Avis Yates Rivers
Chief Executive Officer,
Technology Concepts Group International, LLC.
“As a leader in this network, it is important that I lead by example. I’ve had wonderful experiences partnering with other women-owned firms and look forward to bigger and better opportunities in the future.”
About Technology Concepts Group International, LLC.
TCGi specializes in driving cost and risk out of large organizations’ supply chain and procurement operations in support of their digital transformation. We do this in a number of ways that best supports each client’s needs, always looking for pathways to quick wins and fast ROI. Our solutions include Tail Spend Management, Software License Management, Telecom Expense Management, and Managed Procurement Services. Our IT Division supports the technology product and service needs of our customers from the desktop to the data center. TCGi provides full life-cycle management of digital devices as a VAR as well as in the role of Aggregator.
Headquartered: Somerset, NJ
Company Website: www.technologyconcepts.com
When and how was your business started?
TCGi was started in early 2008 with the acquisition of a spin-off from Bank of America. We absorbed the Small Ticket Technology Leasing Group from Bank of America to enter the equipment leasing business. Prior to that, TCGi was focused on developing customized Professional Service solutions to solve customers’ challenges and needs.
How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?
We find WBENC Certification to be a great addition to our value proposition. Most of our customers are WBENC Corporate Members who are looking for creative ways to grow their Tier 1 diverse spend in a sustainable way. TCGi provides customers the ability to convert a large portion of their spend to diverse as a result of our solutions and position of Aggregator.
What is your business philosophy and how has it impacted your success as a business?
TCGi’s business philosophy is two-fold – 1) we strive for excellence in everything we do; and 2) we can’t be all things to all companies, so we have a ‘partnering’ mindset. Our success in business can be attributed to these two philosophies. We partner with global corporations like Accenture, EY, Genpact, and IBM. But we also partner with other small diverse firms like Buckner Management & Technology, BKW, ApTask, Rangam and Saviance.
What are some of the biggest challenges and barriers you’ve faced as a woman business owner? How have you overcome them?
Some of my biggest challenges have been access to capital and employee relations. When I refer to capital, two words come to mind – substantial and patient. This type of capital is harder to come by; in fact, it is almost non-existent for women business owners. In order to secure growth capital, WBEs must have better access to private and institutional investors who have a healthy appetite for risk (like they have with male-owned companies).
In smaller firms, all employees want to be directly connected to the owner. As the firm grows, this dynamic is not sustainable. Developing a strong and competent management team is a must if the firm is to grow.
What is your proudest moment thus far in business?
I was appointed a delegate by the late New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg to the White House Council on Small Business in 1995. The NJ delegation was to coalesce with similar delegations representing every state in the country. We each went to DC with our own set of issues important to our small business constituents. After a week of intense negotiations, cajoling, debating, and acquiescing, we were successful in ensuring our delegation’s issues were represented in the ensuing report on small business to then President Bill Clinton. Exhausted and humbled, I returned to NJ knowing I played a large role in ensuring the continued sustainability of small business in NJ and the country as a whole.
Have you partnered with other WBENC-Certified WBEs on contracts or utilized other WBEs as suppliers? If so, what has been the benefit? Why do you feel it is important to work with other WBEs in the WBENC network?
Absolutely! We look for every opportunity to do business with other WBEs and have a strong track record of doing so. As a leader in this network, it is important that I lead by example. I’ve had wonderful experiences partnering with other women-owned firms and look forward to bigger and better opportunities in the future.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Walk into the room like you own it; and use your voice in support of others.
What do you do to prepare for the National Conference & Business Fair?
My sales and marketing teams and I collaborate on what our theme will be each year, what solutions we’ll be driving, and who is our target. We always order new giveaways from other M/WBEs that match our theme. Then we reach out to corporations in advance of the conference to find out who will be attending and to schedule 1-on-1 meetings throughout the course of the conference (including during the Business Fair).
What is your strategy for how you approach the Business Fair?
We develop a target list of companies that we want to talk to/meet with during the Business Fair. We then schedule times to be on the floor and in the booth. We don’t try to visit every booth as there just isn’t enough time to do so. We also don’t wait on long lines to speak with companies. Since we have a list and know who we’ve seen, we can circle back to booths at various times throughout the day.
What tips do you have for WBEs to get the most out of their time at the National Conference & Business Fair?
You have to have a strategy and not a scatter-gun approach. Pick no more than ten companies to target at the Business Fair. Once you’ve done that, you are free to roam. If possible, bring someone with you. Make use of every available opportunity to network. Be bold (but not annoyingly aggressive).
What should a every first-time attendee know about the conference before they arrive?
Just know it will be a bit overwhelming, but if you approach the conference strategically and ensure you stick to your plan, you will find it to be quite manageable. Resist the urge to stop at every booth. Make primary and secondary target lists, so once you finish meeting all your primary targets, you still have a planned approach.
Advise your customers in advance that you will attending and schedule some time with them, even if it is just for a cup of coffee. The touch point will be invaluable.
Determine in advance what other WBEs you could potentially partner with and reach out to them as well (either in advance or visit their booth).