IW Consulting Group’s Principal, Ingrid Watkins, is a passionate and accomplished leader in supplier diversity and business development. Throughout her 20-year tenure at The Coca-Cola Company, she worked tirelessly to ensure that diverse suppliers were included and used in procurement opportunities. She started her career in 1996 at the Global Brand and moved to Supplier Diversity in 2002 as the Communications Manager, where she was in charge of developing internal and external communications, change management strategies, and training programs to promote and support program efforts.
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Ingrid Watkins:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader. What challenges did you have to face to get where you are today?
I think the biggest challenge for any small consulting company is having to compete with mega consulting firms that provide similar services. It can be challenging to understand how to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Because of our experience, passion, and approach, we have been able to secure top brands as clients. Between my partner, Suzanne Weston, and me, we have over 20 years of experience managing best-in-class global programs. Our approach is to work with our clients to understand their priorities and vision and then create customized strategies versus generic toolboxes. Each client strategy is unique and company-centric. Our attentive and hands-on approach is refreshing and appealing to our clients.
Describe the IW Consulting Group offerings that address the needs of your customers.
We are a niche consulting firm that offers our corporate clients’ inclusive strategies for both workplace and supplier diversity. Many of our clients are starting diversity initiatives, and they rely on us to help them create an integrated strategy and navigate through all the moving parts of the program. Other clients have existing programs, but they may need support optimizing or focusing their efforts.
As consultants, we stay on top of new trends, and industry best practices. Often in one or two person departments, the diversity practitioners are busy managing their daily duties. We help them see the bigger picture and continue growing their programs. Our role is to help them improve the work that they do and to ensure they get the results they desire.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in this industry through your expertise in the industry.
Our passion is creating inclusive supply chains. This focus has pushed us to pull the industry forward. Suzanne A I am a prolific writer about all things supplier diversity. We inspire professionals to harness the potential for supplier diversity to drive business value.
There has been an influx of new program practitioners. These professionals had no prior experience with supplier diversity. We created and delivered a comprehensive curriculum and facilitated a practitioner training program with a major university. Following our advice, these new practitioners have been able to successfully manage and grow sustainable and results generating programs. We are in the process of relaunching the curriculum on a new platform soon.
We are trend setters, continuing to encourage business leaders to understand and recognize that supplier diversity is not just public relations, it provides value to the business. We educate them on how to measure the benefit and know their business case. And we caution them that supplier diversity is a journey that takes deliberate actions, time, and focus to build the foundation and achieve results.
What are the challenges you and your team at IW Consulting Group come across in your day-to-day operations?
One of the main challenges for any small business is managing staffing needs. The consulting business has its ups and downs. At times, we have a full plate and need additional resources, while at other times, we can manage the workflow with our small staff. The challenge is knowing when to pull in extra resources and increase staff without lessening our involvement with our clients. We have a plan in place that allows us to scale up staff when there is a need, but not have full-time workers on the clock when there is not a need.
We successfully teach our clients what they need to be successful without overwhelming them. Supplier diversity can have many moving parts. We also work closely with each client to structure their deliverables into well timed, bite sized deliverables.
What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you?
I am inspired by so many people, past and present, that it would fill a book to mention them all. My passion for diversity and inclusion started early in life. My family were small business owners, and I understood very well the impact on my family when business was going well and when it was not. I love this work because I am well aware of its importance to families, businesses, and underserved communities in this country. When supplier diversity works the way that it should, we all win!
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drive IW Consulting Group.
Our values are service, over-delivering and ensuring 100% client satisfaction. We treat every client as if they are our only client. They get our undivided attention.
When clients call our number, one of the two principals answers. We are attentive, focused on making our clients successful, and we work hard to make that happen. We are value added and long-term partners, not just consultants who perform tasks and drop off files. Building sustainable diversity initiatives is a journey, and IW Consulting Group is with our clients for the long game.
Where do you envision yourself being in the long run and what are your future goals for IW Consulting Group?
I would like to see the business continue to grow. We had a growth spurt in 2021, and I’m hoping that trend will continue in 2022. We have a few product launches that we are excited about. One I’d like to mention is our e-training program, designed to be an add-on to corporate mandatory training programs. We launched a pilot with a client last year but will be rolling it out in the first quarter of 2022.
We’ve also done well connecting with partners and providing a wide range of support services like training, data analytics, and change management and communication strategies around DEI. We enjoy those engagements that enable us to be creative and reach new audiences.
What would be your advice to budding business leaders?
Stay the course, but be realistic. It takes time to build a business. Set goals and create a plan to get you there. Be flexible because things change. If you discover that you don’t have a passion for the work as an entrepreneur, it’s OK to pivot and even to bail. Not everyone is cut out to be a business owner. It takes a lot of hard work, a supportive network, and a reputation for excellence to thrive and survive.