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Break free of the MBE mind-set
 
In this insightful telephonic and e-interview Chetan Shah, VP of Northwest Software Inc. (NSI), a Beaverton, Oregon-based MBE (minority-owned business enterprise), shares his perspective on surviving the shifting sands of the world of business, dancing with the elephants and why an MBE must get out of the MBE-mindset to succeed. NSI delivers a recruiting automation product; their patent-pending technology considered by his corporate clientele as the model of the future in the $62 billion staffing industry.
 

If you were to tell our readers in a couple of sentences about what your company does, what would that be? What is your elevator pitch?
NSI has developed patent-pending technology “EZRecruit” to streamline human capital acquisition. EZRecruit, coupled with our 17-year track record, helps us add unique value (response time, quality, and cost) to our customer’s contractor and full-time staffing needs.

Can you tell our readers a little more about the company? Your strategy?
Our focus has been on continual innovation (both technological and process) in order to be the best human capital acquisition company. Over the last 17 years we have researched and experienced best staffing practices, which we implemented in EZRecruit – an enterprise recruiting solution that took us over 50 people-years and in excess of $8,000,000 to perfect. Our customers ask us about how we serve our staffing needs so well, and become considering EZRecruit product for their possible in house use.

Besides innovation, we have relied on partnerships with complementary values to provide a full solution to the customer. In an environment where corporations are shrinking their supply base, they are looking for suppliers to do more and more. We have partnered with several Vendor Management firms in order to manage a group of suppliers for staffing as well as project solutions. The benefit of such partnerships is that it brings together best-in-field technologies powered by deep experience.

For those progressive corporations who adopt diversity as a way of doing business, we have developed a unique business model to help them increase their diversity spend with a large base of suppliers, while reducing their supply base. More importantly we have created a level playing field for diverse suppliers, and corporations and our diverse supplier partners love this. They are tired of working with majority owned corporations who pay “lip service” to diversity programs and benefit from the low hanging fruits, while sending opportunities they cannot service to diversity suppliers. We have had tremendous success with this model of sharing. We have been able to generate cost-savings and productivity for our clients through this approach. As a matter of fact, our model can be extended beyond human-capital acquisition to acquisition of any goods and services in a milestone-based project.

Finally during her acceptance speech when she was honored as SBA’s Small Business Person of the year 2002, Sonal Shah said that above all we emphasize ethics and flexibility as a way of doing business.

How does a small business make that breakthrough they all strive for?
It is all about execution in a number of fronts including your business strategy and connections (which come about by networking). Once you have a compelling value proposition, you need someone to listen, understand and articulate it. You need to find that internal champion in the corporate maze. We at NSI focus regionally – a lot of personal contacts in the west coast region helped us. We eventually expanded to 22 states through a series of partnerships. But then relationships take you only so far. You have to very soon back it up by showing a compelling value proposition. Also, don’t underestimate the power of diversity managers – they could be great influencers within the corporation.

That brings up a common dilemma of small businesses – dancing with the elephant. How did you master the art of dancing with the elephants? What is your advice to other aspiring businesses about generating and n

 
 
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