Gaining The Competitive Edge

Small black firms are forging alliances and applying new technology in order to increase market share and boost profits

about contract opportunities and networking events. The SBA’s Pro-Net (www.pro-net.sba

.gov) Website contains profiles of more than 195,000 small businesses in various industries. Lexis-Nexis (www.lexis-nexis.com), a news search site, provides business, legal, and high-tech information resources and articles. The site, which charges a $169 monthly subscription fee, is a good way to view public information about your industry and your competitors.

Joining a local chapter of the African American Chamber of Commerce or an organization such as the National Association of Women Business Owners “will help you keep abreast of what’s happening in the small business community,” Harrison says.

Another option is hiring a consultant. But if keeping expenses down is a priority, conduct your own research by surfing the Internet. The Netscape search engine, which offers a great deal of information, is a good way to start. By typing in the keywords “small business,” the engine will provide sites on everything from businesses in your industry and financial information to business organizations. “There are also online databases like the one offered by Dun & Bradstreet,” Harrison says.
“It offers corporate profiles, their sales, number of offices, and nature of the business.

“Of course let’s not forget the obvious things like physically checking out the competition and finding out who is offering the same product and where they are in proximity to your business’ location,” says Harrison. “You’ll want to know how they [competitors] are faring. It may also be that the product or service you want to sell is a good product but the cost of producing it is too costly to be priced competitively.”

Another way to gauge the competition is to read the local newspapers, which frequently list incorporations of new businesses. The SBA’s general site, at www.sba.gov, is also helpful and contains tax information and links to other government sites such as the IRS’.

GROW YOUR BUSINESS
Growing a company financially and substantially increasing its client base is essential for the success of a small business. With assistance from small business organizations, a larger number of entrepreneurs are able to do just that.

Being an SBA 8(a) business has proven beneficial for Keith Davis, president of the Davis Group, a Camden, New Jersey, company that designs and installs security and safety systems. Davis’ $2.5 million firm, which started operation in 1989, has been an 8(a) business for the past eight years. Commercial clients include Lockheed Martin, an aerospace defense contractor, a relationship which garnered the Davis group nearly $500,000 in sales. The Camden School District and the New Jersey State Aquarium round out Davis’ commercial client contract list.

Since becoming 8(a) certified, the Davis Group has done work for the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice to the tune of $4 million in combined sales.

“We have been able to leverage our relationship with the SBA into several meaningful projects,” Davis says. He is currently negotiating a $5 million contract with the Bureau of Engraving & Printing.

“With some of the monies earned from SBA jobs,” says Davis, “we were able to create a Website

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