Dallas-Based, Minority-Owned Small Businesses Advance Through Mentorship and Application

Michigan -Imagine. You own a small business based in DFW, and you’re serving clients in nearly 200 countries. Business is going well, but the growing pains are straining your vendor management process. In turn, this causes unnecessary and inefficient work hours for your employees.

You know it can be streamlined, but how?

This was the challenge faced by Kim Sissen, president of Dallas-based CFJ Manufacturing and a graduate of Toyota’s Business Mentorship Program. Through mentorship and application of the Toyota Production System (TPS), CFJ Manufacturing, which develops recognition and branding solutions to reach employees and customers, improved business processes to more efficiently engage with current and new accounts.

CFJ is a certified woman-owned business with 256 employees worldwide. Delivering to many Fortune 500 companies, CFJ focuses on five distinct divisions. These include employee recognition programs, brand marketing solutions, warehousing, corporate uniforms, and fine jewelry manufacturing.

Women’s Business Council Southwest nominated Sissen for the Business Mentorship Program. Then, after an interview process with Toyota, she was paired with two mentors at Toyota Financial Services (TFS). Sissen was eager to standardize CFJ’s vendor management strategy and advance the company’s growth opportunities.

Introduced in 2015, the Program pairs select diverse suppliers with Toyota Financial Services senior leaders for one year. “It’s our goal to help strengthen small businesses by guiding owners through the Toyota Production System,” said Timothy Yamada, Supplier Diversity Manager at TFS. “Couple that framework with a unique mentorship opportunity, and it’s a win-win for the supplier and for Toyota.”

Through a plant visit to San Antonio—which recently celebrated building over 2.2 million Tacoma and Tundra trucks since it opened in 2003—and what Sissen describes as “countless conversations and cups of coffee” with her mentors, CFJ standardized its vendor management strategy, advanced its merger and acquisition approach, and redefined its North American sales territories.

“I received invaluable learning on The Toyota Way, and saw Genchi Genbutsu in action,” said Sissen. Genchi Genbutsu is the part of the TPS process that values observation and first-hand experience in searching for process improvement. To practice this piece of the process, Sissen spent time at the TFS Operational Excellence department.

It’s all part of Toyota’s commitment to engaged, diverse, and inclusive environments, whether that be with its employees, customers, dealers, or suppliers. Putting that into practice, Toyota presented the Power of Exchange (POE) conference in downtown Dallas on August 9, 2018. Over 500 attendees, including diverse suppliers from across the country, participated in forums and networking activities.

Toyota’s Supplier Diversity program recently expanded its acceptance to five certifying agencies, recognizing certifications from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC), and Disability: IN. These organizations advocate for LGBT-owned, Veteran-owned, and Disability-owned businesses, respectively. These agencies can nominate minority-owned small businesses for the Business Mentorship Program to realize success stories of their own, like Sissen experienced for CFJ Manufacturing.