This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. David L. Steward, the Chairman of the Board and founder of World Wide Technology. WWT is the largest African American owned company in the United States, and heavily engaged in the Supplier Diversity community. Mr. Steward was gracious enough to share his experiences as a diverse supplier, and his path to success.
Mr. Steward, thank you so much for speaking with us. Tell us about your company and the core services you provide.
I am honored to be the chairman and founder (1990) of World Wide Technology (WWT), a certified, award-winning Minority-owned Business Enterprise (MBE) (African-American owned).
World Wide Technology (WWT) is a $9 billion technology solution company that provides innovative technology and supply chain solutions to large public and private organizations around the globe. Through its culture of innovation, WWT inspires, builds and delivers business results, from idea to outcome. Based in St. Louis, WWT employs more than 4,000 people and operates more than 2 million square feet of warehousing, distribution and integration space in more than 20 facilities throughout the world. WWT’s core technology areas include big data, collaboration, compute, cloud, mobility, network solutions, security, software, storage, software, and facilities infrastructure. In 2015, WWT acquired Asynchrony Labs, which provides application development and deployment solutions to customers.
What are the benefits of being a certified diverse owned business?
WWT is honored to be the largest African-American owned company with annual revenue surpassing $9 billion. Some of WWT’s largest customers, and many of our own suppliers, were built from relationships that started with diversity managers and business owners we met at diversity events across the country. As we made the decision to start expanding outside of St. Louis, many of our first customers in a new territory were established from relationships we built at local National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) events. Denver, which is one of our newest US markets, is a prime example. We met the Director of Procurement for the City and County of Denver at a Mountain Plains Minority Supplier Development Council (MPMSDC) event, which lead to them becoming our first commercial customer in Denver in near record time.
WWT is honored to be the largest African-American owned company with annual revenue surpassing $9 billion.
That’s a great example. On that note, what networking opportunities and diversity organizations do you believe other diverse businesses should take advantage of to increase exposure and grow their business? Share a win.
When I launched my business, I pledged that it would excel in serving people, both in and outside the company. Every minority-owned company should participate in organizations that support their industry, key customers and individuals in their community. WWT participates in several STEM-connected organizations like the Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC) and the Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF), and has held a student forum hackathon where high schools competed for a $10,000 prize to support STEM initiatives.
Through our outreach in the communities where we live and work, we have also witnessed how that has a positive effect on our business; each organization gives us access to different decision makers and allows us to build relationships with several key individuals. Because of ITSMF, we quickly established a relationship with a key decision maker at a major shoe manufacturer, which became a critical point to us becoming a supplier.
Verizon is also heavily involved in supporting STEM programs, and we’re always happy to hear that our suppliers are equally as engaged. Mr. Steward, what training, mentoring or other experience has most helped you in furthering your career and business?
Early in my career, my mentor was George Craig, a marketing vice president for Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. He was well respected in the railroad industry and opened many doors for me when I began offering auditing services to railroad companies.
In the early years of WWT, I received mentoring from several people who would have a big impact on our success, including many we still do business with today. I am forever grateful to all the people who helped me along the way, for I am well aware that nobody can do it alone. Knowing this, I am committed to helping others; giving to them makes me feel I am the one who is truly blessed. Our core values and a commitment to support our communities and charities are priorities for our executives and employees.
In the early years, access to capital was an obstacle, as was overcoming the negative perception of being a minority-owned company.
What was or is your greatest obstacle to business success? How did you address such obstacle?
In the early years, access to capital was an obstacle, as was overcoming the negative perception of being a minority-owned company. The most important things during this time were my faith in God and my wife. I wrote a book, “Doing Business by the Good Book,” which details the early struggles, including the years my wife stood by me when I was millions of dollars in debt.
My team and I overcame these adversities and continue to build on our core values with an eye towards excellence in business. We received Glassdoor’s “Employee Choice Award” for being one of the best places to work. And, for the last five years, WWT was ranked as one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and is on the list of the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials, Women and Diversity in the United States by the Great Place to Work Institute and Fortune.
How has your success with Verizon enabled you to grow your business with other companies?
Our relationship with Verizon was a key factor in broadening our relationship with a major consumer original equipment manufacturer (OEM). WWT and our application development and deployment solution provider, WWT Asynchrony Labs, met with this OEM to discuss new partnership opportunities in 2016. Both WWT and WWT Asynchrony Labs have dedicated engineering and equipment investments to this new partnership, as well as business development resources and strategy focus.
WWT has been providing a range of services to this OEM on an international and domestic basis. Their collaboration with the many different internal support teams, including the OEM’s diversity group, has allowed us to grow our efforts to be considered a key supplier to this OEM.
Our relationship with Verizon was a key factor in broadening our relationship with a major consumer original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
We’re happy to hear that our partnership has helped contribute to the development of a diverse supplier. What advice do you have for new and diverse businesses trying to work with large companies like Verizon?
A diverse organization has many perspectives from which to draw and find solutions. In this spirit, WWT spent close to $400 million with minority and small businesses in 2016. If the right people and collaborations are in place, new and diverse companies will succeed and grow through their relationships with large companies like Verizon.
As an illustration, WWT is committed to the National Academy Foundation (NAF), which has a stellar record of preparing students for college and careers. I was honored to accept Verizon’s invitation to serve on NAF’s board of directors, alongside other Verizon executives. NAF embarked on a collaboration with the Global Leadership Forum, Inc. (GLF), whose mission is to unite and empower diverse talent, enabling innovation and value creation through the work of proven organizations like NAF. This collaboration has a multiplier effect cultivating the talent we need in the high-need, high-growth sectors of our economy.
More about David Steward
David Steward is chairman and founder of World Wide Technology (WWT), a market-leading technology solutions provider. Founded in 1990 with a handful of employees and a 4,000 square foot office, today, there are more than 4,000 employees and more than two million sq. ft. of facilities. Core values and a commitment to support our communities and charities is a priority for our executives and employees.