Bouncing Back

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, black-owned businesses learn the true meaning of crisis management as they turn losses into gains

attacks–are rebuilding their finances in order to stay in business. From the BE 100S to one-man operations, CEOs have been forced to take a crash course in crisis management. Now that America is embroiled in a war against Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network–a conflict unlike any the nation has ever faced–they must factor the unthinkable into their strategic plans.

A savage blow has also been delivered to an economy teetering on the brink of recession. Maintains Bernard Anderson, the Whitney M. Young professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and a member of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of Economists: “We were right on the cusp of a recession before the events of September 11. It is difficult for me to see how all of the developments that have occurred will have any impact other than to tip the economy into recession from a very weak state.”

The cost of the attacks is staggering. Some experts believe the economic damage may exceed $70 billion. In recent weeks, the stock market, which was already seesawing, has become even more volatile. And hundreds of thousands of blue-collar and white-collar workers have been pink-slipped as the airline, insurance, and securities industries took direct hits. More than at any other point in the past decade, businesses, large and small, are battening down the hatches and cutting expenditures. Consumer confidence, now at its lowest point since the Persian Gulf War, has caused the engine of the economy–spending–to sputter.

At this point, no one knows whether the $15 billion airline bailout package, the $345 billion defense spending initiative, and the proposed $75 billion economic stimulus package–complete with a new batch of tax rebates–will help jump-start the economy. In any event, BE Board of Economists member Thomas Boston believes African American business won’t receive much economic aid. “The government will really focus on bailing out larger industries,” says Boston, professor of economics at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We are sort of at the back of the bus when it comes to any kind of recovery package.”

African American entrepreneurs did not–and will not–let the September 11 attacks torpedo their businesses. And, despite the new war, they’re fiercely determined to grow their enterprises. The new battle cry: win at all costs.

J. Donald Rice Jr. exemplifies this spirit. When Rice Financial Products Co. (No. 10 on the BE INVESTMENT BANKS list with total issues of $10 billion) was named the 2000 BE Financial Company of the year, he and his partners proudly posed for this magazine’s cover photo in the corridor of their office space on the 52nd floor of the north tower. The hard-driven CEO was at home when he heard that a plane had plowed into the north tower. He began making calls to his 15 employees to make sure they were safe.

Then he focused on business. That afternoon, Rice, partner Brian Nevel, and associate Richard Pengelly roamed the city purchasing new computer hardware. Rice then

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