In our March 2014 issue, we have profiled five companies that have employed distinctive, barrier-busting strategies to reach the next level. So we have literally ripped from the pages of BLACK ENTERPRISE examples of CEOs who capitalized on their defining business moments. Their journeys may offer clues to how you can navigate obstacles to achieve success.
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Breakthrough Strategy #1: Choose to be unstoppable
In order for Necole Parker to move ELOCEN Group, L.L.C., her $12 million project management firm, forward a few years back, she needed to gain certifications as a woman-owned business and socially and economically disadvantaged company under the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program. However, her application was rejected when a reviewer claimed she was missing essential documentation. That’s when her determination kicked in, double-checking and resubmitting the information. But she didn’t stop there: Parker climbed the chain of command until her application was properly reviewed.
Once she received those certifications, the audacious entrepreneur was able to expand her company’s marketing thrust and, as a result, secured a number of multimillion-dollar government contracts.
Breakthrough Strategy #2: Always focus on the customer
During the Great Recession, Jamail Larkins’ aircraft brokerage firm, Ascension Aircraft, came close to being grounded for good. One of the firm’s major clients went bankrupt and Larkins had to repossess 10 airplanes, worth more than $2 million. But the fact that he was able to restructure operations and keep his business soaring, Larkins says, investors grew more confident of the company’s future – especially since it actually made money during one of the nation’s worst economic downturns.
Larkins, who took his first flying lesson at age 12, says his firm’s credibility was a byproduct of exceptional customer service that distinguished it from the competition. In 2013, Ascension grossed $9 million in revenues.
Breakthrough Strategy #3: Be willing to take risks – even if it’s your job
Felicia Hatcher and her husband, Derick Pearson, escaped “cubicle nation” after they lost their marketing jobs at video game manufacturer Nintendo in 2008. Instead of playing it safe by finding new employers, they decided to take a risk: Betting on themselves. They launched Miami-based boutique gourmet popsicle company, Feverish Ice Cream and Gourmet Pops. The couple invested nearly $2,000 on their first two carts (courtesy of Craigslist), hand painted vintage-designed wagons and put a novel twist on ice cream and popsicle distribution.
The tech-driven mobile business grew into a brick-and-mortar operation in midtown Miami and Hatcher, recently recognized as a White House Champion of Change, moved forward with a private label concept for corporate clients like Google, Vitamin Water and Bacardi, among others.
Breakthrough Strategy #4: Don’t put all your ribs in one bucket
Lefty’s Barbecue has always been a popular Prince George’s County, Maryland rib emporium that has left customers salivating for more. Noting the reaction from customers, Walter Nash Jr., son of the founders, was hit with a novel idea for diversification: Manufacture and sell its mouth-watering sauces and spice mixes as retail products.
With $30,000 in savings, he formed Lefty’s Spices L.L.C., a division of restaurant and catering holding company, managing to take the family business national by placing their products on the shelves of more than 2,500 stores and retail chains, including Safeway, A&P/Pathmark, Giant Eagle, Walmart and Sam’s Club.
Breakthrough Strategy #5: Gain power through innovation
Four years ago, entrepreneurs Gilbert G. Campbell III and Simon Antonio Francis developed an electrifying business in the green space: Volt Energy, a company that installs solar photovoltaics, solar thermal and wind systems. The determined duo quickly established their firm as an innovator in clean energy, positioning Volt to close groundbreaking deals such as the installation of its rooftop solar power system at Florida Avenue Baptist Church – one of the first black churches in the nation to do so – as well as its recent project with KIPP DC to make it the first charter school in the nation’s capital to be powered by a 227 kW solar energy system.