When Raul Suarez-Rodriguez immigrated to the United States from Cuba, he had no idea that the challenges he faced, including the language barrier, would eventually become assets. He started in the restaurant business, but knew that he needed a professional transition. After completing a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Suarez-Rodriguez started working at CVS Pharmacy as a store manager in Florida during a time when the company was expanding its reach in the state. After four years in that role, he went after an MBA.
Suarez-Rodriguez was then offered the opportunity to relocate to Rhode Island and work as a project leader in store operations. Moving far away from sunny Florida was no easy choice: “It was a big challenge,” says Suarez-Rodriguez.
After a few months in Rhode Island, Suarez-Rodriguez began researching the company’s Supplier Diversity Program, an area he believed critical to success and innovation. He credits working with the Latino Mentoring Group at CVS Health for offering him networking and research opportunities into the area.
“Supplier diversity is an opportunity across the board.”
In 2012, he was hired as manager of supplier diversity for CVS Health. Suarez-Rodriguez relishes this role with the company, particularly when it comes to working with smaller businesses: “One of the biggest responsibilities I have is to educate and mentor those suppliers that are trying to do business with CVS Health.”
Suarez-Rodriguez oversees purchasing products and services from a wide range of small business owners across the country. While remaining focused on providing the best goods for a diverse consumer base, CVS Health is able to contribute to growing minority- and women-owned businesses. And Suarez-Rodriguez echoes those sentiments as he works to recruit diverse suppliers.
To best serve its customers, patients, and clients, CVS Health maintains the current strength of its supplier diversity program. Suarez-Rodriguez stresses the importance in recruiting new businesses and hopes other companies place the same magnitude on investing in diversity. “Supplier diversity is an opportunity across the board,” he notes.
About a year ago, National Grid and CVS Health announced a one-day business opportunity event at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. The event was designed to match smaller businesses with suppliers and to provide educational initiatives to advance skills.
The event was a hit throughout Rhode Island, and Suarez-Rodriguez is hoping to take the concept to a national level. In tandem with the Professional Education Center at Roger Williams University’s School of Continuing Studies, CVS Health will be sponsoring a program specifically for minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses. The curriculum, “CEO Master Series,” will aim to develop skills and best practices within the group of diverse business owners with a goal of securing contracts with major national corporations.
Suarez-Rodriguez believes his Hispanic background plays a pivotal role in his position. “Being an immigrant and having faced the challenges of coming from another country, I can relate to those small businesses because I know what they go through,” he says.
The work that Suarez-Rodriguez is doing with supplier diversity, therefore, is personal and meaningful; the small business owners he works with on a day-to-day basis transcend the job. “To me, they are familia.”
Headquartered: Woonsocket, RI
Founded: 1922 as Melville Corporation and 1963 as CVS
Number of Employees: 208,000
Number of Stores: 7,800+
Number of retail medical clinics: 900+
Fortune 500 ranking: 35
Company Summary: CVS Health is an American retailer and healthcare company. It is one of the world’s largest companies, ranked twelfth largest in the United States, and provides pharmacy benefit management services to over sixty-five million Americans.