Over the past few years, major corporations have announced new diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within their organizations. and in 2020 from the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Existing studies show that companies with a more diverse workforce and customer base tend to be more profitable in the long run.
DEI is not just a big company. It’s also an important consideration for small businesses.
For example, the leadership team of the more than 1,100-member South Jersey Chamber of Commerce says DEI’s initiatives are “critical” to the organization’s long-term growth.
“If we don’t intend and want to help black-owned businesses and provide resources, why would a black-owned business want to come to us?” Chamber President and CEO Cristina Reyna speaks.
Renna, who took over leadership of the chamber in early 2020, has made it a priority to include more Black, Latino, women and LGBTQ-owned companies in her organization. Differentiating can be a challenge for an organization that has for decades consisted of predominantly white-owned businesses.
But Reyna has strengthened the South Jersey Chamber’s recruiting efforts by partnering with organizations in her state, such as the African American and Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, and increasing outreach to communities of color. She is doing this because she believes a more diverse membership will make her organization stronger and better positioned for future growth.
“Let’s be honest, if the person walks into the room and doesn’t feel like they’re in that room, they’re not going to have a good experience with us,” she says.
Diane Matthews, a small business owner in Pennsylvania, feels it’s important to work with a company that hires people from diverse backgrounds in her community.
“I’m black, and I do business in a predominantly white area of Chester County with a predominantly white clientele,” said Matthews, who owns and operates Diane Matthews School of Dance Arts in West Chester. “I know the richness of having people of different backgrounds and colors and what they bring to business.”
Dance is an art, Matthews says, and having a variety of dance instructors gives her clients a different perspective.
When it came to recruiting new talent, Matthews found other dance companies made up mostly of people of color.
She also encourages businesses that want to be more diverse to consider hiring “graduated, brilliant, qualified, wonderful people of color” at HBCUs — historically black colleges and universities.
“A business needs variety that provides additional experiences for their customers and the community,” says Matthews.
Expanding your customer base and connecting your community are just some of the tangible benefits a small business owner can experience through DEI. Another important aspect of DEI should be considered: not having a diverse company can deprive you of your skills.
Sulaiman Rahman runs DiversForce, a diversity consulting and networking firm in Philadelphia. In the year Since its inception in 2017, the organization has filled 185 board seats in 145 different organizations with people of color and underrepresented people. He believes that it will result in not touching different networks. A natural disadvantage for companies, especially when it comes to hiring and retaining employees.
“It was a paradigm shift, and it’s an ‘ah-ha’ moment for a lot of companies,” he said. “Your employees know that the future of HR is going to be much different than what they’ve seen in the past. They want to see their employers — or prospective employers — making that effort.
Matthew says. Sometimes you still feel “mystified” that many businesses don’t see these benefits.
“Why doesn’t every business owner want to have diverse people in their organization?” she asks. “Any business that doesn’t recognize that diverse people’s backgrounds can improve the experience they provide to their customers – failure to do so could hurt their business.”
Gene Marks is a certified public accountant and owner of Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm in Bala Cynwyd.