Making The Switch

Small businesses will need to take a giant step forward with technology to secure their place in the market

Call it “technophobia” or “PC panic.” The fear of using technology and incorporating it into the workplace is an all too real phenomenon, especially in the African American small-business community. “It takes too long to learn it.” “I can’t afford the expense right now.” “I’ve gotten along just fine for all of these years without it.” These excuses and a thousand more are just some of the reasons small black companies give for not embracing technology.

According to the most recent data from the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), there are approximately 3 million minority-owned businesses operating in the United States, of which 823,000 are owned by African Americans. The data suggests that these businesses have to begin thinking strategically if they are to survive in the new economy, where technological implementation, access to information, and the means to effectively use and disseminate it are critical to survival.

Waynett A. Sobers Jr., owner and senior consultant at WayVon Consulting (www.mycashflowplus.com) in White Plains, New York, says that the average small-business owner is concerned with daily cash flow and customer service and retention efforts and is slow to realize the impact new technology can have in alleviating these concerns. “Some business owners literally have to be taken by the hand to become a convert,” says Sobers. The fear of change, the need for control over their operation, and the commitment of time needed to learn new technology are often reasons these business owners are falling behind. “African American businesses may not have knowingly experienced the pain of lost opportunity due to their technological complacency,” says Sobers. “Unfortunately, when this loss [of business] does occur, whether present or future, it is oftentimes beyond their grasp to correct it.”

Dwain Warren, owner and president of Executive Carriages II, a limousine service in Somerset, New Jersey, has run his business for 20 years–eight of those as a partnership with silent financial partners and the past 12 as sole owner and proprietor–operating from his home office.

As the company grew steadily, Warren decided the time had come to invest in a computer and input his list of more than 200 clients, using the Quicken accounting software application. Although aware that he could do more with an accounting package than just insert names into a database, he felt the time and effort the process required would take away from his effectively running his business. “I understood that its capabilities could enhance my operation and alleviate the bits and scraps of paper I kept my expenses on from which the financials were gathered at tax time and subsequently handed over to my accountant,” Warren admits. “But time stood in the way of learning.”

FINDING SOLUTIONS
Bob Stoesser, vice president of e-commerce at KeyCorp.’s small-business online solutions center (OSC), says that his organization provides the tools and services needed to help small businesses run more efficiently and effectively.

The OSC offers help in several different categories, including: human resources, bookkeeping and accounting, marketing and sales, and e-commerce. Stoesser says that when logging on to

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