovation not yet seen in supplier diversity. We will step ahead of the trends and prepare a new wave of supplier diversity professionals while influencing legislation to positively impact diverse entrepreneurs.
We will learn from the mistakes of the Roaring Twenties so that we could extend our roar in 2020 and beyond. Let’s allow our hope, dedication and hard work to create partnerships that will further globalize supplier diversity while educating the masses on this very important profession. I am excited to be part of this movement and looking forward to working with all of you to make it happen.