I know quite a few business owners out there who may be scratching their heads at this audacious statement. In fact, they’re probably asking themselves how such an assertion can possibly hold true since most spend each day struggling to keep the lights on or trying to find another creative way to keep that single client. How can this be true when 95% of the roughly 2 million African American businesses operating nationwide are sole proprietorships? How can minnows compete against corporate whales that gobble up market share in every industrial sector?
If you’ve asked those questions or others like them, my fellow entrepreneurs, then that is exactly the problem. To succeed in today’s environment, business owners must first change their mindset. We must stop embracing a survival mentality instead of focusing on a growth strategy. That outlook continues to be held by a large number of entrepreneurs who constantly scramble to maintain contracts from year to year and, as a result, subsist as CEOs of micro-businesses operating hand to mouth.
Moreover, I find far too many African American companies willing to promote their minority status as their core competence instead of how their unique products and services can benefit prospective and existing clients. It’s a flawed approach that pits them against countless companies that are part of the supplier diversity universe, including firms owned by women, Latinos, members of the LGBT community, and veterans, to name a few. To snare and retain customers, you must present a compelling value proposition to corporate clients and consistently demonstrate that your company will make good on its commitments through incomparable quality and performance, period.
So just what does it take for your small business to succeed today? You need these four key ingredients: scalability, capability, technological adaptability, and branding power. First, identify those partners—either for long-term viability or a short-term venture—that will enable you to bid for, secure, and complete business-building contracts with major corporations. You’ll increase your company’s top line and solidify its can-do reputation. Second, make sure you have the right people, resources, and performance measurement tools in place to ensure predictable and optimal outcomes regardless of the size of any job. Next, effectively employ what I call “the great equalizer”—technology—to effect greater financial and operational efficiency as well as to expand outreach efforts through social media. Lastly, given that you’ve been able to establish an unassailable track record, you must aggressively communicate your company’s exceptionalism through multiple channels as part of its brand message. By employing these strategies, you will cement your company’s position as an essential supplier to any corporate client.
How do you get started? I can think of no better place to reset your company than our Entrepreneurs Conference in Columbus, Ohio, May 14–17. I am not being the least hyperbolic when I say that our event (this year’s theme, “Join the Small Business Revolution”) offers one of the best avenues to take your company to the next level. If you attend with the right attitude what has become the nation’s largest gathering of entrepreneurs, I guarantee that you will make valuable business contacts, develop fresh ideas, and may even initiate a deal or two. It also provides access to decision makers—whether you meet the CEOs of the BE 100s, our listing of the nation’s largest black-owned companies, who are powerful role models and offer valuable connections, or the top corporate executives who can direct you to prospective supplier opportunities.
It all begins with you. You can no longer think of your business as that traditional small enterprise. With a grand vision and strategic focus, your venture can grow into a powerful, profitable engine of innovation and employment. So don’t hesitate. Join our revolution today.