Dawn Of A New Era

Black businesses must develop a financial plan to remain viable in the new century

African American agency Stedman Graham & Partners. DCA CEO Don Coleman, who sold 49% of his agency to True North last year (see “Coleman Partners With True North,” Newspoints, December 1999), heads the New America Strategies Group. The relationship has already paid dividends for DCA, No. 2 on the be advertising agencies list with $202 million in billings last year: in March, DCA became the first African American agency to win a major airline account when it landed American Airlines, the nation’s second largest carrier.

“In the future, more businesses will be women-owned, Hispanic-owned, and African American-owned — everybody accepts the fact that minorities will be the majority by 2050,” says Thayer. “Until minority groups work in tandem with each other and learn to work together, majority America will still control the economic power in our society.”

Seek out opportunities in the global marketplace. Despite gains in African American entrepreneurship, black businesses are still lagging behind in international trade. Only 0.8% of black firms participate in international trade compared with 1.8% of all other firms, yet nearly 96% of the market is outside the U.S., according to the SBA Office of Advocacy. The NMBC’s Robinson says if black businesses don’t have a global strategy now, they won’t be doing business in 10 to 15 years.

Taking advantage of global opportunitie
s doesn’t necessarily mean trying to open up a branch office in a foreign land, which would be far too costly a proposition for most small enterprises. But you could find new customers or distributors, lower-priced raw materials and supplies, or establish alliances with entrepreneurs in other countries who want access to the U.S. market. And thanks to e-commerce, many of these relationships can be maintained without you having to pile up frequent-flier miles.

There is another reason business owners must be focused on the global marketplace: the flip side of opportunity is competition — for your existing customers, untapped markets, raw materials, even skilled labor. This competition can now come not just from across town, but from the other side of the world. Those who are not globally aware could find their market share pulled out from under them.

“Getting into global business activity today is much easier than it was 10 to 15 years ago,” says Robinson. “A lot of exploratory work can be done on the Internet by e-mailing potential customers, setting up e-commerce accounts for sales and shipping, and constructing a Website to gauge interest in your product or service.”

use political activism to further your business objectives. Advocate for small business issues and back political candidates who support you as an entrepreneur. “Black businesses don’t understand the political process and the economic impact it has on them,” says Alford. “They must have the attitude ‘Am I going to be a political advocate or a political victim?’”

To ensure that your entrepreneurial concerns are addressed, whether they be banking, taxation, access to government contracts, or regulatory issues, it is vital that small business owners take an active role in the political process and the government.

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