Client Confidant enables companies to uncover hard to get business intelligence in order to keep and grow their strategic relationships. Through methods such as qualitative, in-depth interviews, Client Confidant collects and distills findings into actionable feedback for its clients. As a Disability:IN DOBE, we wanted to share their success and highlight their project with our corporate partner, American Water.

The following interview is with Robert, Bobby, Robertson, Founder & CEO of Client Confidant, and his guest, Edward Simon, Director of Business Performance and Supplier Diversity at California American Water.

Disability:IN: Tell us your story! Why did you decide to start your own business?

Bobby: I started my career as a chaplain, where I developed my passion for listening to others; it also allowed me to hone in my empathy and counseling skills. From there, I went on to work in the hospitality industry, specifically with celebrities and politicians in Las Vegas. I won several national awards, and because of my passion for working with people, I decided to start my own business.

Disability:IN: What led you to become Disability:IN certified?

Bobby: I hid my disability for a long time because of the fear of discrimination. One day I decided to embrace my disability and got certified so that I can help others and bring disability inclusion into the conversation of diversity and inclusion.

Disability:IN: How does your certification help you market your business?

Bobby: This certification allows me to meet like-minded people and provides a platform for me to build relationships with corporate America. It gives us opportunities to be matched with business mentors and, in turn, helps us market our businesses. Becoming certified also helps my clients meet their diverse spend targets.

Disability:IN: Have you attended any of the Disability:IN Annual Conferences?

Bobby: Yes, I’ve attended several, 2018 in Las Vegas and 2019 in Chicago. I highly recommend that other DOBEs attend as well because I believe that you can get more done in that one conference week than in the entire year of trying to reach your prospective clients by phone or email.

Disability:IN: Tell us about your conference experience! What did you find most valuable?

Bobby: I found the hallway conversations to be most valuable. It allowed me to deepen my existing relationships, network with other DOBEs, and gave me opportunities to develop new relationships with potential clients.

Disability:IN: What makes an organization certified as a DOBE, V-DOBE, or SDV-DOBE a great procurement partner?

Bobby: It gives us a chance to believe in ourselves and the services we provide to others. It allows us to overcome our own challenges and, in turn, bring energy to the products and services that we provide to our customers.

Disability:IN: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Bobby: We need to remember disability inclusion when we talk about diversity and inclusion. I’ve invited a guest, one of my clients, and a partner of Disability:IN, to share his experience working with Client Confidant and share more about our project to measure diversity efforts.

Ed: American Water is the largest investor-owned water utility company in the country. California American Water is a subsidiary of American Water and we serve over 630 thousand customers in the state of California. That said, we cultivate business partnerships with an array of qualified suppliers and are continuously looking to optimize the experience and our diversity efforts. I first met Bobby at an American Water Supplier Diversity Event for company employees and vendors from across the US. During this time, I did not realize that his company is certified by Disability:IN, and later discovering this, I think that this is the best possible partnership since we’re also a corporate partner of Disability:IN. We started working with Bobby in late 2019, and Client Confidant has played a tremendous role in helping us measure our diversity success internally, as well as the satisfaction of our vendors and suppliers.

Our goal at California American Water was to understand how satisfied the internal team was with diverse vendors, so we created an internal survey in 2018. We wanted to measure our internal team’s satisfaction with diverse suppliers and discovered that we needed to do a deeper dive. The result was that 83% satisfaction among our team members, drilled down to local, division level to note gaps and develop actionable items.

Bobby’s team was hired to conduct a deeper dive into the results and then conduct a subsequent survey. During this deeper dive, we decided to get multidimensional feedback and see internal satisfaction with diverse suppliers, as well as ask them what they think about the Supplier Diversity team, and then, in turn, ask suppliers what it is like working with California American Water. Client Confidant was able to measure three types of feedback: our internal team’s thoughts on our diverse suppliers, our internal team’s thoughts about our supplier diversity strategy and efforts at California American Water, and the diverse suppliers’ thoughts of California American Water.

The original survey included approximately 90 diverse suppliers. This sample was narrowed down to suppliers who had the most diverse spend and most frequent action with internal team members, with at least one diverse supplier per division, and one diverse supplier per intersection. Since Client Confidant was a neutral third party, they were able to draw out the deeper meaning behind things, such as body language, and more transparent opinions. This is innovation within the Diversity and Inclusion space. With this deeper dive, we had 100% participation, and the results showed opportunities to increase diverse spend, as well as suppliers’ improvement areas they may have been unaware of. This process was specifically designed to reduce costs while increasing quality. While typically, this is mutually exclusive, by reducing change costs long-term and acquiring better-understood expectations, we were able to do so. These results helped us to develop a transparent feedback system and best practices for California American Water.

Working with Bobby has been a game-changer for us. He provides quality work, has a great response time, and is very professional. I highly recommend Bobby and Client Confidant for any company’s consumer research needs.