Book Excerpt

E-business demands a new wave of respect from today's brick-and-mortar entrepreneur

that we have a chance to get involved in the early stages of the online economy. We must maintain awareness, not only of new and emerging technologies but available business management information, programs, and resources offered by local technology centers and professional organizations, government agencies, and corporations to assist underserved communities. An actively expressed interest in this vital area–including verbal acknowledgment and participation–will continue the development of such programs at a time when some politicians and corporate representatives believe that the digital divide is closed or narrow enough to be “old news.”

According to Mitch Duncan, group program manager at Microsoft, “African American entrepreneurs should leverage technology that enables them to adapt quickly and flexibly to fast-changing business conditions and customer needs. The effectiveness of e-commerce use by the African American community will lay the foundation and create new possibilities and opportunities for these businesses to market and deliver their goods and services to this target market in a competitive environment.”

Globalizing African American business is more than a notion, and African American professional organizations have to take a stand as well. They must go beyond merely seeking sponsorship from major technology corporations to implementing hands-on demonstrations and workshops for member business. Zana Billue, president of Zana Cakes Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio, says that African American organizations spend most of their efforts highlighting advertisements from major companies who sponsor their annual events [but don’t assist] African American businesses with becoming more competitive.

Organizations should also provide more information about getting access to capital through minority-focused venture capital firms like Idealflow, Springboard, and BLG Ventures.

The harsh reality is that if you don’t have a computer and Internet access, your education, communication, career, and business opportunities will be limited. Technology development isn’t expected to slow down any time so
on. Within a few years, home networks will be commonplace. PC prices are expected to drop even further. More and more technology products will have advanced speech recognition abilities. We’ll be using “self-repairing software” in our businesses, and our “smart houses” will come equipped with automated on-and-off scheduled lights and appliances, video doorbells with facial recognition software, and servers that control major household power sources. Interactive television will allow us to “click” on TV ads for more information instantly.

Whether you’re ready or not, things are happening and changes are being made. It’s up to you to get with the program or get left behind. New technology can and will enhance any business that uses it properly.

Defining e-business
For many entrepreneurs, e-business has been strictly associated with having a Website when the reality is that e-Business = Knowledge Management.
Successfully managing an e-business involves all of the tasks addressed in previous [issues of BLACK ENTERPRISE]–strategically integrating new technology developments, staying connected while on the road, hiring capable IT employees and vendors, developing a Website, and building a virtual brand. A Website is at the heart of e-business management. Additional elements include:

  • Electronic Customer Relationship Management (eCRM)
  • Minimizing Internet user security concerns
  • Evaluating and minimizing electronic risks
  • Managing virtual employees and telecommuters
  • Forging strategic
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