When a Toyota supplier diversity manager indicated to Melanie Rhodes that he “wanted to push a button” to understand his supplier diversity achievement — Rhodes knew she was on to something with her tech-based consulting approach that would eventually become Diversity Spend Solutions, the software, service, and solutions provider for all things diversity. “We are really about solving a problem and making sure that our client has a customer base or supply base that reflects their customer base or a workforce that also reflects their customer base,” says the Ohio native and one of the inaugural graduates of the City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Institute.
Her company services major corporations mostly — like Toyota — that either have supplier diversity programs or diversity and inclusion programs that need metrics and ways to track the business around diversity.
“The demographics are changing — you want to make sure your workforce and supply base mimic your customers, not just for income purposes or revenue generation but also diversity in thought.”
Rhodes’ expertise in developing and implementing technological solutions to business problems comes from nearly 20 years in leadership roles with Oracle Corporation, Deloitte Consulting Group and finally Toyota.
In 2006, she was introduced to supplier diversity while employed with Toyota and could immediately appreciate the impact of supplier diversity on communities that shared a similar background as her.
Rhodes saw first-hand both the technology needs and resource constraints of the supplier diversity team and found herself enlivened by the opportunity to help the team improve their operational efficiencies by way of better business processes and technological solutions.
Her mission was to free-up as many resources to focus on the important business of diversity to subsequently have a positive impact and opportunity on disadvantaged communities.
Seeing an opportunity to do this same type of work for other organizations, Rhodes started a consulting company in 2009. After gaining a few clients, she realized the importance of empowering those clients to manage their own diversity solutions.
Thus, began the process of automating her business solutions through a software as a service model. She joint-developed her initial module after working with the Toyota supplier diversity manager. Toyota has a world-class supplier diversity program, so while the requirements were extensive — Rhodes’ solution subsequently saved Toyota more than 756 annual labor hours.
Since building that one module, Diversity Spend Solutions now offers a comprehensive suite that has been developed with organizations that have either advanced or world-class supplier diversity programs.
To date, Rhodes lends additional focus to leveraging the results from the software solutions and translating those results into opportunities for new contracts for diverse suppliers so that DSS is not just a solution provider but an extended team member and partner to all of their clients.