Tapping into supplier diversity with a new coaching service for businesses

Picture this: You’re a member of a diverse community and the owner of a Canadian textile company looking for growth in the industry. Selling your bedsheets and tarps to the Government of Canada would help advance your business. You know the government buys these types of goods, and you’ve tried to find and bid on federal contracting opportunities before, but you haven’t been successful yet.

Given your level of experience with the federal procurement process, you need more than general guidance. You would benefit from in-depth and personalized support, like you might get from a coach.

We have a new service to meet your needs.

In addition to Procurement Assistance Canada’s suite of free services, including seminars and personalized consultations, a coaching service has been introduced to help eligible Canadian businesses navigate the federal procurement process.

The coaching service is designed to support business owners or leaders who have had limited prior success competing for federal contracts and who are part of equity-deserving groups, including women, Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized Canadians, persons with disabilities, and the community of 2-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and additional sexually and gender diverse people (2SLGBTQI+).

The coaching concept

Delores Sui

Participants eligible for the service are offered 4 personalized sessions with an experienced coach from Procurement Assistance Canada. A variety of activities and carefully crafted resources, including a coaching guide full of helpful information, are used to explain how the business can submit more competitive bids.

Coach Delores Sui points out that her typical one-on-one interactions with businesses tend to be spontaneous. She answers questions by email or phone, or she provides advice on a topic during a brief discussion. “With coaching, it’s different just because it’s structured,” she explains. “When we get started, everyone has a mutual understanding that we’re going to spend several hours together. So, we decide in advance what’s the best way to use the time. Then, the sessions proceed in a planned way.”

The case for coaching

Coaching can add significant value for supplier groups that have historically been underrepresented in federal procurement. In a coaching session, Sui says, “we have the luxury of a more expanded discussion, creating opportunities to learn more about the business, the business leader and their specific circumstances. That puts us in a better position to provide the kind of support some of these businesses require to participate in federal procurement.”

The service is also beneficial for suppliers with diverse skill sets, backgrounds and lived experiences. “Different people have different learning preferences. With coaching, we have the leeway to adjust and to work through the federal procurement process using a very individual approach,” Sui points out.

Rodnie Allison

Building a relationship between a coach and business has its own advantages. Coach Rodnie Allison says: “We have comprehensive discussions and meet multiple times. Having that continuity is useful in these cases. I really get to know the context in which a business is operating, so I can provide focused support.”

He adds that the deep-dive nature of coaching helps to get to the root of some of the challenges that businesses encounter: “A business’ experience may meet the requirement, but the business may not know how best to demonstrate this in their bid submission. Or, the business may not be pursuing the right opportunities.” All Procurement Assistance Canada services are geared towards demystifying federal procurement and mitigating challenges; coaching expands on these services for eligible businesses.

While coaching requires an investment of time, it can actually be a “very efficient platform,” Allison points out. “A few coaching sessions can convey most of the key points on selling to the Government of Canada.”

The feedback from suppliers who have completed the coaching program is very positive, with many saying they feel better prepared for bidding in the future. Allison notes that, in almost all his interactions with businesses, the suppliers he is assisting have a “eureka moment, when they grasp an eye-opening point.” He witnesses these reactions often over the course of the coaching sessions. “It’s just the fact that we simplify something that can be a bit overwhelming. We break it down and guide people step by step.”

The coaches are bringing back what they’ve learned to enhance the whole range of services provided by Procurement Assistance Canada. “A deeper understanding of different industries means we can deliver even better seminars and offer more targeted guidance in our consultations with businesses,” says Allison.

For her part, coach Sui says she has developed new insight into the concerns and experiences of equity-deserving businesses, which she will use to try and drive improvements within government. “At the internal level, I can bring up some of the barriers these businesses encounter and advocate for change.”

Coaching contributes to an inclusive economy

While the coaching isn’t focused on a specific tender and doesn’t guarantee a business will win federal contracts, the intent is to enhance the business owner or leader’s ability to bid on tender opportunities. This increases the likelihood of participation in federal procurement by more equity-deserving businesses.

Procurement Assistance Canada services for equity-deserving businesses are one of many procurement initiatives our department is leading to promote supplier diversity and contribute to a more inclusive economy.

To learn more about all our services for businesses, consult the Procurement Assistance Canada Service Guide. You can also see Our stories for more articles about interesting Public Services and Procurement Canada people, projects and services.

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