RHA finds value in its diverse supplier relationships
RHA’s key suppliers understand the limitations of working within a budget, and bring in innovative and cost-saving ideas. DVBE H. Markus & Margossian is one of them
Richard Heath & Associates (RHA), a minority-owned firm based in Fresno, CA, provides program design, management, development and customer outreach services for the utilities, healthcare and telecommunications industries. RHA was founded in 1974 and incorporated in 1979, the year it created California’s first low-income energy efficiency program. Since 2003, the company has been contracted to do marketing and outreach for the California Public Utilities Commission’s California LifeLine program, which provides discounted basic home telephone service to low-income residents.
RHA is certified as an MBE by both the northern and southern California affiliates of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Like many successful minority-owned companies, RHA initiated its own supplier diversity program in 2005.
“We saw a trend suggesting that having strong, mentor-based supplier diversity programs was going to be very important in the future,” says Vanessa Anderson, RHA’s California LifeLine program manager.
DVBE H. Markus & Margossian
Harry Markus, owner of H. Markus & Margossian, a disabled-veteran business enterprise (DVBE), has supplied printing for the California LifeLine program for the past ten years. The Fresno entrepreneur has launched several businesses since first hanging out the shingle for his print shop in 1965. One company made computer forms, another specialized in color printing, and another offered print-while-you-wait services using digital printing and copiers. “Eventually I sold the assets of the other companies, and H. Markus is the one standing,” Markus says.
According to Anderson, RHA was searching specifically for a qualified DVBE when the firm connected with H. Markus.
Anderson notes that the California LifeLine program is required to spend 5 percent of its procurement dollars with DVBEs. “So as part of putting together a bid for that contract, we went and looked at local printing companies in order to fulfill our collateral needs. We came across Harry Markus, and have developed a strong relationship based on the good work they’ve done for us.”
H. Markus produces brochures, presentation packages and a host of other printed products for the California LifeLine program. A big reason the business partnership is going strong, Anderson says, is that the printer helps RHA stay within its California Public Utilities Commission contract budget.
Markus says he appreciates the fact that RHA usually comes to him with “clean” projects in hand, well-planned and hassle-free.
“Sometimes we sit and talk about how we might improve some things,” he says. “Recently they were doing some projects that were mailings. After the first run I recognized that there was a savings to be made by buying one item in advance for all the projects. We are always on our toes to try and save RHA money.”
The printing industry has undergone a complete technological revolution in the forty-eight years since Markus first got into the business. The changes include design work now being done almost exclusively on computers, digitized printing of small runs, and automation of printing processes like plate-making and color mixing, Markus observes. He says his company strives to stay on the leading edge of this technology.
How to connect
Interested minority business enterprises, women-owned business enterprises and DVBE vendors can contact RHA by email via its website (www.rhainc.com), but Anderson says most of the company’s partnerships with diverse suppliers stem from RHA’s active search for qualified vendors in a database of state government contractors.
“We usually start by trying to locate local suppliers who are familiar with the language and the culture of the community they serve,” Anderson says. “That’s our first priority.”
In 2012, RHA’s total spending with diverse vendors exceeded $40 million, or 34.4 percent of all procurement dollars. The company’s 2013 projections call for total diverse supplier spend to top $47 million, or 35 percent of the total.
While RHA doesn’t require its vendors to have their own supplier diversity programs, it strongly encourages them to do so. “We can help them and mentor them if they are unsure how to do things,” she says, “but it’s on a relatively informal basis. We don’t necessarily match our suppliers up and do a formal mentoring program right now, but that is something that RHA hopes to work toward in the future.”
RHA provides assistance to qualified businesses in obtaining their DVBE, MBE and WBE certifications, particularly for its many energy-related programs. “This helps them and us to build better programs for our customers,” Anderson says.
Markus obtained his DVBE certification in the 1990s, a move he says has helped his business “acquire some very good clients.” But, he emphasizes, “I like to think that we’re not just a company with a certification. We feel we provide something special to those clients, and I think I can say that RHA is an example. They could have moved on. There are other people who are available that are DVBEs, but they hung with us because we’ve done a good job.”
Markus notes that many of his clients have been with him for more than twenty-five years. He says his company makes a point not to rely too much on its DVBE status in pursuing contracts.
RHA reaps benefits from its relationships with subcontractors like H. Markus, Anderson says. “Every time we find a new supplier to work with, it helps us improve our abilities as an administrative and program management leader,” she says. “We often learn a great deal from our suppliers in terms of how to find work efficiencies and how to approach their specific customer base.”